In today's summary:
- A recently released voice message from dismissed General Ivan Popov (call sign “Spartak”, or “Spartacus”) has stirred up the public in Russia;
- So-called “war correspondents” and Russian pro-war activists are arguing about the consequences of the Popov scandal and fear the “disintegration of the army.”
- Ukrainian troops are storming the area of Piatykhatky and Robotyne;
- The Russian army has tried to counterattack near Huliaipole, taking advantage of the element of surprise;
- Kyiv targeted by kamikaze drones, leading to two injuries from debris;
- A Forbes article highlighted Ukraine's success in counter-battery warfare;
- The “most protected” European tank – the Swedish Stridsvagn 122 – has been spotted in the AFU's arsenal;
- Unsealed boxes with weapons from the 1940s have been displayed in Luhansk.
The front line
Events in the war zone have been overshadowed by a new scandal inside the Russian Armed Forces. On July 13, State Duma MP and former commander of the 58th Combined Arms Army Andrei Gurulev posted a voice message from Major General Ivan Popov in his Telegram channel. Popov, who has been serving as commander of the 58th Army during the invasion of Ukraine, addressed his “gladiators” (since Popov's call sign is “Spartak,” or “Spartacus”) and confirmed earlier information that he had been dismissed from his post for voicing issues “at the highest level,” complaining about Russia’s problems with counter-battery warfare and the lack of personnel rotation. According to Popov, the dismissal amounted to an “unexpected backstab by our own senior leaders, treacherously and despicably decapitating the army at the most difficult and tense moment.”
Later, Andrei Turchak, Secretary General of the United Russia party and first deputy chairman of Russia’s Federation Council, said that Popov's statement appeared in closed chats of commanders and soldiers of the 58th Army and was not meant for the public. Turchak accused Gurulev of creating a “political show,” emphasizing that “Ivan’s [Popov – The Insider] conscience is clear” and “ the Motherland can be proud of such commanders.” Turchak did not provide details on how Popov's criticism of the high command during his address to soldiers and officers aligns with the notion that “the army was and remains outside of politics.”
Previously, only Yevgeny Prigozhin, the co-founder and the main public representative of the mercenary Wagner Group, criticized the Russian army command for their actions in Ukraine. Prigozhin's conflict with the Russian Defense Ministry, which dragged on for many months, resulted in an open armed mutiny in June 2023 and a “march of justice” aimed at Moscow.
Russian self-styled “war correspondents” and pro-war activists have apparently not yet developed (or received from above) a coordinated position on the issue, and are still commenting on the scandal that is unfolding in front of their eyes in disparate ways.
VGTRK's “military correspondent” Alexander Sladkov released a video in which he called the situation with Ivan Popov “unpleasant” but “workable” and urged not to make a rebel out of him and not to challenge the unity of command in the army.
Sladkov was echoed by another VGTRK “military correspondent,” Yevgeny Poddubny, who is sure that “attempts to organize public discussion” of personnel decisions in the Russian Armed Forces are “a harmful practice.”
Fighterbomber, a Telegram channel reportedly linked to the Russian Aerospace Forces, was outraged by the very fact that the appeal was recorded, but notes that the problems voiced “exist in reality in 90% of cases.” It is worth recalling that pro-war channels have previously reported problems with rotation (1, 2, 3) and with the organization of counter-battery fire (1, 2).
One of the separatist field commanders in Donbas in 2014, and now a well-known pro-war commentator, convicted war criminal Igor Girkin (aka Strelkov, Runov) described the current situation as “almost a mutiny”:
“The retired commander's appeal to the public – this (in the regular army) is nonsense, a scandal, a most dangerous precedent. Almost a mutiny. Especially since this time it was created not by some criminal, who by the will of fortune made his way ‘from rags to riches’ [Yevgeny Prigozhin – The Insider], but by an actual career general. (And a decent one at that.)
