Daily News Portal

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, November 25, 2023



November 25, 2023, 6:45pm ET

Click here to see ISW’s interactive map of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report.

Click here to see ISW’s 3D control of terrain topographic map of Ukraine. Use of a computer (not a mobile device) is strongly recommended for using this data-heavy tool.

Click here to access ISW’s archive of interactive time-lapse maps of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. These maps complement the static control-of-terrain map that ISW produces daily by showing a dynamic frontline. ISW will update this time-lapse map archive monthly.

Note: The data cut-off for this product was 2:45pm ET on November 25. ISW will cover subsequent reports in the November 26 Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment.

Russian forces launched the largest drone strike against Ukraine since the start of the full-scale invasion overnight on November 24 to 25 using a new modification of the Iranian Shahed 131/136 drones.[1] Ukrainian military officials reported that Russian forces launched 75 Shahed drones that mainly targeted Kyiv City from the southeast (Primorsko-Akhtarsk) and northeast (Kursk Oblast) and that Ukrainian forces shot down 74 drones.[2] Ukrainian military officials also reported that Ukrainian forces shot down a Russian Kh-59 cruise missile over Dnipropetrovsk Oblast and that air defenses activated in at least six regions, including Kyiv, Sumy, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia, Mykolaiv, and Kirovohrad oblasts.[3] Ukrainian Air Force officials stated that mobile fire groups enabled Ukrainian forces to shoot down a significant number of drones.[4] Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky observed that Russian forces launched the drone attack on the Ukrainian remembrance day of the 1932-1933 Holodomor man-made famine.[5]

Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Colonel Yuriy Ihnat reported that Russian forces attacked Kyiv with a new modification of Shahed drones and noted that these drones were black in color and contained a material that absorbs radar signals, making them more difficult to detect.[6] Russian milbloggers similarly claimed that Russian forces used “black Geran” or “Feran” (the Russian name for Shaheds) drones for the first time and claimed that these drones are more challenging to detect in the night sky.[7] Iranian media published footage on November 19 showing the Iranian Ashura Aerospace University of Science and Technology presenting the new Shahed-238 jet-powered modification of the Shahed-136 drone.[8] The presented Shahed-238 appeared to be black in color, but it is unknown if Russian forces used the Shahed-238 modification during the November 25 strike.

Ukrainian and Russian forces continue to grapple with the challenges electronic warfare (EW) systems pose on the front. The Economist reported on November 23 that superior Russian EW systems are impeding Ukrainian reconnaissance, communication, and strike capabilities.[9] The Economist, citing Western experts, stated that Russia has placed a “huge focus” on producing and developing superior EW capabilities and that Ukraine is struggling to produce equivalent EW systems and EW-resistant weapons domestically. Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi assessed in his essay “Modern Positional Warfare and How to Win It” that Ukrainian forces need to introduce necessary command and control (C2) processes for EW complexes, increase EW production capabilities, streamline engagements with volunteer organizations that provide smaller EW complexes to Ukrainian forces, improve Ukraine’s counter-EW measures, and develop new drones with EW in mind.[10] The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense (MoD) reported on November 25 that it is working to develop drone variants more resistant to Russian EW systems and produce successful variants at scale.[11] Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) Deputy Director of Analysis Margarita Konaev and CSET Fellow Owen Daniels reported on September 6, 2023, that Russian adaptations to the deployment of EW systems continue to present challenges for Ukrainian drones transmitting targeting information and securing Ukrainian signals.[12] Russian sources previously credited superior Russian EW capabilities for aiding Russian forces’ defense against Ukrainian counteroffensive operations in southern Ukraine in June 2023.[13]

