June 6, 2023

Sitrep for Jun. 5-6, 2023 (as of 11:00 a.m.)

Strikes on Ukrainian and Russian Territory

On the evening of Jun. 5, as a result of a strike on Balakliia, Kharkiv region, one civilian was killed, and eight more were injured. The photo and video show fragments of rockets near residential buildings, in particular, a control unit of a 9M544 Tornado-S MLRS rocket (which is in service with the RuAF only). It is evidence of another Russian war crime.

On the night of Jun. 6, explosions were reported in Kharkiv and Kyiv. According to preliminary data, no one was injured.

Break of the Dam at the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant

Early in the morning of Jun. 6, there were videos showing that the dam of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant had been significantly damaged and water was pouring through it. By the time the sitrep was recorded, almost the entire hydroelectric power station had gone under water, and the dam continues to collapse. TASS [Russian state-owned Federal Information Agency] also reported on the situation.

Both Ukraine and Russia accuse each other of blowing up the dam. Pro-Russian sources are distributing a video as of November 2022 showing an explosion of the bridge over the Kakhovka HPP dam under the guise of a new one.

In addition, there was a video of an explosion near the riverside (presumably not as a result of an artillery strike, but a washed-out river mine) after the dam broke.

In another video, an eyewitness on the left bank [under the control of pro-Russian forces] filming the aftermath of the dam break reports that there were no strikes, but it was the river that washed away the dam.

Spokeswoman for Ukraine’s Operational Command South Natalia Humeniuk said in a statement that the dam explosion was carried out by Russian forces to slow down the Ukrainian Army’s counteroffensive. However, the arguments she laid out appear to support the opposite viewpoint:

  • The dam explosion would shift Russian artillery firing positions (establishing new fortifications is not in Russia’s interest);
  • Flooding poses a greater threat to the left bank of the Dnipro River, which is under Russian control, as it is lower than the right.

Similarly, we were not expecting Ukrainian units to cross the Dnipro River at the start of the counteroffensive, as they would have immediately been cut off from their supply lines. However, the destruction of the dam could prove an obstacle for Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance groups, as they might now find it challenging to deal with the strong current should they decide to cross the river in boats. Nevertheless, in our opinion, landings of this nature have never achieved any meaningful results.

It is our view that this event will not impact the Ukrainian counteroffensive in any way.

The official Russian version of the event, voiced by Russian President’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, stating that the explosion of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant was carried out by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, also sounds implausible. The dam explosion does nothing for Ukraine, and no one really expects a Russian offensive on Kherson in the near future (it sounds equally implausible to us that the flooding was meant to distract from the purportedly failed Ukrainian counteroffensive on the Zaporizhzhia axis). 

Satellite images from Maxar taken on May 28 and Jun. 5 have been published. Russian media mistakenly claimed one of them was taken after the dam’s collapse. In reality, when comparing these two images, it can be seen that a portion of the road bridge above the dam (previously targeted by the Armed Forces of Ukraine) has collapsed into the water.

This circumstance, combined with the fact that Russian forces also blew up a portion of the road above the dam during their retreat from the right bank, presents the most realistic version: the damaged dam, constantly under immense water pressure, likely intensified by heavy rainfall last week, could not withstand the pressure and began to deteriorate more rapidly (this conclusion is supported by other OSINT analysts as well). We cannot prove that neither side blew up the dam, but there is currently no evidence to the contrary (although theoretically, the Russian side had more opportunities to plant explosives).

The Russian military exploited a rushed evacuation of the Armed Forces of Ukraine from the islands they had occupied on the right bank of the Dnipro River and began shelling the AFU boats with artillery.

Photos of flooding in Nova Kakhovka have emerged, and while the Kherson Regional Military Administration started evacuating people from the affected areas, the mayor of Nova Kakhovka appointed by Russia claims that the situation is under control and there is no need to evacuate the city.

Saboteurs Breakthrough into the Belgorod Region on Jun. 4

On the evening of Jun. 5, while located on the outskirts of Novaya Tavolzhanka in the Belgorod region, the Russian Volunteer Corps claimed to have control over the entire village (this contradicts a report from the Russian daily newspaper Kommersant, in which an elderly local woman responding to a reporter says she will not leave the village).

Governor of the Belgorod region Vyacheslav Gladkov reported that the authorities cannot enter the village due to strikes.

The Agentstvo.Novosti [Agency news] Telegram channel geolocated two more videos of the Russian Volunteer Corps in the village but stated that it was impossible to determine when they were taken.

Satellite images from Jun. 4 show large-scale fires caused by strikes and combat actions.

The Russian Volunteer Corps stated that during the operation, Russian Army Colonel Andrey Stesev was killed (his body is allegedly visible in the footage). It is claimed that he was the commander of the Belgorod operational group.

A fighter of the "Freedom of Russia Legion" with the callsign Caesar addressed Yevgeny Prigozhin [Russian oligarch, confidant of Vladimir Putin, and the owner of the Wagner Group] and proposed to exchange several Russian POWs for the commander of Russia’s 72nd Motorized Rifle Brigade Lieutenant Colonel Roman Venevitin. In response, the Russian Volunteer Corps issued a statement that all Russian POWs have already been handed over to the Ukrainian side (also expressing the intention to communicate with higher-ranking officials than Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov, who did not attend the meeting with them), but if the representative of the "Freedom of Russia Legion" has their own POWs, they are entitled to negotiate the exchange. Now the "Freedom of Russia Legion" claims to have their own "exchange fund."

