July 7, 2023

Sitrep for Jul. 6-7, 2023 (as of 08:00 a.m.)

Frontline Situation Update

The Ukrainian offensive is proceeding at the expected pace. Combat activities continue, but without much progress so far.

Russian mobilized servicemen are one of the sources of information on the state of the RuAF on the frontline.

Mobilized soldiers from Ussuriysk, fighting as part of the 83rd Guards Air Assault Brigade (military unit No. 71289), recorded a video address saying that they had been staying near Enerhodar since December 2022 until Jun. 11 when they were ordered to move to positions near Popasna, and then transferred to Klishchiivka, where the fiercest fighting is now going on. They spent 15 days on the frontline under constant strikes without the support of the Air Force and artillery, and in the absence of communication due to active Ukrainian electronic warfare (Russian EW did not work, allowing Ukrainian UAVs to fly without interference). It was not until Jul. 2 that they were ordered to retreat, however no evacuation was organized. So they had to retreat 30 km under enemy fire, including strikes with cluster munitions, suffering heavy losses. Remaining soldiers are now sent back to the frontline in the area of Andriivka (4 km south of Klishchiivka).

Relatives of mobilized soldiers from the 1442nd Regiment reported that on Jun. 28 the whole regiment was removed from combat positions, ordered to get ready within 30 minutes and get on the road without assigned combat missions. They too arrived in Klishchiivka, where they came under fire and suffered heavy losses. Some of them refused to fight without ammunition: they were taken to the military police in Svitlodarsk, where they are apparently being kept in a pre-trial detention center or just a pit.

Commenting on this publication, one of the mobilized soldiers, who was taken to the frontline, got wounded and ended up in the hospital, said that they were supposed to be taken to the Avdiivka direction, but two KAMAZ trucks  dropped them in a forest line near Klishchiivka, where they then came under mortar fire.

These reports lead us to believe that the Armed Forces of Ukraine have made advances around Klishchiivka.

It appears that the deployment of mobilized soldiers around Bakhmut commenced in conjunction with the retreat of Wagner Group mercenaries from the frontlines (i.e. before Yevgeny Prigozhin’s [owner of the Wagner Group] rebellion). Meanwhile, soldiers are thoughtlessly thrown into battle without ammunition or air support.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has released a video showing Russian soldiers storming Ukrainian positions along the Svatove-Kreminna direction. Some of the dead bodies seen in the video seem to have been lying there for quite some time. We believe it likely that the video was staged in order to convince Ukrainian forces to send reinforcements, and that the fighting actually took place several days ago.

New videos showing Ukrainian counter-battery fire have emerged. A M142 HIMARS is shown destroying a Msta-S 152mm self-propelled howitzer, as well as a rare variant of a BM-21 Grad MLRS on a Kamaz chassis.

Strikes on Ukrainian Territory

The death toll from the Jul. 6 Lviv strike has risen to ten, with forty-two people injured, including three children.

A confidential source within the Russian Ministry of Defense has told RIA Novosti [Russian state-owned news agency] that the strike targeted “western military equipment and combatants located inside the military academy grounds.” The strike, allegedly, successfully hit barracks housing around 800 servicemen.

As of now, we are aware of at least one Kalibr cruise missile (or its fragments) hitting residential housing. However, we currently do not know where the rest of the missiles aimed at Lviv have landed. Similarly, we have yet to come across any obituaries for Ukrainian soldiers killed in the strike.

On the night of Jul. 7, the Dnipropetrovsk region was attacked with loitering munitions. One of the drones fell on a car moving on the highway, resulting in the death of two people.

According to the Deputy Chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the AFU, Russia can produce about 100 missiles per month, including 10 missiles for the Iskander missile system, up to 37 3M-54 Kalibr sea-based cruise missiles, and up to 60 air-launched cruise missiles, including Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic missiles. In January 2023, Ukrainian military intelligence estimated that Russia could produce approximately 15-20 Kalibr missiles and 30 Kh-101 air-launched cruise missiles per month, and in May, approximately 25 Kalibr missiles, 2 Kinzhal missiles, 35 Kh-101 missiles, and 5 Iskander missiles. In the end, none of the predictions made about the depletion of Russian missile stocks came true.

On the evening of Jul. 5, a Ukrainian missile hit Makiivka. Pro-Russian war correspondent Yevgeny Lisitsyn stated that the fragments of the intercepted missile fell on an oil depot, resulting in a fire and the destruction of several fuel tanks.

Governor of the Belgorod region Vyacheslav Gladkov promised that in a week, some territorial defense forces would receive weapons. According to him, the weapons will be provided "within the framework of existing legislation," but currently, there is no legislative possibility to issue weapons to everyone. Gladkov claims that he is consulting with law enforcement agencies on this issue and has even received Putin's approval.

The same issue was raised by Roman Starovoyt, Governor of the Kursk region.

