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.

Tactical Military

  • During this reporting period Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) have been pursuing three axes of advance along the front line in what has been openly discussed by the Ukrainian General Staff as the initial stages of the anticipated counter offensive. UAF have reportedly been making between 200-500m of territorial gains per day, with reports at the information cut-off stating 100km² has been re-taken since 9 June 2023. The current axes include:
    • The flanks of Bakhmut city - UAF made advances towards Klishchivka (7km south), and Berhivka/Yahidne (6km north).
    • In vicinity of Orikhiv, Zaporizhzhia oblast.
    • Velyka Novosilka, Donetsk Oblast – as at 12 June 2023, UAF declared three villages directly to the south as “de-occupied”.
  • Despite these advances, there has still been reported UAF repelling of localised Russian Federation Armed Forces (RFAF) activity on the south-western outskirts of Avdiivka, in Optyne, Donetsk Oblast, as well as to the north in Divorichna, Kharkhiv oblast.

Areas of RFAF defensive lines south of Velyka Novosilka, Donetsk Oblast, show what UAF are yet to come up against. Source: @TheStudyofWar

  • Air strikes comprising of cruise missiles and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) have continued during this reporting period against airfields, residential areas, and industrial targets across Ukraine. Notably, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s home city of Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine was targeted two nights in a row.

Images of the damage caused by air strikes against industrial facilities in President Volodymyr Zelensky’s home city of Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine. Source: @Lyla_lilas

So What?

  • As UAF continue to gain territory, particularly in the vicinity south of Velyka Novosilka, Donetsk Oblast it is important to note that it remains highly likely that the UAF have still not committed enough forces which would indicate a full-scale offensive and is therefore still not in the decisive phase. The UAF at this point have still not come up against significant RFAF defensive lines when overlaying territorial gains with open-source intelligence (OSINT) imagery analysis of RFAF defensive infrastructure. OSINT imagery analysis indicates that the defence line is likely weaker south-east of that direction, which likely provides insight into RFAF prioritisation of the south, notably the logistical node of Tokmak where multiple Main Supply Routes (MSRs) converge. Yuriy Sak, the advisor to the Ukrainian Defence Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, gave multiple press interviews to European news channels during this reporting period, and emphasised that the UAF are not going to be engaging in grinding battles of attrition along the entirety of the frontline, nor are they going to amass all their donated equipment and trained forces in one area for a single decisive battle. Sak openly stated that there is still very much shaping ongoing, with more recce-in-force. In-line with previous assessments, it is highly likely that the UAF will maintain its flexibility and respond to Russian defensive weakness and exploit it using an operational reserve – which has already been seen to great effect. This would highly likely indicate why RFAF continue to report reconnaissance-in-force by the UAF along the front line.

UAF successfully target a RFAF logistic convoy using a remote mining capability in vicinity of Velyka Novosilka. Source: @Osinttechnical

  • The pattern of near nightly Russian airstrikes is almost certainly continuing from last month. Given that RFAF are almost certainly entirely in defence, the continued airstrikes are highly unlikely contributing to disrupting UAF activity and also forcing Ukraine to make hard decisions over the location and defensive priority for their limited Air Defence (AD) assets. Up until this reporting period airstrikes were predominantly targeting residential areas, highly likely indicative of a petty retort to UAF tactical initiatives, and that target selection has unlikely been driven by military commanders. The targeting of industrial areas during this reporting period suggests that targeting is likely being developed by tacticians focused on attritting the organic Ukrainian defence industrial base. Reportedly, Russia is being assisted by Iran to build a UAV manufacturing factory as Russia has reportedly almost expended its Iranian supply of Shahed 131/136 UAVs. Russia previously agreed with Iran to upgrade Iran’s aging fleet of fighter aircraft, therefore this is highly likely indicative of the reciprocal agreement, yet also highly likely indicative of Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) planning for a protracted war in Ukraine.

Operational / Strategic Military

  • Chechen Republic leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has been the first leader of pro-Russian military volunteer elements to sign a contract with the Russian MoD. The Russian Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu, requested on 10 June 2023 that volunteer elements be signed up by 1 July 2023.

Chechen Republic leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, signs the contractual agreement to formally subordinate his forces to the Russian MoD for the “Special Military Operation”. Source: @TWMCLtd

So What?

