dispatches
July 8

Sitrep for July 5-8, 2024 (as of 9:00 a.m. UTC+3) 

Frontline Situation Update

In the Kharkiv region, Ukrainian forces have entered the village of Hlyboke, which was previously captured by Russian forces, from the north. As a result, the village is now effectively semi-encircled.

A video recorded in the Toretsk direction has surfaced, showing a Ukrainian Bradley IFV entering the village of Niu-York, firing at buildings and deploying troops who begin mopping up possible fortifications. The video is geolocated in the southern part of the village, indicating that Russian forces have advanced slightly from their last known location mentioned in last week's sitrep. Consequently, a salient with exposed flanks about 8 km [5 mi] long has formed. While theoretically, the Armed Forces of Ukraine could attack from the flanks and encircle the Russian soldiers who reached Niu-York, creating a pocket, in practice, we believe the AFU should contain the situation, trying not to expend additional forces and ammunition.

In the village of Pivnichne, located in the north of the Toretsk direction, new footage shows a Ukrainian tank striking multi-story buildings.

Another video shows a Ukrainian National Police officer firing at buildings housing enemy forces. Both videos are geolocated in the southern part of Pivnichne, where Russian forces have advanced.

Considering these developments, it can be assumed that the Russian Armed Forces' plan is to encircle the village from the south and north (from the village of Druzhba) to help its eventual capture and advance towards Toretsk.

The progress made by Russian forces in this direction seems to have been facilitated by personnel issues in the AFU. Since the new mobilization drive began only in May, there has not been enough time to adequately prepare soldiers to counter new Russian offensive actions.

In the Ocheretyne direction, there has also been some progress made by Russian forces: after capturing the village of Sokil, they moved into the neighboring village of Yevhenivka and even further west. As a result, the village of Novoselivka Persha is now semi-encircled. It is likely that the RuAF will further advance towards the village of Prohres and the Vovcha River on this flank to expand their control and capture the territory bordered to the west by the river.

The advance from the village of Novooleksandrivka towards Vozdvyzhenka in the direction of the Pokrovsk-Kostiantynivka highway has halted. It seems that the RuAF have shifted their focus to fortifying their flanks instead.

On the night of June 7, Ukrainian UAVs hit an ammunition storage facility in the Voronezh region. Secondary detonations can be heard and fragments are seen flying in eyewitness videos from the scene. Governor Aleksandr Gusev claims that the drones were intercepted and the fire was caused by falling debris.

Western Assistance

Previously, misunderstandings have repeatedly arisen regarding the number of Patriot batteries that allies intend to transfer to Ukraine. We studied posts and reports on this topic and, according to our calculations, Ukraine has currently received five batteries in total: one from the United States, two from Germany and one from Germany and the Netherlands. On July 6, the transfer of another system from Germany was reported.

In addition, Germany, the USA and Romania have promised to supply another Patriot battery each, and the Netherlands, along with an unnamed country, will donate one more. If all these promises are fulfilled, the number of Patriot batteries in Ukraine will increase to nine.

The new UK Secretary of State for Defense John Healey visited Odesa on July 7. He met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Defense Minister Rustem Umerov and also announced a new military aid package, which will include:

  • 250 thousand 50 caliber [12.7mm] ammunition;
  • 90 anti-armour Brimstone missiles;
  • 50 small military boats;
  • 40 de-mining vehicles;
  • 10 AS-90 SPHs, as well as barrels and spare parts;
  • 61 bulldozers to help build defensive positions.

In addition, Healey ordered the acceleration of deliveries of weapons from a package announced in April 2024, which included 400 vehicles, 1,600 various missiles, 60 boats, as well as about 4 million small arms ammunition, and to complete them within 100 days. There have been no comments yet from the new UK government regarding the possibility of using British weapons against targets on Russian territory.

On July 5, Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Rally group in the French National Assembly, said that if her party wins the election, she will not allow Ukraine to launch strikes inside Russia with French weapons. She had previously repeated that she considered Crimea to be part of Russia. However, her hopes did not materialize and according to official results the National Rally party lost the second round of the French parliamentary elections coming in third.

