June 20, 2023

Sitrep for Jun. 19-20, 2023 (as of 08:30 a.m.)

Frontline Situation Update 

Ukrainian forces have released a video showing the liberation of the village of Piatykhatky on the Zaporizhzhia axis.

The Ukrainian Special Operations Forces have released a video shot in the southern section of the front. In the video, they are seen killing enemy soldiers whilst clearing trenches (some of the soldiers appear to be unarmed). We do not consider these actions to constitute a war crime, given that none of the Russian soldiers demonstrated any intention to surrender (Ukrainian soldiers can be heard shouting “surrender and save your lives” in the video). It is interesting to note that pro-Russian Telegram channels are reporting that the soldiers were unarmed because their unit commander demanded that their weapons be stored in “pyramid gun racks” (as per regulations).

Strikes on Ukrainian and Russian Territory 

Russia launched another widespread attack on Ukrainian territory on the night of Jun. 20. According to the AFU’s General Staff, 30 kamikaze drones were launched, 28 of which were shot down by air defenses (updated data indicates that 32 out of 35 were shot down).

The Mayor of Lviv reports that one of the drones hit a critical infrastructure facility, resulting in no injuries.

The head of the Kyiv city administration has said that up to two dozen drones were shot down over the city.

According to the Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration, as a result of the attack, a farm and a recreation area were damaged. Fortunately, there were no casualties among the civilian population.

As a result of strikes on temporarily occupied Volnovakha, about 20 people were wounded. The JCCC DPR [Joint Center for Control and Coordination of the “DPR”] Telegram channel published a photo of the aftermath showing damaged houses, a large crater, and a warehouse (reportedly with humanitarian aid). Denys Pushylin [Head of the so-called DPR] also stated that a child was killed after one of the mines fell into the courtyard of a residential house in one of the villages of the Volnovakha district as a result of “remote mining.”

New videos showing the aftermath of the strike on the Partizany railway station in Rykove, Kherson region, have appeared. Local residents filmed a BM-21 Grad MLRS rocket thrown onto the road by an explosion and destroyed buildings with fragments of ammunition around them. Judging by higher resolution satellite images of the area after the strike, an ammunition depot was destroyed and a railway line was damaged. This means that to date the railway communication between Crimea and Melitopol is temporarily interrupted.

Exactly one year ago, Ukrainian forces hit the Russian Spasatel Vasily Bekh rescue tug. Reportedly, 7 people were killed, and 12 more were injured (these are only victims from the civilian personnel of the rescue tug; 4 more military men were also killed) as a result of the attack. A memorial plaque was opened in their honor in Sevastopol. Throughout the year, colleagues and relatives of the victims sought compensation and at least some help, however, in response, the Chief of Staff of the Black Sea Fleet and the commander of the Crimean Naval Brigade stated that this rescue tug carrying a Tor surface-to-air missile system was not sent to the “special military operation” zone, but sailed there voluntarily, so no compensation is due.

A video has been published showing a Kamov Ka-52 (Hokum B) attack helicopter flying with its tailfin broken. The helicopter did not crash and managed to keep flying, as the tailfin does not have a rotor, which is an advantage of the coaxial rotor design. It has been reported that the tail was damaged by Ukrainian air defenses.

Deliveries of Western Military Equipment

The Lockheed Martin Corporation, which produces the F-16, has backed up the transfer of any fighter jet versions to Ukraine and stated they are ready to train pilots and provide what is needed for aircraft maintenance.

The New York Times has published an article about the condition of Western military equipment supplied to Ukraine. According to the available data, part of this equipment was in such a bad condition that it was only fit to be cannibalized for spare parts. An example of this could be the delivery of Italian howitzers decommissioned years ago (some of them had been sent to the U.S. for repair, however, even after that, they turned out to be unfit for action). A number of issues with non-decommissioned equipment has also been mentioned: 29 HMMWVs were supplied from Camp Arifjan, Kuwait (only one of them was initially reported out of order), however, an inspection revealed that 26 vehicles required repairs. And after they were sent to Poland, it was found out that 25 vehicles had their tires worn out. It took more than a month to fix all of those problems.

Moreover, Kyiv has paid over $800 million to arms suppliers, including state-owned companies, under contracts that were either partially or completely unfulfilled. In some cases, the equipment was eventually delivered, while in others, the money was refunded.

Thus, it can be concluded that inadequate maintenance of military equipment is not limited to Russia but can also be observed in NATO countries.

