June 10, 2023

Sitrep for Jun. 8-10, 2023 (as of 08:00 a.m.)

Frontline Situation Update

Since there have been a number of videos showing attacks involving Western-supplied heavy armored vehicles in recent days, the Ukrainian counteroffensive can be stated to have begun. Let us note that almost every piece of information available now comes from the Russian side, which naturally does not publish videos showing its losses and successful Ukrainian attacks.

On Jun. 8, the pro-Russian Telegram channel Rybar [run by ex-press officer of the Russian Defense Ministry Mikhail Zvinchuk] announced the start of the offensive in the Orikhiv direction, and later videos appeared showing fighting there.

A Ukrainian column of armored vehicles advanced towards the Russian positions from the village of Mala Tokmachka, but after only 2 km (about 2.5 km away from the RuAF positions) it was detected by aerial reconnaissance and hit by Russian artillery. The loss of a Leopard 2A4 tank and several IFVs was confirmed.

On Jun. 8, the Russian Ministry of Defense published videos of extremely poor quality allegedly showing a Kamov Ka-52 (Hokum B) attack helicopter hitting Ukrainian military vehicles, but our team was unable to either confirm or deny the accuracy of the attack.

Thus, the AFU need as many air defense systems as possible to cover the advancing columns (as well as strategically important objects) from air attacks.

Since the Ukrainian side does not publish any videos showing this offensive operation, there is no information about AFU counter-battery fire and its effectiveness.

CNN, citing two American officials, reported that the AFU faced stronger resistance than they had expected (we do not exclude that they mean high expectations on part of the public).

The Ukraine Battle Map project shows the results of the offensive in the Orikhiv direction on Jun. 8: according to various sources, the AFU managed to advance in the area of the settlement of Robotyne.

Reportedly, offensive operations were also carried out in the Bakhmut direction. The main advances are reported in the areas of Berkhivka, Orikhovo-Vasylivka, and Zaliznianske. Based on this, it can be assumed that the aim of these attacks was to reach the crossroads near Krasna Hora, Blahodatne, Berkhivka, and Pidhorodne. If successful, the AFU will cut off supply routes for elements of the RuAF located north of Blahodatne.

It is worth mentioning that pro-Russian war correspondents Alexander Sladkov and Andrey Rudenko first talked about the Ukrainian counteroffensive on Jun. 7, on their Telegram channels. On Jun. 9, President Vladimir Putin stated that the use of Ukraine’s strategic reserves was evidence that the counteroffensive had begun (he was likely referring to modern Western military hardware).

The offensive continued on Friday, Jun 9. Videos from the Orikhiv direction show several abandoned Bradley IFVs and a Leopard 2A6 tank that were apparently attempting to cross a minefield. Russian forces subsequently launched artillery strikes on the amassed vehicles.

Abandoned MaxxPro MRAPs as well as another Leopard 2A6 tank, equipped with what appeared to be a mine roller, were also seen in the Orikhiv direction.

In total, the Oryx project has documented the loss of three tanks (one Leopard 2A4 and one Leopard 2A6 destroyed, and one Leopard 2A6 abandoned), and 11 Bradley IFVs.

A single video surfaced from the Ukrainian side, shot by the newly formed 37th Ukrainian Brigade, showing Russian soldiers fleeing on foot after coming under fire from Ukrainian artillery.

Fortification maps show that the Zaporizhzhia axis, where we, along with numerous other experts, anticipated the offensive, is heavily fortified. Hence, our prediction, from last spring, that any progress would be sluggish and accompanied by significant losses.

Strikes on Ukrainian and Russian Territory

On Jun. 8, Russian forces carried out missile strikes on Uman in the Cherkasy region. Ihor Taburets, head of the regional military administration, reported two impacts (on an industrial plant and a car wash), which resulted in eight casualties and a fire.

One Jun. 8, the following events took place on Russian-occupied territory:

  • Strikes were reported in Luhansk. The Luhansk Locomotive Plant named after the October Revolution was hit. To the best of our knowledge, the plant has not been operational since 2016, though it could have potentially been used for military equipment repairs.
  • An explosion occurred in Berdiansk, reportedly at a natural gas compressor station, causing a fire.
  • As a result of a strike on Horlivka, one individual was killed and another nine injured (relevant photos have been published).

