July 5

Sitrep for July 3-5, 2024 (as of 9 a.m. UTC+3)

Frontline Situation Update

One of this week’s major stories is the now officially confirmed withdrawal of the Armed Forces of Ukraine from the Kanal neighborhood in Chasiv Yar following a prolonged battle. Drone footage reveals that the neighborhood was almost entirely destroyed as a result of the fighting, which alone can justify retreating to more fortified positions. The Siverskyi Donets-Donbas Canal, now separating Russian and Ukrainian positions, effectively serves as a large anti-tank ditch and can only be crossed in the few places where it enters into underground pipes, which is certain to complicate any further Russian advances in Chasiv Yar.

In the Toretsk direction, the Russian Armed Forces appear to be planning an assault on the town of Toretsk from two different sides: from the village of Niu-York and from the village of Pivnichne, with the aim of advancing towards the highway connecting the towns of Pokrovsk and Kostiantynivka. The offensive is, at present, much smaller in scale compared to the offensive in the Avdiivka direction in the fall of 2023. Nonetheless, the situation there remains challenging for the AFU. It is difficult to estimate how long it could take Russian forces to implement this plan, as it will largely depend on the resources and conditions of the armed forces on both sides of the front.

General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the former Commander-in-Chief of the AFU, had already highlighted the shortage of personnel the AFU faced at the end of 2023, emphasizing that mobilized soldiers require extensive training. Therefore, the sooner the new draft begins, the sooner well-trained brigades can be fielded.

At the same time, discussions continue within Ukrainian circles on the optimal strategy for replenishing the ranks of the armed forces amid current conditions, where many experienced brigades, long fighting on the frontline, are taking heavy losses. Many argue that it would be more practical to gradually replace losses with less experienced soldiers who have recently completed training. However, according to our information, Ukrainian military leadership is pursuing a different approach: new units are being formed and trained to rotate in and replace experienced units that have sustained heavy losses on the frontline. Critics believe that this tactic could lead to even greater losses, citing the situation in the Toretsk direction as a case in point. Soldiers of the 206th Territorial Defense Battalion of the AFU, attached to the 41st Brigade, report significant casualties due to the brigade's ineffective command. They describe instances where there are not enough troops at certain positions, or that neighboring positions are often manned by soldiers unfamiliar with each other. This lack of familiarity complicates coordination and increases the risk of friendly fire incidents. Moreover, reports indicate that Russian soldiers exploit this situation by disguising themselves in Ukrainian uniforms and approaching AFU positions openly—an act of treachery, which constitutes a war crime.

In the Lyman direction, Russian forces are advancing in Makiivka, while further south, the AFU are fighting to liberate Terny and Yampolivka. Even further south lies the Serebryanske forestry, where Ukrainian forces have recently achieved some success. The situation in the forest is complicated for Ukrainian forces due to it bordering the Siverskyi Donets River to the south and the Zherebets River to the west, limiting supply lines primarily to the west. The objective of Russian forces, as we believe, is to push the AFU beyond the Zherebets River along this entire frontline section. Given the expansive nature of this area and ongoing successful Ukrainian counterattacks, achieving this objective could prove time-consuming.

Following Hungarian Prime Minister Orban Orban's proposal of a ceasefire without additional conditions, both sides have expressed skepticism about the viability of negotiations at this time. Putin has stated his reluctance to engage in talks with President Zelenskyy and the current Ukrainian government, as well as with the US, until after the November 2024 elections.

Zelenskyy, on the other hand, emphasized the impossibility of a ceasefire before negotiations begin and stressed the need for the West to intensify pressure on Russia to bring its leadership to the negotiating table. He also mentioned an emerging issue with military equipment and weaponry. According to Zelenskyy, 14 newly formed brigades currently lack the requisite equipment, including weapons and vehicles.

In our opinion, this statement likely means that either Ukraine plans to form this number of brigades within the current year, or Zelenskyy may have exaggerated the issue to underscore its significance. For comparison, ahead of the 2023 summer offensive, Ukraine prepared between 8 and 13 new brigades, according to different sources. Although military aid to Ukraine has been agreed upon, deliveries are progressing slowly, as often observed. For instance, there is still no news about the arrival of the promised, according to some estimates, 200 infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers.

In addition to trained soldiers and fighting vehicles, the AFU require a substantial supply of ammunition, including air defense missiles, to undertake a large-scale offensive. Given the current circumstances, it appears unlikely that Ukraine will be able to prepare for such an offensive before next year, consistent with our previous evaluations. Regarding local retreats of the AFU, it is worth noting that, in the current situation, the Ukrainian side should not cling to strategically insignificant settlements and waste scarce resources and manpower on holding them.

The UK’s opposition Labour Party has won a parliamentary majority in the country’s general election, unseating the incumbent Conservatives after 14 years. Rishi Sunak has resigned and Keir Starmer is now the new Prime Minister. Secretary of State for Defense Grant Shapps lost his seat and will not be part of the new parliament. Whoever becomes the new Secretary of State for Defense, it is expected that support for Ukraine will continue. We will learn about any possible changes, such as restrictions on the use of UK weapons against targets on Russian territory, in the coming days.

