dispatches
June 24

Sitrep for June 21-24, 2024 (as of 9:00 UTC+3 a.m.)

Frontline Situation Update

Occasional scattered reports about the supply of ammunition to the Armed Forces of Ukraine as part of the Czech initiative and from the United States, as well as new aid packages to Ukraine, are not enough to evaluate the scale of their influence on the frontline situation. However, Ukraine's Deputy Minister of Defense Lieutenant General Ivan Havriliuk recently commented on the situation with ammunition. According to him, Russia’s artillery advantage was 7-to-1 at the start of the year, but is now down to 5-to-1. At the same time, the 110th Mechanized Brigade of the AFU, fighting near the village of Ocheretyne, began receiving new batches of ammunition less than a month ago. And although supplies have increased by 75% compared to last winter, troops still have to sometimes retreat in order to save the lives of soldiers. The most acute shortage, according to Ivan Sekach, a brigade press officer, is that of "large caliber" ammunition. We believe that he means 155mm shells, the main artillery caliber in the Ukrainian Army. The AFU would need to get 4 times more rounds to eliminate the need to save ammunition and daily limits.

The 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade, according to its deputy battalion commander, "needs more anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles." Although ATGM tasks are now largely performed by FPV kamikaze drones, the former are much less susceptible to the influence of electronic warfare than the latter. We have already noted problems with MANPADS, when Russian Sukhoi Su-25 Grach (Frogfoot) attack aircraft began to fly very close to AFU positions near the town of Chasiv Yar, it became clear that Ukrainian forces did not have enough air defense systems to shoot them down.

The situation for the AFU, according to Ukrainian servicemen, is further complicated by the fact that the Russian Armed Forces began to actively strike supply routes and Ukrainian troops during rotation. Therefore, they can now move only at night, and in the Bakhmut and Pokrovsk directions, they are sometimes forced to carry supplies using drones. Currently, up to a quarter of Ukrainian casualties "happen while transporting troops to and from frontline positions."

The frontline has hardly changed over the past few days.

A video has emerged showing a Russian soldier finishing off a fellow soldier wounded by an FPV drone with a shot to the head. Although the video does not show any severe injuries, the soldier appears to gesture for a mercy killing. While some pro-Russian Telegram channels have suggested the video is staged, it was geolocated near Robotyne on the Zaporizhzhia axis. Filming staged videos directly on the frontline seems like an unjustifiable risk to us, and other aspects of the recording do not appear suspicious, therefore we have little doubt about its authenticity. We also note that this is not the first video showing Russian soldiers finishing off their wounded. We consider that in the conditions of extreme heat, lack of supplies and the practical impossibility of evacuation, the wounded soldier realized he would likely be finished off by another Ukrainian drone later in the day. It is also possible that the soldiers had pre-arranged such actions in case of an injury, which seems more likely than a staged video.

Ukrainian and Russian Strikes

On June 22 and 23, the Russian Aerospace Forces conducted airstrikes on Kharkiv using glide bombs. According to Kharkiv’s mayor Ihor Terekhov, four bombs were dropped on the city on June 22. Most of them hit their intended targets, striking a facility in the city and resulting in one fatality and three injured. However, one bomb fell near a residential building on Gagarin Prospect in an unusual manner. We have schematically depicted its trajectory based on dashcam footage.

The videos show that the bomb was "wobbling" in the air, chaotically turning during its vertical descent phase before landing near the building. The blast wave caused damage to the southwest side of the building. While it is sometimes possible to judge the provenance of an incoming munition from footage recorded at the impact site, it is impossible to determine in this case.

As a result of this impact, one of the sections of the five-story residential building collapsed. According to the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, this incident claimed the lives of two people and injured 53 others.

The type of bomb used can be determined based on the aforementioned video of the moment of impact. The tail assembly features a ring, and the central and nose sections have two bands of lighter metal corresponding to the clamps used to attach air-dropped bombs to UMPKs. These elements, along with its cigar-like shape, unequivocally indicate that this is an air-dropped bomb with a UMPK kit. This is further corroborated by reference photographs of FAB-500M-62 air-dropped bombs with UMPK kits, although the FAB-1500 cannot be entirely ruled out despite having different attachment points.

The initial theory put forth by Kharkiv Governor Oleh Synyehubov, suggesting that D-30 Universal Inter-Branch Gliding Munitions (UMPB) had been used to strike the city, seems to be incorrect. Reference images of these munitions show that they have a different shape, more pencil-like than cigar-like, and have wings positioned in the middle of the body rather than near the nose of the bomb, unlike the bomb seen hitting a factory in video from the scene.

