June 27, 2023

Sitrep for Jun. 26-27, 2023 (as of 8:30 a.m.)

Frontline Situation Update

Ukrainian forces have announced the liberation of the village of Rivnopil on the Zaporizhzhia axis, southwest of Velyka Novosilka.

It has been reported that the Ukrainian Armed Forces have established a bridgehead on the left bank of the Dnipro river, near the Antonivskyi bridge. However, it does not appear likely that they will push forward from that position, for now. Similar bridgeheads have been established on islands in the past; hence, it is premature to talk of a major situation change in that area. It is worth noting that pro-Russian Telegram channels present diverging narratives on this issue, with some writing about Ukrainian movement across the Dnipro, whilst others maintain the situation remains unchanged.

Consequences of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Armed Rebellion

Governor of the Kursk region Roman Starovoyt has said that he was ready to confront Wagner Group mercenaries had they decided to enter his region’s territory (we find this claim to be unfounded). Additionally, he mentioned that he is strengthening territorial forces in his region.

Many pro-Russian Telegram channels are speculating that Governor of the Tula region Aleksey Dyumin will be appointed as the new Minister of Defense; however, we have not come across any evidence substantiating this. It has been claimed that he participated in the negotiations between Yevgeny Prigozhin [Russian oligarch, confidant of Vladimir Putin, and the owner of the Wagner Group] and Belarus's Alyaksandr Lukashenka, in a bid to prevent the Wagner Group armored column from passing through the Tula region (however, he evidently could not have offered any tangible resistance, given that all armored vehicles are currently deployed on the frontline).

The criminal case against Prigozhin, according to many sources, has not been closed yet (contrary to Russian President’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov's statement). Putin publicly gave guarantees for Prigozhin's safety, but it is unclear whether this means an end to criminal prosecution. (After recording the sitrep, the FSB [Russia’s Federal Security Service], to the bewilderment of the lawyers, reported that the prosecution had been terminated due to “a voluntary and final refusal to complete the crime.”)

Prigozhin recorded a new audio message stating that 30 people were allegedly killed as a result of the strike on the Wagner Group's camp. He emphasized how easily the mercenaries had advanced so far into the territory of Russia, blocking all military facilities in their path without killing a single soldier on the ground, and added that they had to attack aircraft in response to being hit (however, it does not explain the strikes on an Ilyushin IL-22M aircraft in an airborne command post version or Mil Mi-8MTPR electronic warfare helicopters). He expressed no regrets about the latter, not to mention condolences to the families of those killed. According to him, the losses of the Wagner Group consisted of a few wounded mercenaries and two killed RuAF soldiers, who had voluntarily joined the rebels, and the advance on Moscow stopped when, after the deployment of the mercenaries’ artillery, their intelligence reported that an attempt to continue would lead to heavy losses.

On Jun. 26, Putin delivered a new address, again accusing the rebellion organizers of treason. In addition, he proposed that Wagner Group fighters (most of whom, as he thinks, were used  unwittingly) should either sign a contract with Russia’s Ministry of Defense (or volunteer units), or lay down their weapons and go home, or go to Belarus together with Prigozhin. Thus, the Wagner Group shall cease to exist in the territory of Russia. Besides, Putin mentioned that the courage of the fallen airmen had safeguarded Russia against tragic consequences. This sounded particularly absurd with regard to the killed crew of Ilyushin Il-22 aircraft shot down accidentally.

The claim that Putin would make a statement that would “change the destiny of Russia,” which was attributed to Peskov and spread widely in the media, has turned out to be made up by the Telegram channel of the StarHit tabloid.

The first obituaries of the killed pilots started to appear: Kirill Babayev, pilot of the Mil Mi-8MTPR electronic warfare helicopter shot down over Luhansk, and Aleksey Vorozhtsov, pilot of the Kamov Ka-52 (Hokum B) attack helicopter shot down in the Voronezh region—the commander of the 3rd Squadron of the 15th Army Aviation Brigade of the Russian Air and Space Force. It is possible to assume that the pilot-navigator Denis Oleynikov, who usually flew with Vorozhtsov, could have also been killed with him.

Kirill Babayev.
Crew of the Kamov Ka-52 (Hokum B) attack helicopter.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov reported that the Central African Republic and Mali have connections both with the Wagner Group and with the Russian government. Therefore, at the request of these African countries, several hundred military personnel will continue their work in the Central African Republic, even if the Wagner Group completely ceases its activities there. The nature of any future Russian military presence there is still unknown.