On July 9, NATO’s 75th anniversary summit is to begin in Washington. It is expected that the summit will see announcements made regarding the delivery of air defense systems and non-lethal aid to Ukraine, as well as the approval of $40 billion in military support for Kyiv in 2025. Joe Biden and Zelenskyy might also meet during the summit.

The New York Times has published an article in which a medic in an international volunteer unit in Ukraine reports several cases of his fellow soldiers murdering Russian prisoners of war. It is expected that similar stories will keep emerging in the future, since war crimes are committed by both sides in any war, this war being no exception. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that neither Russia nor Ukraine investigates such incidents. Meanwhile, the public often comments favorably on atrocities depicted in videos from the frontline. Sadly, one does not come across similarly extensive reviews of war crimes committed by Russian forces published in the Western media. This could be due to the lack of reliable sources that could provide corroborating evidence.

Head of Rosgvardia [the Russian National Guard] Viktor Zolotov stated that three regiments armed with artillery, mortars and 36 tanks have been formed within Rosgvardia's 116th Special Purpose Brigade. It is worth noting that when Zolotov reported in June 2023 that Rosgvardia planned to restore a tank regiment, we assumed that the Ministry of Defense would have priority in tank deliveries and that Rosgvardia would be unlikely to receive any vehicles soon. We have not yet seen confirmation of tanks being present in Rosgvardia, except for an October report on the transfer of a T-80BV tank to the 116th Brigade, which had been in the possession of the Wagner Group during Prigozhin's armed rebellion.

According to Zolotov, Rosgvardia's 116th Special Purpose Brigade, based in the "DPR," has already been participating in combat. Indirect confirmation of this could be a now-deleted public announcement searching for a missing 116th Brigade serviceman near the town of Vovchansk and a video reporting fighting involving this brigade. There has not yet been a significant number of obituaries for Rosgvardia officers. We have seen evidence of them performing occupation duties and participating in some urban combat, but not using heavy armored vehicles.

Military analysts Covert Cabal and HighMarsed have released a new report on the remaining stockpiles of Russian tanks at various storage bases. According to their calculations, Russia has withdrawn 2,500 tanks to date from bases visible on satellite imagery. During the first 16 months of the full-scale invasion, at least 115 tanks were withdrawn from storage each month. However, this number dropped to around 60 tanks per month last year. Meanwhile, Russia has been losing on average no fewer than 93 tanks per month. It is worth noting that these numbers do not include tanks removed from storage hangars.

The high initial rate of withdrawal can be explained by the fact that at the start of the invasion, storage bases mostly contained vehicles in good condition, requiring only minor repairs before deployment. Nowadays, however, the remaining tanks are mostly in poorer condition and require extensive refurbishment. Both analysts have moved beyond differentiating between tanks in "good" and "bad" condition, as none of the vehicles left would qualify as good any longer. Their latest report now classifies tanks as being in "decent," "poor" or "worst" condition.

Russian storage bases are internally divided into three distinct zones: normal storage, compact storage and junkyards. Tanks in decent condition tend to be stored in normal storage zones, where vehicles can be readily accessed and serviced. Normal storage zones are estimated to contain around 700 tanks, enough to last over a year at the current rate of refurbishment. Tanks in poor conditions, but still repairable, are kept in compact storage zones, where regular maintenance is not possible due to spatial constraints. Tanks in the worst condition, such as those missing barrels or entire turrets, are still theoretically repairable, but would require significant time and expense, potentially equivalent to manufacturing a new tank, to be put back into working condition. The report does not estimate the number of vehicles present in storage base junkyards.

It is worth noting that the indicated rate of withdrawal from storage does not mean that 60 tanks are restored each month. Approximately 70 to 100 T-72 tanks, 320 to 350 T-80 tanks and 600 to 700 T-62 tanks are awaiting restoration at tank repair plants. Thus, the military equipment shortage that the Russian Army started to face last year was caused to a greater degree by the slow pace of restoration than by a deficit of military vehicles.

