BTR Firing

Autor foto: The Ministry of Defence of Ukraine

War in Ukraine Weekly Update – The road to Tokmak (02.09-08.09.2023)

War in Ukraine Weekly Update – The road to Tokmak (02.09-08.09.2023)

8 września, 2023

War in Ukraine Weekly Update – The road to Tokmak (02.09-08.09.2023)

BTR Firing

Autor foto: The Ministry of Defence of Ukraine

War in Ukraine Weekly Update – The road to Tokmak (02.09-08.09.2023)

Autor: Sebastian Czub

Opublikowano: 8 września, 2023

The road to Tokmak

While the Ukrainian offensive on the southern front continues the tempo of the Ukrainian advance has slowed down. The road to Tokmak is very challenging with Ukrainian troops forced to fight in several directions simultaneously. The primary Ukrainian attack in the form of a wedge between Novoprokopivka and Verbove has not been expanded, however it has also not been eliminated by the Russians. The Ukrainians have reached the primary Russian defensive line in this direction and are currently unable to breach it. The terrain in this area is particularly difficult with Ukrainian troops forced to advance uphill towards Russian positions through open fields, with only minimal cover provided by scattered forest strips. Furthermore, any assault can be subject to flanking attacks carried out by the Russian troops from the west from Novoprokopivka or east from Verbove. Thus, for the time being the Ukrainian advance in this direction seems to be stuck.


The situation in this direction would be improved by the elimination of Russian forces either in Novoprokopivka or Verbove. The Ukrainians have so far chosen to focus on Verbove, with their forces, including elements of the 82nd Air Assault Brigade, advancing on the settlement from the northwest. It seems however that the Russian positions in the village are well defended with Ukrainian troops so far failing to enter Verbove, and suffering some casualties, including heavy equipment and the first documented loss of the British Challenger 2 tank used by the 82nd Air Assault Brigade.iUkrainians have succeeded however in taking a stretch of land north of the village, suggesting that they might be trying to flank it from this direction, and thus exerting pressure on Russian positions from two sides. A similar manoeuvre was used by Ukrainian forces during the successful assault on Robotyne. The difference here is that Russian forces have defensive positions (prepared as part of their primary defence lines) covering approaches to Verboe both from the west and north, making any potential assault much more difficult.


Another direction currently being explored is a direct attack on Novoprokopivka from Robotyne. According to latest reports, Ukrainian troops have successfully managed to advance in this direction bringing them within 600-700 metres away from the settlement itself.iiThe assault on Novoprokopivka from the north could potentially be combined with a supporting attack from the east, conducted by Ukrainian forces currently operating with the wedge. Again this would function similarly to the attack on Robotyne which ended in successful liberation of the village. However, recent Russian redeployments of additional forces to Novoprokopivka including elements of the better trained and equipped 76th Guards Air Assault Division could prove to be problematic. Furthermore, Ukrainian losses suffered during the last 12 weeks of the offensive might be taking their toll on the effectiveness of Ukrainian forces in the area. According to certain sources the Skala Battalion, an assault unit used in the attacks in the Robotyne direction has been reduced to 25% of its original fighting strength.iiiThe casualties of the 47th Mechanised Brigade which was used in the assault on Robotyne, according to the medics attached to the brigade, have reached four figures.ivIt is key to remember that these reports might not be entirely accurate, however they are still indicative of significant Ukrainian losses suffered during the ongoing offensive.

Reinforcements needed?

The decreased pace of Ukrainian operations in the Robotyne-Verbove-Tokmak direction and the reports of Ukrainian losses in the area might suggest a noticeable attrition rate of Ukrainian troops. The amount of casualties is beginning to cast doubts on the ability of Ukrainian forces to breach Russian defences in the area, and reach Tokmak before the Autumn rains turn the entire battlefield into a sea of mud. One of the options for the Ukrainian command would be to deploy additional forces however, the majority of known Ukrainian forces prepared before the offensive have already been deployed and engaged in offensive operations along the southern front, or forced to respond to the pressure exerted by Russian forces along the Kreminna-Svatove-Kupyansk line. A potential option would be to use some of the new units being formed. One of these could be the armoured battalion based on 31 American donated Abrams tanks, which as of the latest reports has recently finished training and will soon head to Ukraine. Other potentially much more quickly available reinforcements could include the formation based on the Leopard 1 tanks, which have been confirmed to have already arrived in Ukraine in mid-August, with some sources stating that they have been used to equip the 44th Mechanised Brigade.v

It is possible however, that the extent of Ukrainian casualties is not as significant. The 82nd Air Assault Brigade for example only suffered minimal losses during their engagements in several weeks of intense fighting. It is possible that the temporary lower pace of operations and a slower advance is due to Ukrainian preparations for more major operations. Such temporary lulls in major operations can be noticed when looking back on the Ukrainian operations during the offensive. Naturally any potential reinforcements would be very useful especially in the case of a breakthrough where fresh units could be used to exploit the opening and continue the advance on Tokmak.


While the temporary decreased pace of the Ukrainian advance might suggest certain conclusions it is important to remember that it does not entail the failure of the Ukrainian offensive. While Ukrainian losses are noticeable, they still possess significant manpower and resources in the direction of Tokmak which can achieve very impressive results. Furthermore, when taking into consideration the potential reinforcements available to Ukraine, it can be seen that Ukrainian forces still have plenty of opportunities to break through the Russian lines on the southern front and reach Tokmak.

Author: Sebastian Czub, analyst at Casimir Pulaski Foundation

ii George Barros et al., “Interactive Map: Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine”, Institute for the Study of War and AEI’s Critical Threats Project, accessed September 8, 2023,

iii Anthony Loyd, “Ukraine counteroffensive: ‘I’m ready to die . . . 90% of the guys here will die too’”, The Times, September 5, 2023,

iv Anthony Loyd, “Ukraine counteroffensive: ‘I’m ready to die . . . 90% of the guys here will die too’”, The Times, September 5, 2023,

v David Axe, “Ukraine Is Getting A Lot Of German-Made Leopard 1 Tanks. That Means A Lot Of Training For Ukrainian Tankers.”, Forbes, August 18, 2023,