June 28

Sitrep for June 26-28, 2024 (as of 9:00 a.m. UTC+3)

Frontline Situation Update

Since today is already June 28 and the month has almost come to an end, it can now be stated that forecasts about a second wave of mobilization and a large-scale Russian offensive in June have still not come true. The offensive actions in the Kharkiv region and in the Toretsk direction cannot be characterized as large-scale in our view.

Recently, in many areas the frontline is gradually evening out, and Russian forces are no longer advancing. The only exception last week was a Russian advance of a few hundred meters in the Toretsk direction. At the same time, the Armed Forces of Ukraine were able to recapture positions and advance in the Serebryanske forest, near the village of Terny and, according to Julian Röpcke, in the town of Chasiv Yar. This was to be expected, since Ukraine is gradually addressing its shortages of weapons, ammunition and personnel, whereas Russia’s shortages, on the contrary, are growing. However, there is still insufficient evidence to assert that the balance has shifted, the RuAF have stopped advancing, and the AFU have transitioned into an offensive posture.

According to the Ukrainiant DeepState project, Russian forces took advantage of a rotation of Ukrainian units and launched an attack on the village of Sotnytskyi Kozachok on the border of the Belgorod and Kharkiv regions with sabotage groups.

It is worth noting that Russian propagandists have linked the strike on military facilities near Sevastopol, which led to civilian casualties, not only to the use of American missiles but also to the alleged guiding of these missiles by American drones flying over the Black Sea. A day after the strike, contradictory posts began to appear on the pro-Russian Fighterbomber Telegram channel [associated with the Russian Air and Space Force] about an incident with an American Global Hawk drone.

On June 27, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced that in Syria, near the settlement of Al-Sukhnah in the Homs province," a coalition MQ-9 Reaper drone dangerously approached a Russian Su-35 fighter jet." The reports indicate that collision was avoided due to the reported high professionalism of the Russian pilot. However, in a video released half an hour later, it is evident that the Russian fighter jet passed the American drone at a close distance and at a relatively low speed compared to the drone.

Some commentators, discussing the missile intercepted over the Sevastopol beach, claim that if it were an ATACMS tactical ballistic missile, no one would have survived on the beach, as its cluster warhead contains nearly a thousand submunitions. Therefore, they argue it was a different type of ammunition that exploded. This is a mistaken assertion. Firstly, it is worth noting that, according to CCTV footage from the beach, while most of the submunitions fell into the sea, almost 150 people were still injured. Secondly, the M39A version of the missile, with a range of 165 km [100 mi], contains 950 submunitions in its cluster warhead. However, the M39A1 version used in the strike on Crimea, which has a range of 300 km [185 mi], has a significantly reduced payload to make room for increased fuel capacity and contains only 300 submunitions. We are certain that it was indeed an ATACMS tactical ballistic missile that targeted Crimea, and that it landed where it did due to a Russian surface-to-air missile interception.

Footage has emerged showing Russian soldiers firing from severely damaged artillery vehicles. In one instance, soldiers connected a battery to the intact launch rail of a BM-21 Grad MLRS, launching rockets from pods already aimed at the intended target. In another case, soldiers are seen firing an intact AZP S-60 57mm anti-aircraft gun mounted on a burned-out gun truck.

Another recent video showcases an enhanced yet equally absurd anti-drone protection rig. The contraption appears to have evolved from the now familiar slat armor and coop-cages to something resembling a full-sized pigeon loft. It is difficult to imagine how such a structure could navigate through forested areas, as it would inevitably get tangled in branches.

While it is not entirely clear if the number of “turtle-tanks” deployed on the frontline has decreased, they are being highlighted with noticeably less frequency on Telegram channels.

Motorcycles on the frontline continue to receive significant attention. The Española Battalion, for example, announced the creation of an entire motorcycle unit. In a video report, it is shown that motorcycles can be used not only for delivering supplies to forward positions but also for assaulting enemy positions, evacuating the wounded and even firing from behind motorcycles laid on the ground. The claim that it is impossible to hit a cross-country motorcycle moving at high speeds (up to 60 km/h [37mph], as stated in the presentation) is laughable, as it is nearly impossible to ride that fast over rough terrain. Even at such speeds, it would not be particularly difficult for an opponent to target motorcycle-borne attackers with FPV drones.

Using motorcycles for supply runs in the rear or near the frontline under the cover of armored vehicles seems far more logical than conducting assaults without such cover. Shooting while using a motorcycle for cover is extremely dangerous, as the fuel tank can easily catch fire if damaged. Evacuating the wounded using sleds or as passengers appears to be both challenging and quite dangerous.

