Northeast – Kharkiv Area of Operations
- The Russian Federation Armed Forces (RFAF) main effort on this axis continues to be the prevention of Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) from further advance towards the international border. The RFAF have conducted localised attacks to the north-east of Kharkiv city to fix UAF units and prevent reinforcement of the Donbas front.
- The RFAF continued to probe UAF defensive lines near Demetiivka and Tsupivka; a however, no advances were made. The RFAF have also focused their efforts on attempting to disrupt UAF supply lines on the T2117 route.
- The UAF are reported to have conducted attacks near the E105 route, a key supply route for the RFAF. Kinetic activity along this key route was reported to be most intense on 09 July 22.
- Kharkiv city remains subjected to frequent bombardment activity, including reports of RFAF targeting of Ukrainian socio-economic interests – notably agricultural locations. Similar targeting has also been reported on the Southern Axis in Kherson, Mykolaiv, and Zaporizhia Oblasts.
Video from journalist at the scene post RFAF bombardment in Kharkiv region. Source: @maria_avdv
East – Donbas Area of Operations (assessed RFAF Main Effort)
- The RFAF are likely continuing their operational pause on all axes, restricting offensive manoeuvre to ‘reconnaissance in force’ and probing attacks. This activity will be aimed at developing the UAF intelligence picture, including force locations and defensive positions, prior to the recommencement of major offensives.
- RFAF offensive activity is largely focused on two fronts;
- One to the north of Slovyansk where the RFAF continue to probe and bombard UAF positions.
- Bohorodychne remains a contested area despite intense RFAF fires and ground assaults throughout the last reporting period. As at 12 July 22, the RFAF reportedly controls half of the town, but the T0521 route remains under UAF control.
- The RFAF is also reported to have increased its bombardment activities in the vicinity of the E40 route, to degrade UAF defensive positions between Izyum and Slovyansk.
- The RFAF continue to bombard several urban settlements – including Dolyna, where the RFAF also conducted unsuccessful recce operations on 10 July 22. To the east, in Bilohorivka, the RFAF continues to consolidate its gains from previous operations before a likely push towards Siversk. As at 13 July 22, the settlement is under UAF control.
- The RFAF were also unsuccessful, on several occasions, to break through UAF defensive lines near Verkhn'okam'yans'ke, less than 5km from Siversk. The village is also under daily bombardment.
- In Donetsk, the UAF continues to repel RFAF assaults on Avdiivka, and Marinka.
South – Kherson and Black Sea Coast Area of Operations
- No change in the RFAF posture along this axis, with the focus on the protection of its force locations from further UAF counter-offensives along the Kherson/Mykolaiv regional border.
- The Ukrainian Defence Minister, Olekseii Reznikov, claimed in a report to a western media outlet that the UAF is massing a one-million-strong fighting force to support a large-scale offensive to retake its southern territory.
- UAF continue to strike RFAF ammunition depots, notably a location in Nova Kakhovka on 12 July 22. Ukrainian officials attributed the attack to the United States (US) supplied HIMARS system. Separate reporting suggests that the RFAF are transporting ammunition stocks further away from Kherson city, to minimize against the UAF artillery threat.
- UAF also successfully struck an RFAF command position in Kherson city. Post-strike reflections indicated the death of several senior RFAF personnel, including 22
- Reports from Ukrainian officials suggesting that the RFAF are repurposing S300 missiles (air defence) to engage with ground targets.
- RFAF have intensified the bombardment of UAF positions along the M14 route, and towards Mykolaiv since 11 July 22.
- Ukrainian resistance continues to be reported across Kherson region, including small-arms exchanges with Russian personnel, close-quarter assassination attempts, and the dissemination of warning posters to Russian collaborators and occupation forces.
