June 12

Sitrep for June 10-12, 2024 (as of 8:30 a.m. UTC+3)

Frontline Situation Update

In its latest report, the Russian Ministry of Defense has announced the capture of the villages of Artyomivka in the Luhansk region and Tymkivka in the Kharkiv region, in the Kupiansk direction.

It is worth noting that Artyomivka, which was renamed Myasozharivka in 2016 as part of the decommunization process, is a minuscule village that had only 37 inhabitants in 2001. As for Tymkivka, the village was officially dissolved in 1987 and is now extremely difficult to locate on any map. This is not the first time the MoD has claimed the capture of settlements that were in fact long-abandoned ghost towns. For instance, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the deceased leader of the Wagner Group, had reported the capture of the village of Sacco and Vanzetti northwest of Bakhmut, which had a population of just three in 2001. The reasons behind the MoD announcing the capture of non-existent settlements remain unclear. The idea that this is due to Russian soldiers using outdated Soviet maps seems implausible. While old paper maps have been found in Russian armored vehicles, as per regulations, in practice, the military largely relies on online maps from Google and Yandex.

Ukrainian military observer Kostiantyn Mashovets reports that Russian forces have captured the village of Novooleksandrivka in the Pokrovsk direction. According to him, the situation remains challenging for Ukrainian forces located in the operational zone of the Russian Armed Forces Group of Troops "Center," stretching from Netailove to Novooleksandrivka, and "Ukrainian command has yet to stem the crisis." Fighting for Novooleksandrivka has been ongoing for a disproportionate amount of time given the village’s small size. Nonetheless, it is the only direction where the RuAF have made any noticeable progress as of late. Mashovets suggests that Russian forces will continue advancing towards Vozdvyzhenka in order to reach the Pokrovsk-Kostiantynivka highway, a maneuver that is likely to take a significant amount of time in our view.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace held a panel conference titled "A Pivotal Year: Assessing the Russia-Ukraine War in 2024." The conference featured Michael Kofman and Dara Massicot, Senior Fellows at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Andrii Zahorodniuk, former Minister of Defense of Ukraine (from August 2019 to March 2020); and Hanna Shelest, director of security programs at the Foreign Policy Council "Ukrainian Prism." One of the main questions discussed at the conference was whether this year will be pivotal for the ongoing war. Kofman reiterated the already discussed idea that the "window for a Russian breakthrough is narrowing." He emphasized that the danger is still present, but Russia's offensive potential is declining: the advantage Russia has in terms of personnel, military equipment and ammunition is gradually diminishing. Kofman believes the situation could fundamentally change by next year if Ukraine can resolve its personnel and armament issues.

The conference also addressed topics such as unmanned aircraft, electronic warfare and air defenses. Specifically, Zahorodniuk highlighted the challenge of countering drones and the need to develop more cost-effective means to combat them, noting that using Patriot missiles against UAVs is extremely cost-ineffective.

In turn, we assume that the RuAF advance in the Kharkiv region is nearly over and that no significant changes will occur there in the short term. The capture of a few more villages will not fundamentally alter the situation. A noticeable intensification of attacks is impossible without a large influx of fresh forces. However, as far as we can see, Russian authorities do not intend to conduct a new wave of mobilization any time soon. We agree with Kofman that Russia is gradually losing its advantage in military equipment and ammunition. Ukraine is preparing new units, and we hope that next year it will begin to reclaim occupied territories. Although there have been regular reports of Ukrainian counterattacks recently, there is no evidence that these are anything more than positional fighting with varying degrees of success.

Based on the plans published by the US and European countries to expand ammunition production and supplies, it can be expected that by the spring of 2025, the number of munitions available to the RuAF and the Armed Forces of Ukraine will equalize. However, it is worth noting that Russia is experiencing problems with the production of artillery barrels, and their stockpiles are small. Research on Russian military equipment storage bases through satellite imagery shows that a large number of howitzers and self-propelled howitzers stored there have had their barrels removed. The Russian industry is not only unable to produce new equipment but also cannot manufacture parts for repairing existing equipment. In the future, this may lead to a situation where the RuAF has sufficient ammunition, but the accuracy of their artillery will be significantly reduced. At the same time, Ukraine’s allies still have significant stockpiles of artillery that can be supplied, and the production of high-quality barrels will be established.

The pro-Russian Telegram channel Fighterbomber, associated with the Russian Air and Space Force, reported that the effectiveness of air-dropped bombs equipped with Universal Gliding and Correction Modules (UMPKs) is gradually decreasing as Ukrainian forces enhance their electronic warfare capabilities.

We also observe that following changes in mobilization legislation in Ukraine, new military personnel are being conscripted and trained, while recruitment rates in Russia are declining.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy participated in the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Germany and joined German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius in a press briefing at an air defense unit base. The event took place against the backdrop of Patriot system vehicles and Ukrainian soldier trainees. Pistorius announced the transfer of 100 missiles for Patriot systems to Ukraine, while Zelenskyy expressed hope that the country might receive another two or three air defense systems in the near future.

Ukrainian and Russian Strikes

On the night of June 10, Ukrainian forces struck three air defense targets in Crimea with ATACMS tactical ballistic missiles. Reports indicate that S-300 and S-400 SAM system vehicles were destroyed or damaged, but as convincing visual evidence is still lacking, the extent of the losses remains unclear. The CyberBoroshno project published photos showing burn marks in areas where S-300/S-400 systems were previously spotted near Dzhankoi.

