A Blog by Jonathan Low


Sep 9, 2023

Russian Marines Retreating After Failed Counterattack Fired On By Own Artillery

As the Ukrainians continue to gain ground, the Russians are mounting more desperate counterattacks in what has so far been a vain attempt to stop them. 

But Russian soldiers on the Tokmak front are now finding themselves subject to the same blocking tactics their troops at Bakhmut experienced last winter; when they attempt to retreat in the face of overwhelming Ukrainian artillery, they are fired on by Russian artillery so that those who survive will stay and fight. The problem, of course, is that this approach severely limits the number who are actually able to survive. JL 

Euromaidan Press reports:

Russian forces launched yet another massive counterattack in the direction of Robotyne. The Russian assault unit came under heavy Ukrainian artillery fire, and tried to retreat. (But) a wounded Russian marine from the 810th Marine Brigade, captured by the Ukrainians (said) when his unit decided to retreat, their own artillery started firing behind them, creating a fire wall and forcing the soldiers to stay and fight. Eventually, that got him wounded and his friends killed. Ukraine retained control over the fortifications and rebuffed all attacks.

Today there are a lot of updates from the Tokmak direction.

First of all, Russian sources reported that Russian forces launched yet another massive counterattack in the direction of Robotyne. This time, the attack came from the south because as some Russian war correspondents claimed, Russian forces operated north of Novoprokopivka. As a result, Russian sources once again claimed that Ukrainians were completely pushed out of Robotyne, Russians established complete fire control over the region, and the village became an uninhabitable grey zone.

Map: screenshot from the video

Recently, the Russian Ministry of Defense also claimed that during the last 3 months of the counteroffensive, Ukrainians lost 66 thousand troops and 7600 tanks and armored fighting vehicles. Even the vast majority of Russian analysts concluded that the numbers are absurdly exaggerated, and asked the Ministry of Defense to reconsider their approach to presenting information. The exaggeration is apparent because, first of all, Ukrainians did not even have so many troops and vehicles engaged in the counteroffensive. And secondly, in order to visualize the sheer number of 7600 tanks and armored fighting vehicles, imagine placing tanks back to back in a line – now, in order to fit all these tanks between Robotyne and the initial contact line, which is more than 4 km, you would have to create more than 10 rows of destroyed equipment.

Infomap: screenshot from the video

It seems like the Russian Ministry of Defense is trying to conduct an information operation, primarily targeting the Russians. The goal of this information operation is to overshadow their own losses of equipment, and conceal the failure to hold the second line of defense, which was recently breached near Verbove.

In reality, today’s Russian counterattack had very mild progress – Russian forces managed to push Ukrainians just from one field south of Robotyne. None of the Russian sources also mentioned anything about recapturing the powerful fortifications on a hill south of Robotyne that play a key role and allow to control the whole region, so Russians did not capture any strong points that would allow them to retain even these mild gains.

Map: screenshot from the video.

Some less prominent Russian sources gave more details about the operation and reported that the Russian assault unit got under heavy Ukrainian artillery fire, and tried to retreat. However, what was not mentioned was that Russian forces were not allowed to retreat.

Aerial view of the positions south of Robotyne. Image: screenshot from the video

After the battle had ended, Ukrainians captured one wounded Russian marine from the 810th Marine Brigade. The Russian soldier claimed that when his unit decided to retreat, their own artillery started firing right behind them, creating a fire wall in the back, and forcing the soldiers to stay and fight for the positions. Eventually, that was what got him wounded and his friends killed.

A Russian marine captured near Robotyne said Russian artillery made their retreat impossible by firing at retreat routes. Screenshot from the video.

He said that he had no doubt that it was not an error because the artillery was hitting correct targets initially, and only after they started retreating, the shelling shifted towards them. All of this was happening under the constant supervision of Russian drones that were constantly correcting the fire.

Such an attitude is not surprising. The fortifications south of Robotyne were virtually impossible to breach from the side of Robotyne, and were supposed to stop the Ukrainian advancement. However, not only did Ukrainians capture them, they also did it quite easily because they ambushed the Russian troops during rotation. The commanders of the brigade and division responsible for this region were likely harshly punished, and received an order to fix the situation at any cost.

Aerial view of fortifications south of Robotyne. Screenshot from the video

Returning back to the point about the destroyed equipment, over the last 2 days, Ukrainian fighters released many videos showing that Russians lost a lot of tanks during the counterattacks in this region. Ukrainian special forces demonstrated a freshly abandoned tank T-80 south of Robotyne. It was too close to the Russian positions to be stolen, so they dropped several grenades inside the empty tank and destroyed it.

Drone footage of an abandoned Russian T-80 tank south of Robotyne. Screenshot from the video.

Another damaged T-80 was detected west of Robotyne, where Russians conducted the previous counterattack. Ukrainian drone operators from the Flying Skull detachment showed how they struck the tank and caused a massive detonation.

Ukrainians also found a virtually intact T-90M, which is the best and most contemporary tank in the Russian military. The tank was out of the Russian reach, and Ukrainians knew that Russians would soon destroy it with artillery or drones, so they promptly stole it.

Overall, Ukrainians managed to retain control over the crucial fortifications and rebuff all attacks. In the meantime, the Russian troops found themselves in between two fires because the moment they stop moving towards Ukrainians, they risk being killed by their own forces in the back, that were supposed to help.

Map: screenshot from the video

Such an approach is unlikely to motivate and raise the morale of the soldiers. If Russians continue doing it, they will exhaust their defensive capabilities much faster, leaving the defense line understaffed, and creating perfect conditions for a Ukrainian breakthrough


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