July 25, 2023

Sitrep for July 24-25, 2023 (as of 8 a.m.)

Strikes on Ukrainian and Russian Territory

Overnight on July 25, Russian forces launched another attack on Kyiv using Shahed loitering munitions. Reports indicate that all of the drones were shot down, resulting in no casualties or damage.

Spokesman of the Air Force Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) Yurii Ihnat has shared his thoughts on the July 24 drone attack on Moscow. According to him, the Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery system, installed on the roof of the Russian Ministry of Defense building, was unable to target the incoming drones effectively as they were flying lower than the system itself, whereas its guns are typically pointing upwards. However, it is our view that the unmanned aerial vehicles were likely flying considerably higher than the roof level; otherwise, they would have collided with a building much earlier in their flight. It is likely that one of the drones crashed into a high-rise building on Likhachev Street, as it had been recently constructed and happened to be on its pre-programmed flight path. It remains unclear why the second drone crashed into a building near the Ministry of Defense. It is possible that it actually was suppressed by means of electronic warfare.

Frontline Situation Update

OSINT analyst Def Mon has stated that he currently does not see any visual confirmation of Russian advances around Karmazynivka in the Svatove-Kupiansk direction (yesterday, we noted that a protrusion indicating a Russian advance had appeared on DeepState’s map, corroborated by reports from soldiers on both sides). He believes that rumors of a significant buildup of Russian forces in the Kupiansk direction are exaggerated. However, Def Mon has also said that the RuAF command had deployed several Airborne Forces units to Bakhumt in an effort to halt Ukrainian advances.

The Gulagu.net Telegram channel published a photograph of a report signed by the Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian General Staff (apparently, by Colonel General Sergey Rudskoi) addressed to General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of the RuAF. The document proposes forming a new group of troops consisting of the Airborne Forces units that had recorded an appeal in defense of Сolonel General Mikhail Teplinsky, and sending them to Bakhmut with Teplinsky at its head. It is unclear how reliable this information is, but it partly echoes the above-mentioned statement by Def Mon, and can also be found in a number of other sources.

Losses among the Airborne Forces can significantly affect the combat effectiveness of the Russian Army in the future, as these are some of the most effective types of troops in the RuAF, and have been used as assault infantry since the beginning of the invasion. Some Airborne Forces units, due to heavy losses, already largely consist of mobilized soldiers and can no longer be called "elite" troops.

Fighting outside Bakhmut is now ongoing in three directions:

  • In the north, near Orikhovo-Vasylivka, the AFU continue advancing along the Sloviansk—Bakhmut highway, as well as near Berkhivka and Yahidne;
  • Near Khromove, the AFU are also advancing towards Bakhmut, which has been confirmed by both Ukrainian sources and pro-Russian Semyon Pegov’s WarGonzo project;
  • In the south, near Klishchiivka, Kurdiumivka, and Andriivka, the AFU also have also managed to advance, heavy fighting is ongoing. This is the direction where Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov allegedly sent his Akhmat special operations unit headed by Apti Alaudinov on July 9, however, nothing has been heard from them since then.

A video has surfaced, shot by fighters of Storm units of the 34th Brigade in the Luhansk region, where they can be heard being pressured by their commanders—threatening to shoot them in the combat zone and shooting under their feet, forcing them to get in KAMAZ trucks and go to Bakhmut. Those who had previously refused to go to forward positions, were called provocateurs.

A Russian colonel, Commander of the Leningrad Regiment Yevgeny Vashunin, has been reported killed. Such news no longer comes as a surprise. The AFU now possess high-precision, long-range missiles, and low morale among personnel often forces senior officers to come to the frontline to address emerging issues. Routine negligence and carelessness also contribute to these kinds of situations.

The IAEA has found anti-personnel mines in the buffer zone, between the outer and inner perimeters of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. Russian soldiers view the mines as a “military necessity.” It must be noted that the IAEA does not have full access to the nuclear plant, although available data seems to support the theory that the mines are meant to impede a potential Ukrainian advance within the plant and not meant to destroy it (anti-personnel mines are unable to cause serious damage to a nuclear plant).

In June 2022 two residents of Vyborg [an administrative center of the Leningrad region] made an alleged attempt to set fire to a draft office. According to the Federal Security Service (FSB), they arrived at the building carrying an improvised incendiary device but after noticing a security guard they got frightened and ran away. Three months later, they were arrested by the FSB along with another individual, presumably the mastermind of the operation. The latter did not plead guilty and was sentenced to the maximum possible term of 13 years for an attempted terrorist act, while the other two pleaded guilty hoping that it would cut down their sentences. They were tried under an expedited procedure, that is when the evidence is not examined, resulting in one being sentenced to 6, and the other, to 11 years in a penal colony. This can serve as a good example that cooperation with investigation does not always lead to a considerable sentence reduction.