Frontline Situation Update

We would like to make a small clarification regarding Bakhmut, where, as previously claimed by Hanna Maliar, Deputy Minister of Defense of Ukraine, Ukrainian forces were still present and, as told by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Armed Forces of Ukraine had gained a foothold in the allotment gardens area and set up checkpoints. This was related to an area within the Bakhmut’s administrative borders, southwest of the town, where Chornobylets garden cooperative is located. Since there are no massive buildings in it, it is quite hard to gain a foothold there (as opposed to the area around the MiG-17 aircraft monument [i.e. where the monument used to be], where cast-in-place concrete buildings could be used as firing points).

Furthermore, Prigozhin stated that Ukrainian forces had managed to take a part of Berkhivka,but there has been no evidence of it so far. The AFU previously managed to capture tactical heights near that settlement.

Rybar, a pro-Russian Telegram channel, has claimed that Russian forces captured the village of Novomlynsk, north of Kupiansk, on the right bank of the Oskil River. Thus, it has been claimed that Russian forces had forded the river and were creating a bridgehead on the right bank. We have not seen evidence for it so far.

As reported in yesterday’s sitrep, some increase in fighting has been observed on the Zaporizhzhia axis (or South-Donetsk axis in terms of the Russian Ministry of Defense). This is a small section of the frontline spanning about 30 km [19 miles] from Novodarivka (through Rivnopil, Velyka Novosilka and Zolota Nyva) to Novodonetske.

Russian forces published a video from Storozheve (just south of Velyka Novosilka) showing Ukrainian MaxxPro MRAPs moving under artillery fire. A Russian Telegram channel covering the events from the point of view of military units based in the Primorsky region published a video showing several abandoned MaxxPro MRAPs. The Russian Ministry of Defense claims that by the morning of Jun. 5, Russian forces hit three Bradley IFVs and then, during the day, destroyed 28 tanks, including 8 Leopards. Yevgeniy Prigozhin doubts the accuracy of these claims calling them "wildest, lowest-grade fantasies." (We are inclined to agree with him).

OSINT analyst Def Mon placed geolocated videos of events that happened on Jun. 4 in the vicinity of Velyka Novosilka on his map. There have been reports that Ukrainian forces were able to reclaim some positions near Novodarivka and Storozheve. Also, Rybar informs of AFU’s successes near Novodonetske: allegedly, they were able to enter the settlement’s outskirts but failed to get a foothold there.

A video shot near Novodarivka shows an event that’s rare in this war: a tank duel that almost happened. We see stopped Ukrainian tanks and Russian tanks approaching them. Something then hits the last of the Russian tanks (it could have been an ATGM, an RPG rocket-propelled grenade, or a shot from a tank). After some time, ammunition detonates and a fire erupts. The remaining Russian tanks then leave.

Later, a video was filmed in the same area, in which allegedly Ukrainian MaxxPro MRAPs explode on mines.

Some pro-Russian Telegram channels claim that three AMX-10RC armored vehicles were found nearby, abandoned for unknown reasons. These vehicles were probably the ones mistakenly identified as Leopard tanks.

As we have reported previously, there was disunity between neighboring Russian units during the Ukrainian offensive on the outskirts of Bakhmut. The Wagner Group could not maintain consistent communication with the units of the Ministry of Defense, which probably led to the flight of the 72nd Brigade from the flanks. Perhaps due to the fact that the area around Velyka Novosilka is located at the border between the Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions, this area also lies at the line of demarcation between the areas of responsibility of different Russian units. In this case, Ukrainian forces could have taken advantage of the poor communication between tRussian forces. Some pro-Russian Telegram channels report that communications were down in the area right before the attack.

The Russian Ministry of Defense proposes to amend the mobilization regulations. In particular, one of the changes would include notifying citizens that they have been mobilized via SMS using the phone number specified on the Gosuslugi public services portal or municipal services portals.

Another Ukrainian drone fell down at the 299th kilometer of the "Ukraine" highway [the name of the highway] on Jun. 5 in the Kaluga region (a second drone reportedly crashed at the 283rd km, but we did not find a photo). We have already seen similar UAVs featuring a "flying wing" aerodynamic configuration during the attack on Moscow.

On the night of Jun. 5, a fire broke out at one of the energy facilities in the Belgorod region; one person was injured. According to the governor, the fire was caused by the detonation of a munition dropped from a drone.

After the Joint Center for Control and Coordination of the "LPR" stopped taking photos of the aftermath of shelling, it became more difficult analyzing the events in this part of the territory. RIA Novosti [Russian state-owned news agency] published a photo of a destroyed house in Kreminna, Luhansk region. No casualties have been reported. Possibly, the house was evacuated, since Kreminna is located close to the frontline. As is almost always the case in such situations, it is claimed that it was hit by a HIMARS MLRS.

Governor of the Belgorod region Gladkov urged the heads of municipalities to expedite the restoration work on the destroyed houses but noted that there may not be enough funds in the established fund. It should be noted that 10 billion rubles [$125,000,000] were spent on the construction of ineffective fortifications in the region.

According to CNN, Ukraine has allegedly created a network of agents in Russia to whom it transferred drones for carrying out attacks on targets within Russian territory.