June 30, 2023

Sitrep for Jun. 29-30, 2023 (as of 11:00 a.m.)

RuAF Strikes on Ukrainian Territory

On Jun. 29, Russian forces hit an Invincibility Point [heating and power supply center] in Kherson, killing two and injuring two more civilians.

On the night of Jun. 30, according to the Air Force of the AFU, 10 out of 13 Shahed loitering munitions targeting the territory of Ukraine were shot down.

Frontline Situation Update

Ukraine's Deputy Minister of Defense Hanna Maliar reports that in the Bakhmut direction, the AFU managed to seize the initiative and advance 1,200 meters towards Klishchiivka and 1,500 meters towards Kurdiumivka.

A video filmed by the 30th Separate Mechanized Brigade of the AFU advancing from Sloviansk shows their attacks on Russian positions and mopping-up of forest lines in the direction of Orikhovo-Vasylivka.

As we said earlier, the goal of the Ukrainian forces in the Bakhmut direction is most likely to encircle the town in order to force Russian troops to leave it. There has been no data from the Russian side about Bakhmut in recent weeks, so it is unclear whether they tried to entrench themselves on the flanks of the town.

Consequences of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Armed Rebellion

According to the Belarusian Hajun monitoring project, work has indeed begun at a former military base in the village of Tsel, Asipovichy district, in the Mogilev region. The site had previously been the home of the 465th Missile Brigade of the Armed Forces of Belarus. Reports indicate that workers, along with construction equipment, have been arriving from various parts of Belarus. Work on the site started immediately after the rebellion had ended, either on Jun. 25 or 26. This has been confirmed by satellite imagery from Jun. 24 and 27 published by The New York Times.

Structures resembling tents, positioned in 6 and half rows of 20, can be discerned in higher resolution Planet imagery, published by RFE/RL's Belarus Service. If these indeed are tents, each potentially accommodating up to 50 people, the base could, in time, house up to 6,500 individuals.

No evidence has yet emerged to suggest that the camp is specifically intended for housing Wagner Group mercenaries, nor has there been confirmation of Wagner units relocating to Belarus.

According to The New York Times, General Sergey Surovikin may have known that Yevgeny Prigozhin [owner of the Wagner Group] was planning a rebellion. American officials have suggested that the march on Moscow was likely backed by several other Russian generals. CNN has also suggested that Surovikin might have been an accomplice of Prigozhin.

General Surovikin has been the Wagner Group honorary member since 2017. It should be reminded that this fact became known back in the summer of 2022 due to the leaked documentation of the Group.

Dossier Center [investigative media outlet funded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky] writes that apart from Surovokin, a similar status was awarded to Generals Rustam Muradov and Andrey Serdyukov (the former Airborne Forces commander). Most likely, while awarding the so-called Trench Crosses to those who had supported them, the Wagner Group command issued ID tags to them as well. This does not seem to prove at all that Surovikin or other generals could have been Prigozhin’s accomplices in preparing the mutiny.

Saint Petersburg internet resource Fontanka has published a photo of a man who looks like Prigozhin leaving in a helicopter from a helipad located not far from Prigozhin’s presumable office in Saint Petersburg. But while Prigozhin lacks a phalanx in the ring finger of his left hand, the left hand of the man in the picture has all its fingers intact.

The Wall Street Journal, with reference to diplomatic and intelligence sources, says that after the mutiny there has been an outburst of Moscow’s diplomatic activity. Russian Foreign Ministry representatives have visited African and Middle East countries (Central African Republic, Mali, and Syria) to reassure their partners that the Russian mercenaries will continue their activities there under new leadership. For instance, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin has visited Damask to personally inform Syrian President Bashar Assad that the Wagner Group will no longer act independently in that country.

We do not expect any major change for most of the mercenaries despite the change in leadership.

The Pro-Kremlin Izvestia newspaper published an interview with pilots of Kamov Ka-52 (Hokum B) attack helicopters. One of them said that when they are shooting at the coordinates they have received, it is often not clear what they are to aim at, especially when the indicated location is congested with burnt vehicles. Indeed, in the video attached to the interview, it can be noticed that the targeting display has very poor resolution, so it is often impossible to distinguish between an agricultural vehicle and a destroyed or intact armed vehicle.

Russian forces have taken a Ukrainian BMR-64 minesweeper based on the T-64A tank as a trophy. Such vehicles, currently much-needed at the frontline, were first spotted as early as last year. This version was made by removing the gun from the tank, welding the gun opening, covering it with explosive reactive armor bricks, and installing a mine trawl.

We have been observing the installation of anti-drone cages on Russian vehicles for a long time, but recently a photo appeared showing a T-72B tank with an unusual attachment that limits the turret’s rotation. This reduces the tank's capabilities in combat, but if it is always used for indirect fire, such a limitation is insignificant.

