The Prevail Partners Newsroom is supporting the Ukrainian Armed Forces media campaign asking for silence regarding the counteroffensive. In the spirit of this, whilst tactical and operational military updates will be given for both Ukraine and Russia, no predictive assessment will be published on upcoming Ukrainian counteroffensive activity.
- During this reporting period Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) continued their counteroffensive operations along three axes of the front. At present, the primary areas of focus are:
- Southern and northern flanks of Bakhmut: Ukrainian authorities stated that Ukrainian forces have taken control of high ground around Bakhmut, most likely to the south close to Klishchiivka, allowing Ukrainian forces to establish fire control over the city of Bakhmut.
- Direction of Berdyansk and Melitopol, Zaporizhzhia Oblast: Ukrainian officials reported that the UAF had advanced up to 1km in the direction of Berdyansk.
- Donetsk Oblast: Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces advanced southwest of Velyka Novosilka.
Drone reconnaissance helps Ukrainian forces in the battle around Bakhmut. Source: @NOELreports
- Russian forces conducted airstrikes on Kyiv and wider Ukraine for three consecutive days, between 10 and 12 July 2023, likely in response to the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. Ukrainian air defence systems were largely successful in intercepting the air strikes, comprising of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and cruise missiles.
Damage to residential infrastructure in Kyiv from Russian airstrikes. Source: @WarMonitors
- Well established Russian defences have caused a noticeable deceleration of Ukrainian counteroffensive operations during the reporting period. However, in spite of the obstacles that Ukrainian forces have encountered they continue to make valuable advancements. Ukraine’s General Staff reported that its forces had seized four square kilometres around Bakhmut in the previous week, and in total it is assessed that Ukrainian forces have liberated upwards of 250 square kilometres since their counteroffensive operation commenced five weeks ago. This is in stark contrast to the Russian offensive campaign, where Russian forces have captured a total of 280 square kilometres since the turn of the year. The capture of elevated terrain around Klishchiivka, south of Bakhmut, is particularly significant as it allows for Ukrainian forces to position their artillery within striking distance of Russian forces’ locations within the city of Bakhmut. The battle of Bakhmut has been the deadliest of the war for both sides and Russian forces have lost a considerable number of troops in their campaign to occupy the city. Therefore, the capture of a small, yet important, strategic foothold around the flanks of Bakhmut will serve to increase Ukrainian forces’ morale and dampen the already poor morale amongst Russian troops further which has been evidenced by Russian troops refusing to fight after suffering heavy losses.
Ukrainian Armed Forces storm Russian trenches on the Bakhmut front. Source: @NOELreports.
- Kyiv faced relentless airstrikes from Russia over a period of three days, as confirmed by the city’s authorities who stated that there had been “massive” strikes, primarily consisting of the Iranian-made Shahed 131/136 drones. Russian Federation Armed Forces (RFAF) consistently increase strike activity around key events and dates relating to Ukraine, and it is, therefore, almost certain that the strikes are in response to the 2023 NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. Ukrainian air defence systems defeated the majority of Russian munitions, however, debris from intercepted drones killed one person and wounded four, as well as causing limited damage to civilian infrastructure. Russian forces have markedly reduced missile strikes targeting Ukrainian infrastructure, exhibiting a departure from their previous tendency to conduct such strikes in conjunction with significant global occasions.
Operational / Strategic Military
- Russian General, Ivan Popov, who was commander of Russia’s 58th Combined Arms Army (CAA) has been dismissed from his position after accusing the leadership within the Russian Ministry of Defence (RuMoD) of betraying his troops.
- Ukrainian forces launched missile strikes on Russian logistics hubs in Tokmak and Berdyansk, Zaporizhzhia Oblast causing critical damage to infrastructure and killing the Deputy Commander of the Russian Southern Military District, Lieutenant General Oleg Tskokov.
Ukrainian forces strike a Russian fuel dump. Source: @Osinttechnical
- Major General Ivan Popov was the commander of the 58th Combined Arms Army, which has been extensively involved in heavy fighting on the front line in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast and he is one of the most senior officers to have commanded in the Russia-Ukraine war. Late on 12 July 2023, Popov announced, via Telegram, his frustrations with the RuMoD’s leadership. He stated that his units have insufficient counter-battery combat equipment and artillery reconnaissance stations as well as affirming that his unit had suffered mass casualties and were in need of rotation after having served on the front lines since October 2022. In response to Popov’s telegram statement, the Chief of the Russian General Staff, Gerasimov, accused Popov of scaremongering before dismissing him. Popov’s protest could indicate that Russian forces do not possess sufficient operational reserves to conduct personnel rotations for defending against Ukrainian counteroffensives and may also indicate that Russian fortified positions are fragile. The UAF continue to probe along the entire front of the Russian defensive positions searching for potential weaknesses and committing the deficient Russian reserves to the front line. The lack of Russian reserve units and the weakened state of Russian forces is likely to provide on-going favourable conditions for Ukrainian forces in their counteroffensive operations. Furthermore, criticism of leadership within the RuMoD, less than 3 weeks since the Prigozhin and Wagner armed rebellion, likely indicates that there is continued friction within the Russian military.
