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 advance towards the international border and the disruption of supply lines running to the Izyum front via Vovchan’sk.
- In support of these objectives, the RFAF have launched limited attacks north of Kharkiv along the M-20 highway near Demetrivka, but the Ukrainian General Staff have claimed to have repelled the advance.
- Kharkiv city is still within range of RFAF barrel and tube artillery, and frequent bombardment of military infrastructure and troop concentrations have occurred to disrupt potential Ukrainian counterattacks and to fix UAF units. Longer-range missiles fired from Belgorod Oblast in Russia (including the inaccurate Kh-22 missile) are likely intended to target military objectives; however, due to the inaccuracy of the systems and targeting used by the RFAF, these attacks have caused significant civilian collateral damage.
Video showing Ukrainian Territorial Defence Unit (TDU) members in combat against RFAF near Kharkiv. Source: @PaulJawin
East – Donbas Area of Operations (assessed RFAF Main Effort)
- As of 3 July 2022, the RFAF now control Lysychansk as well as Sievierodonetsk, and have effectively gained control of Luhansk Oblast.
- UAF conducted a withdrawal under the cover of darkness, with a few small elements left to delay the RFAF advances and allow the orderly retrograde of forces west towards Siversk. Some reporting has indicated that the UAF were forced to abandon equipment in order to escape and prevent encirclement. The UAF withdrew forces to preserve combat power and prevent defenders becoming captured in a similar manner to the events that occurred in Mariupol.
- Russian sources reported that Russian troops have begun demining and clearing Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk to expand their control and administrative presence in the area. It is likely that the RFAF will use the cities as logistics nodes for further advances west into Donetsk Oblast.
- On 4 July 2022, President Putin met Russian Defence Minister Shoigu to congratulate the military for the capture of Luhansk Oblast. He stated that the forces used in the offensive on Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk deserved a break to rest and rehabilitate – causing some analysts to expect an imminent operational pause from the RFAF.
- The UAF have likely fallen back to new defensive positions in Siversk, using the north-south running Bakhmutovka river as a natural defensive obstacle that runs south across the salient to Bakhmut alongside the T0153 road.
- As part of the delaying action to set favourable conditions for occupying defensive positions around Siversk, early reporting has indicated a limited UAF counterattack east-northeast towards Bilohorivka.
- The UAF has reportedly stepped up a campaign of strikes against RFAF ammunition supply depots and storage areas. This has occurred across all three RFAF axes of advance and has reportedly involved the use of Precision Guided Munitions (PGM) fired by western systems (including the U.S. M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS)).
Video reportedly showing the aftermath of a UAF strike on an RFAF ammunition storage facility in Luhansk Oblast. Source: BabakTaghvaee1
- Air strikes and the bombardment of Slovyansk has reportedly increased as Russian offensive activity continues to the north of the city. Russian forces have been seeking to advance parallel to the M-03 motorway near Dolyna and Mazanyvka. Terrain in the area features several prominent water obstacles and favours the defender.
- Southeast of Bakhmut, RFAF have consolidated gains in the village of Klynove and retained good positions to shell the M-03 highway south of Bakhmut.
UAF report RFAF offensive activity near Bakhmut, Siversk and Slovyansk. Source: @KyivPost
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.
- The RFAF reportedly withdrew from Snake Island on 29 June 2022 following a series of UAF strikes. Russia announced the withdrawal as a ‘goodwill gesture’ and stated that the inability of Ukraine to move shipping (particularly grain) out of Odessa was not the Russians’ fault.
Coverage of the Russian withdrawal from Snake Island with analytical commentary. Source: @Kennaninstitute
- UAF are likely conducting significant fires north of Kherson against the defensive lines of the RFAF. It is a realistic possibility this is shaping activity prior to a new offensive towards Kherson along the west bank of the Inhulets river.
Image showing NASA fire-tracking data denoting likely UAF shelling of targets behind RFAF lines north of Kherson. Source: @TheStudyofWar
- Russia has continued to launch strikes against targets in western Ukraine using air- and ground-launched missiles, including some launched from Belarus.