On Jun. 9, a drone hit an apartment block in the city of Voronezh, injuring two individuals. There is a video which features a flying drone that suddenly starts diving, hits a building and explodes. It is unknown whether the incident was caused by an electronic warfare response.

It is claimed that the AFU have delivered a strike on a Russian Army HQ in the village of Shchastlyvtseve in Arabat Spit which Putin visited in April (the HQ is located in the grounds of a children’s recreation base). It is not known if any high-ranking officers were at the HQ at that time.

A video address by Lieutenant Colonel Roman Venevitin, as follows from his own words, former Commander of the Russian 72th Motorized Rifle Brigade who had been captured by the Wagner Group mercenaries, is circulated on the Internet. He said that he had been put “in the basement” where he was tortured; as for the previous video, he had recorded it under duress. According to him, relations between the units had not gone well from the very start: the mercenaries had been stealing armaments and combat vehicles from his unit and abducted soldiers, one of whom, after he had been raped, even committed suicide. Also, Venevitin claims that had the MoD units not attacked on a wide front in the Bakhmut direction, the Wagner Group would not have been able to take the town (we are inclined to agree with that).

It should be noted that Venevitin was reading his address from a sheet which once can even be seen in the video. A complete absence of official reaction to the above conflict raises questions.

The video of a Lancet kamikaze drone hitting an IRIS-T air defense system mentioned in a previous sitrep has been geolocated as taking place on the Kherson axis, to the north-east of the city of Kherson.

Vladimir Solovyev [Russian propagandist] has published a video with a T-90M tank that is so well camouflaged in a wooded area that it reveals itself only as it shoots a round.

Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council John Kirby claims that Russia receives necessary components for building a drone factory by sea from Iran. The factory is likely to be launched early next year. According to US intelligence, the factory is in the Alabuga special economic zone, close to the town of Yelabuga in Russia’s constituent Republic of Tatarstan.

Former US Vice President Mike Pence, who announced his entry into the presidential race as a Republican, criticized the incumbent President Biden for inadequate assistance to Ukraine. Specifically, he highlighted the fact that M1 Abrams tanks and F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft have not been delivered to Ukraine thus far.

The United States has announced a new long-term package of military assistance for Ukraine, amounting to over $2 billion, under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. It will include:

  • Additional munitions for Patriot air defense systems;
  • HAWK air defense systems and missiles;
  • 105mm and 203mm artillery rounds (possibly, for 2S7 Pion self-propelled cannons);
  • Puma Unmanned Aerial Systems;
  • Laser-guided rocket system munitions;
  • Support for training, maintenance, and sustainment activities.

Mobilization Update

Chairman of the Defense Committee of the State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] Andrey Kartapolov stated there is currently no need to continue mobilization efforts, as Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of Russia Dmitry Medvedev reported that "over the past period" 137,000 individuals had signed contracts with the Russian Army. In our opinion, there is no influx of individuals willing to sign contracts, otherwise it would have been confirmed by independent evidence.

Contrary to this, there are reports that in Saint Petersburg, conscripts are being invited to draft offices via SMS notifications allegedly for data check-ups, and those who come are persuaded to sign contracts.

The Kakhovka Dam Breach

It became known that mobilized men from the Omsk region, during a sudden flooding of their positions, have lost all their belongings and equipment, and are now seeking assistance from volunteers. This is further evidence that Russian military positions have suffered more extensively than Ukrainian ones.

As a result of the flooding of residential areas, a large number of civilians and domestic animals required evacuation assistance. Residents from neighboring areas are cooperating in Telegram channels to provide help to those in need.

While the flooded area of Kherson was being evacuated, Russian forces started shelling the city, causing panic among civilians and volunteers. While in some cases it could be plausible that the explosions were caused by mines borne by water, other videos have clear sounds of shell hits. As reported by local authorities, the shelling resulted in at least one person killed.

Spokeswoman for Ukraine’s Operational Command South Natalia Humeniuk has stated that not only building fragments but also mines were being carried by the Dnipro towards the Black Sea, endangering the navigation.

It was only on the fourth day after the dam breach when Putin ordered to establish a committee to mitigate the consequences of the destruction of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant. As a reminder, head of the occupation administration of the Kherson region Volodymyr Saldo previously made an overly flippant statement regarding the catastrophe.

