June 5, 2023

Sitrep for Jun. 2-5, 2023 (as of 11:30 a.m.)

Strikes on Ukrainian and Russian Territory

  • Jun. 2

Russian forces hit the bridge between Zarichne and Torske in the Kreminna direction. Let us recall that earlier, Torske was repeatedly bombed. The strikes were allegedly aimed at preventing the potential Ukrainian counteroffensive in the north of the Luhansk region.

As a result of a Ukrainian strike on the village of Sobolevka, Valuysky urban district in the Belgorod region (near the border with Ukraine), two people were killed. According to the local Telegram channel, a single-family residential neighborhood was hit with a BM-21 Grad MLRS there.

The Chervonohvardiyskyi district of temporarily occupied Makiivka was also hit with a Grad MLRS, presumably from the side of the AFU. As a result of the strike on a grocery store, one person was killed, and one child was injured.

Indiscriminate strikes on civilian infrastructure are considered to be a war crime.

In addition, Ukrainian forces attacked the port of Berdiansk with long-range weapons. Comparing satellite images, one can see destroyed warehouses there.

  • Jun. 3

A video showing an alleged interception of a Ukrainian Tochka-U missile and a photo of its body, which was geolocated in Berdiansk, appeared. Since the use of Tochka-U missiles has hardly been seen in recent months, it can be assumed that the AFU decided to spend part of the hypothetical emergency stockpile of these missiles along with Storm Shadow cruise missiles in anticipation of the  counteroffensive.

One child was killed and 22 people were injured, including 5 children, in a strike on residential housing in the Pidhorodne suburb of Dnipro. Ten single-family houses were damaged, as well as shops, a gas pipeline and a car; this strike also is undoubtedly a war crime. The Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed that the strike was carried out by Russian forces, stating that a Ukrainian UAV assembly workshop had been hit.

Frontline Situation Update 

Pro-Russian sources are reporting that the Ukrainian counteroffensive has begun on the Zaporizhzhia axis.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces have reportedly launched attacks, from Velyka Novosilka and the village of Novopil in the Donetsk region, on Russian positions around Neskuchne, Blahodatne, Novodarivka and Rivnopil. All the attacks were allegedly successfully repelled. Evidence available to us shows the Ukrainian Armed Forces used M113 armored personnel carriers, HMMWVs, International MaxxPro MRAPs and tanks.

Alexander Khodakovskiy, a former field commander in the "DPR" who now commands a military unit of Russia’s National Guard in the annexed "republic," claims that the Ukrainian Armed Forces are advancing in the areas of Zolota Nyva and Novodonetske (between Vuhledar and Velyka Novosilka). The same is reiterated by the pro-Kremlin WarGonzo Telegram channel: according to its founder Semyon Pegov, Ukrainian soldiers have reached the outskirts of Novodonetske, where fighting continues.

The Russian Ministry of Defense announces that a large-scale Ukrainian counteroffensive has started in five areas of the South Donetsk axis (this implies the same events). Allegedly the offensive involves six mechanized battalions and two tank battalions. The report claims that the attack has failed and Ukrainian casualties amounted to 250 men, 16 tanks, three APCs and 21 armored vehicles. The MoD has also published a video of strikes on an advancing Ukrainian column. The quality of the video does not make it possible to identify the vehicles for certain but some of the armored vehicles look like MaxxPro MRAPs.

Should the offensive in this direction be successful, the Ukrainian Armed Forces might cut off the land "corridor" to Crimea.

It is also claimed that fighting in the Avdiivka direction has been activated as well: Ukrainian forces are attacking in the direction of Vodiane and Opytne.

Hanna Maliar, Deputy Minister of Defense of Ukraine, claims that Ukrainian forces continue to control certain districts of Bakhmut. Yevgeny Prigozhin [Russian oligarch, confidant of Vladimir Putin, and the owner of the Wagner Group] reported that the Armed Forces of Ukraine have returned to "gardens" [Chornobylets garden cooperative, south of the MiG-17 aircraft monument, i.e. where the monument used to be] and established observation posts. We do not believe either Maliar's statements or Prihozhin's claims, as there is no objective data available at the moment.

The Strategic Communications Directorate, Office of the Chief of Defense, Armed Forces of Ukraine has issued a warning about the "intensification of PSYOPs" from the Russian side, aimed at demoralizing and misleading Ukrainian citizens. We also anticipate the emergence of a large amount of contradictory statements and unverified information in the near future.

The Joint Center for Control and Coordination of the so-called Luhansk People's Republic announced the cessation of documenting the aftermath of strikes, citing an order from the commander of the 2nd Army Corps (formerly the "people's militia of the LPR"). This will make it more difficult for our team to search for and analyze evidence of war crimes.

No similar statements have been received from the "DPR" side.

Saboteurs Breakthrough into the Belgorod Region

On Jun. 3, Evgeniy Poddubny, Russian war correspondent and propagandist, published photo and video materials under the title "Results of the meeting with the operational group of the Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate (HUR) in the Belgorod region." According to him, the sabotage and reconnaissance group broke through in the Shebekino area, and Russian forces did not take anyone captive. The video shows six bodies in military uniforms with yellow armbands, most of them lying face down. Based on unnatural poses, it can be speculated that the bodies were dragged by their hands. Bloodstains are visible on only two of them, and we suspect that some of the "corpses" are disguised Russian soldiers.