Footage of Ukrainian strikes on Russian weapons systems on the Zaporizhzhia front. Source: @bayraktar_1love.
- On 11 July 2023, Ukrainian forces conducted a series of missile strikes on logistics hubs in Russian occupied territory, in the south of Ukraine. The first strike, consisting of HIMARS, targeted Russian military bases located in the northwestern region of Tokmak. The town of Tokmak serves as an important logistical location as it lies at the intersection of five major roads connecting two major cities, Berdyansk and Melitopol, as well as connecting two defensive focal cities at the front of the defensive line, Vasylivka in the northwest and Polohy in the northeast. Ukrainian forces conducted a second strike, using British-supplied Storm Shadow missiles, targeted at military installations in the city of Berdyansk, located on the south coast of Ukraine. Berdyansk also serves as an important logistical hub due to its large harbour, strategic location between Mariupol and Melitopol and large industrial zones where ammunition and equipment is stored. Russian authorities stated that their air defence systems shot down nearly all the missiles however, there were reports that military installations in Berdyansk were destroyed. Additionally, Storm Shadow missiles were used to target a hotel in Berdyansk that was almost certainly being used as a command post by the 58th CAA. The strike killed the Russian deputy commander of the Southern Military District, General-Lieutenant Oleg Tsokov. Other commanders of the 58th CAA were in the building at the time so, it is highly likely that there were other casualties as a result of the strike. It is likely that due to Tsokov being present in Berdyansk, he was controlling the forces responsible for preventing Ukrainian counteroffensive activity in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast. It is almost certain that Ukrainian forces’ strike activity is aimed at disrupting Russian logistics and command structures in order to help gain momentum with their counteroffensive operation, as observed prior to the deliberate UAF clearance of Russian forces on the right bank of the Dnipro in Kherson.
Successful Ukrainian strike on Russian air defence systems. Source: @bayraktar_1love
- The recent NATO Summit held in Vilnius brought about significant developments in Ukraine's pursuit of security guarantees and military support. The Group of 7 (G7) Coalition and NATO signed agreements that offer Ukraine long-term commitments. Although Ukraine did not secure immediate NATO membership, the agreements represent a framework for potential increases in Western security assistance. The NATO-Ukrainian coordination council and the three-part assistance package are expected to strengthen Ukraine's position and bolster Western support.
- NATO leaders announced that they would invite Ukraine to join the alliance once certain terms are met and all allies are in agreement. The move was highly likely to show NATO’s long-term support for Ukraine without giving a clear declaration that Ukraine will become an alliance member at the end of the war. In the build up to the NATO summit Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, demanded nothing less than full NATO membership for Ukraine. However, this was always going to be difficult to achieve for Ukraine. One of the many requirements to join NATO stipulates that prospective members must first peacefully resolve outstanding international, ethnic, and territorial disputes, and Ukraine has had ongoing territorial disputes since Russia invaded Ukraine on 20 February 2014. Nevertheless, Ukraine was able to secure bilateral security and defence agreements with several countries. Sweden and France agreed to cooperate in defence procurement and increase military assistance, respectively. Australia pledged to send additional armoured vehicles, while the UK announced increased security assistance and ammunition for Challenger tanks. Norway also committed to providing an additional support package, including advanced missile systems. Japan, on the other hand, offered non-lethal equipment such as drone detection systems. These bilateral agreements demonstrate that despite Ukraine not technically being allowed to join NATO because of ongoing territorial disputes, Ukraine can be confident that they will be supported by the West until the end of the conflict. The subdued response from Russian sources regarding the NATO summit, highlights the setbacks suffered in the Kremlin’s strategic objectives. The invasion's primary goal of preventing NATO expansion and pushing the alliance back from Russia's borders has been undermined. The lack of general outcry within Russia suggests that the Kremlin is likely internally acknowledging these defeats. The muted response from Russian authorities downplays the significance of the summit, which actually represents a considerable setback for Russia's pre-war objectives.
Less than 3 weeks since the armed rebellion carried out by Prigozhin and his Wagner mercenary group and the fractures within the RuMoD are beginning to grow. The public criticism by Ivan Popov of the leadership within the Ministry of Defence could potentially have worse consequences for the Kremlin than those posed by Prigozhin. Popov’s vocal criticism is similar to that of Prigozhin’s, and it is the first time that a senior military officer has vocally aired their condemnations, but what makes this event stand out is that Popov was a well-respected and trusted top field commander within the military leadership. Not only that, but Popov also went further and accused Chief of the General Staff, Army General Valery Gerasimov, of stabbing the army in the back. It demonstrates the friction and frustration that persists within the Russian military leadership at how the RuMoD is handling the Russia-Ukraine war and exhibits that there’s a realistic possibility we’ll see more fractures appear within both the Russian military and the Ministry of Defence.