- RFAF Strikes have recently been conducted against targets in:
- Khmelnytskyi (4 July)
- Odessa (4 July, 1 July)
- Dnipro (3 July)
- Mykolaiv (30 June)
- Reporting indicates Russian preparation to conduct forced conscription of fighting-aged males in the Crimea region. This is reported to be in a similar vein to the ‘recruitment’ (press-ganging) of personnel in the Donetsk Peoples’ Republic (DPR) and Luhansk Peoples’ Republic (LPR) previously observed.
- Ukrainian Military Intelligence (GUR) reported that the RFAF are in the process of establishing a “3rd Army Corps” at an existing RFAF base in Mulino, Nizhny Novgorod east of Moscow. The GUR have stated that the Corps could be staffed with up to 15,500 personnel and should be ready to conduct operations “within the next few months”.
- GUR further reports that a RFAF grouping consisting of “up to three battalion tactical groups, a company tactical group with the armed forces of the Russian Federation, and up to three battalions of the Federal Service of the National Guard” – totalling approximately 4,000 troops and 300 pieces of equipment, building up on the Russian border with Ukraine in Bryansk and Kursk Oblasts.
Tweet from the Conflict Information Team regarding an article on the creation and build-up of Russian Forces. Source: @CITeam_en
- On 3 July 2022, Belarusian President Lukashenko claimed that a Pantsir-S1 Air Defence system had intercepted and shot down several missiles fired from Ukraine at Belarusian Armed Forces targets in southern Belarus.
- On 4 July the United Kingdom (UK) increased sanctions against Belarus. According to an official statement on the British government website, the package extends some of the significant measures made against Russia previously to apply to Belarus, including import and export bans on goods worth around £60 million. This includes:
- exports of oil refining goods
- exports of advanced technology components, such as those used in quantum computing
- exports of luxury goods, including British artwork and designer handbags
- imports of Belarusian iron and steel
- The UK government is also restricting Belarus’ access to the UK’s world class financial services sector – banning more Belarusian companies from issuing debt and securities in London.
Tweet with link to British Government statement regarding sanctions against Belarus. Source: @EuromaidanPress
- The RFAF will likely continue to threaten Kharkiv to fix UAF defenders and give themselves freedom of movement along the main supply routes to the east. This will enable RFAF to reinforce and resupply forces advancing south and west of Izyum.
- It is almost certain that civilian residences and infrastructure will continue to be destroyed by imprecise RFAF targeting in and around Kharkiv as increased numbers of conventional artillery are brought within range of the city and environs.
- UAF are likely to occupy defensive positions near Siversk as part of their area defence. Strongholds based around urban areas allow the UAF to inflict disproportionate casualties on attacking units whilst retaining the ability to withdraw under pressure and prevent encirclement. When the defence of Siversk becomes untenable, it is likely that the UAF will withdraw further west towards Slovyansk to solidify the Slovyansk-Bakhmut line. Trading territory for time, at a cost to RFAF combat power, is likely intended to set conditions for future counter-offensives by avoiding the encirclement and destruction of UAF combat power.
- The UAF destruction of RFAF ammunition supply points and depots behind the Forward Line of Enemy Troops (FLET) is indicative of successful analysis and targeting by the UAF and effective use of the limited long-range precision strike capability they have acquired. The RFAF numerical advantage in field artillery systems and ammunition is likely to be the key enabler for Russian territorial gains and allows poor-quality manoeuvre forces to make advances. Persistent destruction of ammunition stores (which cannot be dispersed as effectively as firing units) is unlikely to have an immediate effect, but in the medium term is likely to significantly degrade the Russian ability to dislodge UAF defenders.