  • Shoigu’s request is highly likely a continuation of the Russian MoD resubordination efforts which have been ongoing since the start of 2023. It's highly likely that this is a means for the Russian MoD to exert more control over pro-Russian volunteer fighting forces, yet possibly to also ensure that it prevents civil war with volunteer forces turning on themselves, each other, or the Kremlin. It is likely also intended to encourage recruitment, as a formalised agreement possibly enables more Russian benefits such as those seen by the conventional RFAF. Coalescing disparate pro-Russian groups is also likely to reduce friction among competing command and control structures and enable a unity of effort (and co-ordination) rarely seen in the conflict to date.
  • In recent weeks, Kadyrov has sought to distance himself and his forces from Wagner and align his Akhmat Chechen forces with the Russian MoD, seen by his offer of assistance with the Belgorod Oblast incursions. Kadyrov is also highly likely seeking more benefits for his forces and possibly to remain in a position where he and his commanders of the Akhmat forces are in a position to advocate where their forces contribute to the “Special Military Operation”– hence the offer of assistance in Belgorod Oblast. Kadyrov however, has been a long ally of President Putin and it is highly likely that Kadyrov’s ability to remain in power in Chechnya is dependant on this enduring support.
  • Conversely, there has been speculation by mil-bloggers regarding the inclusion of Wagner in these formalisations and if Wagner-owner, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, will eventually sign a contract. Whilst requested to do so, he has thus far publicly refused. The existence and allegiance of Wagner is different to that of other volunteer forces, answering almost directly to President Putin, and operational in Africa and the Middle East, however this proposed contract change is likely intended to bring Wagner (vis a vis, Prigozhin) to heel. According to Prigozhin, Wagner recruitment is higher than that of RFAF, likely due to the better pay and contractual obligations, with Wagner recruits likely accepting that deploying to Ukraine in some capacity is either inevitable or inescapable, and seeking the lesser of two evils. This formalisation will likely end the differing contractual obligations offered by Wagner, drive down recruitment, and without a contract possibly make it illegal to operate in Ukraine. It remains to be seen if Prigozhin will comply and sign a contract with the Russian MoD, however, it is possible that Prigozhin would prefer not to use his forces in Ukraine, and instead focus on the enduring operations elsewhere for which Wagner has become associated with. It is highly unlikely though that despite very public differences, the Russian MoD would want to lose Prigozhin’s Wagner forces at a crucial phase of the war.


  • The President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, gave an interview to Russian State TV news anchor and propagandist, Olga Skabeyeva, on 13 June 2023. During the interview President Lukashenko stated that Belarus has now started taking delivery of tactical nuclear weapons provided by Russia and stored in up to five newly refurbished nuclear storage facilities throughout the country. According to President Lukashenko, there would be no hesitation of their use should Belarus be threatened or invaded.

Belarusian President, Alexander Lukashenko, discusses tactical nuclear weapons in an interview with Russian state TV. Source: @Gerashenko_en

So What?

  • The prospect of Belarus receiving tactical nuclear weapons from Russia was agreed and publicly stated by both Presidents Putin and Lukashenko earlier in 2023 during bi-lateral meetings at the Kremlin. During President Lukashenko’s interview, he stated, “God forbid they ever be used…” and that the effect of one tactical nuclear weapon would be three times more catastrophic than that seen used in Japan in the Second World War. Lukashenko is almost certainly seeking to show Belarus from a position of strength, unified with Russia and its strategic goals, and to inflict fear of nuclear war within Europe. For the most part however, Belarus has had relatively little direct involvement in Ukraine. At the beginning of the invasion, RFAF launched from southern Belarus into northern Ukraine toward Kyiv, and cruise missiles launched from aircraft in Belarusian airspace into Ukraine still occur, as do joint military exercises. Yet this is highly likely the most significant assistance that Belarus has provided to Russia since the start of the invasion. Whilst it is highly likely to be within the bounds of nuclear sabre-rattling, it is possible that President Lukashenko is both threatened by the prospect of Belarus becoming a target of UAF and seeks to mitigate Belarus becoming a Ukrainian axis of the counter offensive (highly unlikely - even without nuclear weapons), yet is also unable to refuse President Putin, given that in the last six months the only international engagement Belarus has maintained is Russia, China, and Iran.

What Next?

The UAF has made a significant amount of progress in this reporting period highly likely maintaining the initiative despite the humanitarian crisis caused by the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam. The lack of a major breakthrough or November 22-style rapid advance is not indicative of a strategic or operational failure for the UAF. It is still highly unlikely that the counteroffensive has fully entered the decisive phase. UAF successes have still come at a cost, evidenced by the destruction of UAF tanks destroyed by RFAF artillery. Whilst this is likely difficult for allies to witness, especially when donated armour is difficult to fix and unlikely to be replaced, it is still to be expected. As with the last reporting period, Russian disinformation keeps attempting to get ahead of Ukrainian successes – for example the huge inflations of Ukrainian casualty numbers by the Russian MoD. Russia is almost certainly exploiting Ukrainian policy of not releasing their own correct statistics of casualties. Concurrently, pro-Russian milbloggers are courted by President Putin, likely ensuring their allegiance, giving their channels an air of state legitimacy, and exploiting their reach for the Kremlin’s own agenda; all the while amplifying disinformation. Despite this, the Ukrainian General Staff maintains a calm resolve, feeding updates into the media as and when it’s ready to, rather than getting caught up in the hype. Adhering to the policy of keeping silent.