July 4, 2023

Sitrep for Jul. 3-4, 2023 (as of 8:00 a.m.)

Strikes on Ukrainian and Russian Territory

On Jul. 3, Russian forces launched a Shahed-136/131 loitering munition attack against a Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) building, and a five-story residential building in the city of Sumy. At the time of recording the video sitrep, the attack had resulted in 2 fatalities and 19 injuries (these numbers later increased to 3 killed and 21 injured).

On the night of Jul. 4, a military base in Kubinka, Moscow region, was attacked (there are no details on which specific base was attacked). Preliminary data indicates that an administrative building was damaged, leaving no one injured. Some Russian Aerospace Forces units have been conducting training flights around Kubinka. It is also home to the 45th Guards Separate Spetsnaz [Special Purpose] Brigade and, according to some reports, the headquarters of the “Redut PMC”.

A video has emerged showing strikes on a highway near Olenivka in the Donetsk region. The attack caught a bus traveling the Volnovakha-Donetsk route, resulting in one person killed.

A woman was killed following Russian strikes in the village of Novyi Komar (close to Velyka Novosilka), in the Donetsk region. Given the village’s proximity to the line of contact, we believe it necessary for its residents to be evacuated.

Ukraine celebrated Air Defense Forces Day on Jul. 3. Videos released for the occasion provide valuable insight into some of the air defense systems Ukrainian forces have at their disposal. One photo features a Patriot surface-to-air missile system with kill marks depicting Russian helicopters shot down on May 13, 2023. Two other aircraft were also shot down that day, though their specific downing dates are not discernible from the available photographs. Other kill marks suggest that this Patriot system intercepted Shahed drones sometime between the end of May and the beginning of June. Whilst kamikaze drones are significantly cheaper than the surface-to-air missiles used to intercept them, one must also account for the potential damage these loitering munitions can inflict when weighing up the cost-benefit of their interception.

In another video, one can see a Soviet S-125M [SA-3 Goa] surface-to-air missile system, which, judging by the fact that the launcher is completely covered with cinders, has been actively used by the AFU. Since most of the missiles fired at Ukraine are not very fast, the system can be quite effective.

In recent weeks, there has been more and more evidence of Ukrainian counter-battery fire with HIMARS MLRS. One of the videos shows the destruction of a 2S7 Pion or its updated version 2S7M Malka 203mm self-propelled cannon and several BM-21 Grad MLRS launchers with GMLRS rockets. The General Staff of the AFU published a video of a Ukrainian strike on several Russian 2S19 Msta-S 152mm self-propelled howitzers. In addition, a video emerged showing a Ukrainian CAESAR self-propelled howitzer hitting a Russian BM-27 Uragan MLRS (with the detonation of ammunition visible on one of the frames).

It is worth noting that softening up the enemy often precedes offensive actions in order to prevent the enemy from freely shelling columns of armored vehicles with minesweepers pushing forward.

Pro-Russian Telegram channels have published ground-level photos (presumably taken by local residents or builders) of the alleged Wagner Group camp in Belarus. According to the Grey Zone Telegram channel connected to the Wagner Group, this is one of the three “bases”. Allegedly, mercenaries have already begun training maneuvers with heavy armored vehicles at a nearby training ground (which is strange, considering that Wagner Group’s equipment was supposed to be handed over to the Russian Ministry of Defense). Nevertheless, there is still no evidence of the presence of Wagner Group mercenaries in Belarus.

Commander of the Akhmat special forces Apti Alaudinov said that the commander of a special forces unit, former Colonel of the Stavropol OMON [riot police], Yevgeny Pisarenko, who volunteered to go to the frontline (presumably through the Russian Special Forces University in Russia’s constituent Republic of Chechnya) has been killed.

Kadyrovtsy [fighters of Chechnya National Guard units] remaining in Chechnya beat Elena Milashina, journalist of Novaya Gazeta [independent Russian newspaper], and lawyer Aleksandr Nemov, who arrived in Chechnya for a hearing in the case of Zarema Musaeva, the wife of the judge who spoke out against Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and is being tried on fabricated charges.

