July 21, 2023

Sitrep for Jul. 20-21, 2023 (as of 08:30 a.m.)

Correction to Jul. 19-20 Sitrep

In the sitrep for Jul. 19-20, we have incorrectly stated that according to NASA's Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) satellite imagery, the Shkolny military airfield in Odesa was hit. The fire was actually at a nearby market where a fireworks warehouse had exploded.

In addition, the RuAF struck a vacant lot in the northern part of Odesa. The target of the strike is unknown to us; it might have been a military facility of some kind.

Strikes on Ukrainian Territory

Details have emerged about the strike on the center of Mykolaiv on the night of Jul. 20, which killed a married couple.

According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the strikes on Odesa and Mykolaiv on Jul. 19 and 20 were "retaliation strikes," presumably for the Crimean bridge attack. In the Odesa region and the city of Odesa, "production and storage facilities for unmanned naval vehicles," were targeted, and in Mykolaiv—"fuel infrastructure facilities and ammunition depots."

A video has surfaced showing the destruction of a Russian 2S4 Tyulpan 240mm self-propelled heavy mortar, which was stationed in the Petrovskyi district of Donetsk, albeit quite far from residential areas.

The first videos of the AFU using US-provided dual-purpose improved conventional cluster munitions (DPICMs) have emerged. One of them was published on Jul. 19, and another on Jul. 20, with the latter being geolocated near the town of Krasnohorivka in the Donetsk region. Both strikes were conducted away from residential areas. According to the White House, the AFU have already been using cluster munitions for a week now. While it is too early to assess their effectiveness, it has been reported that the author of the Misha in Donbas Telegram channel, Russian volunteer fighter Mikhail Luchin, was killed near Krasnohorivka.

On Jul. 12, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty published an article detailing the history of cluster munitions, the reasons for their prohibition, and the specific features of the version supplied to Ukraine (a CIT team member contributed to the preparation of this article). Such cluster munitions (with submunitions that use both shaped charges for anti-armor use, and fragmentation for anti-personnel objectives) were originally developed as a countermeasure against a potential Soviet invasion of Western Europe, to decimate Soviet troops in open terrain. Slat armor installed on Russian armored vehicles may provide some protection against such munitions, whilst infantry can hide from them in dugouts, bunkers, pillboxes, or buildings.

In the Bakhmut direction (to the northwest of Bakhmut), the AFU have recently advanced in the area of Orikhovo-Vasylivka. Consequently, Ukrainian forces are still far from even semi-encircling Bakhmut. However, by gaining a foothold on the territories they have reoccupied (not just near Orikhovo-Vasylivka, but also around Klishchiivka), the AFU will now be able to hit the northern part of Bakhmut.

Mobilization Update

The State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] Committee on State Building and Legislation has approved amendments to the Code of the Russian Federation on Administrative Offenses, significantly increasing fines for conscripts and mobilized soldiers failing to appear at the draft office in response to a draft notice and for failing to provide the draft office with various pieces of information:

  • the fine for failure to appear at a military commissariat [enlistment office] upon receipt of a draft notice will go up to 50,000 rubles [$554] (currently 500–3,000 rubles [$5–33]);
  • the fine for failure to report to a military commissariat about a change in marital status, place of residence or work will go up to 20,000 rubles [$221];
  • And the fine for evading medical evaluation related to military registration will increase to 25,000 rubles [$277].

The amendments also introduce a new article to the Code for "non-assistance" to military commissariats during mobilization (article 19.38):

  • officials who fail to notify people and ensure their attendance at military commissariats will be fined up to 80,000 rubles [$886], and companies up to 500,000 rubles [$5,540];
  • fines for failure to submit lists of people subject to military service to military commissariats will be up to 50,000 rubles [$554] for officials, and 400,000 rubles [$4,432] for companies.

These amendments are being considered for a bill that passed its first reading back in 2021. It is planned that they will come into force by Oct. 1, 2023, i.e., by the start of the fall regular biannual conscription campaign.

