In today’s summary:
- As part of its counter-offensive, the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) have liberated 169 km² in the south of the country and 24 km² near Bakhmut;
- UK military intelligence believes that Bakhmut is once again the site of the most intense fighting in Ukraine;
- Convicted war criminal and former “DPR” “defense minister” Igor Girkin (aka Strelkov, Runov) complains about suicidal “meat grinder” assaults in Avdiivka;
- A miracle-working icon from Vladimir Putin has been delivered to Russian troops on the front line, on the Svatove – Kreminna line;
- Several targets deep inside Russian territory were attacked with S-200 missiles;
- Calls to exclude Russia from UNESCO have been made following the missile attack on Lviv;
- Open source estimates suggest that Russian military casualties range between 600-700 personnel per week;
- The composition of Russian tank losses indicates a shortage of modern armored vehicles on the frontlines.
The front line
According to a statement by Andriy Kovalyov, Speaker of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) General Staff, significant progress has been made in the Melitopol and Berdyansk directions over the past week. The advance in these areas has amounted to over a kilometer. In total, since the beginning of the counteroffensive in the south of Ukraine, approximately 169 km² have been liberated, as reported by the official. “This is roughly commensurate with the area of the city of Odesa. Demining activities continue on these territories,” Kovalyov said.
A report from the pro-Russian Telegram channel Rybar, which is affiliated with the Russian Defense Ministry, claimed that the AFU have made an incremental advance in the Vremyevsky bulge (the conventional name of the operational area at the junction of the Zaporizhzhia region and the so-called “DPR” south of Velyka Novosilka). The infantry is reportedly attempting to establish a foothold near the Hrusheva Balka gully. According to the channel's authors, Ukrainian artillery is firing continuously from the Novodarivka-Rivnopil line at the advanced strongholds of the Russian army south of the gully in Priyutne and Staromaiorske.
Rybar also reported that fresh assault detachments of the Ukrainian Navy's 35th Naval Infantry Brigade and units of the 79th Air Assault Brigade have arrived in Makarivka and Rivnopol.
According to Rybar, at the Orikhove section northeast of Robotyne, assault detachments of the 47th Mechanized Brigade managed to break 500 meters deep into Russian defensive lines, having engaged the 71st Motor Rifle Regiment in combat. Rybar noted that the assault detachments of the Ukrainian 47th Mechanized Brigade number only 25 men, but they are operating with the support of US-supplied Bradley infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs).
The AFU has liberated a total of 24 km² in the Bakhmut direction. According to Andriy Kovalyov, last week the Ukrainian military occupied four square kilometers, are consolidating their gains and inflicting artillery fire on identified enemy targets.
Judging by geolocated videos, Russian formations have abandoned part of Berkhivka northwest of Bakhmut. The destruction of a Russian 2S1 Gvozdika howitzer in Klischiivka south of Bakhmut has also been confirmed.
According to the Telegram channel of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, there are reports of Chechen formations being transferred to Klischiivka. Apty Alaudinov, the commander of the «Akhmat» special forces, is said to be sent there. It is important to note that Akhmat was previously deployed in Marinka near Donetsk, where, as highlighted by Russian “war correspondent” Vladimir Romanov, the units made minimal progress, advancing 200 meters over 20 days.
UK defense intelligence believes that Bakhmut has once again become the site of the most intense fighting on the front line after a lull in June 2023. Ukrainian forces are steadily advancing in both the northern and southern sectors, while Russian forces may face challenges due to low morale, dispersed units, and limited capability to locate and strike Ukrainian artillery.
“The Russian leadership almost certainly see it as politically unacceptable to concede Bakhmut, which has a symbolic weight as one of the few Russian gains in the last 12 months. However, there are highly likely few additional reserves to commit to the sector,” the agency tweeted in its intelligence update on July 8.
OSINT analysts also noted the AFU’s successes in the Bakhmut direction. According to Finnish researcher Emil Kastehelmi of the Black Bird Group, there were fortified positions on the heights near Klischiivka that held back the Ukrainian offensive for several days, but now this obstacle has probably been overcome.
Satellite images show that fighting in the area has been fierce, and reports of heavy artillery shelling are consistent with reality. Some forest belts have practically ceased to exist. The AFU is also advancing from the west of Bakhmut, securing and sweeping the eastern side of the Siversky Donets-Donbas canal.