Post from Ukrainian MOD, showing impact of HIMARs strike on RFAF ammunition depot in Nova Kakhovka. Source: @DefenceU
Video of Ukrainian official claiming that the RFAF are using S-300 missiles to engage ground targets. Source: @vitalij_kim
Image showing posters being disseminated across Kherson region, targeting Russian collaborators. Source: @TWMCLtd
- The deployment and success of the HIMARS system has attracted significant attention across both mainstream media and social media. The HIMARS system has predominantly been used to target RFAF Command, Control, Communication and Intelligence (C3I) and ammunition/fuel storage sites. According to some commentators, its success can be attributed to the inability of RFAF air defences to intercept the missiles as well as the relative paucity of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) assets used to identify the UAF firing points for counter-battery fires or airstrikes. Many commentators are seeing the HIMARS as a solution to the war, but this is unlikely to be the case. One commentator on social media has implied that the HIMARS have effectively forced a halt to RFAF offensive activity (and used NASA FIRMS information to explain it); however, this is almost certain to be a false lesson. The deployment of HIMARS was roughly concurrent to the RFAF clearance of Luhansk Oblast, which is likely the cause of the current RFAF operational pause – rather than from a lack of available artillery ammunition for the RFAF caused by HIMARS strikes.
Tweet showing locations of possible HIMARS strikes overnight on 11 July 22. Source: @Ukraine_map
- US intelligence has indicated that Iran is expected to supply Russia with weapons-capable Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), to be deployed in Ukraine. Iran is reportedly preparing to train RFAF on how to operate the systems, commencing in early-July 2022. US officials stated further that it is unclear if any of these UAVs have already been delivered to Russia.
Twitter thread from an International Institute of Security Studies – Critical Threats team member on Iranian UAS supply to RFAF. Source: @HoansSolo
- United Kingdom (UK) military personnel have begun training Ukrainian volunteers as part of the agreed training programme designed to equip volunteers with (little-to-no military experience) the skills to be effective on the frontlines. The course will cover weapons handling, fieldcraft, patrol tactics, battlefield first aid, and teach the students the law of armed conflict. The programme is expected to last several weeks, with up to 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers reported to be taking part in the programme throughout the rest of the year.
UK MOD post regarding the training of Ukrainian soldiers. Source: @DefenceHQ
- RFAF activity in Kharkiv Oblast is unlikely to receive significant additional combat power, as it is assessed as a likely supporting effort to fix UAF away from Slovyansk and Kramatorsk.
- The UAF are almost certain to be able to hold RFAF forces and prevent the capture of Kharkiv; however, it is unlikely that the UAF have sufficient forces in the area to allow them to push the Russians back to the border and cut their Ground Lines of Communication to Izyum.
- Targeting agricultural areas for shelling is likely to be an attempt by the RFAF to exacerbate humanitarian issues for Ukrainian civilians as well as a continuance of the Russian (unofficial) policy to use hunger as leverage for political concessions and to further damage the Ukrainian economy. Russia is likely to continue to seek to disrupt Ukrainian harvest, as well as destroying grain stores it is unable to capture and exploit itself. Agricultural areas are also considerably easier to identify, target, and destroy than military infrastructure and materiel – making it an easy target when intelligence on UAF units is lacking.
- On the Donbas front, it is likely that the RFAF require further refitting and recuperation. Deliberate strikes by UAF against C3I and logistics areas in the rear are likely to force the RFAF to disperse their ammunition and fuel supplies. This would increase the burden on road-mobile logistics and has the potential to delay and disrupt the use of massed fires over a prolonged period. It remains likely that the RFAF have the ammunition stockpiles in theatre to concentrate fires for limited operations across a reduced frontage. Russian reliance on rail movements and the fixed locations of railheads are vulnerabilities which can be exploited by long-range precision strike – forcing the RFAF to unload massed supplies further to the rear and thus increase the burden (and timelines) for troops involved in moving supplies to firing units. Due to the low-tech nature of conventional artillery shells and ‘dumb’ missiles, Russia almost certainly retains the ability to domestically produce sufficient 152mm and 122mm ammunitions for operations, it is getting it to the required location that will become more difficult.
