‘Russian Military Is Shooting Its Soldiers Who Retreat’ – Ukraine Counteroffensive Update for Nov 20
by John Moretti
November 19, 2023
According to the Associated Press, Russia launched 20 Shahed drones aimed at Kyiv on Saturday night and into Sunday morning, along with other attacks targeting the Cherkasy and Poltava regions. The Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) said 15 of them were shot down. Other strikes on the besieged city of Kherson injured five, including a three-year-old girl, while shelling on the northeastern region of Sumy killed one other civilian.
The overnight strike on Kyiv is the second attack on the capital over the weekend, said the city’s Military Administration spokesperson, Serhii Popko. The drones flew toward Kyiv from “constantly changing vectors,” Popko said, making things more difficult for air defenses.
Meanwhile, five people were injured in Russian shelling on the city of Kherson on Sunday, including a three-year-old girl, Interior Minister Igor Klymenko said. “As winter approaches, there will be more Russian attempts to make the strikes more powerful,” President Volodymyr Zelensky posted to social media over the weekend. “It is crucial for all of us in Ukraine to be one hundred percent effective. Despite all the difficulties. Despite all the fatigue. Despite any attempts to weaken Ukraine.”
Citing geolocated footage, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported that the AFU reclaimed some territory near Avdiivka on Sunday, re-taking land near the railway southeast of Stepove (3 km northwest of Avdiivka). These reports were corroborated by Russian sources who added that Ukrainian troops also counterattacked near the Avdiivka coke plant, the site of weeks-long battles.
Other Russian sources insisted that Moscow’s forces advanced near the industrial zone on Avdiivka’s southeastern outskirts, and also the city’s coke and chemical plant, plus the railway west and northwest of Krasnohorivka (5 km northwest of Avdiivka).
Operations: Zaporizhzhia region
The ISW reported on Sunday that Ukrainian troops made gains in the western parts of the Zaporizhzhia region, near the town of Novoprokopivka (3 km south of Robotyne) and Rivne (8 km west of Robotyne). Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces also attacked near Verbove (10 km east of Robotyne), and Kopani (5 km northwest of Robotyne). Many sources claimed that poor weather and visibility are disrupting offensive operations there.
Meanwhile, Moscow’s troops continued offensives in the area on Sunday and reportedly made some small advances. Russian military bloggers made unverified claims that Russian units recaptured a section of the N08 Orikhiv-Polohy-Bilmak highway near Novofedorivka (14 km northeast of Robotyne).
There were also additional, unverified reports of Russian officers shooting their own soldiers in the region who refused to fight.
Along those same lines, the Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Oleksandr Shtupun said on Sunday that “the numbers of Russian deserters and personnel who refuse to conduct offensive operations are increasing, causing Russian commanders to use physical force and barrier troops to push Russian forces to fight,” ISW reported. “I have changed the commander of the Medical Forces Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine,” President Zelensky announced in his nightly address on Sunday. “Instead of Major General of the Medical Service Tetiana Ostashchenko, I have appointed Major General of the Medical Service Anatoliy Kazmirchuk, Head of the National Military Medical Clinical Center ‘Main Military Clinical Hospital’ in Kyiv, as the new commander.” Kazmirchuk will be asked to build an advanced level of medical support for the military, he said, “from high-quality tourniquets to full digitalization and transparency in supply.”
John Moretti is a freelance journalist and author dividing his time between Europe and the United States. He has also spent more than a decade working with companies that protect travelers from health and security emergencies abroad. His academic background is in Eastern European Studies, international public policy and counterterrorism.