July 31, 2023

Sitrep for July 28-31, 2023 (as of 11:30 a.m.)

Strikes on Ukrainian and Russian Territory

On July 31, a Russian missile strike partially destroyed a residential building in Kryvyi Rih, resulting in six people dead and 75 injured. Given the scale of the destruction, it appears unlikely that it could have been caused by a Ukrainian surface-to-air missile.

On July 28, the Armed Forces of Ukraine targeted the city of Taganrog, Rostov region. Judging by video evidence, the strike was carried out with a modified S-200 SAM missile. The missile hit the Taganrog Museum of Art, resulting in 16 casualties. It  was almost certainly launched by the Ukrainian side, as Russian Armed Forces have discontinued the use of S-200 SAM systems for almost a decade. The Russian Ministry of Defense is claiming that the modified S-200 missile was intercepted mid-flight, however, there are no signs that the missile had been intercepted in the video of the strike. Additionally, the MoD has reported intercepting another missile close to the town of Azov, Rostov region, not far from the village of Petrovsky, located on the Don river estuary. Debris from a third missile fell in Sambek, a village northeast of Taganrog.

One potential consequence of these Ukrainian strikes could be an intensification of Russian air-defense operations. In the Voronezh region, two Orlan-10 reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles were shot down, presumably by friendly fire, whilst a Russian Forpost-R reconnaissance UAV (other sources say it was an Orion drone) crashed near Taganrog.

On July 28, Dnipro was attacked by Russian missiles that hit an abandoned Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) building and a housing estate under construction, injuring nine people.

On July 30, UAVs attacked a tower in the Moscow City business center, housing the Ministry of Digital Development and the Moscow Government, among others.

Frontline Situation Update

On July 27, the New York Times published an update saying that most of the units prepared for the offensive were in fact still in reserve. Thus, the newspaper has apparently disproved its previous article saying that the main thrust of the offensive had been launched.

Pro-Russian sources have circulated a video showing what was claimed to be one Russian tank destroying eight armored fighting vehicles of the AFU, including two tanks. This video had actually been shot as early as June 7, and was geolocated outside Novodarivka on the Zaporizhzhia axis, which was liberated by the AFU in the very beginning of their offensive. Russian military blogger Andrey “Murz” Morozov, has analyzed, on his Telegram channel Nam pishut iz Yaniny [They are writing from Ioannina], the issue with communication in this video: drone operators (aerial reconnaissance) are heard communicating with various fire units (ATGM, SPG-9), trying to get fire support for the tank, but no one is talking to the tank crew. This is due to a lack of communication between units, as the tank commander is the only one with a working radio, and he still could not use it when inside the tank.

Several Telegram channels report that the entire column was destroyed by a single Russian tank, although the video does not substantiate this claim. It is entirely conceivable that tank crews, artillerymen, and also anti-tank missile system operators all claimed to have destroyed the column, resulting in the same equipment being counted as destroyed multiple times.

Also a video has surfaced, which we believe to be fresh, showing combat activities near Klishchiivka in the Bakhmut direction with three Ukrainian BTR-4 APCs attacking Russian positions. One of them hits a mine, while another one is hit by an ATGM, and the third one has to retreat. Ukrainian military microblogger Tatarigami, commenting on this video, claimed that the AFU suffered such losses due to the lack of proper combined arms training at the unit coordination level. It is for this reason that  news about Ukrainian servicemen training on Western equipment under an accelerated program were, in our view, a cause for concern. However, we note that such mistakes are not very common during AFU attacks.

Pro-Russian sources, for the first time, have shown a captured Swedish CV90 infantry fighting vehicle. According to unconfirmed reports, its crew fell into an ambush and retreated, leaving behind their vehicle damaged by an RPG rocket-propelled grenade.

​​An Oryx project volunteer has published a report on the equipment and military vehicles lost on the Zaporizhzhia axis: the losses for the past week are indicated in parentheses. The Ukrainian side lost 66 armored vehicles, including 16 tanks and 39 IFVs, while the Russian side lost 36 armored vehicles. Such a difference in favor of Russia is due to the Ukrainian side being on the offensive.

Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet] published an updated summary of Russian losses, prepared in collaboration with BBC News Russian and a team of volunteers using open-source data. As of July 28, 28,652 deaths have been confirmed. Journalists note that in the last month, there has been a significant increase in the number of artillerymen obituaries — 28 names have been added, out of a total of 541 (over 5%). However, the authors point out that they do not count artillery battalions in motorized rifle brigades and other units, only artillery regiments and brigades.

Yevgeny Prigozhin [owner of the Wagner Group] commented on the recruitment of new mercenaries, stating that the recruitment centers' work is suspended indefinitely due to already having a large pool of personnel reserves. He also mentioned that the Wagner Group will continue its operations in Africa and in its training centers in Belarus. As far as we know, private military companies are illegal in Belarus as well as in Russia.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has stated that over 100 Wagner Group mercenaries have been deployed near the borders of Poland and Lithuania, specifically in the Suwałki Gap area. We are confident that no one seriously intends to attack these NATO member countries.