Military

Northeast – Kharkiv Area of Operations

  • The Russian Federation Armed Forces (RFAF) main effort continues to be the prevention of Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) from further advancing towards the international border and disrupting supply lines running to the Izyum front via Vovchan’sk.
  • Despite this objective, there have been no notable changes in control during this last reporting period.
  • UAF General Staff reported an increase in RFAF sabotage and reconnaissance activity in Kharkiv region.
  • On 26 Jun 22, clashes were concentrated in Velyki Prohody, Ruska Lozova, and Tsupivka.

East – Donbas Area of Operations (assessed RFAF Main Effort)

  • Following the capture of Severodonetsk, the RFAF are now committed to offensive operations to encircle and capture Lysychansk. A supporting objective is ongoing to sever UAF Ground Lines of Communication (GLoC) along the T1302 route.
  • Yakovlivka, Spirne, and Berestove have been under pressure from RFAF reconnaissance forces on 27 Jun 22; however, this activity was reported to have been disrupted by UAF personnel.
  • Bilohorivka continues to be under intense RFAF bombardment and is regarded a key location protecting the T1302 route. As at 28 Jun 22, another key settlement, Vovchoyrivka, remains contested.
  • Reports of heavy shelling south of Izyum indicate a possible resumption of offensive operations towards Slovyansk. RFAF have also been reported conducting disruptive/spoiling attacks on UAF positions in the vicinity of the E40 route. Bohorodychne remains a contested location, despite numerous RFAF assaults in the last reporting period.
  • To the east and south-east of Bakhmut, RFAF have reportedly advanced towards the Vuhlehirsk power station.
  • In Donetsk, Marinka remains under intense bombardment; however, there have been no advances along this front.
  • Elements of the UAF 1
  • United States (US) provided M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) have been used by the UAF to strike targets in the Donbas behind the line of contact, such as staging areas, military bases and logistics nodes.

Video reportedly showing a UAF strike against a Russian/LPR military facility in Luhansk Oblast. Source: @Militarylandnet

South – Kherson and Black Sea Coast Area of Operations

  • The RFAF main effort on this axis continues to be defensively orientated, protecting its force locations from further UAF counter offensives along the Kherson/Mykolaiv regional border.
  • To support this effort, Ukrainian sources reported that the RFAF have increased their bombardment activity by 150%, predominantly focused on Davydiv Brid. Reporting indicates that most of the urban settlement has now been destroyed.
  • Reporting also suggests that the RFAF continue to build secondary and tertiary defensive lines to prevent, or slow-down UAF counterattacks.
  • UAF have been countering RFAF artillery concentrations by conducting airstrikes on RFAF positions along the T2207 route on 27 Jun 22.
  • South of Kryvyi Rih, RFAF attempted to advance on UAF positions near Vysokopillia; this attempted assault was repelled. No other notable ground assaults have been reported in Kherson region.
  • RFAF attempted to break through UAF lines near Huliapole, without success.
  • A missile strike was reported in Odessa on 27 Jun 22, hitting a residential neighbourhood and damaging numerous properties.
  • RFAF continues to fortify its military presence on Snake Island. UAF strikes were reported on 28 Jun 22, destroying anti-aircraft artillery – including Pantsir-S1 (SA-22 Greyhound).
  • In Kherson, Ukrainian resistance conducted a close quarter assassination of a pro-Russian official, Dmitry Savluchenko, who was pronounced dead at the incident site. A separate attempt on another pro-Russian official was reported on 26 Jun 22, in Kakhova, north-east of Kherson city.

Thermal footage showing strikes impact on Snake Island. Source: @RALee85

Strategic/Political

  • On 27 Jun 22, the RFAF conducted a missile strike on the Amstor shopping centre in Kremenchuk, Poltava region. Media reporting suggests that at least 16 people were killed, and over 50 were injured. The RFAF are reported to have used a Kh-22 long-range, anti-ship missile. The Ukrainian government, and wider international community, condemned the attack and accused Russia of committing a war crime. Whilst Russia claims that it had struck a military logistics node, which subsequently caused the fire.

Video showing the impact of the Kh-22 missile at the Amstor shopping centre. Source: @Flash43191300

  • The G7 Summit, which concluded on 28 June, has widely been reported in a positive light. Ukraine was a key subject both on the agenda and in the side-lines. During the summit a possible price cap on Russian oil exports, a ban on Russian gold, and further sanctions against the Russian technology and armament sectors were discussed. The G7 pledged undeterred support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression. The G7 summit coincided with RFAF missile attacks, including the Kremenchuk shopping centre and a kindergarten that was reportedly struck in Kyiv.
  • The NATO summit began on 29 June in Madrid. Prior to the summit, Turkey agreed to cease their opposition to Sweden and Finland joining the alliance. The Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, stated his intent to formally invite Sweden and Finland to join NATO. On 22 June in a conference discussing the upcoming summit, Stoltenberg explained that NATO would strengthen its defences, agree a new Strategic Concept, and strengthen its support to Ukraine and other partners at risk.

Zelensky speaks over video link at the NATO Summit. Source: @Olgatokariuk

  • According to CNN, senior White House officials have debated whether Ukraine needs to rethink its definition of victory, considering its judgment that the UAF might not be able to retake all of its lost territory. US officials stated that despite this pessimistic assessment, it would not translate into applying pressure on Ukraine to grant territorial concessions to Russia. Plus, this is reported to not be a uniform view of the US political apparatus, with many reported to be confident that Ukraine will reverse Russian gains – especially when promises of heavy weapons are manifested on the battlespace. It has also been speculated in western media that French President Macron had been testing the waters for a peaceful solution in Ukraine that cedes some territory.

