June 29, 2023

Sitrep for Jun. 28-29, 2023 (as of 08:00 a.m.)

Frontline Situation Update

In the Orikhiv direction, there is some progress of Ukrainian forces in the Robotyne area. In other areas, there are no significant advances for the moment, mainly due to the fact that the territory is mined.

Consequences of the Strike on the Restaurant in Kramatorsk in the Evening of Jun. 27

Ihor Klymenko, Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, reported that debris removal in Kramatorsk is completed and updated data on the casualties. As of the morning of Jun. 29, 12 people are reported killed and 60 injured. Eleven people were rescued alive from the rubble.

The Russian Ministry of Defense acknowledged the strike on Kramatorsk, declaring "the defeat of the temporary deployment point of the command staff of the 56th Motorized Infantry Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine."

Pro-Russian Telegram channels publish the obituary for a Ukrainian serviceman who was killed during the strike. His presence in the restaurant, we will remind, does not make the place a legitimate military target.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has reported the arrest of an individual suspected of directing the Russian strike on Kramatorsk. Investigators believe that on Jun. 27, he was tasked with verifying whether the pizzeria was open and noting the number of patrons. He accomplished this by filming the pizzeria and nearby parked cars from outside. The footage was then sent to Russian military intelligence, after which the restaurant was hit.

Consequences of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Armed Rebellion

On the evening of Jun. 28, information surfaced on a pro-Russian war correspondent’s Telegram channel, stating that the Commander of the Aerospace Forces, Deputy Commander of Russia’s Armed Forces in Ukraine, General Sergey Surovikin, had been arrested and confined in Moscow’s Lefortovo pretrial detention center. This information was later confirmed by the Moscow Times [independent online newspaper], citing their own sources. Subsequently, former editor-in-chief of the Echo of Moscow radio station Alexei Venediktov reported that Surovikin’s deputy General Sergey Yudin was under house arrest, and that he had not been able to reach Surovikin nor his security detail for three days.

Presumably, Surovikin was accused either of assisting Prigozhin (although there was no evidence of assistance to him from the RuAF), or of not countering him in a proper way (although the Russian Air Forces resisted the rebellion at the cost of the lives of the pilots).

Despite a number of confirmations, it may turn out to be deliberate misinformation aimed, among other things, at the Ukrainian command. Rumors about resignations and arrests in the Russian command appear regularly, but no criminal cases have actually been initiated.

The pro-Russian Telegram channel Rybar reported that purges have begun within the ranks of the RuAF due to Yevgeny Prigozhin's armed rebellion. The purges are conducted by investigators and representatives of the Federal Protective Service (this surprised us: previously it was assumed that the Federal Protective Service exclusively deals with the protection of the president and high-ranking state officials). While the investigation is ongoing, the "special military operation" is allegedly being led by Commander of the Russian Airborne Forces Mikhail Teplinsky. Valery Gerasimov "formally retains the position of Chief of the General Staff of the RuAF but  has nothing to do with the issues of the special military operation." Repressions, as reported, have affected pilots who refused to attack the convoys of the Wagner Group (Prigozhin previously stated that some pilots refused to follow orders). The pro-Russian Telegram channel Fighterbomber [associated with the Russian Air and Space Force] has already described such inquiries. The Dva Mayora [Two Majors] pro-Russian Telegram channel has reported on border guards who refused to shoot at the Wagner Group's vehicles.

Relatives of mercenaries have learned from the Wagner Group representatives that the payments will be suspended. This could be linked to the car with 4 billion rubles [~$46,000,000] found near Prigozhin's alleged office.

Rob Lee, Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, is wondering about the whereabouts of Mikhail Mizintsev, Russian colonel general who, after having been relieved from his position as a Deputy Minister of Defense for Logistics, joined the Wagner Group.

RFE/RL's Belarus Service has published satellite images of a construction site in the Mogilev region: their journalists compared photos taken on Jun. 17 and Jun. 27 and noticed new objects that might have been tents or some structures. We doubt that this is connected to the Wagner Group. Those could be tents for Russian mobilized soldiers who were sent to Belarus.

According to the Belarusian Hajun monitoring project, it is certain that Prigozhin has been in Belarus (his current location is not reliably known) and the redeployment of mercenaries from the territory of Ukraine has not yet started. The same has also been reported by Ukrainian authorities.

An obituary for Lieutenant Colonel Yevgeny Agafonov, deputy commander for military-political work of the 11th Air Assault Brigade, has appeared, with the date of death being unknown. Due to the lack of personnel and motivation problems, political officers have to come to the frontline to raise the soldiers’ morale.

The father of Kirill Babaev, a pilot killed during the mutiny, says that in his opinion ceasing criminal proceedings against Prigozhin is just and fair, because that was the president’s decision.

Mikhail Vedernikov, Governor of the Pskov Region, says that at least 14 members of the RuAF were killed during the sabotage and reconnaissance groups’ attack of the Shebekinsky district in the Belgorod region in early June (he most likely means the raids by the Russian Volunteer Corps). So far, the Russian MoD has not announced the resulting casualties. It can be assumed that two mobilized soldiers from the Tver region were also killed at the same time. According to Vedernikov, 10 soldiers were taken prisoner during the attack, three of whom were later returned as a result of a PoW exchange. Casualties sustained by the Russian Volunteer Corps are not known but they are likely to have been low, since it is common knowledge that the border is safeguarded by poorly trained personnel (mobilized soldiers, conscripts or border guards).

The "Freedom of Russia Legion" has started blurring Western weaponry in their videos. We don't believe that this can successfully conceal the fact that Western military equipment is being used on Russian territory.

Deliveries of Western Military Equipment

The presidents of Lithuania and Poland unexpectedly visited Ukraine. Gitanas NausÄ—da promised to supply Ukraine with two NASAMS air defense systems, 10 M113 armored personnel carriers, and ammunition. Andrzej Duda agreed to lift restrictions on the trade of Ukrainian agricultural products. It is worth noting that these restrictions were imposed in April 2023 due to the purchase of cheap Ukrainian grain by Polish enterprises intended for transit, which caused a drop in prices in the local market and sparked strong dissatisfaction among Polish farmers.

The Swiss government has rejected the application of Ruag AG to sell 96 Leopard 1A5 tanks to Ukraine through Germany, as this is contrary to Switzerland's position of neutrality.

Photos have emerged showing a BTR-82 armored personnel carrier that has a new combat module with two 23mm autocannons from ZSU-23-4 Shilka SPAAG, installed by the RuAF. We believe that such a vehicle is designed for shooting at drones. It is possible that these autocannons were removed from a non-repairable Shilka.

Ukrainian soldiers have published a video showing the downing of a Russian Sukhoi Su-25 ground-attack aircraft with a 9K38 Igla MANPADS. The Fighterbomber Telegram channel has confirmed the hit, but specified that both the aircraft and the pilot were able to return to the airfield.