The Polkovnyk Henshtabu (Colonel of the General Staff) Telegram channel speculated that a North Korean AGP-250 GNSS guided glide bomb (JDAM) could have been used. However, we believe that the tail assembly of the bomb seen in Kharkiv does not match reference photos of this munition, which, incidentally, also does not feature clamps. Additionally, some pro-Russian bloggers have suggested that the city was struck with Ukrainian air-dropped bombs equipped with JDAM kits; however, they share the same dissimilarities as the North Korean bombs.

Therefore, we are convinced that Kharkiv was targeted with a FAB air-dropped bomb with a UMPK kit. The exact type of bomb was most likely a FAB-500, as we doubt that a 1.5-ton [3,300 lbs] bomb could have been used in this case. Similarly, the amount of destruction appears too great for a FAB-250.

We assume that the wings of the air-dropped bomb were destroyed by an exploding Ukrainian air defense missile. The UMPK itself, including the wings, tail assembly and control unit, is made of thin metal. It can be assumed that during the explosion of the anti-aircraft missile, prefabricated fragments could have torn them apart, while the thick steel body of the bomb remained almost intact (the quality of the videos may not allow to see any dents or holes on the body of the bomb). As a result, the bomb began to fall vertically downward. The video recording shows shiny strips of clamps that secured these wings.

We regularly observe the fall of defective air-dropped bombs equipped with UMPKs in the Belgorod region and believe that in such cases, the bomb's wings never deploy. In the incident under consideration, the bomb could not have been dropped directly over Kharkiv, as Russian aircraft do not fly that far into Ukrainian territory due to the threat of air defenses. Accordingly, this bomb first traveled a considerable distance, likely launched from the Belgorod region, and only over Kharkiv did it suddenly begin to fall vertically, while three other glide bombs hit their targets. Therefore, our primary hypothesis is as follows: as a result of air defense operation, the FAB separated from its UMPK kit and fell on a busy street, failing to reach its intended target.

We cannot rule out the possibility of a poorly secured or defective UMPK that was damaged upon release but only fully detached in the final stage of the flight. However, we consider the air defense operation version to be the most likely. The absence of audible air defense systems operating in eyewitness videos could be due to urban buildings significantly distorting sound propagation. Smoke clouds left in the air after missile detonations might not have been captured because the explosions or fire on the ground attracted much more attention.

In any case, we do not see a deliberate intention to hit residential buildings: bombs simultaneously struck an industrial facility, making the destruction of the residential building yet another tragic accident.

On June 23, the RuAF launched strikes using FAB-250 bombs equipped with UMPK kits on the Shevchenkivskyi and Kholodnohirskyi districts of Kharkiv. A 73-year-old man was killed and 11 people were injured, including two teenagers. The attack damaged an educational institution and at least 10 residential buildings.

On the afternoon of June 23, an ATACMS tactical ballistic missile with a cluster munition warhead exploded over a beach near Sevastopol in Crimea. According to the latest reports, four people, including two children, were killed, and 144 others, including 27 children, were injured.

Eyewitness videos captured the typical sounds of multiple submunition explosions and showed them hitting the water, indicated by splashes resembling little columns. Previously, there have only been a few cases of submunitions deploying upon the interception of a missile with a cluster munition warhead, however, our knowledge is limited to Soviet and Russian munitions.

Several indicators suggest that this missile was shot down by Russian air defenses. Notably, since Ukraine acquired long-range ATACMS missiles, attacks on air defense systems, EW systems or storage facilities in Crimea have become almost daily, leading some commentators to refer to Crimea as the "new Chornobaivka." Russia’s Ministry of Defense initially reported that air defense forces intercepted four ATACMS missiles and that another missile deviated from its trajectory and exploded in the air over the city due to air defense action. However, in a subsequent press release, published approximately two hours later, the statement about the missile deviation was removed, and "US specialists" were blamed for helping with target acquisition.

Despite the absence of an air raid alert in the city, the Ministry of Defense's claims about air defense operations are supported by residents' testimonies. An eyewitness reported seeing two missile interceptions and a third missile exploding in the air. Additionally, a local Telegram channel posted a photo of two smoke clouds left by air defense missiles, reportedly taken from a nearby beach.

Based on our overall analysis of events, we conclude that this incident was a tragic accident. Ukrainian forces did not intend to target a gathering of civilians. Rather, due to an air defense system interception, the missile deviated from its target, exploded in the air, and its submunitions scattered onto the beach.