A video of one of the strikes on the Wagner Group convoy has appeared (apparently, bombs were dropped on a moving convoy), as well as the aftermath showing burned-out military vehicles. It is unknown whether civilians or mercenaries were inside. It is worth noting that civilian vehicles were traveling along the road with the Wagner Group’s military vehicles, and some of those civilian vehicles were the ones used by the mercenaries.

Video footage has been published showing the departure of the Special Operations Forces from the compound belonging to the Russian Ministry of Defense on Frunzenskaya Embankment in Moscow on Jun. 26. The Special Operations Forces were leaving in their vehicles, including pickup and KAMAZ trucks. It appears that they were responsible for the security of these buildings.

Additionally, photographs have emerged from the Serpukhovsky district of the Moscow region, where the special forces from the FSB Special Purpose Center or another unit of the Special Operations Forces were waiting near a bridge over the Oka River, apparently expecting the Wagner Group convoy and planning to defend the bridge.

According to the Vyorstka media outlet, a Wagner Group camp will be constructed in the Mogilev region of Belarus. However, the Belarusian Hajun Project reports that they currently have no confirmation of  this information.

It should be noted that the future of the Wagner Group remains uncertain. Firstly, it is unknown how many mercenaries will remain with Yevgeny Prigozhin. Even if we are not talking about the initially announced number of twenty-five thousand mercenaries during the rebellion, but only about eight thousand, this number is comparable to the total personnel of the Belarusian Ground Forces. Moreover, the mercenaries also understand that they will no longer have the same level of support as in Molkino military range or Syria. Therefore, we believe that the majority of Wagner Group mercenaries will sign contracts with the Ministry of Defense, Rosgvardia [the National Guard of Russia], or some other unit (or choose civilian life). Secondly, it is unclear who will provide support for the group, as it is unlikely that Prigozhin's companies will continue to supply Russian military units with provisions as before.

According to Belarusian Hajun, on the morning of Jun. 27, Yevgeny Prigozhin's business jet landed at the Machulishchy air base near Minsk at 7:40 a.m.

Commenting on Prigozhin's involvement, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell stated that it is now more crucial than ever to continue supporting Ukraine, as the war is undermining the Putin regime.

A video featuring an event of the current Ukrainian offensive (judging by the presence of the Bradley infantry fighting vehicle) is spreading on pro-Russian Telegram channels. Presumably, this video was initially published by journalist Yurii Butusov. In the video, Ukrainian infantry dismount the vehicle and then one after another trip anti-personnel mines, before being caught in artillery strikes. It vividly illustrates why carrying out a successful offensive is such a difficult task, why the progress of Ukrainian forces is relatively slow, and the extent to which the territories are heavily mined.

Russian mobilized soldiers in the Zaporizhzhia region complain that they are being sent to combat missions without ammunition. According to the servicemen, they were sent to positions with just one assault rifle and one magazine per unit, suffered heavy losses, and retreated. They refuse to move to those positions again, understanding that it means certain death. These soldiers are now being threatened with criminal charges. Reportedly, a secretly made video shows an FSB colonel threatening them.

UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace stated that Storm Shadow missiles had a significant impact on the battlefield. Despite the stronger effect of HIMARS missile systems, in general we agree with his opinion.

As we mentioned in yesterday's sitrep, on Jun. 24, Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Defense Hanna Maliar reported that the Eastern Group of the AFU has launched an offensive in several directions, including the areas near Bakhmut and Kurdiumivka. Photographs have emerged as evidence of CV90 infantry fighting vehicles produced in Sweden being present on the frontline in the Bakhmut area.

According to Reuters, the US could announce a military aid package for Ukraine worth $500 million as soon as tomorrow. It is expected to include:

  • 30 Bradley IFVs;
  • 25 Stryker APCs;
  • HIMARS missiles;
  • Stinger MANPADS;
  • Patriot air defense missiles;
  • Javelin anti-tank systems.

The Danish Air Force will replace its F-16 fighters with F-35 fighters two years earlier to expedite the transfer of F-16s to Ukraine.

John Kirby, Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the U.S. National Security Council, stated that the United States does not see any intentions from Russia to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. He also does not observe any threats of sabotage by Russian forces against the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. We agree with him on both issues.