According to the Telegram channel GREY ZONE, reportedly linked to the Wagner Group, the Ukrainian 3rd Mechanized Battalion managed to advance directly to the Berkhivka reservoir, despite “[Russian] troops forming a defense line along the border of Berkhivka yesterday and the day before.” The Russian military had to withdraw from the western outskirts of the settlement into its interior, the channel said.
The author of the publication noted that the Ukrainian military apparently intends to take Berkhivka and gain access to the Bakhmut - Slovyansk highway. This will create a threat of semi-encirclement for the forces west of the highway and holding Dubovo-Vasylivka.
Convicted war criminal and Russian nationalist Igor Girkin (aka Strelkov, Runov), one of the separatist field commanders in Donbas in 2014, and now a well-known pro-war commentator, wrote about Russia’s suicidal assaults near Avdiivka:
“OUR troops are continuing ‘meat assaults’ near Avdiivka. It seems that the headquarters of the 1st Army Corps is in a hurry to destroy as many of our fighters in an as useless way as possible in order to lose the war as quickly as possible.”
The assaults are visible on a video published by Ukraine’s 110th Territorial Defense Brigade, which shows how a Russian mechanized group is being shelled by Ukrainian artillery, losing a tank and several IFVs.
Meanwhile, an Orthodox icon from President Vladimir Putin has been delivered to the front line of the “West” group of forces occupying positions on the Svatove-Kreminna line, according to a report by state-run news agency RIA Novosti. It is unclear whether the Kremlin sent the military the original icon or a copy. In April this year, Putin reportedly intended to hand over the “Savior Not Made by Hands” icon to the Main Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces, and gave copies of the icon to “participants of the special operation” during his alleged visit to the front line.
The icon in question was originally owned by Peter Vannovsky, who served as the Minister of War for the Russian Empire between 1881 and 1898. It was personally presented to Vannovsky by Emperor Alexander III.
Here’s what another Russian war minister, Alexander Rediger, wrote about Vannovsky’s tenure at the defense ministry:
During the entire reign of Emperor Alexander III the Minister of War was Vannovsky, and during all this time there was a terrible stagnation in the military department. Whose fault it was, whether the sovereign himself or Vannovsky, I do not know, but the consequences of this stagnation were terrible. People who were incapable and decrepit were not dismissed, appointments were made by seniority, capable people were not promoted, but moved along the line, lost interest in service, lost [their] initiative and energy, and when they reached the highest posts, they differed little from the surrounding mass of mediocrities. This ridiculous system also explains the terrible composition of the command, both towards the end of the reign of Alexander III, and later, during the war with Japan.
Shelling and sabotage
The town of Shebekino in Russia’s Belgorod region came under MLRS (multiple launch rocket system) fire on July 8. According to Rybar, the missiles struck the territory of the town’s central market and vegetable storehouse, leading to the breakout of a fire and injuring one man. Regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov announced a suspension in the relocation of civilians back to their homes from temporary accommodation centers due to the shelling.
The Russian Defense Ministry released a recording of a meeting led by Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian Armed Forces’ General Staff and commander of the Joint Grouping of Troops in Ukraine, covering data on attacks by S-200 missiles on several targets in Russia.
“Air defenses destroyed three missiles that attacked the Kerch transportation crossing and the Morozovsk airfield. There are no casualties or damage,” Viktor Afzalov, the chief of staff of the Russian Air Force, said during the meeting.
According to various reports, there were from three to six explosions in the Kerch area. Rybar claimed they were not cruise missiles, as even with a maximum possible range of 300 kilometers (186 miles), they would have to be launched directly from the line of contact, which entails significant risks. The shelling could indeed be carried out by anti-aircraft missiles from the S-200 surface-to-air missiles system, modified for strikes against ground targets. The range of these missiles comes in at close to 400 kilometers (248 miles).
According to Afzalov, two more missiles tried to strike the Shaikovka airfield in Kaluga region, but were intercepted by electronic warfare and fell near the village of Bytosh. The Russian pro-war Telegram channel Military Informer (“Voennyi Osvedomitel”) identified one of the fallen missiles as an S-200.
S-200 missiles can seemingly hit ground targets at a considerable distance – for example, in 2019, an S-200 missile launched by Syrian air defense forces during one of their attempts to repel an Israeli airstrike fell and detonated in northern Cyprus, more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the Syrian coast.