The New York Times recently published an article shedding light on the surveillance practices of Russian intelligence services in monitoring internet traffic. Readers may get the impression that these intelligence services have turned to new tools for tracking encrypted data. However, it is important to note that the described techniques have been in use for years, if not decades. The ability to trace the use of specific applications based on distinctive internet packets has existed prior to this revelation. Additionally, for years, it has been possible to determine the location of a device by analyzing data from cellular towers and identify that two devices are close to each other. Discovering who is communicating with whom is relatively straightforward in peer-to-peer connections (such as WhatsApp calls), while calls made through application servers (like Telegram or Signal) require comparing the traffic of all users across multiple operators, which is theoretically feasible but practically unattainable. To enhance privacy and impede surveillance efforts, experts recommend utilizing VPNs and implementing two-factor authentication.

Russia’s Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu commented for the first time on Yevgeny Prigozhin’s [owner of the Wagner Group] armed rebellion, “These plans failed primarily because the personnel of the Russian Armed Forces remained loyal to their oath and military duty. This provocation did not affect the actions of the force groupings. Soldiers courageously and selflessly continued to fulfill their assigned tasks.” According to him, there were no defectors to Prigozhin’s side, and all units continued to carry out their tasks without being distracted by the mutiny that occurred in the rear, during which the “special military operation” headquarters was captured. Only the Russian Aerospace Forces and Rosgvardia [National Guard of Russia] were used to suppress the rebellion. However, we have not observed the actions of the former since Prigozhin himself halted the rebellion.

A distorted quotation from Shoigu is circulating in the media, saying that Russian forces have allegedly destroyed all the Leopard tanks supplied to Ukraine. This is a mistake, as he actually claimed that 16 Leopard tanks, or “almost 100% of the tanks of this type supplied by Poland and Portugal,” had been destroyed. However, even this figure is exaggerated, since Oryx data shows that eight tanks have been hit in total, with some of them probably being subject to repair, while reports for the Russian command are drafted based on unverified information.

A new international body for the investigation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has started operating in the Hague. The International Center for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression Against Ukraine (ICPA) includes prosecutors from Kyiv, the European Union, the United States, and the International Criminal Court. It is important to note that this body has no authority to prosecute and is tasked only with collecting evidence for future trials.

Deliveries of Western Military Equipment

Dozens of Leopard 1 tanks from Germany and Denmark are set to arrive in Ukraine in the coming few weeks.

Yesterday’s sitrep mentioned that Germany and Poland were not able to agree about servicing Leopard tanks that had been given to Kyiv. According to Polish Premier Mateusz Morawiecki, the opening of the maintenance hub for Leopard tanks in Poland is being delayed due to a shortage of spare parts. It looks like in this dispute the wheels have been set in motion: German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius says that Poland and his country are determined to reach an agreement on opening the hub within the next 10 days.

Last week Josep Borrell, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said that it has never been as important to continue supporting Ukraine as it is today, since the war undermines Putin’s regime. Speaking in Madrid on Jul. 3, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen also emphasized  that the EU must double down on its support for Ukraine, including reliable and regular financial support, as well as supply everything the country needs to achieve victory on the ground.

Andrey Tarasenko, author of the tank-focused Steel and Fire website, suggests that Russian Lancet loitering munitions (at least some of them) were equipped with a new and improved warhead. While last year there were only a few recorded cases where the use of such UAVs resulted in tank destruction, at least three videos of such events have surfaced in the past two weeks.

The Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation has developed a “program for the frontal reduction of budget expenditures,” presented by Minister Anton Siluanov at a meeting of the budget planning commission. The head of the Ministry of Finance proposed that all departments cut spending by 10% on unprotected items (that is, not related to the fulfillment of state obligations, including social ones).

A video has been released by the 3rd Assault Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, showing the capture of Russian soldiers. While surrendering, one attempted to detonate himself and harm Ukrainian soldiers. The Ukrainian soldiers, noticing the grenade in his hand, shot at him and managed to move to a safe distance before it exploded.