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.
Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) made tactically significant gains in multiple directions of the front during this reporting period. The key axes of advancement are:
- Flanks of Bakhmut: Geolocated footage illustrated that the UAF had made significant gains predominantly southwest of Bakhmut in the vicinity of Klishchiivka. Ukrainian troops reinforced positions that they previously captured.
- Direction of Berdyansk: Ukrainian sources reported that the UAF had advanced up to 750m towards Staromaiorske, situated 9km south of Velyka Novosilka.
- South of Orikhiv: Multiple sources, including the Russian Ministry of Defence, have stated that Ukrainian forces launched a substantial mechanised operation towards the village of Robotnye in Western Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
Ukrainian forces have been using drones to great effect in clearing landmines. Source: @FLETCH_REPORTS
- Following two months of arduous, gradual advancements, Ukrainian forces have intensified their counteroffensive activity, initiating a fresh offensive in the southern region of Ukraine and making gradual progress towards the intensely contested city of Bakhmut. Concerning activity around Bakhmut, imagery has been captured of Russian troops retreating from the town of Klishchiivka and Ukrainian sources claim the town is close to being liberated. Additionally, Ukrainian sources claim that the town of Andriivka has been liberated which Russian sources do not deny. Andriivka is important strategically as it has been used as a logistics hub by Russian forces. The liberation of the town will allow Ukrainian forces to blockade the T0513 highway and effectively cut Russian Ground Lines of Communication (GLOCs) into Bakhmut. Furthermore, unnamed Senior US Pentagon officials have claimed that the “main thrust” of the Ukrainian counteroffensive had started in which reserve brigades, which hold both most of the western supplied equipment as well as the western trained troops, have been deployed to the front-line in order to bolster the counteroffensive. Regarding this push in counteroffensive activity, reports have been circulating that Ukrainian forces have broken through Russian defensive positions south of Orikhiv. They stated that Ukrainian forces advanced 5km east, and approximately 2km west, of Robotnye. The village of Robotnye is situated approximately 60 miles north of Ukraine’s objective of reaching the Sea of Azov which will allow the UAF to sever the ground line of communication between Russian forces in the south and east of Ukraine, and isolate occupied Crimea. The decision to deploy Ukrainian reserve units at this particular moment is likely a result of the Ukrainian command’s confidence in having successfully neutralised a significant number of Russian artillery units and air defence systems as well as hindering Russian supply chains in the south of Ukraine by targeting Russian forces’ logistics hubs and ammunition warehouses over the past couple of weeks. Furthermore, Ukrainian forces’ commanders are likely wanting to take advantage of the removal of experienced Russian commander, Ivan Popov, who’s former unit are actively involved in defensive operations in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast. The introduction of better trained and equipped units to this sector of the front, combined with the likely weakened condition of Russian forces in this region, could likely provide favourable conditions for the UAF to pursue successful counteroffensive operations further south of Orikhiv.
Video footage showing Ukrainian forces liberating the village of Staromaiorskse. Source: @NOELreports
Operational / Strategic Military
- U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak shared information with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stating that the U.K. has intelligence revealing that Russia’s military may potentially begin targeting civilian shipping in the Black Sea. At the same time the European Union has assured Ukraine that it will assist in exporting almost all its grain exports via road and rail.
- Since Russia pulled out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative its forces have conducted prolonged and increased airstrikes against port and grain storage infrastructure in the Odesa Oblast. United Nations invited Russia to a meeting in order to discuss its bombardment of Ukrainian ports however, Russia refused to speak at the conference in a sign of protest over a decision not to allow an archbishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to speak on Moscow’s behalf. Ever since Russia withdrew from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the situation in the region has evolved, presenting a realistic possibility of an increase in both the intensity and scope of violence. This is evidenced by Russia’s military posturing in the Black Sea continuing to escalate, with potential aims of conducting stop-and-search operations on civilian vessels and to assert greater control in the region. Further to U.K. intelligence reporting that Russian forces may target civilian shipping in the Black Sea, it has also stated that Russia has laid further sea mines in the approaches to Ukrainian ports. Assessments indicate that the deliberate placement of mines in the Black Sea and the potential targeting of civilian ships are a part of a coordinated effort to create a pretext for a false-flag operation to justify and shift blame onto Ukraine for any potential attacks on civilian shipping in the region. One notable addition to Russia’s increased military posturing is the deployment of the patrol ship, Sergey Kotov, in the southern part of the Black Sea. This vessel has been assigned to patrol the shipping lane between the Bosporus and Odesa, raising concerns that it may become part of a task group aimed at intercepting commercial ships that Russia suspects are en route to Ukraine. Furthermore, Ukrainian exports can be transported through the Danube River instead of solely passing through the Black Sea. Russian forces have now started targeting the port of Reni situated on the Danube River, opposite the Romanian border. A deeply worrying concern is that as Romania is a NATO member, any strike that deliberately or accidentally strikes a NATO member could trigger a grave escalation. The attacks at the port of Reni are likely a strategic manoeuvre by the Kremlin, aimed not only at reducing Ukrainian grain exports in the global market but also at destabilising support for Kyiv within the EU, particularly among Central and Eastern European countries. This is achieved by intentionally disrupting the domestic agricultural markets of these nations. Additionally, the potential disruptions at Romanian ports may not only affect Ukrainian exports but also create challenges for transporting fuel and military aid in the opposite direction as well as likely imposing additional strain on rail and road transit routes passing through Romania and Moldova. Nevertheless, the EU has expressed its readiness to facilitate the export of nearly all of Ukraine’s agricultural products through designated “solidarity lanes” using rail and road routes passing through neighbouring EU countries as well as assisting in covering transportation costs. The projected monthly exports are estimated to reach approximately 4 million tonnes, a volume that was previously exported via these means in November 2022. Therefore, it is almost certain that the EU has the means and methods already established in order to facilitate the export of Ukraine farm produce.