Despite the identification of the missiles as S-200 (and not the NATO-supplied Storm Shadow) by the Russian Defense Ministry, former president Dmitry Medvedev once again managed to make threats. In his latest social media outburst, Medvedev, currently deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, claimed he wants to bomb all nuclear power plants in Ukraine and Europe:
“If the attempt to attack the Smolensk (Desnogorsk) nuclear power plant by NATO missiles is confirmed, it is necessary to consider the scenario of a simultaneous Russian strike on the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant, the Rivne Nuclear Power Plant and the Khmelnitsky Nuclear Power Plant, as well as on nuclear facilities in Eastern Europe. There is nothing to be embarrassed about.”
The South Ukraine NPP is notably 260 kilometers from Russia-occupied Crimea, 550 kilometers from the nearest Russian settlement, and less than 250 kilometers from the border with the occupied territories, which Russia claims as its own.
Russian forces shelled the town of Lyman in the Kramatorsk district of the Donetsk region with MLRS on July 9. Nine people were killed as a result of the attack, according to local governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.
Orikhiv in the Zaporizhzhia region was also shelled. Four people – three women 43, 45, 47 years old and a 47-year-old man – died on the spot. Eleven people were hospitalized with wounds of varying severity. This is not the first Russian strike on Orikhiv: the town, which is in the rear of the advancing Ukrainian army, is constantly subjected to shelling and bombardment, which affects the civilian population (a recent report by Radio Liberty Ukraine covered the issue).
The question of Russia's expulsion from UNESCO has been raised in connection with the recent missile attack on Lviv, as the missiles impacted the area near the Old Town, which is listed as a World Heritage Site. The affected buildings are located in buffer zones, and are part of an area that allows for the preservation of World Heritage sites. Buffer zones, according to the rules of the organization, should be protected in the same way as the UNESCO sites themselves. After the attack, Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyy criticized the organization, which continues to include Russia, for not imposing sanctions against Moscow.
Independent media outlets Mediazona and Meduza, along with Dmitry Kobak, a professor of machine learning at the University of Tübingen, estimated Russian losses in the war with Ukraine from February 2022 to the end of May 2023 at 47,000. According to the investigation, there is a “95% probability that the true number of casualties falls between 40,000 and 55,000.”
The study accounted for Russian men under the age of 50, with the estimate not taking into account the losses of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DPR) and “Luhansk People’s Republic” (LPR). The estimate was obtained based on various sources, including the Federal Notary Chamber’s National Probate Registry. This is a public database, maintained and populated by notaries, recording information on inheritances that require state registration – such as cars, apartments, and plots of land. The registry data allowed the researchers to calculate the excess mortality of young men in 2022 and 2023. The authors believe that Russia’s total irrecoverable losses in the war (which includes fatalities and the seriously wounded) reached 125,000 people.
As of July 7, 2023, there were 27,423 people on the list of Russian fatalities compiled by Mediazona and the BBC Russian Service based on open sources (which also excludes soldiers of the “people's militias” of the “LPR” and “DPR”). Taking into account multiple corrective factors, the total number of fatalities could now total 55,000 people, while the total number of casualties (killed and wounded) could potentially come in at 247,000 people.
In 2022, Russia’s average weekly death toll totaled 250-300 people. The figure has recently jumped to 600-700 people per week – an evident consequence of the counter-offensive launched by the AFU.
In 2022, Russia’s average weekly death toll totaled 250-300 people. The figure has recently jumped to 600-700 people per week – an evident consequence of the counter-offensive launched by the AFU.
In this context, it is important to highlight the findings of UK defense intelligence regarding Russia's losses. The agency estimates that Russia has been experiencing an average daily loss of around 400 soldiers over a period of 17 months. These significant military casualties have resulted in a strain on the provision of civilian medical services in Russia, particularly in border areas near Ukraine. It is likely that many specialized military hospitals are being reserved for wounded officers. Yet up to 50% of deaths could have been prevented with proper first aid, the report noted, citing the head of the combat medicine department at the Kalashnikov Concern. The Insider covered the situation in Russian frontline hospitals in detail in a recent article.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived back from Turkey on July 8 along with the commanders of the Ukrainian units that were surrounded and surrendered in Mariupol – including the Azov regiment. According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, Russia was not informed about the transfer of the Ukrainian commanders.