What’s next, as many commentators rightly point out – are only mutinies and the uncontrolled disintegration of the army. And that, in fact, it's ‘just a stone's throw away.’ Only a new major military defeat separates us from a new ‘march on Moscow’ by the regular army.”
However, Girkin also shares the opinion of alleged “front-line officers” that General Popov was “provoked and framed,” by individuals that wanted to “take the report up the chain.”
Girkin's associate in the radical “Club of Angry Patriots,” retired Air Force Colonel Viktor Alksnis, regarded General Popov's appeal as a “political statement” and believes it is unacceptable for a high-ranking officer to voice problems without submitting his resignation in protest.
“War correspondent” Roman Saponkov wrote that “Popov's dismissal is a monstrous attack against morale in the army” and “simply an act of sabotage,” directly linking it to the Wagner rebellion:
“The Wagner march was against [General Staff head] Gerasimov and against [Defense Minister] Shoigu. Personally against them [both]. And it united a huge part of the army. Entire units refused to shoot or use force.
But then the army was outweighed by the opinion that the Wagners were a private army, mercenaries, and the army should not go along with the mercenaries.
After Wagner’s failure, sudden purges began.
And then faceless people with fishy eyes took down a combat general who demanded rotation for the fighters, normal counter-battery [warfare] and support. A general who did not publicize these problems, but reported to his superiors in a private meeting.”
Komsomolskaya Pravda “war correspondent” Alexander Kotz suggested [following 1.5 years of the “special military operation” – The Insider] the authorities consider “a system of encouragement for reports that correspond to reality. And about punishment for the opposite.”
Propagandist Anastasiya Kashevarova also published an outcry on her Telegram channel:
«How do you convey information so that it will be heard? Publicity doesn't work. Rebellion doesn't work. Truthful reporting doesn't work.
The system tries to preserve itself no matter what. It always has. It hardened itself against all attacks. And it's not so much the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff, it's the civilian leadership too. It's about the general approach to the [special military operation].
The problem is in the entire state apparatus.
We're coming apart at the seams, men. Self-destruction is in full swing. Nobody's stopping it. So the system must be rebuilt, the military must be helped, bureaucratic officials must be held accountable.”
The well-known pro-war channel Military Informer (“Voenny Osvedomitel”) accused Russia’s military leadership of being stuck in a “la-la-land of repeatedly twisted reports and neat PowerPoint presentations,” which it cited as one of the reasons for Prigozhin's mutiny.
The authors of the channel highlighted the gravity of the issues raised by Popov. They emphasized that counter-battery warfare is hindered by a convoluted decision-making process and delays in information transmission from intelligence to the fire units. Consequently, strikes are often carried out in areas where the enemy is no longer present. Military Informer also criticized Roscosmos' satellite constellation, describing it as “miserable” and far from the capabilities of Western satellite intelligence systems.
In response to the series of accusations, Russian authorities were compelled to react – so far, however, only Andrei Kartapolov, Chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee, has spoken out publicly. Kartapolov promptly reassured that the issues raised by Ivan Popov were already being addressed. While the statement suggests some acknowledgment of the concerns, it is important to note that a high-ranking Russian officer validated at least a portion of the assessments made by Western experts (1, 2) concerning the weaknesses of the Russian army.
In relation to General Popov's removal from command of the 58th Army, “war correspondent” and pro-war activist Alexei Zhivov shared a story about the conflict surrounding the Storm Shadow missile. As shared by former Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin, the Russians were able to bring the missile wreckage back to Russia in order to study and develop countermeasures against this type of weapon. Zhivov claimed that those responsible for retrieving the wreckage “under enemy fire” will face punishment for delivering it to a specialized design bureau, as Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu allegedly intended to display the Storm Shadow missile in the military-themed Patriot Park near Moscow.