The Russian MoD published a video showing a ZALA Lancet loitering munition strike on a Sukhoi Su-25 Grach (Frogfoot) attack aircraft stationed at the Dovhyntseve airfield in the Dnipropetrovsk region. Judging by the video of the resulting fire, a real aircraft was hit, rather than a mock-up. Previously, we already reported on attacks on this airfield and a strike on a Su-25 aircraft in the fall of 2023. Another such aircraft was hit there on June 6.

A Ukrainian air strike on a command post in the Belgorod region on June 9 has been confirmed. According to the Dos'ye Shpiona [Spy Dossier] Telegram channel, the command post of the 6th Combined Arms Army at the Nezhegol recreation center was hit, with eight officers reported missing as a result. It is highly likely that they were killed. The Pepel [Ashes] Telegram channel also published a photograph of the aftermath of the strike noting that although it shows a civilian fire truck, this incident was not included in the Ministry of Emergency Situations’ daily briefing, confirming the military nature of the Nezhegol base. In addition, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty discovered that Russian soldiers had posted photographs geolocated at this base on social networks back in December 2022. According to sources of the Astra Telegram channel, the village of Titovka, where Nezhegol is located, was allegedly hit by HIMARS MLRS, resulting in the death of at least three servicemen.

Although Sky News stated that this was the first Ukrainian airstrike on Russian territory, it is worth noting that on Oct. 16, 2022, near the Belgorod airport, a Russian Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery system was allegedly hit by an AGM-88 HARM missile, apparently launched from Ukrainian airspace.

In our previous sitrep, we mentioned barge barriers being built on the southern side of the Crimean Bridge to protect it. Researcher Brady Africk published recent Sentinel satellite images showing the process of installing the barriers.

Conscription, Mobilization and Contract Military Service

In 2023, the Russian MoD recruited female convicts from penal colonies in different regions of Russia to serve as medics, snipers and assault troops in the war in Ukraine. In May 2024, Olga Romanova, Executive Director of the Rus’ Sidyashchaya [Russia Behind Bars] civil rights movement, reported that the recruitment of women from penal colonies to the frontline had stopped by the end of 2023. It is likely that the MoD considered the experiment unsuccessful and ceased the recruitment process. According to Romanova, approximately 1,000 women had been deployed to the frontline since the start of the recruitment campaign from women's correctional facilities in December 2022. However, confirmation of the presence of female convicts on the frontlines, beyond junior medical personnel, is currently lacking.

On June 10, 2024, the New York Times published an article based on conversations with two female ex-convicts who maintain contact with their cellmates. The article claims that at the end of May 2024, the first group, consisting of several women, was released from a penal colony near Saint Petersburg. Among the 400 women held in the colony, 40 expressed a desire to be deployed to the frontline. It remains unclear whether this is an isolated case or indicates the beginning of mass recruitment. Additionally, there is no information available regarding the specific roles in which these female convicts are intended to serve in the war.

At the same time as the NYT article was published, Tatyana Moskalkova, Russia's Commissioner for Human Rights, stated that she had been receiving requests from female convicts asking to be deployed to the war. However, according to Moskalkova, not a single female convict has been sent to the frontline so far.

Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet] and BBC News Russian have released a research piece on the losses incurred by the Wagner Group near Bakhmut, based on documents regarding payments to the families of killed mercenaries, and an accompanying video summarizing their main findings. The total number of losses is estimated to be around 20,000 people, consistent with statements made by Prigozhin and other Wagner Group commanders. However, ex-convicts make up not about half, but almost 90% of these losses. More details regarding this article can be found in our mobilization summary.

In the city of Orenburg, a former Wagner Group mercenary, Kirill Smirnov, has been sentenced to 18 years in prison for a series of crimes including murder, attempted murder of two people and theft. Smirnov returned home from the war in April 2023, and on May 8 of the same year, while having an argument under the influence of alcohol, he attacked a neighbor and stabbed him in the neck. Despite the severity of the injury, the neighbor managed to make it home and was subsequently hospitalized. Smirnov then went to the house of his childhood friend's parents, intending to "take" his friend's girlfriend. Instead, he found only his friend's mother, whom he brutally killed. Smirnov tried to escape the police by jumping from the fourth floor, breaking his legs in the process. During the sentencing, the court considered Smirnov's participation in the war and his "For Courage" medal as mitigating factors. Despite having no prior convictions officially documented, testimonies from the victim and witnesses revealed that Smirnov was recruited to the war in 2022 from a penal colony, where he was serving a sentence for a previous murder. The Vyorstka media outlet discovered that in 2015, Smirnov was sentenced to 12 years in a maximum security penal colony for the murder of a 29-year-old woman.

In the village of Chekmagush in Bashkortostan [Russia's constituent republic], a mobilized soldier who returned from the war killed his ex-wife, the mother of two children. The man was detained and charged with causing grievous bodily harm resulting in death. He has confessed to the crime.

On June 12, the annual fundraiser in support of Russian political prisoners, titled "You Are Not Alone," was held. The event successfully collected more than 25 million rubles [$281,000].