The French National Court of Asylum has issued a ruling that affirms the right of Russian citizens to seek asylum in the country if they are evading mobilization or conscription, or if they have deserted from the army. Refugee status will be granted if applicants can prove that they are subject to conscription or mobilization in the RuAF, however, the mere fact of being in the military reserve is not considered sufficient grounds.

Our team, along with many other anti-war organizations, has signed the initiative by the Vesna [Spring] movement urging the European Commission and the European Parliament to develop mechanisms that would protect Russian citizens who desert, surrender or conscientiously refuse to fight. The initiative suggests creating tools to solve visa issues, assist the organizations that work to extract people fleeing from mobilization or the war, and help the countries that host such people.

Three Russian soldiers got killed in the Bryansk region’s border district after tripping an anti-tank mine previously planted by sappers of another Russian unit.

Photographs were published showing Wagner Group mercenaries and fighters of the Belarusian Special Operations Forces training together. As we expected, the Wagnerites are unarmed, conducting their exercises with their bare hands.

Colonel General Vladimir Shamanov, ex-Commander of the Russian Airborne Forces and currently a member of the State Duma, has stated in his interview with the Radiotochka NSN outlet on Jul. 19 that about 32 to 33 thousand Wagnerites had signed contracts with the Ministry of Defense, while 7 to 10 thousand had chosen to remain with Yevgeny Prigozhin [owner of the Wagner Group]. He added that it gives grounds for the country’s and RuAF’s leadership for concern.

Responding to this statement, one of the Wagner Group commanders with the call sign Marx gave the following figures: a total of 78 thousand fighters of the Group have been involved in the "Ukrainian assignment," including 49 thousand ex-convicts (this figure coincides with the one given by Olga Romanova, Executive Director of the Rus’ Sidyashchaya [Russia Behind Bars] civil rights movement). 22 thousand fighters had been killed and 40 thousand wounded by the time of the final capture of Bakhmut (May 20), leaving only 25 thousand alive and healthy, along with those recovering from injuries. Among them, up to 10 thousand have departed or are departing to Belarus and 15 thousand have gone on leave. Thus, it is unclear where Shamanov got the number of 33 thousand fighters who supposedly signed contracts with the MoD, as they may not actually exist.

On Jul. 20, Shamanov gave a second interview in which he stated that the aforementioned 33,000 people represented his personal opinion and suggested verifying the actual number of signed contracts with the Russian Ministry of Defense.

​​In our previous sitrep, we reported that at the Wagner Group’s cemetery in Bakinskaya village, identical small pyramid-shaped gravestones were installed on the graves. Now, new photographs of the end result have been published. It is worth noting that, much like at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, not only are the monuments identical, but the graves themselves are not separated by fences deviating from the customary practice in Russian cemeteries.

In response to Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense declared that it would now consider all vessels heading to Russian (or temporarily occupied Ukrainian) Black Sea ports as carrying military cargo, with all the associated risks. We assume this refers to potential attacks by unmanned surface vessels. Nevertheless, if we compare the capabilities of the two countries to enforce a maritime blockade, Russia’s capabilities are undoubtedly much larger.

The US Treasury Department has imposed new sanctions, including sanctions against former head of the Accounts Chamber Alexei Kudrin, Tinkoff Bank, and proxy companies from the UAE and Kyrgyzstan, which helped Russian companies import dual-use technologies. In particular, LLC RM Design and Development is named a "prolific shipper" of semiconductor devices and electronic integrated circuits to Russian counterparties that supply the Russian defense industry.

A day earlier, personal sanctions against Oleg Tinkov [a Russian-born entrepreneur and businessman] were lifted in the UK: he had long sold his stake in the bank and actively spoke out against the war.

Russian athlete and Putin's confidante Yelena Isinbayeva has moved to Spain and continues to work in the International Olympic Committee, which did not find any contacts with military structures, despite the fact that she holds the rank of major in the Russian Army. Russian President’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov has stated that Isinbayeva did not either condemn or criticize anyone and performs her duties to a high standard, so it does not matter where she lives. Meanwhile, Isinbayeva's affiliations with the United Russia party [Putin’s ruling party] are being erased, with her page deleted from the United Russia party website.