June 3

Sitrep for May 31-June 3, 2024 (as of 9 a.m. UTC+3)

Frontline Situation Update

Over the past days, fighting has continued on the Kharkiv axis, but still without progress. A video has emerged filmed on the eastern flank near the village of Starytsya, west of Buhruvatka. The footage shows four Russian T-62 tanks attacked by FPV kamikaze drones of the 42nd Mechanized Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. We rarely see armored vehicles on this axis and T-62 tanks have never been spotted here before.

We still believe that due to the absence of reserves in the Russian Armed Forces, the only result they have been able to achieve on this axis is the US approval of the Ukrainian request to use Western weapons on Russian soil.

Some Telegram channels published news citing the Ukrainian DeepState project, claiming the RuAF had opened a new section of the frontline on the Zaporizhzhia axis,both east and west of the village of Nesterianka. However, we have not been able to find similar news on the project's social networks. DeepState has only noted Russian advances near the villages of Sokil and Nesterianka, as well near the towns of Semenivka and Chasiv Yar, also reporting about ongoing fighting near the village of Nevske. All the above-mentioned settlements except Nesterianka are located on the Donetsk axis. The aforementioned advances are insignificant, and the clashes at Nesterianka cannot be considered as the opening of a new section of the frontline.

In addition, Ukrainian media, citing BILD analyst Julian Röpcke, who announced  fighting had started near the village of Sokil, reported Russian advances to the southeast of Ocheretyne. Even if the RuAF manage to occupy Sokil, a slight expansion of the flank of the Ocheretyne salient will not have any noticeable impact on the frontline.

Russian forces are advancing past the villages of Bohdanivka and Kalynivka north of Chasiv Yar, where the Siverskyi Donets-Donbas Canal runs in underground pipes. A video has surfaced showing a Russian MT-LB multi-purpose armored vehicle on a road above the point where the canal transits into underground pipes. It remains unclear how it managed to cross Kalynivka, which is still under AFU control according to DeepState. The vehicle is seen fording the so-called crossing, disembarking infantry, and then coming under mortar fire before retreating, with soldiers scattering in different directions.

What surprises us most in this situation is the ease with which the MT-LP crossed the canal. Even if the AFU have already abandoned Kalynivka, the defense of which brings little military benefit, the lack of traps and obstacles on the road is still puzzling. No defensive engineering works such as anti-tank hedgehogs, mines, barbed wire, or other wire obstacles appear to have been installed.

Julian Röpcke has already marked Kalynivka as captured by the RuAF based on the aforementioned video. However, we are not yet ready to follow suit, as it is possible that the village remains contested. Nevertheless, this episode leads us to believe that the AFU have likely redeployed some of their forces from the Donetsk to the Kharkiv axis. Meanwhile, as expected, Russian forces have not been able to capitalize on this situation to either capture Chasiv Yar or, at the very least, make meaningful progress towards the town.

Ukrainian and Russian Strikes

It has become known that the number of casualties from the strike on Kharkiv on the night of May 31 has increased to nine people. Reportedly, the strike was carried out by modified S-300 surface-to-air missiles. One of the missiles hit a five-story residential building in the Novobavarskyi district, completely destroying three floors of one of the sections. Reports indicate that after the arrival of first responders at the scene, a second strike, known as a double tap, was carried out, resulting in injuries to two first responders.

On the night of June 1, the RuAF launched another strike on the Dnipro Hydroelectric Station in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine's largest hydroelectric power plant. According to Ivan Fedorov, the head of the Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration, the power plant is in critical condition and is not generating electricity. Additionally, traffic across the dam from one bank of the Dnipro River to the other has been blocked. The Russian Ministry of Defense justifies strikes on energy facilities by stating that they provide power to Ukraine’s defense industry. Although this is partly true, these facilities are still categorized as civilian infrastructure, and in this case, the potential military benefit is disproportionate to the damage to the civilian population.

On May 31, after the United States allowed Ukraine to use Western weapons to attack military targets on a small part of Russian territory, the New York Times, citing American officials, reported that the first attacks on Russian soil using American-made weapons could begin within hours or days.

Russian military correspondents claimed that this happened the very next day when HIMARS MLRS were used, but all missiles were successfully intercepted. Photos of missile fragments were published; however, they were taken in a different location from where they were found, making these images unreliable.

On the night of May 31, Ukrainian forces attacked several targets in the Temryuksky district of the Krasnodar region with drones and R-360 Neptune anti-ship subsonic cruise missiles:

  • an oil depot, with the extent of the damage to the infrastructure still unknown;
  • port Kavkaz, where a pumping station caught fire as a result of a strike, leading to the evacuation of port workers;
  • an electrical substation supplying Crimea, which was damaged but continued to operate.

On June 2, the Russian MoD also announced that it had intercepted an R-360 Neptune subsonic cruise missile.

No direct authorization from Emmanuel Macron to use SCALP-EG missiles or other French weapons against military targets on Russian soil has yet been officially received. However, a military aviation officer has told the BBC, on condition of anonymity, that this follows from Macron’s statement that all restrictions should be lifted.

At the moment, there is no reliable information on whether the authorization to use western weapons is limited to the Belgorod region or if it also extends to military targets near the Russia-Ukraine border in the Kursk, Bryansk and Voronezh regions.

On May 31, at a CSTO Defense Ministers' Council meeting, Russia’s new Minister of Defense Andrey Belousov reported on current successes on the frontline. According to Belousov, in May alone, the AFU lost more than 35,000 military personnel and over 2,700 military vehicles. Among the destroyed equipment, he mentioned 290 tanks and armored fighting vehicles, including four Abrams tanks, seven Leopard tanks and twelve Bradley infantry fighting vehicles. Belousov also stated that eleven aircraft and four helicopters were shot down.

This statement, very much in the style of Igor Konashenkov [ex-Chief spokesperson for the Russian MoD], does not at all correspond to documented losses. Apparently, the change in military leadership has not affected MoD PR strategy. At the moment, we see no signs that Belousov critically assesses the unreliable information he receives from generals, and we strongly doubt that he will be able to implement the necessary reforms to improve the effectiveness of the Russian Army.