Upon examining the budget of the Defenders of the Fatherland Foundation, established by Putin’s order to support the combatants and veterans of the war in Ukraine and their families, it was discovered that 97% of the 1.314 billion ruble grant [~$15.5 million], allocated by the Russian government on Jun. 13, will be spent on employee salaries, organizational expenses, and technical equipment. Only approximately 40 million rubles [~$473 thousand] will be directed towards supporting war participants and their families.

The Dutch project Oryx, which counts visually verified losses of vehicles during military conflicts, announced that it would stop its work as of Oct. 1. It was unable to find funding to turn this volunteer endeavor into a properly paid job. Jakub Janovsky and other volunteers will continue to maintain a list of losses until the end of the war in Ukraine, and it will be updated on the Oryx website until October, but there will be no more new analytical articles from the project.

The Destruction of the Kakhovka HPP

Russia denied the United Nations access to areas flooded as a result of the destruction of the Kakhovka HPP. The goal of the UN was to deliver humanitarian aid to affected areas and possibly evacuate residents, not to attempt to study the destroyed hydropower plant.

According to Dmitry Peskov [Russian President’s spokesman], the reason for this was the difficulty in ensuring the safety of the delegation due to the need to cross the line of demarcation, constant shelling and "provocations."

Russia had “the means, motive and opportunity to bring down [the] Ukrainian dam,” according to exclusive drone photos and information obtained by The Associated Press. The text contains a photo of a vehicle (possibly, VAZ-2101) standing on the road atop the dam. Through a hole in the roof one can see two barrels and an object looking like a TM-62/72 anti-tank mine. The article does not specify whether the vehicle is linked to the explosion, but its headline brings the reader to believe it is. It seems that the vehicle is indeed mined and has been standing on the dam at least since April (it can be seen in the footage made by the Centre for Investigative Reporting); it is still there (it features in the video of Jun. 15). We believe that it was placed there to stop a convoy of Ukrainian military equipment moving along the dam (e.g. it could be a group of Ukrainian special forces that might decide to seize the hydro-electric power plant). The barrels may be visually assessed as being about 200 liters each; their possible total capacity would be insufficient to blow up the dam from the outside. We do not believe that the vehicle, which is still on the dam, proves in any way that Russia had the means, motive and opportunity to bring down the dam.

A Western engineer (whose name we cannot disclose at the moment) has contacted us. He was involved in the stability analysis for the ultimate limit states, in the study of accidents on various structures, and measures to prevent them. He understands how factors combine to lead to the general buckling of hydraulic structures.

He agrees with our version of the dam’s failure and states that the bridge (referring to the road on the dam’s top near the power station (main generator hall) (that had been gradually collapsing since Jun. 1) most likely fell due to the drifting of the structure’s basement. He considers it likely that the peak flood flow from the damaged gate (this topic was described in more detail by another hydraulic engineer earlier) eroded the sandy foundation (the soil on which the basement of the dam stands) in front of the dam, thereby reducing its load-bearing capacity, which quantitatively manifested in a decrease in the stability coefficient of the hydraulic structure. The stability coefficient of a structure is the ratio of the loads that can resist the overturning or failure of the structure (resisting forces) and the loads that have the potential to cause the structure to collapse or become unstable (driving forces). When the former decreased while the latter increased (it is important to consider the excess upstream water level, which increases load), the stability coefficient decreased, and one of the dam’s sections  could have deformed. As a result, the stability of the walls was initially locally compromised, followed by the bridge/road (possibly due to the drift of the foundation). Subsequently, seepage (water movement through cracks) began along the plane of sliding, leading to further dam failure.

According to the engineer, this stability problem lies at the intersection of hydrotechnics and geotechnics. Representing the increase in loads and decrease in load-bearing capacity of a structure can only be achieved by creating a geotechnical model.

We also received a comment from a hydraulic engineer (whom we had previously referred to) regarding the New York Times article that we discussed in yesterday’s sitrep, specifically about the casual use of terminology by journalists (for example, concrete foundation) that makes it unclear which part of the dam they were referring to. The engineer explains that in reinforced concrete dams, there is no specific foundation but rather zones of continuous monolithic reinforced concrete (the entire body of the dam). However, different zones (base zone, upstream face, and central zone) are poured with concrete having different characteristics. The base zone contains concrete with the highest strength properties to withstand compression pressure from the layers above.