dispatches
June 19

Sitrep for June 17-19, 2024 (as of 9:00 a.m. UTC+3)

Frontline Situation Update

The Ukrainian project DeepState, likely relying on data from the 3rd Separate Assault Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, reported that Russian troops had accumulated a significant number of personnel (up to 10 thousand people) and about 450 armored vehicles and had begun to advance in the direction of the village of Borova, south of the town of Kupiansk. However, no confirmation of this claim has been seen so far. Reports indicate that the attack is being countered by the 3rd Separate Assault Brigade, but photo or video evidence of large-scale attacks on this sector of the frontline has also not yet emerged. Furthermore, the scale of the accumulation of Russian forces could have been significantly exaggerated. Likewise, there is still no visual confirmation of the reported advance by the National Guard of the AFU in the Serebryanske forestry in the Kupiansk direction.

The German automotive and arms manufacturer Rheinmetall and the Lockheed Martin Corporation have reportedly jointly developed a wheeled counterpart to the M270 tracked Multiple Launch Rocket System. It is worth noting that the M270 MLRS has the same launcher as the HIMARS MLRS but is mounted on a tracked chassis and capable of launching twice as many rockets. Several M270 systems have already been transferred to Ukraine. The new MLRS will be based on a four-axle MAN 8x8 chassis. These new MLRS might be supplied to Ukraine in the future, but no concrete plans have been disclosed so far.

Ukrainian and Russian Strikes

On the night of June 18, a drone strike hit an oil storage facility in Azov, Rostov region, resulting in a fire; no casualties were reported. According to satellite images provided by the Skhemy [Schemes] project, part of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty), the extent of the damage could not be assessed, although the fire could not be extinguished for at least a day. The governor of the Rostov region confirmed the hit on the oil storage facility. While there were reports that the tank allegedly contained methanol rather than oil, it is unlikely to be the case, as methanol burns with a blue flame without smoke, whereas in this case, only black smoke was visible. It was also reported that on the same night, an oil depot in the Temryuk district of the Krasnodar region was attacked, however, no visual evidence of this incident has yet appeared.

The Investigative Committee of Russia has announced the initiation of a criminal case under the article of act of terror (paragraph "b" part 3 article 205 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation) against Ukrainian military officer Colonel Mykola Dzyaman and announced his arrest in absentia. The "act of terror" in question involved the 138th Anti-Aircraft Missile Brigade of the AFU under Dzyaman's command, which shot down a Russian aircraft on February 23, 2024. According to the press service of the Investigative Committee, the aircraft was unarmed, not intended for combat operations and was solely patrolling Russian airspace. 10 crew members died in the crash. As the pro-Russian Telegram channel Fighterbomber explains, the “act of terror” in question most likely refers to the downing of a Russian Air and Space Forces Beriev A-50 AEW&C aircraft in the Krasnodar region, about 250 kilometers [155 mi] from the frontline. While some have speculated that the aircraft could have been hit by friendly fire or by a Patriot missile—despite the US-produced SAM system lacking the range to be a credible culprit—the most plausible explanation remains that the A-50 was shot down by a Ukrainian S-200 SAM system.

Journalist and blogger Ivan Filippov, author of the Na Zzzzzapadnom fronte bez peremen [All Quiet on the Wezzzzztern Front] Telegram channel, has compiled statements from various pro-Russian milbloggers on this topic, reconstructing the chronological chain of events.

The Russian Investigative Committee’s statement claiming that the A-50 was not intended for combat operations is entirely false and was solely issued for propagandistic purposes.

The Perm 36.6 media project has reported the death of Aleksandr Rusakov, a 19-year-old conscripted soldier from the Perm region [Russia’s federal subject], who was drafted in the fall of 2023. Initially, he served in Orenburg, but in the spring of 2024, he was transferred to the Belgorod region. In May, he stopped making contact, and in June, his relatives learned that he had been killed in an attack.

There are also some very young individuals among the contract soldiers killed in the war, such as Georgy Nadein. Nadein, a cadet from the Perm branch of the Volga State University of Water Transport, was born in 2006. He took an academic leave and signed a contract immediately after turning 18. Less than six months later, he was killed on the frontline.

The TV2. Novosti Tomska i Sibiri [TV2. Tomsk and Siberia News] Telegram channel has reported that last April, a court in Tomsk region sentenced local resident Aleksey Orlov to two years on probation for shooting an acquaintance with a hunting rifle in an attempt to get imprisoned and subsequently sign a contract with the MoD. During a drinking session, Orlov expressed his desire to go to the war in Ukraine and mentioned that he had twice visited the draft office to enlist as a volunteer fighter but was rejected due to not having local registration. When his drinking companion mocked him, Orlov decided to shoot him with the hunting rifle. According to the victim, after the shot was fired, Orlov placed the rifle on a bed and said, "There’s no other way; you are my ticket to the special military operation." The court considered Orlov's desire to go to the frontline and the victim's provocative behavior as mitigating factors. On June 7, Orlov posted photos on his social media of a fortified dugout, along with pictures of himself in military uniform and holding weapons. Why Orlov did not apply to a draft office in another region is unclear, as Russian regions are constantly trying to lure potential contract soldiers from elsewhere by offering large sign-up bonuses.

According to sources cited by the Baza Telegram channel, the leadership of the Investigative Committee and the Ministry of Internal Affairs have recommended that investigators offer accused and suspected men the option to sign a contract with the MoD in exchange for the termination of their criminal cases “on rehabilitative grounds.” The pro-Russian Telegram channel Voyenny Osvedomitel [Military Informant] reported about this practice as early as April 2024.

After a massive disruption of the Telegram messenger on June 8, Russian bloggers discussed the heavy dependence of many soldiers on the frontline on this platform and argued for the creation of a secure military messenger. The Na Zzzzzapadnom fronte bez peremen Telegram channel published a brief digest on this topic.

According to TASS [Russian state-owned news agency], the Tallamkho design bureau, established in Grozny, capital city of Chechnya [Russia’s constituent republic], in 2022, has developed a field network called Svyaz [Communication] for the secure exchange of text messages and photos in the "special military operation" zone. The network consists of mobile microservers receiving encrypted information from users connected via smartphones through a Wi-Fi network. Based on this description, it appears to be a messenger based on a mesh network, possibly leveraging an existing open-source solution. Similar solutions have been attempted by protesters in various countries, such as FireChat during protests in Hong Kong and Moscow in 2013-2014, or Bridgefy during protests in Hong Kong, Iran and Belarus in 2019-2021. However, these solutions have been highly unstable and unable to guarantee reliable communication.

According to the Astra Telegram channel, Andrey Medvedev, a former commander of a Wagner Group unit who fled to Norway in early 2023, was involved in another incident in November of the same year. It started when a bartender refused to serve him another alcoholic drink. Medvedev insisted that the bartender step outside with him, then grabbed his shirt and threw coins in his face. Later that night, he assaulted his girlfriend Mille out of jealousy towards an elderly taxi driver and anger over her phone conversation with a female friend. Mille managed to call the police, after which she was taken to the hospital, and Medvedev was detained. Despite denying his guilt, he was found guilty and sentenced to 120 days in prison.