Peskov stated that both Ankara and Kyiv breached the terms of a mutual agreement – according to its terms, the Azov servicemen were meant to remain on Turkish territory until the end of the war (Peskov notably called the war in Ukraine a “conflict”). He added that given the preparations for the NATO summit, Turkey faced significant pressure, and showed solidarity as a member of the alliance. Peskov emphasized that Russia understands the situation but highlighted that violating agreements reflects poorly on everyone involved.
In a recent conversation with The Insider, lawyer and human rights activist Nikolai Polozov pointed out that Russia never entered into an agreement with Ukraine and Turkey regarding the transfer of captured Ukrainian commanders to Ankara until the war's end, and there was no official announcement of any such agreement. According to Polozov, all agreements made with Turkish President Erdogan were merely “understandings.” As a result, by repatriating the servicemen to Ukraine, Turkey did not violate any specific agreement.
As a reminder, the commanders of the units defending the Azovstal plant in Mariupol, among 215 Ukrainian prisoners, were exchanged for 55 Russian servicemen, as well as Vladimir Putin's confidant, Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk.
Meanwhile, Russia continues to suffer losses in the Zaporizhzhia direction. Footage of the destruction of a Buk anti-aircraft missile system and Zoopark counter-battery radar station has been published online. One of Russia's pro-war Telegram channels recently stressed the challenges of counter-battery warfare – particularly the lack of Zoopark stations – and added that the AFU possessed multiple radars supplied by the US.
A video showing the alleged first recorded loss of a PT-91 Twardy tank delivered from Poland was published by the pro-Russian channel Military Informant.
Ukraine Weapons Tracker researchers pointed out a destroyed Ukrainian T-72EA tank (a modification by the Czech defense company Excalibur Army, made since 2022 specifically for Ukraine) in the same video, as well as an M113 armored personnel carrier.
The Telegram channel Fighterbomber, reportedly linked to Russia’s Aerospace Forces, hinted that one of the Russian Su-25 jets was damaged or shot down by friendly fire.
The Telegram channel Voin DV (“Far East Warrior”) posted a video of a Ukrainian attack near Novodarivka and only after outrage on social media admitted that the footage was taken a month ago. Systematic attempts to publish old videos under the guise of new ones probably speak of a certain lack of current successes.
OSINT researcher Ragnar Gudmundsson reported findings from his analysis of data from the Oryx project, focusing on Russian tank losses. His conclusions indicate that the proportion of Soviet-made tanks lost in combat is increasing each month. According to Gudmundsson's findings, an average of 51% of destroyed tanks since February 2022 are of Soviet origin. In June, this figure rose to 73%, meaning that the majority of tanks lost in that month were Soviet-made.
It is worth noting that Oryx volunteer Jakub Yanovsky had reported on June 30 that the documented losses of Russian T-80BV tanks (which were introduced into service in 1985) exceeded the number of lost T-72B3 tanks (a model in service since 2013). The observation suggests Russia’s extensive use of equipment from Soviet-era stockpiles.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was claimed to have once again visited a military base with rows of modern T-90 tanks, according to a report by Russia’s MoD. “Servicemen have noted the high characteristics of the combat vehicles, as well as their accuracy of firing and ease of operation,” – the MoD noted in a press release.
It is not known whether these are new tanks or those already shown to Shoigu during his last visit, but the picture shown is very different from what the soldiers publish from the front.
A new $800 million military aid package to Ukraine from the United States has been officially announced.
It includes the following equipment:
- 32 units of M2A2 Bradley IFVs;
- 32 units of Stryker APCs;
- ammunition for Patriot SAMs and M142 HIMARS MLRS;
- FIM-92 Stinger MANPADS, FGM-148 Javelin, BGM-71 TOW;
- AIM-7 Sparrow air-to-air missiles;
- 31 units of M777 155-mm howitzers;
- 105mm and 155mm artillery shells, including DPICM-class cluster munitions;
- precision-guided aerial munitions (presumably JDAM);
- 27 tactical engineer vehicles;
- 10 tactical vehicles for towing and transporting equipment;
- Edge Autonomy Penguin reconnaissance UAVs;
- mine-clearing equipment;
- spare parts, small arms and 28 million rounds of ammunition of various calibers.
