July 11, 2023

Sitrep for Jul. 10-11, 2023 (as of 08:30 a.m.)

Frontline Situation Update

Fighting continues, but there have not been any noticeable changes on the frontline so far.

A video has emerged showing CV90 IFVs delivered by Sweden in service with the Ukrainian military in the Svatove — Kreminna direction.

After the encirclement of Bakhmut, it would be quite logical for the AFU to advance in the northern part of the Luhansk region, in order to cut off Russian supply.

Some time ago, Russian paratroopers were active in the Svatove direction. At that time, the Russian Ministry of Defense published videos showing BMPT Terminator tank support fighting vehicles being used there. These vehicles are known to have moved to the Avdiivka direction, where Russian forces made an unsuccessful offensive attempt.

There is contradictory information about the situation in the Bakhmut direction. According to Ukraine's Deputy Minister of Defense Hanna Maliar, the AFU have occupied dominant heights in the area of Bakhmut. Meanwhile, Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov claimed that Apty Alaudinov’s Akhmat special forces unit had gone to the area of Klishchiivka to “put things in order,” and published a video allegedly filmed there showing Alaudinov and Akhmat special forces fighters riding an IFV in relative safety. We assume that the video was actually filmed in a safer location.

Combat activities are, reportedly, mainly taking place on the Zaporizhzhia axis in the area of Robotyne (south of Orikhiv)—the AFU are gradually approaching the first lines of Russian fortifications and, apparently, will try to break through them in the near future. In connection to this, a video showing RuAF strikes on Ukrainian military vehicles and photos of damaged and destroyed Bradley IFVs in this area have started to emerge again.

About a month ago, we showed photos of MT-LB multi-purpose armored vehicles equipped with an MS-227 launcher of a Soviet-made A-22 Ogon’ 140mm naval MRLS. A video has appeared, geolocated on the left bank of the Dnipro near the town of Oleshky showing such a vehicle firing towards the Antonivskyi bridge (where the Ukrainian bridgehead is presumably located).

Ukrainian forces have released drone footage showing damage to the bridge crossing the Konka river, near Oleshky. It is likely that this bridge is being targeted by the AFU to prevent Russian Armed Forces from bringing reinforcements to the Antonivskyi bridge. Judging by the size of the holes left in the asphalt, the bridge was shelled with 155mm artillery. However, this kind of ordnance cannot cause significant damage to the bridge.

A Bloomberg report, claiming that both sides now have approximately the same number of tanks, has been criticized by numerous researchers, including Oryx volunteers. They have noted that neither Ukrainian mobilization reserves nor the equipment of the “LPR” and “DPR” were factored into the tally. Therefore, we do not consider the figures cited in the Bloomberg report as reliable.

It is also becoming increasingly obvious that whilst Ukraine is receiving modern Western equipment, Russian forces are increasingly relying on outdated Soviet-era tanks.

Consequences of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Armed Rebellion

Russian state media has confirmed that Vladimir Putin held a meeting with Yevgeny Prigozhin [owner of the Wagner Group] and Wagner Group commanders on Jun. 29, five days after the rebellion. It is interesting to note that on that very day, Russian President’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov informed reporters that he was unaware of Prigozhin’s whereabouts.

Unsurprisingly, statements made by Russian authorities about the meeting, and ensuing negotiations with Wagner Group commanders, have elicited a flurry of negative reactions from pro-Russian Telegram channels. Former separatists commander and military blogger Igor “Strelkov” Girkin even went as far as proposing that Putin might now soon be meeting with soldiers from the Azov Regiment to discuss the siege of Mariupol. He also wondered whether Putin was ever going to meet the widows of the pilots killed by Wagner Group mercenaries during the rebellion.

On Jul. 7, a farewell ceremony was held for the killed crew of the shot down Ilyushin Il-22 aircraft.

In light of recent developments, it can be assumed that construction on the camp, for Wagner Group mercenaries, in the Mogilev region, indeed started on Jun. 25, when the decision to send them to Belarus was reached after negotiations with Lukashenka. The 8 thousand people are probably mercenaries, not counting ex-convicts. However, the decision probably evolved in the course of negotiations, on Jun. 29. Since no significant movement of mercenaries has been recorded, we doubt that the Wagner Group will be relocated to that camp any time soon.

One of the pro-Russian war correspondents interviewed a commander from the Wagner Group, with the call sign Lotus, who spoke about his plans to take leave, perform a rotation "to their remote locations," and later head to Belarus.

On Jul. 7, SkyNews reported, citing officials from the Central African Republic’s Ministry of Defense and from the Russian embassy, that 500 to 600 Wagner Group mercenaries were leaving the CAR as they had refused to sign contracts with Russia’s Ministry of Defense. Meanwhile, 1300 to 1400 more mercenaries will be staying in the republic. Also, an adviser to President Touadéra clarified that the CAR signed an agreement with Russia, and not the Wagner Group, so the Republic’s Government does not care much about who manages the "military instructors."

Also on Jul. 7, Reuters reported, citing their sources, that Syria’s military intelligence cut landlines and internet links overnight on Jun. 23 from areas where Russian Wagner forces were deployed to prevent them from communicating either among themselves or with Russia (relatives or other mercenaries). In the meantime, a group of Russian military officers was dispatched to Syria to help take charge of the mercenaries by the morning of Jun. 24, and a dozen Wagner officers were summoned to the operational base of Russia’s Ministry of Defense in Hmeimim. We do not know what happened to them afterwards. All the fighters were offered to either come under the command of Russia’s Ministry of Defense or go to Russia. It is reported that only a few dozen people refused and were taken home on Ilyushin Il-76 strategic airlifters. According to Reuters, 250 to 450 mercenaries are currently staying in Syria.

