July 28, 2023

Sitrep for July 27-28, 2023 (as of 8:00)

Frontline Situation Update

On the evening of July 27 President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that the Armed Forces of Ukraine managed to liberate Staromaiorske (south of Velyka Novosilka) in the South Donetsk direction.

Ukraine's Deputy Minister of Defense Hanna Maliar reported that mopping-up operations in the village continue. This statement does not contradict the fact that Staromaiorske is already under full control of the AFU (this was also reported by Oleksandr Khodakovskyi, a former field commander in the “DPR” who now commands a military unit of Russia's National Guard in the annexed “republic”).

This week has seen an intensification of combat activities in several directions, resulting in Ukrainian forces achieving some successes. We still do not see any evidence that the main units prepared for the current offensive have gone into action. However, this could simply be due to the lack of such information in open sources. The Russian-appointed Zaporizhzhia Vice-Governor Volodymyr Rohov has reported that the AFU concentrated a large number of armored vehicles (100 units) in the Orikhiv direction, however, he cannot be considered a reliable source, as he is most likely inflating the numbers. There is still no visual confirmation supporting the information provided by New York Times sources about the beginning of the main phase of the offensive in the southeast of Ukraine.

The Ukrainian offensive's main thrusts are focused in several directions: towards Robotyne on the Zaporizhzhia axis, towards Staromaiorske in the South Donetsk direction, and towards Klishchiivka and Kurdiumivka, which are two villages just south of Bakhmut, in the Bakhmut direction. Concurrently, Russians forces are likely attempting to divert the AFU’s attention by probing defenses around Karmazynivka, in the Kupiansk direction.

A video surfaced on July 27, showing a lone Ukrainian infantry fighting vehicle advancing across a field towards the first line of Russian fortifications, consisting of an anti-tank ditch and two rows of dragon’s teeth concrete pyramids. Intriguingly, a person can be seen emerging from the vehicle near a forest line and proceeding towards the trees, while the IFV continues its charge towards the anti-tank ditch. It eventually becomes ensnared in the trench, unable to overcome the obstacle. The video was geolocated in the area between the villages of Robotyne and Verbove, east of Robotyne, on the Zaporizhzhia axis.

A pro-Russian Telegram channel has also posted a video showing a Ukrainian infantry fighting vehicle stuck in an anti-tank ditch outside Robotyne. However, it remains unclear whether both videos show the same vehicle. The man behind the camera in the second video says that there is a dead person inside the vehicle.

One way to get across an anti-tank ditch is to use an engineering vehicle with a blade attached to the front to push soil forward while approaching the ditch, thereby creating a makeshift bridge suitable for the passage of armored vehicles.

Minister of State for the British Armed Forces James Heappey has stated that the Ukrainian offensive is progressing according to a plan worked out in winter by the AFU leadership together with Western experts. He also advised against expecting a victory by September. His words align most closely with our perspective, out of all the statements made by Western officials.

Strikes on Ukrainian Territory

Russian forces have continued launching strikes on Ukrainian territory throughout the entire week.

Head of the Kharkiv Region Military Administration Oleh Synyehubov reported that a KAB-250 guided bomb had been dropped on Kivsharivka settlement, Kupiansk district. It fell near a five-story building, causing significant damage, killing one person and injuring four.

Mobilization Update

Last week has seen several amendments to the Russian legislation, including the following:

  • Starting spring of 2024, conscription for statutory military service will cover men from 18 to 30 years of age;
  • It will be possible to call up those attending military training, as trainees will now be treated as active-duty servicemen (previously such trainees could only be issued a mobilization order);
  • The upper limit for signing a contract with Rosgvardia [Russian National Guard] has been removed (it used to be 35 years of age);
  • Certain categories of injuries will no longer be considered as mandatory grounds for discharge from service.

Russia-Africa Summit

After the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin, the Russian president has chosen to forgo in-person attendance at the upcoming  BRICS summit, set to take place in South Africa at the end of August. Nevertheless, Putin has met several African leaders at the second Russia-Africa summit on July 27-28 in Saint Petersburg. Invitations were sent to the heads of all 54 African countries, five of whom refused to take part. Out of those that did agree, only 27 delegations were headed by the countries’ leaders. At the first summit in 2019, 45 delegations took part, with presidents or prime-ministers at their head.