The total amount of US military aid provided to Kyiv since February 2022 already amounts to over $41.3 billion, while the total amount of US military aid to Ukraine since 2014 has exceeded $44.1 billion.
According to The New York Times, the US also intends to transfer M864 cluster artillery shells to Ukraine. These are 155-millimeter artillery shells, each of which can fly about 30 kilometers before bursting in the air and releasing 72 small submunitions that usually explode on impact within an oval area larger than a soccer field.
The Pentagon claims that the cluster munitions they will send to Ukraine have a sub-munition dud rate of 2.35% or less, which is much better than the normal rate for these weapons (the rate is important as unexploded ordnance can pose a danger to civilians in the future).
However, the Pentagon's own statements indicate that these cluster munitions contain older submunitions that have a 14% or greater chance of failure.
According to Pentagon officials cited in the article, the shells being sent to Ukraine are an upgraded variant of the munitions used during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. However, the article notes that the percentage of unexploded submunitions still remains unacceptably high.
US military analyst Michael Kofman wrote that the supply of cluster munitions is essential for the AFU’s counteroffensive. Kofman highlighted that Ukraine's primary challenge lies in the impending shortage of artillery shells. The utilization of cluster munitions can address this issue by allowing for a higher density of artillery fire, thereby overcoming time constraints and enabling a more effective offensive.
According to a tweet by Ukraine Battle Map, with the range of M864 shells at 29 km and the firing line at 7-10 km from the current line of contact, Ukrainian artillerymen will be able to fire cluster munitions at 100% of the length of the first line and 78% of the length of the second line of defense of the Russian Armed Forces in the Zaporizhzhia direction.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov named five principles which Ukraine intends to follow while cluster munitions in battle:
- They will not be used on internationally recognized territory of the Russian Federation;
- They will not be used in populated areas, but only on concentrations of Russian troops and to break through their defense lines;
- Ukraine will keep records of their use and the places where they were used;
- After the war, these territories will be prioritized for demining;
- Ukraine will send reports to its allies on the use of these munitions and their effectiveness.
Reznikov also posted a video of Swedish CV-90 IFVs on his personal Twitter account, confirming that they had been received by the AFU and were ready for combat operations.
The minister additionally announced the start of testing of a Ukrainian-designed signal intelligence station – the RPS-7 Inhul.
Ukraine's Minister of Strategic Industries, Oleksandr Kamyshyn, announced that Ukraine will soon begin producing Turkish Bayraktar strike drones. The country plans to establish a production plant, which is expected to take approximately two years to complete. Additionally, the plant will also produce the Akıncı heavy drone and the Kızılelma unmanned fighter aircraft. Some of these drones will be equipped with Ukrainian engines.
Rheinmetall, the largest German arms manufacturer, will also be opening a plant in Ukraine dedicated to the production of armored vehicles. According to CNN, this plant is set to be established within the next 12 weeks. The company aims to manufacture and repair tanks in Ukraine, as well as train Ukrainian personnel in armored vehicle maintenance. Earlier this year, Rheinmetall expressed its plans to establish a battle tank factory worth €200 million in Ukraine, with a production capacity of around 400 tanks per year.
Kamyshyn also said Ukraine produced more mortar and artillery shells in June 2023 than it did in all of 2022, but did not give specific figures. As reported by Bloomberg, arms shipments to Ukraine from the US and its allies have been the main focus of the war so far – however, Kyiv is now making efforts to develop its own production capabilities.
Poland has supplied Ukraine with 10 Soviet-designed Mi-24 helicopters without public announcement. Sources cited by The Wall Street Journal indicated that Ukraine's helicopter fleet remains relatively small compared to Russia's, and its guidance and defense systems are less advanced. As a result, Ukraine exercises caution in utilizing these helicopters to minimize the risk of losing aircraft.
This recent arms delivery from Poland is not the first unannounced shipment to the AFU. Recently, a photograph of the PR-14MA transport and loading vehicle of the Polish S-125 Newa SC anti-aircraft missile system was made public, and prior to that, a Shilka self-propelled anti-aircraft artillery system was seen in Ukraine in Polish camouflage.
Online photos and videos have surfaced showing Ukrainian forces utilizing a captured TOS-1A Solntsepek multiple rocket launcher system (MLRS). The system was seized by the AFU near Kyiv last year. However, according to the Ukrainian military, it is employed infrequently due to limited ammunition availability, as well as other operational considerations.