Mobilization Update

The Russian Ministry of Defense is asking large Russian companies to provide employees for contract service, which has led them to start recruiting volunteer fighters to fulfill the quota. In addition to their salary under contract with the Ministry of Defense, they will also receive payments from the company sending them to the war, since they will still be listed as full-time employees.

It has also been reported that the Moscow Mayor's Office unofficially ordered all large construction companies to make payments to contract soldiers who enlisted in Moscow. As a result, their monthly salaries might reach 500,000 rubles [$5540].

Stanislav Rzhitsky, deputy head of the city department for mobilization, has been killed in Krasnodar. In 2020, he was the commander of the Krasnodar B-265 submarine. Ukrainian media has blamed him for launching 3M-54 Kalibr cruise missiles at Ukrainian territory, most notably those that hit Vinnytsia on Jul. 14, 2022. There is a theory that the killer was able to track down Rzhitsky using the Strava app, where the deceased used to post his jogging data. Some people are speculating that the murder may be linked to the fact that the position of deputy head for mobilization often involves corruption.

Meduza [international Russian-language online media outlet] and Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet], together with Dmitry Kobak, a researcher specializing in excess mortality, have calculated Russia's losses in the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The National Probate Registry was used for the calculations. The weekly excess male mortality in different age cohorts was determined based on an array of 11 million records. The number of killed from the beginning of the invasion until May 27, 2023, with a 95% probability, falls between 40,000 and 55,000. This estimate does not include residents of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) because there is no statistical data available for these regions. An independent calculation based on official data from Rosstat [Federal State Statistics Service] on mortality in 2022 confirms these results, and the reliability of the used method.

Dmitry Peskov refused to comment on the article, stating that the Kremlin has stopped monitoring Meduza, so they don’t know what this material is about.

Last week, Governor of the Belgorod region Vyacheslav Gladkov promised that part of the territorial defense battalions would receive weapons in a week. On Jul. 10, security advisor to the Governor of the Belgorod region Oleg Mantulin stated that an organization with a firearms license would be established in the region and 400 weapons would be procured to address this issue. According to him, the Belgorod self-defense forces include eight battalions with 2,900 personnel, meaning there will not be enough weapons for everyone.

The return of evacuated residents from Shebekino, Novaya Tavolzhanka, and Arkhangelskoye has been suspended due to continued shelling in the border areas of the Belgorod region.

The Communist Party of the Russian Federation submitted a draft resolution on legislative pardon to the State Duma [lower house of Russia's Federal Assembly] in November, 2022, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the USSR’s formation. It contained a proposal to pardon all accused and convicted on a number of charges, including for the dissemination of knowingly false information about the Russian Armed Forces and repeated discrediting of the army. In addition, the resolution proposes to pardon the participants of the wars in Chechnya, Syria, and Ukraine, as well as those accused and convicted of insulting the feelings of religious believers and participating in the activities of undesirable organizations. The State Duma Committee on State Building and Legislation voted against this resolution on Jul. 10. In addition, First Deputy Chairman of the Committee Irina Pankina said that the number of convicts in Russia had fallen to a "historical low" (around 400,000 people). This is explained by the fact that in 2022, around 50 thousand convicts recruited by the Wagner Group were pardoned by secret presidential decrees, and in 2023 the Ministry of Defense continued the practice of recruiting convicts.

Deliveries of Western Military Equipment

The Czech Republic promised to supply Ukraine with additional attack helicopters (presumably Mil Mi-24 attack helicopters), as well as hundreds of thousands of large-caliber ammunition.

Ukraine’s Minister for Strategic Industries Oleksandr Kamyshin has announced the start of constructing a Bayraktar UAV production plant in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the CEO of the German automotive and arms manufacturer Rheinmetall has announced that, in the next three months, the company would open a plant in Ukraine for the production and repair of tanks and other armored vehicles.

We do not entirely understand the feasibility of building a large military factory on the territory of Ukraine, which is constantly under fire and is dealing with a lack of air defense. In our opinion, a better option would be to build the factory in friendly neighboring countries.

Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová announced that 16 more Zuzana 2 155mm self-propelled guns will soon be delivered to Ukraine, although the exact date was not specified.

The US announced a new package of military assistance to Ukraine, with deliveries coming directly from the U.S. Army Reserve. It will include:

  • Additional munitions for Patriot air defense systems;
  • AIM-7 missiles for air defense;
  • Stinger anti-aircraft systems;
  • Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS);
  • 31 155mm howitzers;
  • 155mm artillery rounds, including DPICM, and 105mm artillery rounds;
  • 32 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles;
  • 32 Stryker armored personnel carriers;
  • Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missiles;
  • Javelin and other anti-armor systems and rockets;
  • Precision aerial munitions;
  • Penguin Unmanned Aerial Systems;
  • 27 tactical vehicles to recover equipment;
  • 10 tactical vehicles to tow and haul equipment;
  • Mine clearing equipment;
  • Demolitions munitions and systems for obstacle clearing;
  • Small arms and over 28 million rounds of small arms ammunition and grenades;
  • Spare parts and other field equipment.

Dmytro Lubinets, the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, said that Russia refuses to release Ukrainian soldiers and civilians captured between 2014 and 2022 during the Anti-Terrorist Operation [the 2014-2018 war in Donbas] and the Combined Forces Operation [the 2018-2022 war in Donbas]. Ukraine has been including these people in the exchange lists each time, but the Russian side refuses to hand them over for unknown reasons.