Russian sources have also repeatedly expressed concerns and complaints about perceived inadequacies in Russian EW systems, however.[14] Russian sources credited superior Ukrainian EW and aerial reconnaissance systems for Ukrainian advances south of Bakhmut in September 2023 and claimed that Ukrainian EW systems were significantly disrupting Russian communications in western Zaporizhia Oblast in August 2023.[15] ISW reported on November 25 that the effectiveness of Russian EW systems is inconsistent across the front, allowing the Ukrainians to continue to use drone-based reconnaissance-strike complexes to disrupt Russian offensive operations.[16] Russian milbloggers have been inconsistent in their assessments of which side has “superior” EW systems, indicating that neither Russia nor Ukraine currently has a decisive advantage over the other.[17] Western aid in support of Ukrainian efforts to destroy, disrupt, or bypass Russian EW systems would increase Ukraine’s ability to strike targets near the front precisely, disrupting Russian advances, and setting conditions for further Ukrainian offensive operations.[18]

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on November 25 that Ukraine’s Western partners agreed to transfer warships to Ukraine to protect Ukraine’s grain corridor in the Black Sea.[19] Zelensky stated during a speech at the “Grain from Ukraine” conference in Kyiv that Ukraine and unspecified international partners reached an agreement to enable Ukraine to provide sea escorts for merchant ships transporting grain from Ukrainian ports in the near future. Zelensky added that Ukraine’s partners also agreed to provide “very powerful” air defense systems to defend Odesa Oblast. Zelensky noted that the “Grain from Ukraine” initiative has delivered more than 170,000 tons of grain to Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Yemen in the past year.[20] Latvian President Edgars Rinkevics, Swiss President Alain Berset, and Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte also attended the conference and expressed their support for the initiative.[21]

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated that Russia has not fulfilled arms export deals to Armenia and offered an alternative arrangement that would allow Russia to keep the weapons against the backdrop of recent deteriorating Russian-Armenian relations. Pashinyan stated on November 24 that Armenia has paid Russia for arms shipments but that Russia has not delivered the weapons or returned the money to Armenia.[22] Pashinyan offered the reduction of Armenia’s outstanding debt to Russia in the amount of the arms purchase as a solution, possibly as a means to decrease Armenia‘s economic ties to Russia. The Defense Ministry of India similarly reported a delay in Russia’s delivery of an S-400 missile system due to the war in Ukraine in 2022.[23] The head of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, Dmitry Shugaev, stated on August 14 that Russia will deliver the S-400 system to India on time by the end of 2024, however.[24] 

Infighting among Russian ultranationalist milbloggers, likely exacerbated by ethnic tensions, has compelled a prominent milblogger to close his Telegram channel. The milblogger announced on November 25 that he is temporarily closing his Telegram channel on November 25, and another milblogger claimed that supporters of Chechen “Akhmat” Spetsnaz forces subordinate to Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov threatened the first milblogger’s parents and admonished the “full-time military bloggers and journalists” for making the threats.[25] The second milblogger later claimed that readers began threatening him to avoid repeating the “fate” of the first milblogger and that he will apologize “sooner or later,” and the milblogger also claimed that he is confident that Akhmat commanders are not behind the attacks but mid-level “sheep.”[26] A third milblogger responded in support of the other two milbloggers, claiming that another user offered him money to take down his post in support of the first milblogger but to “think hard” because he is a “good person.” The milblogger disdained the request as “dishonorable.”[27] The first milblogger first drew the wrath of the “public relations people of Akhmat and Kadyrov” in early November when he criticized rumors that Wagner Group personnel were transferring to Akhmat units, drawing some support from other milbloggers when the Akhmat-affiliates targeted this milblogger in a defamation campaign.[28] These attacks allegedly from supporters of Kadyrov come during a period of especially high ethnoreligious tensions in Russia and as Kadyrov is increasingly attempting to curry and display Russian Vladimir Putin’s favor.[29]

Other milbloggers attributed increased infighting among ultranationalist voices about the war in Ukraine to Russian politics and the coming 2024 Russian presidential elections. One milblogger claimed that the “war” on Telegram and in the Russian media will temporarily end as Russian political “towers” – or political officials financing Telegram channels to advance their political goals – temporarily stop feuding until after the Russian presidential elections in March 2024.[30] The milblogger claimed that the “towers” may sacrifice some overzealous “pawns” as bargaining chips and noted that milbloggers and other prominent voices will either need to stop fighting or move to the sidelines.[31] Another milblogger claimed that this infighting is the result of Russian leadership playing politics and that Russia is fighting an enemy that wants to win the war at any cost.[32]