Russian federal channels are reporting on Yevgeny Prigozhin’s criminal past.

As far as we know, however, his business jet still has no problem flying in Russian airspace: e.g., it landed at the Millerovo airfield, near Rostov-on-Don, where Wagner Group aircraft had previously been based.

There has been no news so far about the supposed Wagner Group camp in Asipovichy. The Belarusian Hajun monitoring project has claimed, citing its sources, that around 200 mercenaries may currently be present at the Losvida military range, Vitebsk region, Belarus, 52 kilometers [32 miles] away from Russia and 150 kilometers [93 miles] away from the Latvian border. According to investigators, these mercenaries have been training units of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus in shooting. However, no massive redeployment of mercenaries to Belarus has been spotted so far.

As a result of one more prisoner exchange, 45 servicemen returned to the Russian side, and 45 servicemen and two civilians, including one civil employee of the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works, to the Ukrainian side. In addition, two children returned to Ukraine, who had previously been illegally taken to Russia.

Deliveries of Western Military Equipment

The US appears to be on the verge of providing Ukraine with cluster munitions.

Human Rights Watch has issued a report warning the US against supplying such munitions to Ukraine. According to the organization, Ukrainian cluster munition attacks in and around the town of Izium alone in 2022 resulted in at least 8 civilians killed and 15 more wounded. Russian forces have also used cluster munitions in multiple attacks in at least 10 of the 24 regions of Ukraine, resulting in hundreds killed.

The arguments used by the Human Rights Watch in its report do not seem persuasive enough. The problem is not in cluster munitions as such but in indiscriminate attacks which are caused by inadequate intelligence and/or indifference to civilian lives. Supposing Izium was struck with BM-21 Grad MLRS instead of cluster munitions, the damage caused would probably have been the same.

Another issue linked to the use of cluster munitions is the contamination of areas with unexploded elements (submunitions). Assessing the scale of this issue requires collecting data on those people who have been affected by it. News analyses create the impression that mines, both antipersonnel and anti-tank, are a much more serious problem.

Pentagon Spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder says that the USA is considering providing cluster munitions to Ukraine, but only those that have a reduced “dud rate,” meaning there will be less than 2.35% of unexploded rounds.

Finland is planning to send a new package of military aid worth €105 million to Ukraine. This package will include ammunition and unspecified air defense systems. It cannot be ruled out that it might be the Buk SAM system missiles, which are available in Finland.

According to Bloomberg, while in February 2022 Russia clearly exceeded Ukraine in its military capability, by the summer of 2023, Russia’s advantage has become not as obvious in certain types of heavy weaponry, and in terms of available modern tanks the ratio may well be not in Moscow’s favor.

First and foremost, it is important to note that the novelty of tanks is not relevant in the current war as there are no tank battles taking place. However, it is also worth mentioning that this calculation is not entirely accurate as it is based on the Military Balance handbook 2022 data on the number of tanks in service and does not take into account tanks Russia has withdrawn from storage, restored and modernized.

Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant

First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office Sergey Kirienko and Russia appointed head of Zaporizhzhia region Yevhen Balitsky visited the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, where they were shown that the plant is operating normally.

Notably, on Jul. 4 in an evening address, Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated that Russian military personnel had placed objects resembling explosives on the roofs of several power units at the Zaporizhzhia NPP. On Jul. 5, Director General of the IAEA Rafael Grossi informed journalists that during recent inspections, the agency's staff did not find any signs of mining. However, the agency requested access from Russia to the roofs of reactor units 3 and 4, as well as to parts of the turbine hall and certain parts of the cooling system at the plant.

Mark Krutov, editor of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty news service, studied Planet Labs satellite imagery over an extended period of time and discovered the appearance of white objects on the roof of the fourth power unit of the Zaporizhzhia NPP. There was nothing on the roof in the images prior to the full-scale invasion, but there are white dots visible in the images from Jul. 3. Similar dots appeared in an image from Apr. 26, but in different areas of the roof. These objects may not be explosives but rather communication equipment, video cameras, or electronic warfare systems.

American Nuclear Society experts have carefully studied all possible “worst case scenarios,” including bombardment and deliberate sabotage of the reactors and spent fuel storage canisters, and have concluded that there is no risk of a large-scale radiation release threatening a significant portion of the territory and civilian population.

UN Institute for Disarmament Researcher Pavel Podvig also claims that currently, it is not possible to create the conditions for a radiation accident. Furthermore, according to him, it is incorrect to compare the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant with the Zaporizhzhia NPP as their designs are fundamentally different. The Zaporizhzhia NPP has thick concrete protective domes for its power units, which are extremely difficult to destroy with artillery or by placing explosives on the roof. The small reactor is located deep within the structure, and enclosed in a thick steel casing. Additionally, since September 2022, all power units have been in a state of a "cold shutdown," with their temperatures significantly reduced, thus, no additional cooling is required.