We have previously mentioned reports from the US intelligence indicating the existence of plans to initiate the production of Iranian Shahed drones in Russia's constituent Republic of Tatarstan. The Protocol and Razvorot [Centerfold] media outlets have conducted an investigation into the activities within the special economic zone of Alabuga, near the town of Yelabuga. They discovered that at the Alabuga Polytech college, where students can not only study but also work starting their freshman year, teenagers are being widely employed in drone assembly. It is reported that they are subjected to undefined work hours, leaving insufficient time for sleep and meals. Additionally, the agreement includes million-ruble fines for disclosure of information and a significant penalty in case of expulsion. This approach to education with an emphasis on punishment has already led to at least two cases of suicide (in 2021 and in March 2023).

On weekends, students are forced under the threat of reprimand or expulsion to participate in paintball games, where the losing team is punished by mock executions by paintball gun firing squads, trench digging, or other physical tasks.

The college administration is also actively recruiting foreign students, who are assigned to the lowest-skilled work.

On July 24, Putin signed a law banning changes to the legal gender marker and medical interventions related to gender transition, which was adopted by the State Duma of the Russian Federation on Jun. 14. In addition to prohibiting medical aid, those who have transitioned are forbidden from adopting children or acting as guardians, while “gender transition by one of the spouses” will now be recognized as legitimate grounds for annulment of the marriage. The law came into effect on the day of its publication. Our team expresses support for the transgender community and believes that equality is an essential condition for the existence of a healthy society.

New satellite images of the Wagner Group’s camp in the Mogilev region of Belarus were published on July 23, showing newly arrived vehicles.

According to the latest assessment by the Belarusian Hajun monitoring project, the number of Wagner Group mercenaries in Belarus is estimated to be between 3,450 and 3,650 individuals. For comparison, in 2009, the population of the nearby village of Tsel was 1,414 people.

The pro-Wagner Telegram channel Grey Zone reports that the last Wagner Group fighters will leave the territory of the “LPR” by Aug. 1. As per the requirements of the Russian Ministry of Defense, no mercenaries should remain in the “special military operation” zone by this deadline.

Forbes Polska has published an article about the first loss of a Polish PT-91 Twardy tank during the Ukrainian offensive (we had previously wondered why, despite a reported delivery of 250 vehicles, none of them had been seen on the frontline, only photos from training grounds). As we understand it, the article refers to a video published on July 9, in which the destroyed PT-91 was identified. It is said that the 22nd Mechanized Brigade of the AFU (the only one using PT-91 tanks and until recently was in reserve) apparently took part in the fighting and suffered its first serious casualties.

A photo of US DPICM cluster munitions supplied to Ukraine has appeared. The M864 modification that has been provided is more modern (produced since 1987) than the M483A1 (produced since the seventies). The M864 is equipped with fewer bomblets but has a longer range (up to 29 km). According to US Army regulations, such munitions are not used even for exercises, meaning that they were taken from war reserves.

Deliveries of Western Military Equipment

On Jul. 24, a ship with various military and humanitarian supplies for Ukraine departed from the harbor of Santander (Spain). It is expected that they will be transferred to the AFU in early August. The aid package includes:

  • four Leopard 2A4 tanks;
  • 10 Đś113 armored personnel carriers;
  • 10 trucks;
  • one multi-purpose armored vehicle;
  • three ambulances and two armored medical vehicles.

The Associated Press, citing their sources in the Biden administration, reported on an additional aid package to Ukraine worth up to $400 million. It will include:

  • a batch of Black Hornet Nano micro reconnaissance UAVs;
  • additional munitions for HIMARS MLRS and National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS);
  • Hydra-70 unguided air-to-surface rockets;
  • FIM-92 Stinger MANPADS and FGM-148 Javelin ATGM launchers;
  • 32 Stryker armored personnel carriers;
  • artillery rounds;
  • 28 million rounds of small arms ammunition;
  • demolition equipment.

Recently, three extensive articles on the topic of the Ukraine war have been released in the Western press. Meduza [international Russian-language online media outlet] has published summaries of these articles.