- Destruction of C3I (predominantly formation command posts) will further reduce the agility and decision-making in the RFAF at both the Operational and Tactical levels. Command Posts (CPs) that are required to move frequently lose some of their situational awareness whilst in transit. It is likely that RFAF Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs) will adapt to the new threat, by increasing the survivability of CPs at the cost of reduced command and control. The rigid hierarchical structure of the RFAF is also vulnerable to ‘decapitation’ strikes, and the destruction of command groups may leave subordinate commanders unsure of orders or unable to react to changes on the ground which may require senior approval.
- Terrain favours the defenders in the current fighting in the Donbas. RFAF will be required to cross several water obstacles which are covered by long-prepared UAF fighting positions when approaching both Siversk from the east, and Slovyansk from the north/north-west.
- If true, reporting that Russia is using S-300 air-defence missiles to strike ground-targets in Ukraine is likely indicative of the current burden on the Russian precision-strike capability. Russia has now used old anti-ship missiles (Kh-22), new anti-ship missiles (Bastion), and air-defence missiles (S-300) to supplement their remaining stocks of Precision Guided Munitions (PGM). It is a realistic possibility that this is occurring due to PGM usage levels earlier in the war and the complexity (and expense) of replacing them. Sanctions against Russian technology and armaments industries will continue to negatively impact Russian manufacture of PGM. Using non-specialised weapons for strikes in Ukraine is almost certain to cause additional civilian casualties and infrastructure damage. It is also likely that the most accurate PGMs are still available for use against High Value Targets, such as UAF HIMARS.
- Resistance in Kherson is likely to continue – with an ongoing campaign of assassinations, threats, and some civil disobedience. It is also highly likely that resistance members, alongside UAF special operations forces, are providing targeting information and battle-damage assessments of long-range strikes. This is likely to continue in the short term, despite the threat of repercussions and ‘filtration’ activities by Russian occupying forces and collaborators.
- It remains to be seen which (if any) Iranian UAS will be purchased and employed by the RFAF, but the use of the term ‘hundreds’ in the US press release is indicative of the provision of loitering munitions in addition to ISR and strike-capable platforms. The quantities and timelines of the appearance in theatre of Iranian drones remains unknown. Iran has significant experience of developing modern unmanned platforms whilst under international sanctions, and their expertise and facilities are likely to be highly valued by Russia. Iran is also likely seeking to gain operational lessons from the deployment, which can be used to enhance their domestic drone programme.
- UK provision of training to the UAF is likely to yield positive results in the medium-long term, as better trained personnel will reduce losses and be able to impart information and training to colleagues who have not received it.
It is currently unknown when the RFAF offensive in Donetsk will resume. When it does, it is likely to retain the current axis of advance, from the east through (or around) Siversk to fix defending UAF units, whilst a larger thrust advances south-southeast from the direction of Izyum and Lyman to attempt to isolate and capture Slovyansk. UAF units defending Siversk are likely to conduct a delaying withdrawal under pressure west along valleys towards Slovyansk, with ambush positions in elevated positions, which will make it incredibly difficult for the RFAF to gain momentum. It is likely that this effort will be frustrated by UAF attempts to strike headquarters and C3I nodes to disrupt the coordination of the offensive. Western artillery systems (such as Caesar and PzH-2000) are likely to improve UAF counter-battery fires in support of defensive positions. As the front line moves further from railheads in Russia, logistic resupply to Russian forces at the front will become increasingly difficult and manpower intensive.
RFAF are almost certain to continue defensive preparations and conduct spoiling attacks in Kherson Oblast towards Mykolaiv and Inhulets in order to disrupt the preparation for the rumoured UAF counterattack. Subversive, resistance, and Special Forces elements operating in Russian-occupied areas are likely to be relaying target lists and geographic areas of importance, whilst providing information on targets of opportunity, such as the locations of ammo dumps and leadership elements.