July 13, 2023

Sitrep for Jul. 12-13, 2023 (as of 11:00 a.m.)

Strikes on Ukrainian Territory

The wreckage of an unidentified aerial object fell in a recreation park in a residential area of Zaporizhzhia. As a result, 18 people were injured. It is unclear whether the aerial object was shot down or veered off course and crashed.

State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] member from the Zabaykalsky region Andrey Gurulyov has confirmed not only the death of Lieutenant General Oleg Tsokov, but also the injury Tsokov sustained in September 2022, which was reported by Ukrainian sources at the time.

Furthermore, additional details have emerged regarding the Storm Shadow missile strike on the Southern Military District headquarters in Berdiansk, which resulted in General Tsokov’s death. A North Caucasus OMON [riot police] unit (mostly from Russia’s constituent Republic of Dagestan) arrived at the scene to clear the rubble, and was immediately hit by a second strike. It is unclear why the OMON unit was the one sent to clear the debris. The incident was discussed in Dagestani Telegram chatrooms, where several riot police officers were also reported to have been killed in the second strike.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has published a video showing the transfer of military equipment from the Wagner Group and provided some details about its quantity. In total, over 2,000 military vehicles and weapons were transferred, including hundreds of heavy weaponry units. Those were T-90, T-80, and T-72B3 tanks, BM-21 Grad and BM-27 Uragan MLRS, Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery systems, 2S1 Gvozdika 122mm self-propelled howitzers, 2S3 Akatsiya 152mm self-propelled howitzers, 2A36 Giatsint-B towed 152mm field guns, 2S4 Tyulpan 240mm self-propelled mortars, towed howitzers, anti-tank guns, mortars, armored trucks, and APCs. In addition, the Ministry of Defense received around 20,000 light weapons, over 2,500 tons of various ammunition, cars, and other equipment. It is reported that some of the equipment has never been used in combat. The video also shows a large number of "guntrucks" equipped with AZP S-60 57mm anti-aircraft guns. Thus, it is likely that the Wagner Group has been almost completely disarmed.

Pro-Russian war correspondent Alexander Sladkov reported on a surprisingly large ammunition stockpile, amounting to some 1,100 tons, stored at a Wagner Group depot near Voronezh. This challenges the claims, often made by Yevgeny Prigozhin, that his mercenaries were suffering from a lack of ammunition. Additionally, the Wagner Group operated another storage facility in Rostov-on-Don, which led pro-Russian war correspondent Aleksandr Kots to question the necessity of having a depot so far away from the frontline. However, other war correspondents have offered a different perspective, explaining that the Rostov stockpile would only suffice for roughly five days’ worth of combat operations. Therefore, they argue, the Wagner Group was indeed suffering from an acute ammunition shortage.

Yevgeny Prigozhin’s [owner of the Wagner Group] mutiny revealed that the security of the Southern Military District HQ was inadequate, prompting the army to improve the situation. Now the HQ compound is guarded by a Tigr infantry mobility vehicle equipped with a machine gun and gabions (cubes filled with sand) that are placed along the perimeter. However, it is worth noting that such measures are unlikely to offer much protection against tanks.

Mobilization Update

Soldiers mobilized from Russia’s constituent Republic of Yakutia, the Altai region, the Omsk and Irkutsk regions, as well as the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region–Yugra [Russia's federal subject] are complaining that they have spent over 10 months in the area of hostilities without leave, at times, spending several weeks in a row on the frontline. Even though, in his latest address to the Federal Assembly (Russian Parliament), Putin instructed that those involved in the so-called special military operation are entitled to at least 14-days of leave every six months. The aforementioned issue was investigated by journalists from the Sibir.Realii [part of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty] news outlet who found that quite often, and in spite of Putin’s promise, soldiers were unable to make use of this entitlement since their commanders solicited bribes (from 100,000 to 200,000 rubles) and would not sign the necessary reports.

In our previous sitrep, we reported on clear cases of commanders embezzling portions of their subordinates' salaries. Such cases demonstrate that bribery is just another unlawful means of profiting from the war.

As far as we know, after just one month in the combat zone, a unit loses a significant portion of its combat readiness and requires rotation, as mental and physical fatigue builds up. Prolonged stay in the combat zone lowers soldiers' reaction times and vigilance, leading to a loss of skills and communication issues, which, in turn, increases personnel losses.

Russian nationalists from the Russian Volunteer Corps (Ukraine) and the Sabotage Assault Reconnaissance Group Rusich [an openly neo-Nazi volunteer unit] (Russia) have agreed to not desecrate the bodies, memory, and names of fallen fighters who shared their far-right ideology on the other side of the frontline.

Deliveries of Western Military Equipment

Ukraine's Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba, in an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, said that should the training of Ukrainian pilots start in August or September, Ukrainian skies will see the first F-16 fighter aircraft flown by Ukrainian pilots by April 2024.

Some time ago, we mentioned that Germany and Poland failed to agree on the maintenance of the Leopard 2 tanks supplied to Kyiv. Today, Jun. 13, Handelsblatt has reported that Germany is terminating the agreement for the maintenance of these tanks in Poland. According to the newspaper, about half of the supplied Leopard 2 tanks already need repair. They will most likely be sent to Germany, and possibly Lithuania for repairs.

In the wake of the NATO summit, Australia has pledged to provide Ukraine with a new military aid package, set to include 30 Bushmaster protected mobility vehicles.

Norway will donate a NASAMS surface-to-air missile support package, which will include two launchers, two fire control centers and spare parts.

In response to Volodymyr Zelenskyy's outrage over the NATO summit draft communiqué lacking a precise timeline for Ukraine's NATO membership, UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace suggested that Kyiv should do a better job at expressing gratitude for the aid provided by the West. He believes that Ukraine's repeated demands "could alienate key allies." However, Wallace noted that he understands that Zelenskyy was addressing Ukrainians rather than Western partners in this case, and that the wording of the summit's final communiqué represented a good outcome for Ukraine. Zelenskyy replied that Ukrainians have always been and will always be grateful for their support.

Following the NATO summit, U.S. and European ammunition factories are expected to increase production to over 2.5 million artillery rounds per year by 2025.

When it comes to artillery, many experts note that Ukraine is gradually gaining an edge over Russia, as the AFU is much more efficient at counterbattery fighting. While Russia is limited to Lancet loitering munitions, which have been used successfully, Ukraine is efficiently destroying Russian artillery with HIMARS MLRS. Thus, despite losing fewer military vehicles than Ukraine, Russia is losing much more artillery. Yet, this is offset by Russia's initial artillery advantage and a larger stockpile of equipment.

We believe that ultimately the course of the war is affected more by the shortage of artillery ammunition on both sides rather than by the loss of artillery pieces.

Commander of the 58th Combined Arms Army Major General Ivan Popov was dismissed from his position, after which he published an audio address to his subordinates, revealing various issues within the Russian Armed Forces and criticizing the higher command for turning a blind eye to them. According to the general, he "found himself in a difficult situation with senior command where he had to either remain silent or be timid and say what they wanted to hear, or speak the truth."

We see a systemic problem in the RuAF whereby reporting difficulties to the higher-ups does not help resolve them and may only result in punishment for the person who raised the issue.

Vyacheslav Volodin, Chairman of the State Duma, supported the proposal of Communist Party MP Vladimir Isakov to display NATO military equipment destroyed or damaged in combat in front of the embassies of countries supplying it to Ukraine, and assigned the State Duma Defense Committee to organize such an exhibition.