ISW Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment for 3 Dec – TTG

Ukrainian forces reportedly reached the east (left) bank of the Dnipro River across from Kherson City. The Ukrainian “Carlson” volunteer special air intelligence unit posted footage on December 3 of Ukrainian servicemen traversing the Dnipro River in boats, reaching a wooden marina-like structure on the east bank, and raising a Ukrainian flag on a tower near the shore. Special Unit “Carlson” reported that this is the first instance of a Ukrainian flag flying over the east bank of the Dnipro River and emphasized this operation will provide a springboard for subsequent Ukrainian operations on the east bank. If confirmed, this limited Ukrainian incursion onto the east bank could open avenues for Ukrainian forces to begin to operate on the east bank. As ISW has previously reported, observed Russian fortifications on the left bank indicate Russian forces are anticipating Ukrainian offensive actions on the east bank and have been constructing defensive lines south of the Dnipro River. The establishment of positions along the eastern riverbank will likely set conditions for future Ukrainian offensive operations into occupied Kherson Oblast if Ukrainian troops choose to pursue this line of advance in the south.

Conditions in eastern Ukraine are reportedly becoming more conducive for a higher pace of operations as winter sets in. A Russian milblogger claimed on December 3 that the ground has frozen along the Kreminna-Svatove line and that he expects that Ukrainian forces will likely increase the pace of their counteroffensive operations in the area as a result. Luhansk Oblast Head Serhiy Haidai also stated on December 2 that weather is finally changing on the Kreminna-Svatove line and that he expects that Ukrainian forces will soon be able to improve their counter-offensive maneuver operations as mud in the area fully freezes. ISW has previously assessed that the overall pace of operations is likely to increase in the coming weeks as consistent cold weather allows the ground to freeze throughout the theater, especially in eastern Ukraine where operations on both sides have been bogged down by heavy mud. Neither Russians nor Ukrainians will likely suspend offensive operations in one of the most optimal times of year for mechanized maneuver warfare in this region.

Russian Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine – Russian Subordinate Main Effort—Donetsk Oblast (Russian objective: Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)

Russian forces continued to conduct offensive operations around Bakhmut on December 3. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults within 13km northeast of Bakhmut near Soledar and within 4km south of Bakhmut near Opytne. Russian milbloggers claimed that reports of Ukrainian forces withdrawing from the suburbs of Bakhmut are false and that serious fighting in Opytne is ongoing. A separate Russian milblogger claimed on December 3 that Ukrainian forces attempted to break through Russian positions near Spirne (within 30km northeast of Bakhmut) and suffered heavy losses on December 2. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Ukrainian forces unsuccessfully attempted to regain lost positions south of Bakhmut near Andriivka and Kurdiumivka.

Russian forces continued to conduct offensive operations in the Avdiiivka-Donetsk City area on December 3. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults within 27km southwest of Avdiivka near Nevelske, Krasnohorivka, and Marinka. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian positions in the vicinity of Nevelske are heavily fortified and that Russian forces are finding it difficult to progress due to current conditions in the area. Geolocated footage posted on December 3 shows Russian forces operating closer to Heorhiivka (within 30km southwest of Avdiivka). The Russian MoD claimed that Ukrainian forces unsuccessfully attempted to regain lost positions near Avdiivka, and Marinka.

Comment: We haven’t posted any ISW assessments for a while so here’s a few excerpts from the latest. The interesting point of the Ukrainian raid on the left bank of the Dnipro near Kherson is that they were unopposed. The Russians are defending well away from the river and aren’t bothering with observation posts or security patrols.

This limited raid may be part of a “shaping of the battlefield” for an eventual river crossing operation to establish a bridgehead and continue the offensive or perhaps the Ukrainians will make one or more “thunder runs” or armored raids well supported by artillery. With the ground frozen and the Russians going hypothermic, This would be a good time for either option.

The Russians clearly intend to continue assaulting Bakhmut until something gives. They’re probably still aiming for Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, but that’s now militarily pointless since they lost Lyman and Izium. I guess they can’t give up the dream of the great caultron even though the northern pincer is long gone.


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9 Responses to ISW Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment for 3 Dec – TTG

  1. borko says:

    Publicly planting flags there, might mean their main effort will be somewhere else. Like cutting the land bridge south of Zaporizhzhie.
    If they managed that and have something in reserve to pursue the demoralized Russian forces further, it would be game over for Russia’s SMO, maybe even Putin’s government.
    They probably have the manpower to do it, not so sure about equipment and ammo.

    • Pat Lang says:

      IMO, the “shaping the battlefield” idea is probably correct with a number of feints coming up for the purpose of having the Russians move their reserves around to the taste of the Ukrainians prior to the main drive south to cut the Russian MSR in Zaporozhe oblast. If it is true that the Ukies have lost far fewer men than the Russkies then they probably have enough of a mobile reserve to exploit a breakthrough to the “land bridge” MSR. If that happens it will be “game ever” for Russia as someone here wrote.

      • John Minehan says:

        This is what some smart people are saying who disagree with you on where the war is going:

        I’m not sure.

        Seems to turn on: how te Russians are treating their Security Zone; how well thought out and effective the operational Phase I Fires were;, and how well yhey assimilated the reservists and conscipts into an Army that seems between “Battle hardened” and “War weary.” .

        • Pat Lang says:

          Do these two really think the Iraqi Army never existed? Well, pilgrims, having watched them fight from a position among them in the latter stages of the Iran-Iraq War I assure you that they existed.

        • borko says:

          That smart person as you call him has been claiming the Russians to be in the mopping up phase. He’s been claiming that for months, starting as early as April.

        • Pat Lang says:

          OK. I watched the whole thing. Not impressed. IMO they are both massively deluded. I assure you that if Russia defeats Ukraine as they predict and hop, I will be quick to say so.

  2. Leith says:

    Whatever happened to the Ukrainian raids across the Dnipro-Bug Estuary against Russian bases on the Kinburn Spit? Rumors are that those started back in October and are still going on. Do they have an actual beachhead? But even if they do, it would be darned difficult to get armor and artillery across.

    • TTG says:


      Yes, there were a lot rumors of a continuing attack. I’ve heard little beyond the initial small boat raids. I think they retain a beachhead, maybe even occupy a few small settlements but nothing beyond that. The spit is well within Ukrainian tube artillery range so this light infantry lodgment is fairly easy to maintain given the Russians don’t seem too eager to challenge them.

  3. blue peacock says:

    How should the current war situation be viewed? Russian drone & missile attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure vs Ukrainian army attacks on Russian frontline positions in the Donbas.

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