On Jun. 4, there was a new breakthrough of saboteurs in the Belgorod region: a video was published showing the infiltration of a sabotage group into Novaya Tavolzhanka.

Governor of the Belgorod region Vyacheslav Gladkov stated that as a result of an attack on Novaya Tavolzhanka and Bezlyudovka, two women were killed and several other civilians were injured.

Later, a video by the Russian Volunteer Corps (its geolocation cannot be determined) appeared, in which fighters show two prisoners (one of them wounded) and address Vyacheslav Gladkov with a proposal to meet him personally in a church on Russian territory for their handover.

In response to this video, Yevgeny Prigozhin suggested sending high-ranking commanders of the Wagner Group to meet with the leaders of the Russian Volunteer Corps. As for Vyacheslav Gladkov, he agreed to come and see the leaders of the Russian Volunteer Corps in person at the Shebekino International Automobile Border Crossing Point one hour later, under the condition that the POWs are to be alive.

By evening, representatives of the Russian Volunteer Corps released another video, in which they claimed that the governor did not show up at the meeting, the number of POWs increased, and they would be handed over to the Ukrainian side for subsequent exchange. The video shows two POWs from the first video and other Russian soldiers, including two wounded men.

In its official statement, the Russian Ministry of Defense stated that the Russian Volunteer Corps attempted to infiltrate the Belgorod region but retreated because of an artillery barrage.

It should be noted that the front activation and the incursion of the sabotage and reconnaissance group into Russian territory occurred simultaneously, which partly confirms the theory that the goal of the Russian Volunteer Corps is to divert attention from the frontline.

French-language Belgian daily newspaper Le Soir, citing high-ranking sources, reports that the Belgian government intends to demand clarification from Kyiv anytime soon regarding the use of Belgian weapons transferred to Ukraine by the Russian Volunteer Corps. They refer to a piece in The Washington Post, in which journalists point out the presence of a Belgian-made FN SCAR assault rifle in the footage from the Russian Volunteer Corps raid in the Belgorod region on May 22.

The concern of the Belgian government may be due to the fact that firearms, when used by third parties (Ukraine keeps claiming that the Russian Volunteer Corps is not part of the Armed Forces of Ukraine), may end up in the hands of terrorists and be forwarded to Europe to be used in terrorist attacks. For example, the terrorists who attacked the Bataclan theater in Paris in 2015 used Kalashnikov assault rifles, which they bought on the black market.

The Russian Volunteer Corps claims that the Polish Volunteer Corps was escorting POWs and providing military and medical logistics during its raid into the Belgorod region only within the state border of Ukraine. The Russian Volunteer Corps’s previous explanations regarding the lost military vehicles have provoked our distrust in the Corps’ statements, while this new statement is disproved by the video showing people in military uniform who speak Polish, which we have geolocated at the Grayvoron checkpoint in Russian territory.

Prigozhin has published a report dated May 17, stating that while sappers of the 1st  Engineering-Demining Company [of the Wagner Group] were clearing the routes near the village of Opytne, they came under fire from the positions of the Russian Armed Forces. The Wagner Group fired back and captured several servicemen, including Lieutenant Colonel Venevitin, the commander of the 72nd Motorized Rifle Brigade. It should be noted that, according to Prigozhin's claims, this brigade fled from their positions near Bakhmut, leaving their flanks unprotected. A video of the interrogation was later published, in which Venevitin explains the events by attributing them to alcohol intoxication and personal animosity towards the Wagner Group.

It is worth noting that the situation became public only two weeks later.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has ordered Oleksandr Kamyshin, the Minister for Strategic Industries, to conduct an inspection of bomb shelters. Last week three people were killed when they were unable to access a shelter during another attack on Kyiv. It should be noted that in Shebekino and other settlements of the Belgorod region, still no one is taking care of the citizens' safety.

At the end of May, the Voyennye Komissariaty Rossii magazine [Military Commissariats of Russia] published (but later deleted) an article, in which the head of the Mobilization Department of the General Staff of the RuAF, Colonel General Yevgeny Burdinsky, described the details of the mobilization process and the formation of new units. The article included statistics stating that in 2022, 17,000 people signed short-term contracts, with over 10,000 applying through the Gosuslugi public services portal. It remains unclear how the plan to recruit 400,000 volunteer fighters this year will be met. The report also mentioned that the conscription system in Russia now includes conscription offices in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, from where nearly 80,000 people have been mobilized.

The administration of School No. 12 in Perm, which had a German language exchange program, refused to hold the propaganda "Talking About Important Things" lessons and to invite soldiers to talk about the "special military operation." As a result of pressure from pro-war activists and local pro-Russian Telegram channels, the exchange program was shut down, and the school's director and teachers, who supported the program, resigned.

Reuters discovered that the United States found a way to purchase trinitrotoluene (TNT) from Japan, which is required for the production of artillery rounds, without violating the Japanese ban on the supply of weapons to a nation at war. Trinitrotoluene used in military production is no different from what is used by civilian industry, so shipments labeled as industrial are possible. There is no similar "civilian" equivalent of artillery powder on the market, so its shortage continues to be a problem.

Ukraine’s Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov said that Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu suggested using all resources available to end the war with Russia and promised to expand military ties with Ukraine. Given all of China's previous statements, we do not believe that the general wanted to communicate that China is now completely on the side of Ukraine. Rather, with this statement, he suggested that Reznikov somehow put pressure on Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Government of Ukraine to start negotiations with Russia, and cooperation with Ukraine in the military sphere will be possible after achieving peace.