A destroyed Russia tank in the liberated village of Bilohorivka in the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine, September 19, 2022 (CNN)

Monday’s Coverage: Russia “Increasingly Relying on Irregular Volunteer and Proxy Forces” as Ukrainians Advance

Source: Institute for the Study of War


Russian inmates have spoken to the Guardian about the efforts of Moscow, suffering heavy losses in Ukraine, to recruit prisoners for the frontlne.

The inmates, in the Tambov region 300 miles south of Moscow, spoke of July’s appearance of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a fixer for Vladimir Putin and the financier of the Wagner Group mercenaries.

“Ivan”, halfway through a 23-year sentence for murder:

We couldn’t believe our eyes, he would really come all the way to visit us.

But there he was standing in front of us: Prigozhin, in the flesh, urging us to join the Wagner private military group and fight in Ukraine.

Video, circulated last week, shows “Putin’s Chef” addressing inmates, urging them to go to the battlefield.

Ivan turned down the opportunity in July. However, about 120 inmates signed up and are now fighting in Ukraine after a one-week training course.

Ivan says he will go if Prigozhin returns.

I have 11 more years to spend in jail. Either I die in this shithole or I die there, it doesn’t matter that much. At least I’ll have a chance to fight for my freedom. We all compare it to Russian roulette.

Besides, right now, signing up is voluntary. Soon we might have no choice and be forced to go.


Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kulebs has responded to the announcements of “referenda” for Russian annexation of proxy areas in eastern Ukraine:


The European Union’s Council has agreed another €5 billion in assistance for Ukraine.

The Council will provide the macro-financial assistance “as a matter of urgency” through long-term loans “to support Ukraine at this critical juncture”.


The head of the Russian proxy “Donetsk’s People Republic”, Denis Pushilin, says the DPR and the “Luhansk People’s Republic” will stage referenda on Russian annexation from September 23-27.

Officials have hurriedly announced the show of referenda as Ukraine’s counter-offensive closes on the proxy areas, controlled by Russia since 2014.

Pushilin addressed Vladimir Putin:

The long-suffering people of Donbas have earned the right to be part of Russia, which they have always considered their homeland. I ask you to consider the issue of joining the Donetsk People’s Republic into the Russian Federation as soon as possible in the event of a positive decision on the results of the referendum, which we have no doubts about.


Vladimir Osechkin, the founder of Gulago.net, has survived an assassination attempt in France.

Gunmen fired at Osechkin but, having noticed a red laser dot on the wall, he, his wife, and his children dropped to the floor and were unharmed.

Gulagu.net, whose name means “No Gulags”, is an investigative site focusing on police violence, torture, and abuses of the security state.


As Ukraine’s counter-offensive in the northeast not only liberates the Kharkiv region but also begins to challenge areas held by Russian proxies since 2014, officials of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Luhansk People’s Republic” are calling for immediate referenda for Russian annexation.

Dmitry Medvedev, the former President and current deputy head of the State National Security Council, endorsed the call this morning: “Referenda in the Donbas are essential, not only for the systematic protection of residents of the LPR and DPR…but also for the restoration of historic justice.”

The US-based Institute for the Study of War summarizes:

Urgent discussion on September 19 among Russia’s proxies of the need for Russia to immediately annex Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts (much of the latter of which is not under Russian control) suggests that Ukraine’s ongoing northern counter-offensive is panicking proxy forces and some Kremlin decision-makers.

Russian State media also reports that “The Public Council of the Kherson Region” in occupied southern Ukraine has appealed to the Russian-installed regional leader Vladimir Saldo to hold a referendum on annexation without delay.

Saldo responded that he hoped Kherson would become “a part of Russia, a fully-fledged subject of a united country”.


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has sent a firm message to Vladimir Putin about the invasion of Ukraine.

Asked by the US outlet PBS, “Should Russia be permitted to keep some of the territory it has taken from Ukraine since it invaded in February?”, Erdoğan replied:

No, and undoubtedly no.

When we talk about reciprocal agreement, this is what we mean. If a peace is going to be established in Ukraine, of course, the returning of the land that was invaded will become really important. This is what is expected. This is what is wanted….

The lands which were invaded will be returned to Ukraine.

Erdoğan, trying to position himself as a broker in negotiations, met Putin in Uzbekistan at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization last week. He maintained that Putin “is actually showing me that he’s willing to end this as soon as possible…because the way things are going right now are quite problematic”.

The Turkish President suggested that “200 hostages will be exchanged” soon in an agreement between the two sides.

Significantly, Russian State media ignore Erdoğan’s message about withdrawal from occupied territory.


The Russian proxy “Donetsk People’s Republic” in eastern Ukraine has sentenced two Ukrainian staff members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to 13 years in prison for “treason”.

Dmitry Shabanov and Mikhail Petrov were detained in April as the security organization was forced to suspend operations. They were accused of passing confidential information to foreign intelligence services, after recruitment in 2016 by a former officer of Ukraine’s SBU security service and a CIA agent in Ukraine.

The OSCE has “unequivocally” condemned the charges as “totally unacceptable so-called ‘legal proceedings’”.

OSCE Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid said on Monday that the two men and a third OSCE staffer must be released.


UK military intelligence offers another sign of Russian occupiers having to pull back in the face of Ukraine’s attacks and counter-offensives.

The command of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet has almost certainly relocated its KILO-class submarines from their home port of Sevastopol in Crimea to Novorossiysk in Krasnodar Krai, southern Russia. This is highly likely due to the recent change in the local security threat level in the face of increased Ukrainian long-range strike capability.

Since July, Ukrainian forces have been striking Russian positions include bases, ammunition depots, and logistical centers. The Black Sea Fleet’s Headquarters in Sevastopol was attacked, and half of its warplanes were destroyed in explosions on the Saky airbase.

UK intelligence concludes, “Guaranteeing the Black Sea Fleet’s basing was likely one of President Vladimir Putin’s motivations for annexing the peninsula in 2014. Base security has now been directly undermined by Russia’s continued aggression against Ukraine.”


Trying to isolate Russian forces in the western Kherson region, Ukraine’s counter-offensive in the south has claimed the sinking of a barge carrying Russian troops and equipment across the Dnipro River.

The attack was near Nova Kakhovka. The Ukrainian military wrote on Facebook, “Attempts to build a crossing failed to withstand fire from Ukrainian forces and were halted.”

ORIGINAL ENTRY: The Ukrainian counter-offensive has re-entered the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine, which was fully occupied by Russian forces in early July.

The counter-offensive, which has regained much of the Kharkiv region in the last two weeks, liberated the village of Bilohorivka on Monday. Video footage showed Ukrainian soldiers patrolling on foot down a ruined street.

Bilohorivka was captured by the Russians at the start of July, just after the fall of nearby Lysychansk, the last Ukrainian-held city in Luhansk.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai announced “complete control”:

It’s a suburb of Lysychansk. Soon we will drive these scumbags out of there with a broom. Step by step, centimeter by centimeter, we will liberate our entire land from the invaders.

Since the start of September, Ukraine’s forces have liberated more than 8,000 square km (3,088 square miles) in the northeast and south.

Over the weekend, the counter-offensive in the Kharkiv region in the northeast made another significant advance, crossing the Oskil River and consolidating positions on the eastern bank.

The next objective is likely to be the railroad hub of Lyman, east of Kharkiv city. Its liberation would open the way to a wider counter-offensive in the Luhansk region.

Ukrainian officials said that 200 Russian soldiers were killed in a strike on Sunday when a missile hit a former bus shelter in the frontline city of Svatove.