Vladimir Osechkin [founder of the Gulagu.net human rights project] has addressed the experts who believe that the dam failed without having been blown up internally, asking to comment on videos showing explosions (which we mentioned in one of our previous sitreps as being caused by mines washed away) and blaming those experts (including ourselves) for denying the guilt of Russian authorities, which is not true. We have already emphasized and will reiterate once again that our version of the cause being criminal negligence of Russian forces means that Russia is solely to blame for what happened.

We believe it is right to ask first not “Who blew up the dam?” but “How the dam failed?”. Therefore, we spoke to an expert in the construction of highly critical hydraulic structures. He noted that satellite images show the spillway being open only at the outermost gate near the main generator hall side since mid-November 2022. Doing so is not right, as it forms a bad “hydraulic jump.” To explain this phenomenon, we’ll define several terms:

  • Headwater and lower water are the parts of a water body adjacent to the hydraulic structure on the upstream side (which is often a reservoir) and the downstream side, accordingly.
  • Spillway dike is located between the upstream and downstream sides of the dam. It is the profile along which the water cascades. It is designed in such a way that the water forms a jet as intended.
  • Stilling basin, next to a spillway dike, is a part of the hydraulic structure designed to dissipate the energy of the rapidly flowing water during water discharge.
  • Downstream apron is a concrete platform in the lower water that strengthens the riverbed and protects it from erosion, smoothens pulsations, and additionally dissipates the energy of the water flowing into the channel way.
  • Hydraulic jump is a phenomenon of an intermittent transition from a shooting flow to a calm state of the flow, accompanied by an increase in flow depth. If it forms incorrectly, it can be dangerous for the dam and cause its destruction.

The most vulnerable points in the hydraulic structure are the junctions of different systems, such as between an earth dam and a concrete one or between a concrete dam and a hydroelectric power plant building.

All dams are equipped with two gantry cranes, which are necessary not only for reliability but also for the symmetric opening of gates relative to the river channel (in pairs, at ¼ or ½ height, until the desired water flow rate is achieved). Failure to follow the well-thought-out gate maneuvering scheme can result in an incorrect hydraulic jump and the start of concrete deterioration.

We need two more terms:

  • Full reservoir level is the optimal highest water surface elevation in the reservoir that can be sustained by the dam for a prolonged period. It is determined based on the reservoir area and the maximum possible water inflow.
  • Surcharged reservoir level is the water surface elevation in the reservoir that exceeds the full reservoir level. It is the maximum water level for which the concrete dam, spillway dike, and the entire hydroelectric complex are designed. Exceeding this level can lead to spillage over the dam crest and other emergency situations.

Satellite images from May 2023 show water overflowing above the gates, indicating that the water level has exceeded even the surcharge reservoir level (16.6 m for the Kakhovka HPP, while the actual level reached 17.5 m in recent weeks). Furthermore, for eight months, water discharge occurred at one location near the main generator hall of the HPP, causing the dam to deteriorate. The gradual collapse of the road, as observed in the images from Jun. 2 to Jun. 5, which was previously slightly damaged due to shelling, according to an expert, indicates the gradual failure of the dam. The expert also believes that the explosions captured on the videos are too weak to cause significant damage to the dam. Even the explosion conducted by Russian forces in November could have only damaged the gate control mechanisms but not the structure itself.

US officials claim that a satellite equipped with infrared sensors captured an image consistent with a large explosion just before the dam collapsed. However, no specific time is mentioned. If it implies 2:50 a.m. local time (the time of explosion stated by Zelenskyy), it contradicts the reports of local residents about explosions half an hour before that.

Norwegian scientists found seismic shocks emanating from the area of Nova Kakhovka at 2:54 a.m., which they interpret as the aftermath of an explosion. However, this time also does not correspond to reports from local residents and the timestamp on thermal imaging video footage from Russian servicemen, showing that at 2:46 a.m. the dam was already destroyed but the main generator hall was still intact. This begs the question whether these seismic oscillations could have been caused by the destruction of the dam and the fall of a huge mass of water.

The anonymous engineers in The New York Times article claiming that if failure had occurred due to excessively high water levels, then the destruction would have started from the sides (where the dam meets the banks) — we assume they did not see satellite images and did not take into account how water discharge took place over the previous eight months.

Another expert we contacted for comment, a candidate of technical sciences in a relevant specialty, also confirmed that improper operation of the spillway observed on satellite images is an extremely serious problem which could have led to the breach of the Kakhovka dam.