So What?

  • The UAF withdrawal from Severodonetsk to Lysychansk is indicative of a Ukrainian priority to preserve combat power by trading space for time and attrition of the enemy in urban areas. It is likely that the UAF will continue to conduct an area defence and pull back incrementally in order to prevent becoming encircled, while still slowing the momentum of the RFAF advance. Russian gains are likely due to the concentration of artillery and air defence being used to support assault activity at the expense of depth on the northern and southern axes.
  • Ukrainian strikes into depth using advanced western systems such as HIMARS and the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) are likely to continue to target headquarters and staging areas that were previously out of range of tactical weapons. These weapons are highly likely to be considered priority targets for RFAF air attack and missile strikes due to their potency but limited quantity. It is a realistic possibility that HIMARS and systems like it will enable greater disruption to RFAF (and proxy-forces) Command and Control (C2), but these systems are not a replacement for the additional personnel, training and equipment required by the UAF before launching any significant counter-offensive.
  • The destruction of the Amstor shopping centre in Kremenchuk was likely collateral damage from an attempted strike on the neighbouring factory. One of the two missiles that impacted did so on the factory, with the other impacting the neighbouring shopping centre approximately 500m away. It is likely that this occurred due to Russian use of Kh-22 missiles for the strike – an ageing Cold War-era anti-ship missile. Open-source information indicates a high level of inaccuracy against land targets. The Kh-22 does have a large conventional warhead (approximately 960kg) which can cause significant damage to infrastructure, particularly when combined with the high impact speed and steep angle-of-attack. It is likely that further use of older guided munitions will cause further civilian casualties through collateral damage as the conflict endures. The RFAF will likely have to preserve higher-precision munitions (such as Iskander missiles) for higher-priority targets
  • The attacks which damaged civilian infrastructure in Kyiv and Kremenchuk were likely in response to international political activity – in this case the G7 Summit in Germany. Other attacks on civilian infrastructure have occurred previously during President Biden’s speech in Warsaw and visits by foreign leaders to Ukraine, which is indicative of the strikes being a deliberate response. It is also likely that the RFAF will seek to continue to interdict western lethal aid and reinforcements from moving east; attacks targeting railway nodes and logistics hubs will remain extant.
  • The impact of agreements made at the G7 Summit remain to be seen. It is a realistic possibility that the increased sanctions will further disrupt Russian high-tech armament production and lead to increased use of older weapons (such as the Kh-22) and resorting to mass rather than precision to achieve the desired effect. Further sanctioning of Russian oil via a price cap may reduce the income for the Russian economy and therefore support to war costs. Sanctions on Russian oil remain incredibly challenging to implement (and enforce) and will likely cause increased prices for the average western consumer. It is unlikely that the measures proposed at the G7 will hinder the Russian war effort in the coming months.

What Next?

It is highly likely that the UAF will be forced to withdraw from Lysychansk and will therefore cede the last urban area of Luhansk under their control. It is unlikely that the defenders of Lysychansk will hold the town for more than 72-96hrs, with the next defensive lines likely to be in the vicinity of Siversk and Bakhmut. Although the RFAF intent was reported to be that of controlling all of Luhansk Oblast by 26 June, the current withdrawal under pressure of the UAF will set conditions for an internal Russian propaganda victory. It is unlikely that the capture of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk will have a strategic or operational effect on the campaign from a Ukrainian standpoint.

The length of the front line across eastern Ukraine is vast, and it is a realistic possibility that the RFAF will need an operational pause once Luhansk Oblast has been secured before further major offensive action. Occupation forces, possibly made up of Chechen Special Units and the Rosgvardia, are likely to conduct ‘filtration’ activities in newly occupied areas to reduce resistance and consolidate administrative and physical control. In Kherson, Kharkiv and Zaporizhia Oblasts it is unlikely that the RFAF have sufficient forces to conduct ground-taking operations. They are instead likely to consolidate defensive positions in occupied areas and conduct bombardment and spoiling attacks in localised areas to deter and disrupt UAF raids and offensive action.

The effective stalemate in Kharkiv is likely to continue as the UAF and RFAF vie for control of major GLoCs and both sides seek to prevent reinforcements moving south to the Luhansk pocket.

The implied UAF offensive in Kherson has not manifested in any significant way, with no movement of the line of contact towards Kherson city. The UAF have had some limited success on this axis further north, in the vicinity of Potomkyne on to the west of the Dnipro River. It is unlikely that any significant territorial gains will be made by the UAF within the next week due to the concentration of their effort in relieving the cauldron around Lysychansk.

Further strikes against civilian, industrial, and military targets in urban areas across Ukraine are likely to continue as the RFAF seek to disrupt UAF resupply and reinforcement to the front. Although there are few solid dates of upcoming strategic/political activity in the west – it is likely that any activity of this type will cause a kinetic response in Ukraine from Russian strikes.

Kyiv is likely to continue to solicit aid from western nations as they run out of existing stocks of ammunition and materiel. The war has become one of attrition and is unlikely to end this year. This longer-term conflict is likely to be decided by the level of sustained support to Ukraine that can be provided by the west, versus the armament production and military recruitment/mobilisation rate of Russia. Advanced western capabilities such as HIMARS and modern air defence systems are likely to be priority targets for Russian strikes as they are expensive and slow to manufacture. As the war continues, both sides are likely being forced to commit poorly trained new soldiers to the fight, causing even higher casualty rates than have already been reported.