Furthermore, the defense of Russia's Southern Military District headquarters in Rostov-on-Don, which serves as the main command post for Russian troops in Ukraine, is being strengthened – either in connection with General Popov's statement, or in the wake of the Wagner mutiny. Gabion fortifications and a “Tiger” armored vehicle can be observed behind the headquarters' fence.
According to the Rybar Telegram channel, which has links to the Russian Defense Ministry, it is believed that Ukrainian forces may exploit the change in command of the 58th Army and the potential demoralization of troops. The channel suggests that new advances from the Ukrainian Armed Forces can be expected in the Piatykhatky and Robotyne areas in the Zaporizhzhia direction, where the 42nd and 19th Divisions of the 58th Army are currently deployed. The channel also notes that the Ukrainian military has driven a wedge into Russian defenses along the front line in the north-east of Robotyne and made another attempt to gain a foothold in Piatykhatky.
Rybar also reported that Russia’s “Storm” assault units attacked AFU strongholds near Huliaipole, resulting in the occupation of several outposts. They managed to take the Ukrainian soldiers by surprise, as there had not been active fighting on this section of the front for a long time.
Footage (likely archival) of a failed breakthrough attempt by Ukrainian forces from the “Sonechko” volunteer reconnaissance battalion on the road from Piatykhatky to Zherebyanky has been made public. It is important to highlight that even unsuccessful Ukrainian attacks do not align with the narrative propagated by some Russian “war correspondents” who claim that the AFU recklessly sacrifices soldiers without regard for losses. Rybar states that the “Sonechko” unit is composed of both volunteers and fighters from the Ukrainian army.
Shelling and sabotage
On the night of July 13, the AFU Air Force Command reported that the Russian Armed Forces launched an attack on Ukrainian territory. The attack involved 20 Shahed (also known as Geran) kamikaze drones, an Iskander-M ballistic missile, and two Kalibr cruise missiles. However, all the Kalibr missiles and the UAVs were intercepted and shot down.
Most of the drones were downed over Kyiv, resulting in injuries to a 19-year-old girl and a 23-year-old man due to falling debris in the city’s Darnitsky district. In the Podilskyi district, a body was found during the firefighting operations in an apartment, but Ukraine’s State Emergency Service later clarified that the fire was unrelated to the kamikaze drone attack.
The town of Orikhiv in the Zaporizhzhia region was shelled, resulting in the destruction of at least three houses and the loss of one civilian life.
In a separate incident, a UAV attacked a factory in the Russian town of Starodub in the Bryansk region. Speculation in Russian Telegram channels suggests that this might be a sabotage operation, since the factory is located far from the border, and its buildings are situated in the town center.
Explosions have also been reported near the Topaz plant in the northwestern part of Donetsk. The factory specializes in the development and production of complex radio-technical systems and complexes. It is believed that the Russian Armed Forces may be using the plant's territory as a base for military equipment and personnel.
Footage of the destruction of a Russian Borisoglebsk electronic warfare system and a Grad multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) was published. Judging by the geolocation, one of the episodes took place west of the village of Romanivske in the Zaporizhzhia region.
New photos and videos of the AFU's losses in equipment at 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) have appeared online, including several MRAPs and armored personnel carriers. Judging by the video, they were hit with anti-tank missile systems. However, it can be doubted that this is the first hit on them – it is noticeable that the vehicles are standing motionless.
Forbes has reported that Ukrainian troops are likely gaining the upper hand in counter-battery warfare. The publication's analysis indicates that there are four Russian artillery systems for every one destroyed Ukrainian artillery piece, a ratio also supported by data from the OSINT project Oryx, which tracks equipment losses based on visual evidence.
Adding weight to this claim, a Russian Giatsint-S self-propelled artillery gun was recently destroyed near Petrivka in the Donetsk region by precise fire from Ukrainian artillery.
A Ukrainian M-55S tank was hit by a Krasnopol guided artillery munition near Kreminna in the Luhansk region. This incident marks the first loss of a tank of this type, which was transferred to the AFU by Slovenia in 2022.