- Water obstacles near Siversk and the Luhansk pocket are likely to further frustrate Russian advances. UAF will defend or deny existing crossing points, and will likely seek to force the RFAF to conduct opposed military obstacle crossings which are difficult to coordinate and relatively easy to disrupt/counter – this was previously highlighted near Bilohorivka in mid-May 22 during the assault on Lysychansk.
- Forced conscription in Crimea is likely to generate poorly trained and reluctant fighters. It is a realistic possibility these forces will be generated to shore up defensive lines between Kherson and Mykolaiv and disrupt threats to the southwestern limit of Russian advances. It is highly likely that any conscripted soldiers will be largely ineffective at carrying out combined-arms offensive activity or complex military tactical actions.
- Russia is almost certain to continue to strike targets in western Ukraine as they are identified. Inaccurate targeting and previous-generation guided weapons are likely to cause civilian casualties and collateral damage. This is likely inconsequential to Russian military planners, with the minor exception that they expect these incidents to degrade Ukrainian morale and increase sentiment towards a political settlement and territorial concessions. It is almost certain that the UAF did not attempt to launch strikes into Belarus. Without significant mobilisation (or retention on active duty of forces which have conducted ‘snap readiness exercises’), it is likely that Belarus has insufficient combat power to secure its own borders and concurrently conduct conventional offensive operations into Ukraine. Any Belarusian offensive action in Ukraine would almost certainly require support from the RFAF. President Lukashenko is treading a fine line between supporting Putin’s actions and preventing domestic resistance – meaning he is likely to be vocal in his support to the Russian invasion of Ukraine without physically committing forces to it. Increased western sanctions are however likely to force Lukashenko further into Russia’s debt as other revenue sources dry up and Belarus becomes even more of an international pariah state
It is highly likely that the UAF will conduct a phased withdrawal from Siversk towards Slovyansk over the next 7-10 days. It is likely that the UAF will not be willing to sacrifice more combat power to retain territory which is at risk of encirclement by thrusts from the north, should they gain momentum. Fatigue and lack of reinforcement are likely to reduce RFAF operational momentum along this axis, although it is unlikely that the RFAF will withdraw troops used in the fight for Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk despite Putin’s statement.
The next phase of the invasion is likely to see the deployment of Russian units to control and secure newly captured territory. Wagner mercenaries and DPR/LPR militia units, supported by RFAF artillery, are likely to feature prominently in renewed offensive action to preserve RFAF manoeuvre units to exploit any local successes. RFAF are likely to seek to maintain momentum by pressing their attacks on all three axes around the Luhansk/Donetsk border (south and west from Izyum, west from Lysychansk, and north-west from Klynove). However, any gains made are likely to come at high cost and a slow pace. It is highly unlikely that UAF defensive units will rout and create opportunity for rapid RFAF gains.
Belarusian troop movements near the border with Ukraine are likely to be used as a demonstration (in military terminology, a demonstration is an attack or show of force on a front where a decision is not sought, made with the aim of deceiving the enemy) to fix UAF units and prevent them resupplying/reinforcing the eastern front.
It is likely that the UAF will continue to use recently acquired precision strike systems to systematically destroy RFAF ammunition in order to stymie Russian offensive support and massed fires. If combined with an artillery target-list that prioritises counter-battery fires, this could produce significant effect in the short to medium term. Without suppressive and destructive fire support, RFAF assaults, particularly in urban and wooded areas, are likely to suffer even higher personnel and equipment casualty rates.
Russia will continue to offer financial incentives to volunteers who sign up to join newly-created units – such as the “3rd Army Corps”. These financially motivated troops are unlikely to have sufficient time to train and prepare for complex combined-arms actions in Ukraine, and therefore when deployed are likely to sustain high casualty rates. It is also likely that they will be equipped with material that has been brought out of storage and it is, therefore, unlikely to be of a modern standard or in a good state of repair. However, the mass alone of an extra Corps is likely to create additional dilemmas for the Ukrainian high command. Even conducting training for the Corps along Ukraine’s northern border near Sumy or Chuhuiv would force the UAF to reposition forces in case of invasion