Russia sent some of its best troops to stop Ukraine breaching its defensive line but still failed, analysts say

A Ukrainian soldier stands next to a destroyed Russian tank.
A Ukrainian serviceman walking next to a destroyed Russian tank in the recently retaken village of Novodarivka in the Zaporizhzhia region.Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty/Serhii Nuzhnenko via REUTERS
  • Russia sent elite units to southern Ukraine to try to stop Ukraine advancing, a think tank said.

  • But they failed to repel Ukrainian attacks, The Institute for the Study of War said.

  • It said Ukrainian armored vehicles appeared to have breached Russia's last line of defense.

Russia scrambled elite units to southern Ukraine in an effort to stop Ukraine from advancing — but has so far failed in its attempt, a prominent Washington think tank says.

The Institute for the Study of the War said Russia's 7th Guards Mountain Airborne Division and the 76th Guards VDV were redeployed in mid-August to repel Ukrainian attacks in the southern village of Robotyne, which Ukrainian troops retook earlier this month in a significant breakthrough.

They might have been sent to relieve elements of the 22nd and 45th Separate Spetsnaz Brigades that had been counterattacking against Ukraine during the earlier phases of its counteroffensive, it said, adding that relatively elite Russian Spetsnaz and VDV elements appeared to be the "primary counterattack elements" in western Zaporizhia Oblast.

But despite Russia's efforts, Ukrainian troops seem to have gained momentum and have made gradual advances over the last few weeks, with armored vehicles now operating beyond the final line of Russia's defenses in western Zaporizhia, the ISW said.

"Russian forces currently defending in western Zaporizhia Oblast have been unable to prevent Ukrainian forces from making gradual but steady advances since mid-August," it said.

The ISW said it could not yet determine whether Ukrainian troops had completely broken through that last line of defense.

It added, however, that "the Ukrainian ability to bring armored vehicles to and through the most formidable Russian defenses intended to stop them and to operate these vehicles near prepared Russian defensive positions are important signs of progress in the Ukrainian counteroffensive."

Multiple war analysts reacted to footage on Thursday of what appeared to be Western-made Stryker and Marder infantry battle vehicles breaching Russian defenses.

Rob Lee, a defense analyst, said the footage appeared to depict Ukraine's elite 82nd Air Assault Brigade, which joined the counteroffensive efforts in August.

A Ukrainian soldier, meanwhile, described Russian troops in the area to The Wall Street Journal as "poor quality" and "earth movers."

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