The pro-war channel RosgVardeets (loosely translated as “National GuardZman”) reported the Ukrainian military allegedly targeted a location of Russian troops in the rear and subsequently struck the same area with cluster munitions. This resulted in casualties among those who were attempting to clear the rubble. It is noteworthy that the Russian army previously employed similar tactics during the bombing of civilian targets in Syria, which led to the deaths of Syrian Civil Defense volunteers.
In a volunteer and contract soldier camp situated in the Moscow region, a large-scale brawl occurred, resulting in one reported fatality.
The list of military aid supplied to Ukraine from Germany has been updated. Ukraine has received six Gepard self-propelled anti-air guns, a Biber bridge-laying vehicle and an additional bridge, five armored vehicles, a tractor and four semi-trailers, as well as laser designators, fire control stations, and ammunition.
Video footage has emerged showing Swedish Stridsvagn 122 tanks (a modification of the German Leopard 2A5), equipped with Barracuda camouflage (which also provides low visibility in the ultraviolet and infrared ranges) and considered to be the most protected tanks the Ukrainian military now has in service. The tanks feature roof protection visible through the composite armor hatches.
In the Zaporizhzhia direction, Slovenian M-55S tanks have been observed with the Ukrainian 67th Independent Mechanized Brigade, although they were initially assigned to the 47th Brigade, which fights according to NATO standards with Western equipment (the unit eventually went into battle with Leopard 2 tanks).
A Ukrainian MT-LB armored fighting vehicle equipped with the Turkish SARP DUAL combat module has also appeared in service with the AFU. This module includes a machine gun turret with advanced features such as thermal imaging, laser rangefinder, television channel, and ballistic calculator. It has automatic target tracking capability and is equipped with an autonomous power supply system, allowing it to operate with the combat vehicle’s engine turned off.
The AFU uses the UK-made AUDS (Anti-UAV Defense System), which allows it to shoot down drones at a distance of 10 km. The system can send a powerful radio signal toward the drone, causing it to break its connection with the operator. Julian Röpcke, a correspondent for the German publication Bild, noted that Ukraine now has a rather small number of such systems in service, which are used in the most difficult parts of the front line – for example, in the area of the Antonivskyi bridge over the Dnipro. According to the expert, the Ukrainians will need about 100 AUDS to protect the entire front line.
Ukrainian General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi confirmed the delivery of cluster munitions from the US. “They can radically change the situation on the front, but we have not used them yet,” he commented. According to Tarnavskyi, the command will eventually determine where these “very powerful weapons” will be used.
A Russian Kornet anti-tank missile system, equipped with the Kurgan remote control system, has reportedly seen its first combat use. With this system, the operator can safely operate the missile launcher from a distance of up to 50 meters. The launch of the missile reveals only the location from where it was launched, ensuring the operator remains concealed.
The pro-war channel Military Informant noted that this is an improvised design, and the manufacturer itself is not interested in introducing these modules, despite the fact that the Ukrainian Stugna-P anti-tank systems, which probably served as a source of inspiration, have similar modules as part of the standard package.
Online photos have emerged showcasing the Russian UMPK module along with the Kometa-M electronic warfare defense module. This device, despite its high cost, enables guided bombs equipped with the UMPK to accurately hit their targets even in the presence of radio interference caused by the enemy.
A video circulating on social media shows what appears to be weapons issued to mobilized men in the Luhansk region. These weapons mainly date back to the late 1930s and early 1940s, including Simonov SKS carbines, PPS machine guns, and even an 1891 Mosin-Nagant rifle with a needle bayonet. The origin and location of the footage are unknown, but it is possible that these weapons are from the captured arms depots in Soledar, which were earlier showcased by Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Igor Girkin (Strelkov, Runov) commented that while these weapons are reliable, they may not be suitable for frontline fighters. Instead, they could be provided to units involved in command and security services or “special operations against underground groups.”