July 27, 2023

Sitrep for July 26-27, 2023 (as of 8:30 a.m.)

Frontline Situation Update

Russian drone footage has emerged showing damaged Ukrainian vehicles: two M2A2 Bradley IFVs and a T-72B3 tank. These images suggest the abandoned armored vehicles are located in a line of fire, rendering evacuation attempts too dangerous. The video was geolocated east of Robotyne on the Zaporizhzhia axis. Taking into account earlier videos filmed near the northern outskirts of Robotyne, and the fact that Ukrainian military vehicles are currently operating to the east of the settlement, it can be inferred that the Armed Forces of Ukraine may have initiated an attempt to encircle the area from the east.

At the moment, on this axis, Ukrainian forces have advanced right up to Russian fortifications, which have been installed at least as far as Tokmak.

Near Velyka Novosylka in the South Donetsk direction (the eastern part of the Zaporizhzhia axis), a video was filmed showing a Ukrainian Special Operations Forces unit capturing Russian paratroopers (possibly mobilized servicemen). It was geolocated on the outskirts of Staromaiorske. On the map by the DeepState Ukrainian project, half of this village is marked as a contested area. The Ukrainian advancement in this direction is also confirmed by Russian sources: the Vostok Battalion Telegram channel reported on the difficult situation in Staromaiorske noting that the AFU might soon capture it.

Strikes on Ukrainian and Russian Territory

On July 26, Russian forces launched a massive missile attack on Ukraine. The strikes occurred during daylight hours, allowing locals to capture video footage of cruise missiles flying towards Ukraine’s western regions.

According to the Ukrainian Air Force, the barrage included 36 Kh-101/Kh-555 air-launched cruise missiles, 33 of which were successfully intercepted, and three 3M-54 Kalibr cruise missiles, all of which were shot down. Reports further indicated the deployment of Russian MiG-31K interceptor aircraft, firing four Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic air-launched ballistic missiles towards the Khmelnitskyi region.

Spokesman of the Air Force Command of the AFU Yurii Ihnat has said that the missile attack targeted a military airfield 5 km [3 miles] east of Starokostiantyniv, Khmelnytskyi region. It is not yet known whether it sustained any damage.

According to the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine, artillery strikes in the Donetsk region resulted in one person killed and six more wounded.

On the morning of July 27, Russian forces launched another attack on the port infrastructure in the Odesa region. A submarine-launched Kalibr cruise missile hit a security building in one of the ports, killing one employee.

Russia’s Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu has made a visit to North Korea. It is quite likely that, in a few weeks, we will see North Korean munitions on the frontline. Since the DPRK is constantly preparing to continue the war with South Korea, they most likely have significant reserves of weapons and ammunition.

Photographs have surfaced of 120mm mortar shells produced in Myanmar, found in service with Russian forces. The Ukraine Weapons Tracker Project identified them by a characteristic bottom plate and machined tail fins.

On July 8, 2023, Ukraine's Deputy Minister of Defense Hanna Maliar acknowledged that the explosion on the Crimean Bridge on Oct. 8, 2022, was carried out by Ukrainian forces. On July 26, Head of the Security Service of Ukraine Vasyl Maliuk officially confirmed that it was the work of the SBU. The explosion resulted in the collapse of 250 meters of road surface on the automotive part of the bridge, damage to a train on the railway part of the bridge, with seven tank cars catching fire, and the death of five civilians: a truck driver, the driver of a car traveling nearby, and three passengers.

Although in recent months there have been hardly any video recordings of trains or convoys of military vehicles crossing the Crimean Bridge, we continue to observe these trains traveling across Russian territory, and military vehicles then transferred onto trailers in Crimea. There are no other fully functional railway routes from Russia to Crimea, so at the very least, the railway bridge continues to be used for military supplies. The last mention of military vehicles on the automotive bridge was at the end of March, when four armored vehicles from the Akhmat unit collided on it. Crimea serves as a convenient logistics point as it is under more reliable control than other occupied territories of Ukraine. With this in mind, we anticipate that the AFU will carry out new attacks on the Crimean and Chonhar bridges.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty [a US government funded media organization] journalists have studied the Wagner Group satellite pictures made by the Planet Labs Earth imaging company in the Mogilev region, Belarus. The picture of July 25 features no less than 750 vehicles, such as trailers, pickup trucks, drop-side trucks, buses and cars. There are hardly any armored vehicles, with the only exception of Chekan (Shchuka) MRAPs which we reported on in yesterday’s sitrep.

The Mozhem Ob'yasnit [We can explain] Telegram channel, citing information from chats of relatives of Wagner Group mercenaries, reports that mercenaries’ wages have decreased from 240,000 to 150,000 rubles a month [approximately from $2,600/month to $1600/month], with some of their wives complaining about payment delays.

In Nefteyugansk, the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region–Yugra [Russia's federal subject], troubled teenagers and adults with alcohol and drug dependencies will be taught to shoot rifles at the “Healthy Lifestyle Festival” hosted by the Russian Orthodox Church parish, where they will also be involved in gathering aid for frontline needs, taught to weave camouflage nets and play war games.

According to Politico’s sources, the allies of Kyiv have not yet agreed on a plan for training Ukrainian pilots to operate F-16 fighter aircraft. One option involves training AFU pilots in Arizona, USA, while another contemplates sending American instructors to Europe, but a final decision has not yet been made. Draken International, an American company, has begun recruiting retired military pilots to work as instructors for AFU pilots. It is assumed that they will work in a training center in Romania or Denmark, where it is planned to create another such center. Europe had anticipated that training would begin in August, which is only a few days away, but the program cannot start without the approval of the US State Department. Given all these bureaucratic delays, the aircraft will probably not arrive in Ukraine until next spring.

James O'Brien, Head of the Office of Sanctions Coordination at the U.S. Department of State, said that the US currently sees no preconditions for the collapse of the Russian economy amid the ongoing war.

Reuters, citing its sources, reports that president Joe Biden has discreetly instructed his administration to start sharing evidence of alleged Russian war crimes to the International Criminal Court. It is worth noting that the US has not ratified the Rome Statute and does not recognize the ICC's jurisdiction. An exception may have been made for the case of Russia's war against Ukraine.

The New York Times, citing sources in the Pentagon, reports that Ukraine has begun the main thrust of its counteroffensive in the south-east of the country, throwing in thousands of troops held in reserve, many of whom received Western training and equipment. We do not fully understand the rationale behind  announcing an offensive in such a manner, which serves as a warning to the enemy. Based on the information available to us from open sources, there is no confirmed deployment of a large-scale military force along a significant section of the frontline at present. However, it is possible that the situation may evolve in the coming days.

July 29 will mark the anniversary of the explosion in Olenivka that killed 53 Ukrainian prisoners of war and wounded another 75. The exact cause of the explosion remains uncertain. UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk has stated that Russia still has neither provided security guarantees nor allowed UN representatives access to the site. The only thing the UN representatives were able to do was to talk to the survivors. Based on interviews and available information, the UN Human Rights Office disputes Russia’s claim that the explosion was caused by a HIMARS MLRS strike. The cause of the explosion, whether an internal detonation or  some kind of strike, and  the responsible party, remain unknown. It is worth noting  that placing POWs in such close proximity to the frontline constitutes a war crime, and the Russian side was obligated to ensure their safety.

In yesterday’s sitrep, we reported that Ukrainian air defenses managed to shoot down a Russian Kamov Ka-52 (Hokum B) attack helicopter. An obituary for Colonel Vitaly Tabachnikov and Captain Roman Gavrikov has surfaced, confirming rumors that the aircraft was crewed by high-ranking officers.