Ukrainian kamikaze drone destroying Russian military equipment. Source: @bayraktar_1love
- Vladimir Putin has told African leaders at the Russia-Africa summit, being held in Saint Petersburg on 27 and 28 July 2023, that he would gift them tens of thousands of tons of grain within months despite western sanctions.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin has been reported saying that Russia was expecting a record grain harvest and was ready to replace Ukrainian grain exports to Africa on both a commercial and aid basis to honour what he said was Moscow’s critical role in global food security. He specifically stated that Russia will be ready to provide Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Somalia, CAR and Eritrea with 25-50k tons of free grain each. Moreover, amidst Russia’s significant isolation by Western nations and the weight of imposed sanctions, there exists a realistic possibility that Putin will exploit Africa’s increasing reliance on Moscow to gain rapid political advantages. The deal could lead to Russia abstaining from UN votes that condemn its actions, thereby pressuring African leaders to advocate for the easing of economic restrictions imposed by Western governments. Ultimately, this strategy aims to strengthen Russia’s negotiating position with the West when the opportune moment arises. In addition to Moscow likely trying to portray itself as Africa’s friend, the Kremlin moves are likely part of a concerted push for greater influence and business on the continent where Russia’s Wagner mercenary group remain active. Another enticing aspect for numerous African countries, which may become a subject of discussion during the summit, is the subject of arms deals. Despite facing setbacks in its arms business due to the Ukraine war, Russia continues to hold the dominant position as the primary weapons supplier to Africa, boasting a substantial market share of 40%, in contrast to the US’s share of 16%. Moreover, Russian influence in Africa has expanded, partly attributed to the presence of the Wagner paramilitary group. This mercenary group is widely perceived as an informal instrument of Moscow’s foreign policy and serves as a security force for African states grappling with conflicts. Nevertheless, despite the increasing influence of Russia and the pressure from the West, African countries are determined to assert their independence on the geopolitical stage. There is a prevailing concern within the African continent that it has been manipulated in geopolitical issues, especially by Russia. As a result, there is a realistic possibility that African nations will unite together, focusing on shared objectives, and any strengthening of relations between Africa and Russia will be harder won than the Kremlin will want.
Video footage of a destroyed Russian BUK air defence system with a little help from HIMARS and EOS UAV. Source: @serhiyprytula
This reporting period has seen Ukrainian forces gain notable advancements in its counteroffensive manoeuvres. With reports of senior US officials stating that Ukraine is likely to commit the rest of its better-equipped and trained units to its counteroffensive posture, there is a realistic possibility that the UAF will continue to make significant gains in its operations particularly around Bakhmut as well as in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast in the Berdyasnk and Melitopol directions. Russian propaganda will almost certainly be working to mitigate any advancements in Ukrainian counteroffensive operations. Russian propaganda tends to overexaggerate the numbers of Ukrainian forces and equipment involved in attacks in order to boost the perceived effect of Russian defensive manoeuvres as well as lowering Ukrainian forces’ morale. During the past week, Russian forces launched a series of intense attacks on the southern port city of Odesa and the wider oblast. Meanwhile Ukraine persisted in conducting strikes inside Crimea, including a notable incident on 25 July 2023, where Ukrainian drones targeted an ammunition depot. Such strategic attacks aim to weaken Russia’s ability to combat Ukraine and are expected to persist in the nearby future. As a consequence, Russia is likely to retaliate with reprisal attacks. It is assessed that Ukrainian and Russian combative operations will likely increase in intensity in the next reporting period leading to further bloodshed on the battlefield as well as in civilian settlements.