During the event, Putin commented on the situation on the frontline. It appeared evident that he was not well-versed on the subject, and struggled to explain where exactly combat was taking place.

Also, during the summit, Putin announced that due to the termination of the grain deal , six African countries would be offered 25 to 50 thousand tons of Russian grain, free of charge. It should be noted that it is the poorest countries, many of which are in Africa, that will feel the consequences of the deal's termination the most, as grain prices have already risen significantly, owing also to Russian attacks on grain storage facilities and port infrastructure in the Odesa region. According to calculations made by the Agentstvo.Novosti [Agency news] Telegram channel, such gifts will not cover the needs of these countries, and purchasing the remainder, due to price increases, will cost more than purchasing all the necessary grain from Ukraine.

The head of the Russian House cultural center in the Central African Republic, Dmitry Sytyy, published a photo of Yevgeny Prigozhin [owner of the Wagner Group] and the chief of protocol for the CAR’s president. The Fontanka online media outlet found out that the photo was taken in the Trezzini Palace Hotel, owned by Prigozhin's family. Later, another photo of Prigozhin in the lobby of the summit appeared, where he posed with the director of the Afrique media outlet.

It can be presumed that one of the reasons Prigozhin was not severely punished after the mutiny, and the Wagner Group not entirely disbanded, was the shortage of Russian Ministry of Defense personnel available to fulfill Russia's obligations in African and Middle Eastern countries.

Rallies in support of the Wagner Group were held in different African countries. In Mali's capital, Bamako, a demonstration took place with slogans saying "Wagner means security," "Wagner + Russia = Freedom," "Thank you, Wagner," and "Wagner is the cure from the West.” The event was evidently well-organized, featuring high-quality printed posters. A similar gathering took place in Burkina Faso, with banners displaying slogans such as "Wagner is Security, Strength and Honor!" and "Russia and Burkina—brothers forever!" In the Central African Republic, flash mobs were held with homemade banners expressing gratitude to Russia and the Wagner Group, alongside printed materials featuring Wagner Group symbols.

It appears that a certain number of Wagner Group mercenaries will remain in these African countries, but their logistics might become more complicated. Considering the Ministry of Defense's demand for the mercenaries to leave the territory of the "special military operation" by Aug. 1, one can infer that the Ministry no longer  wants the Wagner Group to be involved in the war with Ukraine, and is unlikely to sponsor them, or provide logistics for them, in other countries.

Perhaps, the fact that mercenaries going to an African country now sign a contract for a year and a half at a time has something to do with this logistical complication. This was discovered by Mark Krutov [editor of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty news service] while studying chats of mercenaries' relatives.

The Belarusian Hajun monitoring project has spotted a 12th Wagner Group convoy on its way to the group's camp in the Mogilev region. The convoy also includes five Chekan (Shchuka) MRAP armored vehicles.

French intelligence has exposed a network supplying dual-use technology to Russia and China via third countries. Ommic, a local technology company, produces semiconductors and high-performance chips used in 5G equipment, satellites, missile guidance systems, and ground surveillance radars on fighter jets. It is controlled by Chinese businessman Ruodan Zhang, who acquired it in 2018 through an investment fund with the aim, as the investigation suggests, of exporting company-owned technology to China. The company's executives are accused of supplying dual-use semiconductors through third countries (China, Lithuania, India, and Turkey) to Russia, where these components are used in the production of Russian weaponry, including missiles and tanks. Nine Ommic executives were detained, and shares owned by a Chinese businessman were confiscated so that the company would come under the control of the French government.

According to sources from Politico, the US expects to begin delivering Abrams tanks to Ukraine in September. In August, the first batch will be sent to a repair factory in Germany, where it will undergo final refurbishments before being shipped to Ukraine. If these plans come to fruition, the delivery will happen sooner than anticipated based on earlier reports this year.

The ongoing war is demonstrating to other nations the most promising types of weaponry. For instance, Poland has procured a significant number of HIMARS MLRS, established a separate brigade to operate them, and is planning to open a HIMARS Academy to train personnel.