The article “West must focus on preparing Ukraine’s troops—or we will all pay the price” in the Observer (part of the Guardian Media Group) was written by Jack Watling, senior research fellow for land warfare at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). According to Watling, what the Ukrainians would need in order to conduct successful offensive operations was clearly communicated to western capitals from July to September last year. The priorities were: artillery, engineering capability, tactical air defense, protected mobility, and collective and staff training. Of these, Ukraine’s partners have provided sufficient artillery and protected mobility. Engineering and tactical air defenses have been less forthcoming, Watling reports.

We do not agree with the statement about Ukraine having sufficient artillery and ammunition. While it is true that, at some point, the situation on the frontline improved noticeably, Russia continued to carry out a significantly higher number of artillery attacks, forcing the AFU to conserve ammunition. Moreover, it is worth noting that the decision regarding tanks and infantry fighting vehicles was only made in January 2023 and was only partially implemented, as we also reported in our sitreps.

Additionally, Watling emphasizes another crucial problem: the process of training Ukrainian troops is poorly thought out. While individual soldiers can be trained in Ukraine, there is no safe place to train entire units, as Russia would immediately target such locations. Furthermore, conducting comprehensive training on European training grounds is not feasible because the Ukrainians cannot use their own combat systems, which lack NATO certification. Moreover, the timing and methods of training should be adapted to leverage the existing strengths of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, as they have experience in fighting powerful adversaries, which European or American armies lack. However, achieving this requires inviting Ukrainian commanders to participate in the development of training courses, which they do not have time for.

The Wall Street Journal article “Ukraine’s Lack of Weaponry and Training Risks Stalemate in Fight With Russia” begins with a peculiar statement: "When Ukraine launched its big counteroffensive this spring, Western military officials knew Kyiv didn’t have all the training or weapons—from shells to warplanes—that it needed to dislodge Russian forces. But they hoped Ukrainian courage and resourcefulness would carry the day. They haven’t." We find it difficult to comprehend how courage and resourcefulness alone can overcome minefields or miraculously defeat the Russian Air Force and artillery.

According to the authors of the article, the chances of a significant breakthrough by the AFU this year are decreasing, leading to concerns about long-term support for the Ukrainian Army. Among European leaders, there is an increasing belief that Ukraine must achieve a complete victory in this war for the security of the entire European continent. However, Europe alone lacks sufficient resources to ensure this victory, making support from the United States crucial.

To engage a fortified adversary, it is essential to have at least a threefold numerical advantage and execute coordinated air and ground attacks. However, according to military analyst Franz-Stefan Gady, Ukraine lacks the resources to pursue such a strategy. The AFU do not have air superiority, a critical factor for conducting complex offensive operations. Moreover, Ukrainian forces lack adequate air defense systems to position them close to the frontline and shield advancing units from aerial attacks.

In the article “Weary Soldiers, Unreliable Munitions: Ukraine’s Many Challenges,” The New York Times reports that Russia and Ukraine are locked in a deadly back and forth of attacks and counterattacks both suffering significant losses. Russian artillery no longer has the clear advantage and Ukrainian forces are struggling with staunch Russian defenses, grinding on in their southern offensive and slowed by dense minefields. Ukraine has adapted well to defensive warfare. But offensive operations are different: Ukraine has made marginal progress in its ability to coordinate directly between its troops closest to Russian forces on the so-called zero line and those assaulting forward.

Ukrainian infantry are increasingly focusing on trench assaults, but after suffering tens of thousands of casualties since the war’s start, their ranks are often filled with lesser-trained and older troops. With the war in its second year and both armies well versed in constructing and defending fortifications, assaulting trenches has become one of the most dangerous and necessary tasks for Ukrainian troops trying to retake territory. Training for more specialized skills, such as for snipers, has been sidelined in favor of trench attacks.

Often, to fire or maneuver, Ukrainian combat vehicles have to forgo any type of camouflage, exposing them to another weapon that has proliferated across the front line in recent months: Russian Lancet drones. Often called “kamikaze” drones, they have forced Ukrainian artillery and tank crews to take extensive measures concealing their positions. Some tank crews have even resorted to welding homemade armor to their turrets in an attempt to avoid being hit by the drones. Lancets are hard to shoot down because they operate more like guided bombs than drones, Ukrainian soldiers say. Jamming them is impossible, at least for now. Electronic warfare is an unseen actor in behind much of this war, with Russian abilities outmatching those of the Ukrainians.

It is our view that none of these three articles are a reason for panic; they simply describe the expected and typical issues that had been previously covered by us and that are gradually being addressed.