July 18, 2023

Sitrep for Jul. 17-18, 2023 (as of 08:30 a.m.)

Strikes on Ukrainian Territory

On Jul. 17, as a result of RuAF artillery strikes on the town of Bilopillia in the Sumy region, located near the Russian border, two women were killed in a local park, and another one was injured. This tragedy is another example demonstrating the need to evacuate civilians from border areas, a subject we have frequently discussed.

It is worth noting that reports of forced evacuations from a number of settlements in the Sumy and Chernihiv regions at the end of June, which were later canceled, were specifically related to the need to protect civilians from Russian strikes.

On the night of Jul. 17, two people were wounded as a result of Russian strikes on Kramatorsk.

On Jul. 18, Russian forces attacked Mykolaiv with three loitering munitions, presumably, targeting a fuel depot, resulting in a fire.

Several more Shahed loitering munitions were shot down by air defense forces in Odesa.

Frontline Situation Update

According to Ukraine's Operational Command East spokesman Serhii Cherevatyi, Russia has concentrated a powerful grouping, which includes more than 100 thousand military personnel, over 900 tanks, over 550 artillery systems and 370 MLRS in the Lyman-Kupiansk direction.

His statement puzzled us as such quantities of personnel and vehicles in one direction seem unrealistic, even if the number of personnel was estimated including logistical support units (which, we believe, was not the case previously, as one direction typically involves 20 to 30 thousand personnel). We do not see signs of such a large concentration or redeployment of Russian troops and vehicles in this direction, nor any noticeable advances towards Lyman, which would be almost inevitable given such a concentration of forces. Fighting continues, however, at the same pace as before.

Fighting is also ongoing on the outskirts of Staromaiorske south of Velyka Novosilka on the South Donetsk axis. Russia’s Kaskad military unit (former separatist unit from the "DPR") has posted a video showing Ukrainian MRAPs being hit by anti-tank guided missiles, making Ukrainian forces withdraw. This does not mean that the AFU were expelled from Staromaiorske, as the northern outskirts of this settlement are currently a contested territory. Here is exactly how Staromaiorske is shown on Deep State’s map.

Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence has released a video of a Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance group ambushing a Russian Ural military truck near the village of Sereda, which is situated close to the Ukraine-Belgorod region border. The truck was returning from a supply run when it was ambushed and came under fire, resulting in the deaths of both the driver and the vehicle commander.

A video has surfaced showing a Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot close air support aircraft plunging into the sea near Yeysk, a Russian city located on the Azov Sea coast opposite Mariupol and Melitopol. The aircraft was performing a training flight when it crashed into the water. Reports indicate that the pilot successfully ejected from the aircraft, but later drowned after landing in the sea.

Crimean Bridge Explosion

New satellite imagery collected by Maxar reveals more details on the damages sustained by the Crimean bridge. It appears that one of the bridge spans came off its support pillars and, according to Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister for Construction and Development Marat Khusnullin, is now beyond repair. Additional photos and videos published by Khusnullin show that another span has also been damaged, slightly shifting and forming a protruding step with the following span. This shift of the bridge spans is likely to have been the cause of the accident that claimed the lives of the couple from the Belgorod region.

On the night of Jul. 18, traffic on the Crimean bridge was tested in reverse mode along the most outer right lane. It looks like the test covered the damaged span of the bridge as well, although it is unclear how exactly vehicles are moving through there.

According to Khusnullin, this carriage way will be used for two-way traffic starting Sept. 15, while the other carriage way, where the bridge span has to be replaced, will be launched in November.

Yesterday’s sitrep dealt with a proposal suggesting all those willing to travel to Crimea could use the land route via the Chonhar bridge, though by the evening of Jul. 17 a massive traffic jam had built up in that area. It is also reported that this route can, exceptionally, be used during the nighttime, when all occupied territories are subject to curfew. The American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) suspects that Russian holidaymakers who choose to use this route may interfere with Russian military logistics in the south. We believe that if necessary Russian forces may close the road to tourists at any time to allow free passage to military convoys and supply trucks.