In our July 2 article, our team explored how the easing of restrictions on strikes using US precision weapons against targets on Russian territory has significantly decreased missile attacks on the city of Kharkiv, thereby saving many civilian lives. We believe that lifting the remaining restrictions could further reduce the frequency of missile and air-dropped bomb strikes on Ukrainian civilians by the Russian Aerospace Forces.

On July 2, US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs James C. O'Brien, citing President Biden's National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, stated the US will ease restrictions on Ukraine's use of American weapons to target Russia if it attempts to expand the current frontline.

From July 9 to 11, a NATO summit will take place in Washington, where a decision is anticipated regarding the provision of €40 billion [$43 billion] in aid to Kyiv in 2025. Previously, outgoing NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had urged member countries to commit to long-term annual assistance guarantees to Ukraine of at least €40 billion. However,  a concrete long-term plan was not agreed upon, and these decisions will need to be negotiated each year anew.

The Insider [independent Russian investigative media outlet] and Der Spiegel have jointly released an investigation into the activities of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) personnel responsible for "information warfare" against the West. Their goal is to reduce Western support for Ukraine through various disinformation campaigns.

Ukrainian and Russian Strikes

On the night of July 5, Ukrainian drones carried out a raid on the Krasnodar region, resulting in debris from downed drones falling on a three-story residential building in Primorsko-Akhtarsk. This incident led to injuries to six people, and a six-year-old girl succumbed to her injuries in the hospital. According to other sources, the girl’s family was attempting to leave by car during the attack. Additionally, a military airfield was hit and a substation was damaged, causing the town to temporarily lose electricity and water supplies. This region has been a frequent target for UAV attacks. On the same night, drones also targeted the Rostov region. While authorities referred to "wildfires," there are reports indicating that an oil terminal caught fire during the incident.

Ukrainian unmanned surface vessels have reached Novorossiysk again. On July 3, the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed  to have destroyed two of these USVs. It is worth noting that last year in Novorossiysk, the Olenegorsky Gornyak Ropucha-class landing ship was hit, and at the beginning of June 2024, a large number of ships from the Black Sea Fleet was relocated from Novorossiysk to the Sea of Azov.

On July 3, Russian forces launched a combined missile and loitering munition attack on the city of Dnipro. As of now, eight people are known to have been killed, and 55 injured, while significant damage was inflicted on civilian infrastructure as a result of the strike. Presumably, the target of the attack was the Pivdenmash [Yuzhmash] defense plant. One eyewitness recorded an impressive video of a missile exploding. We tentatively assume that it shows the explosion of a downed Russian cruise missile. A similar explosion pattern was observed during the attack on the city of Chernihiv on Aug. 19, 2023.

Dmitry Medvedev [Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council] has stated that approximately 190 thousand Russians have signed contracts with the MoD since the beginning of 2024, and that the average recruitment rate is 1,000 people a day. A month ago, during the SPIEF [the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum], Putin reported that 160 thousand new recruits had signed military service contracts in 2024. The claim that the number of 30 thousand monthly recruits does not fluctuate from month to month does not sound reliable.

Note that if we added the size of the initial invasion force to the 300 thousand soldiers mobilized in the fall of 2022, the 486 thousand contract soldiers Putin called up in 2023 and the 190 thousand contract soldiers recruited this year, then it would total to approximately 1.2 million people overall. At the same time, according to Putin, there are currently 700 thousand people on the frontline. Thus, from Medvedev’s statements one could conclude that Russian losses amount to 500 thousand people—however, it is worth noting that independent estimates of Russian losses obtained by various methods are much lower. The list of losses from Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet] and BBC News Russian currently has about 58 thousand dead, an estimate of the excess mortality of young men according to the National Probate Registry is approximately 120 thousand people, and a similar estimate using data from Rosstat for 2022–2023 shows about 70 thousand. This contradiction once again shows that claims about the ongoing recruitment of 30 thousand people per month are not true.

Pro-Russian propagandist and military aid volunteer Anastasia Kashevarova is outraged that, despite the large declared number of contract soldiers, under-treated wounded soldiers are increasingly being returned to the frontline. This may be due to a severe shortage of personnel and the "whip system"—one of the indicators for evaluating a unit commander’s performance is the number of losses: each commander is interested in reducing the statistics of wounded soldiers and tries to send as few wounded subordinates as possible to rear hospitals, instead quickly bandaging them and returning as many as possible to the frontline.

Additionally, the reported successes in recruiting contract soldiers do not correlate to the continued increase in payments from regional authorities for signing a contract with the Russian MoD. Novosibirsk region authorities have raised the sign-up bonus from 100,000 to 400,000 rubles [$4,520], making the total sign-up bonus, including the federal part, 600,000 rubles [$6,780].

A video has emerged confirming the presence of women in Russian assault units on the frontline. The AFU unit that published it claims the woman is a former convict. So far, this is an isolated case, and there is no reliable information about the mass recruitment of women from penal colonies for roles other than junior medical staff. However, women in combat positions in volunteer units were already known.

On July 7 at 6:00 p.m. Moscow time, we will once again host a livestream to answer your questions submitted to our bot.