Reuters correspondents visited forward positions and spoke with Ukrainian artillerymen. Soldiers operating a M109 155mm self-propelled howitzer reported that the shell hunger had ended, allowing them to operate without restrictions. However, they noted that the shortage of personnel remains a problem. Many expressed hope that units formed during the mobilization will soon reach the frontline.

Western Assistance

The Czech publication iRozhlas reported that Ukraine had already received 50,000 shells as part of the Czech initiative. Currently, the purchase of 500,000 shells has been funded, and they will be delivered to Ukraine in installments of several tens of thousands per month until the end of the year.

Peter Pellegrini, President of Slovakia, announced that the republic has joined the Czech initiative for ammunition. The purchased projectiles will be refurbished and repaired at Slovak factories, which have already expanded their production capacities for this purpose. He also mentioned that Slovakia supplies electricity to Ukraine to help cope with the consequences of Russian attacks on energy infrastructure.

Prime Minister of Serbia Miloš Vučević stated that he would not prevent domestic companies from selling Serbian-made ammunition to Spain, Czechia or the USA, even if some of it eventually ends up in Ukraine.

Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition Doug Bush stated that they are on schedule and will reach the production of 55,000 155mm projectiles per month by the end of summer. This achievement stands as a rare example of exceeding, rather than delaying, promised deliveries; previous forecasts had suggested that this pace would only be achieved by the end of 2024.

The Chosun TV channel, citing a South Korean official, reported that North Korea plans to send construction and engineering brigades to Russia to restore infrastructure in Donetsk.  Some have speculated that the term "engineering brigades" may refer to military units, however, we believe that the workers are intended to be used for restoring damaged buildings or roads. North Korean workers have been working on various construction projects in Russia for many years. For example, in 2017, reports surfaced about harsh working conditions akin to slavery during the construction of the Krestovsky Stadium (also known as Zenit Arena) in Saint Petersburg.

All Russian attempts to recruit citizens of other countries for the war in Ukraine, including efforts to recruit citizens of Nepal and Sri Lanka, have failed due to the language barrier and training difficulties. Therefore, we consider it unlikely that North Korean citizens would directly participate in combat.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated that Ukraine has "a lot of injured and killed soldiers on the battlefield, as well as among civilians," and emphasized that Ukrainians do not want this war to continue for years. Therefore, Ukraine, together with its allies, plans to prepare a peace plan for the second peace summit. Previously, Deputy Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Ihor Zhovkva mentioned that the second summit is expected to be held by the end of 2024, and Ukraine's Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba reported that Russia might be invited to participate. It remains unclear how any new plan could lead to the end of the war in such a short period of time.

Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the Investigative Committee of Russia, asserted at the Saint Petersburg International Legal Forum that the actions of the Investigative Committee have led to migrants leaving Russia. About 30,000 people who obtained Russian citizenship have been put on the military register, with a third of them—10,000 former migrants—already deployed to the war effort. These numbers seem greatly exaggerated, as we track reports of migrant raids when compiling mobilization summaries.

According to British intelligence, Russia's losses reached their highest rate in over two years of war in May, with 1,200 casualties per day. This estimate, seemingly based on statements from the AFU, may be exaggerated. It is important to note that the term "casualties" encompasses both injured and killed soldiers. When translated into Russian, these statements can sound more dramatic, leading some journalists to interpret this as "1,200 killed." Nevertheless, we believe these estimates are inflated, as we did not get the impression that the fighting this past May was any «bloodier» than the battles for the towns of Bakhmut or Avdiivka. Unfortunately, the absence of sources prevents us from convincingly refuting the claims of British intelligence.

It is worth noting that many of those lightly wounded (suffering from shrapnel wounds or concussions) return to the frontline relatively quickly and can be counted in the overall losses’ statistics several times a month. Thus, multiplying 1,200 casualties per day by 31 to estimate total losses for the month, and concluding that the RuAF lost more than 30,000 servicemen in May, is also incorrect.

Vazhnyye Istorii [IStories, independent Russian investigative media outlet] assessed Russian losses in the war for the years 2022 to 2023 by calculating excess mortality among men aged 20 to 49 using Rosstat data. Journalists estimated that about 26,000 men could have been killed in 2022 and 45,000 in 2023. According to their tally, the total losses over two years of war, as reflected in Rosstat statistics, exceed 70,000 killed. It is worth noting that the estimate of excess mortality among young men for the same period, made by journalists of Meduza [international Russian-language online media outlet] and Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet] using The National Probate Registry, is about 75,000 people. Assuming that the rate of losses this year remained approximately the same (as shown by weekly reports from Mediazona and BBC News Russian, which keep named lists of fallen soldiers), it is likely that Russian losses have now exceeded 100,000 soldiers killed. It is worth noting that all these estimates do not account for servicemen killed from the so-called Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic.

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