It is worth noting that this beach is relatively close to the Belbek airfield, which has been  targeted multiple times by Ukrainian strikes. Additionally, there is an artillery depot directly east of the city, and Sevastopol itself hosts over two hundred military facilities in its suburbs, posing significant danger to residents. Despite ongoing strikes for the last two years, occupation authorities in Sevastopol have neither closed the beaches nor ensured the safety of civilians. As a counter-example, there were reports last week of intense fighting in the Toretsk direction, prompting the administration of the town of Toretsk to urge residents to evacuate due to the attacks.

On the night of June 21, Ukrainian drones attacked two sites in the city of Yeysk in the Krasnodar region: an airfield and an air defense site. Satellite images and ground photos show the aftermath of an extensive fire. Ukrainian sources assert that the targeted site was used for storing Shahed-136 (Geran-2) loitering munitions and housing their operators. Given the scale of destruction observed, it is plausible that explosive materials were indeed present at this facility, as a single drone attack alone would not likely cause such widespread damage.

According to the Ukrainian Air Force, Russian forces launched 3M-54 Kalibr cruise missiles on the night of June 22 from the Black Sea, followed by another launch on the night of June 23 from the Sea of Azov. In the past few months, reports of Kalibr missile use have occurred 1 to 2 times per month. It is possible that the RuAF have accumulated these missiles or have resolved logistical issues. The primary infrastructure for loading Kalibr missiles was located in Crimea, from where many Black Sea Fleet ships first moved to Novorossiysk and then into the Sea of Azov.

On June 23, the anniversary of Yevgeny Prigozhin's [deceased owner of the Wagner Group] armed rebellion, the Federal Security Service (FSB) detained several media managers associated with Prigozhin in Saint Petersburg on charges of extortion, including Ilya Gorbunov, a former top manager of the Patriot media holding, and Kirill Metelev, the editor-in-chief of the Konkretno.ru media outlet.

The C4ADS global security nonprofit organization has received data from its source on cargo shipments on Russian railways. Based on this data, C4ADS determined that from August 2023 to January 2024, North Korea supplied Russia with over 74,000 metric tons of explosives. These shipments originated from Far Eastern ports and were destined for Main Missile and Artillery Directorate arsenals and regions bordering Ukraine. According to C4ADS estimates, this amount of explosives is equal to approximately 1.6 million artillery shells. Until 2021, when accessing such data became difficult and essentially restricted, our team actively used railway tracking services for our investigations. This allowed us to monitor the movement of military vehicles from various regions of Russia to the Russia-Ukraine border.

Ukrainian experts explained to the Vazhnyye Istorii [IStories, independent Russian investigative media outlet] how Ukraine is preparing for the upcoming winter amid ongoing attacks on its energy infrastructure and what to expect. According to them, Ukrainians will need to conserve electricity, and boiler facilities and power stations at enterprises, which were previously inactive due to their low efficiency, will need to be activated. Residential buildings equipped with their own boiler facilities will face fewer problems compared to those relying on central heating systems.

Experts also noted that the contract for transporting Russian gas through Ukraine expires at the end of the year, allowing the gas compressor and pumping stations used for transit to be repurposed for generating electricity and heat within Ukraine. Their estimates suggest that the restoration of damaged power-generating facilities could provide 2 GW, reactivating idle power stations at factories, mini-CHPs units and other small facilities could yield an additional 1.5 to 2 GW, and using energy storage systems at photovoltaic stations could add around 1 GW to the grid. Additionally, 0.5 GW for Western Ukraine could be purchased from Europe.

Thus, the projected deficit is estimated to be between 4 to 4.5 GW, which could result in scheduled blackouts of 4 to 8 hours a day, divided into several intervals. In some regions, these blackouts could extend up to 10 hours a day. There is a risk that in certain cities, people may experience disruptions in both electricity and heat supply during the winter. However, experts do not anticipate a complete collapse of communal services. Experts recommend that individuals who have the option should consider staying in private houses equipped with wood stoves, boilers and generators as a precautionary measure.

On the evening of June 23, an attack occurred on a synagogue and Orthodox churches in Derbent and Makhachkala, located in Russia’s constituent Republic of Dagestan. According to Sergey Melikov, the head of the republic, six attackers were killed, along with 15 law enforcement officers and several civilians, including Father Nikolay Kotelnikov, an Orthodox priest from Derbent, and a security guard from the Makhachkala church. The Investigative Committee of Russia reported a total of 24 fatalities, including 5 militants. Preliminary information indicates that the terrorists used an AR-15-style rifle during the attack on police officers in Makhachkala—such trophy assault rifles are obtainable on the Russian black market, though similar semi-automatic carbines are also legally sold.

On June 30 at 6:00 p.m. Moscow time, we will host a livestream to answer your questions submitted to our bot.