The Japanese team AS-22, specializing in satellite image analysis, has released a new study. Previously, they had identified fortifications built by Russia in the occupied territories. Using Google Earth and Planet satellite images from 2021, 2022 and 2023, they studied the positioning of S-300/400 SAM systems east of Novosibirsk. Their analysis revealed that 105 S-300/400 missile launchers had been relocated from air defense bases. While this does not necessarily mean that all of them have been deployed to the frontline, it could indicate they have been relocated to protect military and oil facilities in the western part of Russia.

According to a new study by Meduza [international Russian-language online media outlet] and Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet], based on data from the National Probate Registry, the estimate of excess male mortality has risen to approximately 120,000 (with the random error margin ranging from 106,000 to 140,000). It is worth noting that at the end of 2023, their estimate was 75,000, while a study by Vazhnyye Istorii [IStories, independent Russian investigative media outlet] based on data from the Russian Federal State Statistics Service estimated it at 70,000. Another study by Meduza and researcher Dmitry Kobak estimated it at 64,000. We asked the authors about potential weaknesses in their calculations and concluded that the method used is fairly reliable. However, we decided to rely on Meduza’s lower estimate of 106,000 to 110,000 deaths in our work. We consider the upper estimate somewhat inflated, as the available NPR data reliably assesses only the situation until the end of 2023.

In their publication, the researchers compared the NPR data with obituaries collected by BBC News Russian and Mediazona, in collaboration with volunteers. They identified several patterns, such as the likelihood that killed individuals from specific age and social groups—mobilized soldiers, volunteer fighters or convicts—would appear in the NPR after their death, the delay with which excess mortality in the NPR appears in obituaries, and the proportion of deaths that do not get reported in obituaries. It is important to note that data on many soldiers killed in the first half of 2024 has yet appeared in the NPR, particularly those declared missing in action and who will be presumed dead within six months. The dynamics of increasing losses are also translated with significant delays into government data due to the pace at which obituaries are published and accumulated. The flash estimate published in this study for the first time is a prediction based on deaths reported in the NPR up to early 2024 and obituaries from this year. The model incorporates the age and social group distribution observed in newly found obituaries and the likelihood of these groups appearing in the death records.

A potential weakness of the flash estimate of losses could indeed be a significant increase in the number of published obituaries, for example, from 50 to 80 per cent. In this case, all calculations would be incorrect and the methods invalid. However, it is difficult to foresee a reason for why such a sharp change would occur.

The most challenging task is estimating the number of those killed in action among older men. Considering their higher mortality rates, distinguishing the excess deaths attributable to the war in this age group from general mortality is difficult using statistics alone. Moreover, since men over 40 are being recruited more frequently, their share among KIAs is increasing, further complicating the accuracy of operational assessments.

Authorities in Russia’s regions continue to raise incentives for signing contracts with the MoD. In Russia’s constituent Republic of Tatarstan, the regional sign-up bonus has increased from 600,000 rubles [$6,800] to 1 million rubles [$11,250]. Rustam Minnikhanov, the Head of Tatarstan, acknowledged these as substantial expenses but emphasized the importance of meeting recruitment targets. His statement indirectly underscores the challenge of attracting volunteers for military service. According to him, together with 195,000 rubles [$2,230] from the MoD and municipalities, individuals can now receive up to 1.5 million rubles [$17,000] for enlisting in Tatarstan.

The Lyudi Baikala [People of Baikal] independent media outlet reports that the number of state treason cases is increasing in the regions surrounding Lake Baikal. Since the beginning of the year, four individuals in Buryatia [Russia's constituent republic] and one in the Irkutsk region have been convicted under this charge. This marks an increase compared to the total number of such cases recorded over the past five years in these regions.

The Volgograd Regional Court has upheld the sentence of Albina Dryupina, a resident of the city of Volzhsky, who was sentenced to two years of probation for 17 counts of fraud. The court took into account her husband's participation in the war in Ukraine as a mitigating factor.