Russian President’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Ukraine’s grain deal was de facto over, and that Russia would return to the agreements only if its conditions were met. However, it is worth noting that when Russia withdrew from the grain deal in November 2022, grain exports actually continued, and Russia returned to the deal three days later. Volodymyr Zelenskyy has proposed to Turkey that the grain deal shall continue without Russia's participation (both Ukraine and Russia had entered into a deal with Turkey and the UN, not with each other).

The New York Times has published new Maxar satellite images of the Wagner Group camp in the village of Tsel, near Asipovichy in the Mogilev region of Belarus. Satellite imagery from Jul. 14 shows little activity, but those from Jul. 16 show buses, trucks and containers. In addition, a Planet Labs satellite image from Jul. 17 shows the previously spotted convoy arriving at the other side of the camp.

Moreover, a video has emerged showing an additional convoy of vehicles on the motorway, hauling a surprising amount of construction equipment. Perhaps the Wagner Group is moving all of its property out of Russian-controlled territory in order to secure it. The lack of fuel tankers in these convoys also strikes us as odd—the few tankers seen in the video are likely transporting water.

Telegram channels associated with the Wagner Group have published an official announcement stating that the group’s base near the village of Molkino in the Krasnodar region will "officially cease to exist" on Jul. 30, 2023. The announcement was supplemented by a video of a flag lowering ceremony.

Earlier, an interview was published with a Wagner Group commander using the call sign Lotus. Among other things, he revealed that all the mercenaries had been given leave until August. This statement is corroborated by reports from the Astra Telegram channel, stating that mercenaries have booked most of the hotels in Krasnodar until the end of July, where they are actively disrupting public order by consuming alcohol, vandalizing hotel rooms, engaging in fights among themselves, as well as with hotel staff and local residents.

The future of the Wagner Group still remains uncertain for us: their camp in Belarus is filling up, but it is unclear who will finance the group.

The Vyorstka media outlet has compiled extensive material about eight Russian military commanders who have been suspended from command since the beginning of the full-scale invasion without being transferred to other positions. However, the fact that virtually nothing is known about their new assignments does not mean that no assignments have been given. It is possible that some of the generals have been transferred to new, less significant positions in Syria, Nagorno-Karabakh, or Transnistria.

Reports have emerged that Major General of the 106th Guards Airborne Division Vladimir Selivyorstov, and Major General of the 7th Guards Mountain Air Assault Division Aleksandr Kornev, have been relieved of their positions. We believe that these personnel decisions will have no impact on the situation on the frontline, just as the appointment of General Aleksandr Dvornikov as the commander of Russian troops in Ukraine in 2022 or his successor, General Sergey Surovikin had no effect. When Dvornikov was appointed to this position, many had high hopes for him due to his combat experience in Syria. Similar sentiments had been expressed about Surovikin, whose removal following Yengeny Prigozhin’s [owner of the Wagner Group] mutiny has not yet been officially announced, although various sources indicate that he has been detained.

An audio address, allegedly released by servicemen from the 7th Guards Mountain Air Assault Division of the RuAF, in defense of General Mikhail Teplinsky raises suspicions about its authenticity and gives the impression of being read from a script. The threats made in it to take up arms in defense of their commanders, in our view, seem impractical.

Yegor Guzenko, "DPR" serviceman, pro-Russian blogger and administrator of the Telegram channel Trinadtsatyy [the 13th], published a screenshot of a conversation with his friend from the 247th Airborne Assault Regiment. Shortly after, Guzenko reported that his friend had been killed, and his body, along with the bodies of other killed soldiers, was not being evacuated from the battlefield. In response, Trinadtsatyy issued an ultimatum, threatening to release "unpleasant materials" if the bodies were not evacuated within two days.

As we mentioned yesterday, a propaganda piece about the increased production of Lancet loitering munitions was broadcasted on the Rossiya-1 [Russia-1] government-owned federal TV channel. It showcased a new kamikaze drone from this product line known as Izdeliye 53 [Product 53]. A special launch system will allow multiple drones to be deployed simultaneously, and operate using the Roy [Swarm] system. These drones will exchange information, allocate and collaboratively attack targets. We believe that this upgraded Lancet variant, just like the T-14 Armata tank or the Sukhoi Su-57 multirole fighter aircraft, is unlikely to appear on the frontline anytime soon.