July 12, 2023

Sitrep for Jul. 11-12, 2023 (as of 08:30 a.m.)

Strikes on Ukrainian Territory

According to the Kherson Regional Military Administration, as a result of a Russian strike on the village of Sofiivka in the Kherson region with BM-21 Grad MLRS, one civilian was killed and another one was injured.

Frontline Situation Update

Ukrainian forces have approached Russian fortifications and are already attempting to break through the first line of defense (which does not necessarily include concrete pyramids) in the area of Robotyne.

Fighting continues on the Vremevsky ledge near Velyka Novosilka. A video has emerged showing the AFU mopping-up forest lines occupied by Russian forces. Thus, the Ukrainian Army is "leveling" the frontline in the area of Makarivka and Rivnopil.

Ukrainian military observer Kostiantyn Mashovets has expressed doubts about the claim made by Ukraine's Deputy Minister of Defense Hanna Maliar regarding the establishment of "fire control of entries and exits of Bakhmut." According to him, Russian troops have deployed reserves from the 98th Guards Airborne Division and launched counter attacks against advancing Ukrainian units in the areas of Dubovo-Vasylivka, Berkhivka, and Yahidne, effectively stalling the Ukrainian offensive. Russian reserves from the 83rd Guards Airborne Assault Brigade arrived near Klishchiivka, and launched attacks on Ukrainian positions in the Andriivka direction, and also halted the Ukrainian advance. Those Russian offensive actions were tactical (local) in nature, resulting in gains of just a few kilometers. Heavy positional fighting is taking place along the entire frontline.

In light of these developments, Mashovets questions whether Ukrainian defense forces are truly prepared to pay such a high price for liberating their territories. He also emphasizes that it is hard to overstate the importance of the everyday work done by military intelligence at both strategic and tactical levels. Mashovets also underscores the need to provide the Commander-in-Chief and the General Staff with comprehensive intelligence on enemy actions to enable timely, reasoned, and appropriate decision-making.

It is worth noting, however, that frontline reporting done by the media, or social media, can put commanders under a great deal of psychological pressure when making important decisions, which is why it is eminently important to set emotions aside when assessing the situation on the battlefield.

On Jul. 10, Valerii Markus, the notorious Chief Sergeant of the 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade of the AFU, submitted a request to be demoted to regular sergeant. He explains that he now finds himself at odds with the new command, and their plans for brigade development, and is choosing instead to fight alongside rank-and-file soldiers on the frontline. This story is yet another example of how making a situation public can, as it has often been the case in Ukraine, bring about positive changes. In contrast, whistleblowers are most often met with targeted repressive measures within the RuAF.

Mobilization Update

The Belarusian Ministry of Defense has stated that Russian troops are undergoing regular rotations at Belarusian training grounds, just as reported by the Belarusian Hajun monitoring project on Jul. 3. This marks the fourth wave of Russian troop rotation in Belarus, with its main phase taking place from Jul. 2 to 8. Over the course of a rotation, recently contracted or mobilized troops from various camps arrive in Belarus, undergo a few months of training at a training range, and then set off for the frontline. They are subsequently replaced by the next batch of military personnel for training.

The Belarusian MoD has also stated that Wagner Group mercenaries will soon arrive in the country to participate in exercises, and exchange experiences at the military training grounds. However, there is no need to send 8 thousand people to Belarus for such purposes. That is why it is not yet clear how many Wagner Group mercenaries will be deployed there and when it will happen. It is plausible that the two hundred mercenaries, who have already arrived at the Losvida training ground, might suffice for this exchange of experience.

New addresses by the families of mobilized soldiers, coming with photos of several documents, shed light on  a scheme in which both mobilized troops and contract soldiers were sent to the frontline without any supplies or support. According to these documents, the personnel who arrived from the Eastern, Central, and Western Military Districts in mid-April were initially listed in 3rd Army Corps units, and several days later were assigned to the Volki [Wolves] and Veterany [Veterans] sabotage and reconnaissance brigades (comprising 600 and 850 personnel respectively). In addition, the documents also mention the Redut unit, formed in Kubinka, Moscow region.

The above-mentioned military personnel are complaining about their commanders’ recklessness. They are being sent on suicidal attacks near Bakhmut or Soledar, punished for various infractions, physically abused, and disarmed. Commanders often refuse to pay the soldiers their salaries under fabricated pretexts, leading to nearly mutinous situations that eventually result in at least partial payments. We have previously reported on similar cases, including instances where these units, sometimes referred to as "private military companies," bought out mobilized soldiers from commanders of RuAF units.

Photographs of one of the main cemeteries associated with the Wagner Group in the village of Bakinskaya, Krasnodar region, were published. These photos feature unusual identical pyramid-shaped tombstones that resemble fortifications.