A trainload of T-54/T-55 tanks was spotted in Crimea. There was also a video in a pro-Russian Telegram channel showing the T-54 tank being used in the area of Piatykhatky on the Zaporizhzhia axis.

In early June, SkyNews published a contract between Rosoboronexport [Russia's state military exporting and importing company] and the Iranian government on the test supply of weapons dated Sept. 14, 2022. We saw no signs of its execution at that time, however, artillery rounds with markings made in hieroglyphs were recently seen in service of Russian forces. The Ukraine Weapons Tracker project analysts believe that Iran imported these munitions from China about 40 years ago and, after they were repaired, sold them to Russia.

Their conclusion is based on the consignment note, which indicates that the primer was produced in 1988, and the cartridge case—in 2018. Thus, since the boxes bear Iranian markings, the analysts concluded that China did not supply these rounds.

Let us clarify that a medium and large caliber artillery round consists of two components: a projectile and a propelling charge in a cartridge case, which can be produced at different factories. While projectiles can be stored for many decades, charges are much more sensitive to storage conditions, so they often have to be changed during repair operations.

Deliveries of Western Military Equipment

Photos of Serbian 120mm mortar rounds produced in 2023 in service with the AFU have emerged.

The Wall Street Journal reports that, according to officials in the US and Europe, the United States is close to approving the delivery of ATACMS (missiles for HIMARS and M270 MLRS with a range of up to 300km) to Ukraine, but so far the matter has not been finally resolved and awaits approval at the highest level.

Ukraine already has similar long-range weaponry, such as Storm Shadow missiles, which are launched by the Ukrainian Air Force. However, in order to avoid Russian air defense fire, the aircraft have to launch these missiles relatively far from the frontline, while launching missiles from MLRS will allow for greater reach.

CNN reports that the United States is seriously considering the possibility of sending DPCIM cluster munitions to Ukraine.

The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that a "very robust" support package for Ukraine will be announced during the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius that will include both "political and practical" aid.

Mobilization Update

The Russian Ministry of Defense together with the Ministry of Education developed an extracurricular course on initial military preparation for upper school grades. The program covers tactics, weapons, field medicine, engineering, as well as introduces students to military vehicles. According to Mikhail Borodin, an expert from the Main Military-Political Directorate of the Ministry of Defense, the course will take five days during which high-schoolers will acquire knowledge allegedly on par with that of a typical motorized rifle service member.

At the Kazan Compressor-Building Plant, there was a meeting with a military commissar who encouraged the men to leave their jobs and go to war as contract servicemen, because, according to him, if the attempt to fill the army with contract soldiers fails, the workers might be drafted "forcefully, through mobilization."

On Jun. 28, at the same spot in the Zaporizhzhia region where an FSB [Federal Security Service] colonel once threatened band berated draftees, fighters from the Storm-Z unit recorded a video message. In their address they say that they were kept at the frontline for three months without pay, that they are currently being dispatched on a combat mission without water, food, and ammunition, and that neither wounded, nor killed are being evacuated from the combat positions. Therefore, those who remain alive are refusing to follow orders and will be surrendering to military police. Should some of them die in the future, that would mean that their own side killed them.

On Jun. 29, this same group of servicemen recorded another address, in which they repeated their claims, as stated previously, and added that the group of 40 men who stayed alive (while the original number was 150) had been disarmed and brought to an abandoned house where they were staying at that moment. This time the servicemen stated that they were not refusing to fight but demanded salaries for the three months and documents to certify their participation in the war.

Later on, another video surfaced featuring Storm-Z unit’s fighters at the frontline. The servicemen said that they had suffered losses and were running out of ammunition but their commanders were anyway sending them back to the positions under the threat of "zeroing out" [execution].

As the Ukrainian counteroffensive intensifies, we are seeing more pleas from both the soldiers themselves and their relatives.

On July 28, relatives of the mobilized soldiers from the 247th Air Assault Regiment recorded a video addressed to the authorities, in which they complain that the positions of these paratroopers on the left bank of the Dnipro were flooded after the Kakhovka dam had been destroyed, which left them without gear and ammunition, and after being transferred to another position they were immediately sent to the frontline without any supplies. In response, the Governor of the Stavropol region posted a video in which he said that, according to the commanders on the ground, there were no supply issues, urging women to remain calm and "not to let the CIPsO [Center for Information/Psychological Operations, an alleged unit within the Armed Forces of Ukraine that Russian propaganda tends to blame for any dissent in the media field] scum exploit the situation." In the comments to the governor’s video, the women expressed their extreme irritation with his response.