Key Takeaways:

  • Russian forces launched the largest drone strike against Ukraine since the start of the full-scale invasion overnight on November 24 to 25 using a new modification of the Iranian Shahed 131/136 drones.
  • Ukrainian and Russian forces continue to grapple with the challenges electronic warfare (EW) systems pose on the front.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on November 25 that Ukraine’s Western partners agreed to transfer warships to Ukraine to protect Ukraine’s grain corridor in the Black Sea.
  • Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated that Russia has not fulfilled arms export deals to Armenia and offered an alternative arrangement that would allow Russia to keep the weapons against the backdrop of recent deteriorating Russian-Armenian relations.
  • Infighting among Russian ultranationalist milbloggers, likely exacerbated by ethnic tensions, has compelled a prominent milblogger to close his Telegram channel.
  • Other milbloggers attributed increased infighting among ultranationalist voices about the war in Ukraine to Russian politics and the coming 2024 Russian presidential elections.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, near Avdiivka, west and southwest of Donetsk City, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast on November 25 and advanced in some areas.
  • Russian military commanders are reportedly ignoring frontline units’ requests for drones.
  • Ukraine’s Ministry of Reintegration reported on November 24 that over 13,500 Ukrainians returned to Ukraine from Russia via a humanitarian corridor in Sumy Oblast since its establishment in July 2023.

We do not report in detail on Russian war crimes because these activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We will continue to evaluate and report on the effects of these criminal activities on the Ukrainian military and the Ukrainian population and specifically on combat in Ukrainian urban areas. We utterly condemn Russian violations of the laws of armed conflict and the Geneva Conventions and crimes against humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.  

  • Russian Main Effort – Eastern Ukraine (comprised of two subordinate main efforts)
  • Russian Subordinate Main Effort #1 – Capture the remainder of Luhansk Oblast and push westward into eastern Kharkiv Oblast and encircle northern Donetsk Oblast
  • Russian Subordinate Main Effort #2 – Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast
  • Russian Supporting Effort – Southern Axis
  • Russian Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts
  • Russian Technological Adaptations
  • Activities in Russian-occupied areas
  • Russian Information Operations and Narratives

Russian Main Effort – Eastern Ukraine

Russian Subordinate Main Effort #1 – Luhansk Oblast (Russian objective: Capture the remainder of Luhansk Oblast and push westward into eastern Kharkiv Oblast and northern Donetsk Oblast)

Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line on November 25 but did not make confirmed advances. Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces advanced near Synkivka (8km northeast of Kupyansk).[33] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks near Synkivka, Petropavlivka (7km east of Kupyansk), and Ivanivka (20km southeast of Kupyansk) in the Kupyansk direction; near Stelmakhivka (16km northwest of Svatove) in the Svatove direction; and near the Serebryanske forest area in the Kreminna direction.[34] A Russian milblogger claimed that fighting is ongoing near Torske (14km west of Kreminna).[35] Ukrainian Luhansk Oblast Head Artem Lysohor stated that Russian forces are increasingly complaining about personnel losses in the Kupyansk direction and are expressing hesitancy to participate in future assaults due to unsuccessful offensive operations.[36] Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov claimed that the “Aida” group of the Chechen ”Akhmat” Spetsnaz forces is operating in the Kreminna direction.[37]

Russian sources claimed on November 25 that Ukrainian forces advanced southeast of Kupyansk and attacked along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line. Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces liberated previously lost positions near Yahidne (22km southeast of Kupyansk).[38] The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian assaults near Zahoryukivka (a settlement 16km east of Kupyansk that was disincorporated in the 1980s), Pershotravneve (24km east of Kupyansk), and Ivanivka in the Kupyansk direction; and near Hryhorivka (10km south of Kreminna) in the Lyman direction.[39]

Russian Subordinate Main Effort #2 – Donetsk Oblast (Russian objective: Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)

Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations near Bakhmut on November 25 but did not advance. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued assault actions south of Bakhmut.[40] Russian Southern Grouping of Forces Spokesperson Vadim Astafyev claimed that Russian forces repelled 10 Ukrainian attacks near Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut).[41]

Russian forces continued offensive operations near Bakhmut and reportedly made marginal, unconfirmed gains on November 25. Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces advanced near the railway northeast of Klishchiivka and near Andriivka (10km southwest of Bakhmut), though ISW has not observed visual confirmation of these claims.[42] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian ground attacks near Bohdanivka (5km northwest of Bakhmut), Ivanivske (6km west of Bakhmut), Klishchiivka, and Andriivka.[43] Footage posted on November 25 shows that the Russian 58th Spetsnaz Battalion (1st Donetsk People’s Republic [DNR] Army Corps) and elements of the 106th Airborne (VDV) Division operate in the Bakhmut area.[44]

Russian forces continued offensive operations near Avdiivka on November 25 and made a confirmed advance. Geolocated footage posted on November 24 indicates that Russian forces advanced north of Krasnohorivka (7km northwest of Avdiivka).[45] Russian sources claimed that Russian forces advanced in the industrial area and near the Yasynuvata-2 train station (both southeast of Avdiivka), from Kamianka (5km northeast of Avdiivka), and near the Avdiivka Coke Plant.[46] Several Russian milbloggers amplified footage purportedly showing some Ukrainian forces withdrawing from positions in the industrial zone on Avdiivka’s southern flank, but another milblogger claimed that Russian forces have not yet completely captured the industrial zone.[47] Russian sources also claimed that Russian forces advanced near Stepove (4km northwest of Avdiivka) and Novokalynove (11km northwest of Avdiivka).[48] ISW is unable to confirm any of these claims. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian ground attacks east and south of Novokalynove and near Novobakhmutivka (13km northeast of Avdiivka), Stepove, Avdiivka, Sieverne (6km west of Avdiivka), and Pervomaiske (11km southwest of Avdiivka).[49] Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Oleksandr Shtupun stated that Russian forces have decreased the intensity of airstrikes and reduced the number of armored vehicles operating in the Avdiivka direction but that Russian forces are still conducting infantry attacks.[50]

Russian forces continued offensive operations west and southwest of Donetsk City and reportedly marginally advanced on November 25. A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces achieved an unspecified tactical success near Novomykhailivka (25km southwest of Donetsk City).[51] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful ground assaults near Marinka (immediately west of Donetsk City) and Novomykhailivka.[52]

Russian Supporting Effort – Southern Axis (Russian objective: Maintain frontline positions and secure rear areas against Ukrainian strikes)

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed on November 25 that elements of the Russian Eastern Grouping of Forces repelled a Ukrainian attack in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area near Pryyutne (15km southwest of Velyka Novosilka).[53]

Russian forces continued attacks in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area on November 25 but did not make any claimed or confirmed advances. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces unsuccessfully attacked south of Zolota Nyva (11km southeast of Velyka Novosilka) and east of Staromayorske (9km south of Velyka Novosilka).[54] Russian sources claimed that Russian forces attacked northwest of Staromayorske on November 24 and 25.[55] The Russian “Vostok” Battalion claimed that the ground in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area began to thaw following the initial frost, making the ground muddy again.[56]

Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast on November 25 but did not make any claimed or confirmed advances. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in the Melitopol (western Zaporizhia Oblast) direction.[57] The Russian MoD claimed that Russian forces repelled two Ukrainian attacks north of Novoprokopivka (just south of Robotyne).[58] A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted mechanized assaults near Robotyne and Verbove (9km east of Robotyne).[59] Another Russian milblogger claimed that poor weather is inhibiting Russian and Ukrainian forces’ ability to conduct ground attacks and use military equipment north of Verbove.[60]

Russian forces continued ground attacks in western Zaporizhia Oblast on November 25 but did not make any confirmed advances. The Ukrainian General Staff…



Read More:Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, November 25, 2023