Father and close friend of Stanislav Rzhitsky, deputy head of the municipal mobilization department, who was killed in Krasnodar, revealed that he submitted his resignation from the Russian Armed Forces as early as December 2021. However, the dismissal process was only completed by August 2022. During this period, Rzhitsky remained in Sevastopol, but did not go out to sea. It is likely that he was not involved in any missile strikes on Ukraine.

According to information circulating on pro-Russian Telegram channels and the Specnaz Rossii newspaper, Deputy Commander of the Southern Military District (SMD) Lieutenant General Oleg Tsokov was reportedly killed as a result of a Storm Shadow missile strike on a backup command post of the 58th Combined Arms Army in Berdiansk. However, there are currently no official confirmations of this.

Deliveries of Western Military Equipment

Norway will increase its military support to Ukraine by $239 million by the end of this year, according to recent reports. We currently do not know how these funds will be allocated.

During the NATO summit, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Federal Minister of Defense Boris Pistorius have announced a new military aid package for Ukraine, amounting to up to 700 million euros. The package includes:

  • 2 Patriot launchers;
  • 40 Marder 1A3 infantry fighting vehicles;
  • 25 Leopard 1A5 main battle tanks;
  • 5 Bergepanzer 2 armored recovery vehicles;
  • 20,000 155mm shells.
  • 5,000 155mm smoke shells.

France has also begun supplying long-range missiles to Ukraine. On Jul. 11, President Emmanuel Macron announced the delivery of SCALP-EG long-range cruise missiles. A military source told the AFP news agency that some of these missiles have already been delivered. SCALP-EG is the French name for Storm Shadow missiles, which have already been supplied by the United Kingdom.

The New York Times, citing sources, reported that the Biden administration continues to discuss whether to provide ATACMS tactical ballistic missiles to Ukraine.

Ukraine's Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov has claimed that Ukraine and France are going to sign a memorandum on training Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter aircraft. According to Reuters, a coalition of 11 countries will start training Ukrainian pilots in August. The first stage of training will take place in Denmark, followed by Romania, where a specialized training center will be opened.

The United Kingdom has announced a new military aid package for Ukraine, totaling up to ÂŁ50 million ($65 million). Some of the funds will be allocated to the establishment of a rehabilitation center for soldiers, while the rest will be used for additional rounds of Challenger 2 ammunition and over 70 combat and logistics vehicles.

In the latest draft communiqué to be issued at the NATO summit, its leaders stated that the Alliance will be in a position to extend an invitation to Ukraine to join it when allies agree and conditions are met. This draft had not yet been finalized when it sparked outrage from Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who referred to the lack of precise timelines for Ukraine's NATO membership as "absurd." In his opinion, the draft suggests that there is no willingness to invite Ukraine to NATO or make it a member of the Alliance.

Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has announced that the Membership Action Plan for Ukraine will be abandoned, and instead of the previously required two steps for joining, only one will be needed. We anticipate that, should the war persist, the Armed Forces of Ukraine will be fully compliant with NATO standards by the end of the conflict.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense Sergei Shoigu has stated that should Ukraine be supplied with cluster munitions, the Russian Armed Forces would be "forced" to use similar weapons. It is interesting to note that Russian forces have been using cluster munitions since the first day of the full-scale invasion. One of the most recent cases occurred in January 2023 when the RuAF used a 9K720 Iskander missile with a cluster munition warhead against a Ukrainian S-300PS SAM system launcher.

It appears that the stock of rockets with cluster munition warheads for BM-30 Smerch and BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launcher systems, as well as missiles for the OTR-21 Tochka SRBM system, have been depleted. The reserves of rockets with cluster munition warheads for the 9M544 Tornado-S MLRS and Iskander missiles with cluster munition warheads are also exhausted, and are being used as they are produced.

As for air-dropped cluster bombs, they are barely ever used because of Ukrainian air defenses. We haven't yet seen cluster munitions paired with the UMPK [Universal Gliding and Correction Module], but we assume that it is technically impossible with the current version of the module.

During the press conference of the Czech President Petr Pavel at the NATO summit, a  Populyarnaya Politika [Popular Politics, the Russian opposition YouTube channel] correspondent asked him how come Rostislav Zorikov [son-in-law of the head of Russia's largest defense holding, Tactical Missiles Corporation, Boris Obnosov] still owns real estate in the center of Prague and is not under sanctions. According to Petr Pavel, there is no law that would allow the Czech Republic to confiscate this property or expel Zorikov from the country.

In fact, there is already a regulation based on the EU law on sanctions against those who threaten Ukraine's sovereignty. According to the Dec. 1, 2022 Act on Restrictive Measures against Certain Serious Conduct applied in International Relations, the Czech Republic has sufficient legal grounds to impose sanctions on Obnosov and his family.

In Kyiv, two apartments have been confiscated from Artemy Lebedev, a pro-Russian blogger and designer, who is on Ukraine's sanctions list.