UA-69458566-1

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, July 5

Karolina Hird, George Barros, Grace Mappes, and Frederick W. Kagan

July 5, 7:30 pm ET

Click here to see ISW's interactive map of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report.

Russia’s stated objectives in its invasion of Ukraine remain regime change in Kyiv and the truncation of the sovereignty of any Ukrainian state that survives the Russian attack despite Russian military setbacks and rhetoric hinting at a reduction in war aims following those defeats. Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev stated on July 5 that the Russian military operation in Ukraine will continue until Russia achieves its goals of protecting civilians from “genocide,” “denazifying” and demilitarizing Ukraine, and obliging Ukraine to be permanently neutral between Russia and NATO—almost exactly restating the goals Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in his February 24 speech justifying the war.[1] Putin had stated that the operation aimed to protect civilians from humiliation and genocide, demilitarize and denazify Ukraine, and prosecute genocidal perpetrators.[2] Patrushev’s explicit restatement of Putin‘s initial objectives, nearly five months later, strongly indicates that the Kremlin does not consider recent Russian gains in Luhansk Oblast sufficient to accomplish the initial goals of the "special operation,” supporting ISW’s ongoing assessment that the Kremlin has significant territorial aspirations beyond the Donbas. Patrushev’s statement suggests that Russian military leadership will continue to push for advances outside Donetsk and Luhansk blasts and that the Kremlin is preparing for a protracted war with the intention of taking much larger portions of Ukraine.[3]

Patrushev’s statement is noteworthy because of its timing and his position as a close confidante of Putin. Patrushev is very unlikely to stray far from Putin’s position in his public comments given his relationship with Putin and his role in the Kremlin. His restatement of virtually the same maximalist objectives that Putin laid out before the invasion even as Russian forces seemed to be closing in on the more limited objectives of securing Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts—which Putin and other Russian leaders had hinted were their new aims following their defeats around Kyiv—strongly suggests that those hints did not reflect any actual change in Kremlin policy. Patrushev’s statement significantly increases the burden on those who suggest that some compromise ceasefire or even peace based on limited additional Russian territorial gains is possible, even if it were acceptable to Ukraine or desirable for the West (neither of which is the case).

Igor Girkin, a Russian nationalist and former commander of militants in the 2014 war in Donbas, responded to Patrushev’s statements and continued expressing his general disillusionment with the Kremlin’s official line on operations in Ukraine. Girkin said that the intended goals of “denazification” and “de-militarization” will only be possible with the total defeat of the Ukrainian military and the surrender of the Ukrainian government.[4] Girkin noted that Russian victory is premised on the capture of "Novorossiya”—a notional territory that encompasses eight Ukrainian oblasts, including the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and much of eastern and southern Ukraine. Girkin also claimed that the capture of “Novorossiya” is the bare minimum and that Russian goals will be realized through the total capture of “Malorossiya,” which is an invocation of the Russian imperial concept for almost all Ukrainian territory. Girkin is once again pushing back on the Kremlin line, which he views as insufficient in securing Russian objectives in Ukraine. Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) Ambassador to Russia Rodion Miroshnik similarly suggested that the Kremlin has not yet met its goals in Ukraine, despite reaching the borders of his claimed oblast, and stated that LNR authorities are still not confident in the security of the LNR.[5] Girkin and Miroshnik’s statements, taken together, indicate that Russian nationalists continue to push for further territorial gains and, at least in Girkin’s case, full-scale regime change and the incorporation of most of Ukraine into Russia. Patrushev’s statement suggests that Kremlin thinking may not be that far removed from these extremist nationalist ambitions.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev restated Russian President Vladimir Putin’s initial objectives for operations in Ukraine, suggesting that the Kremlin retains maximalist objectives including regime change and territorial expansion far beyond the Donbas.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations northwest and east of Slovyansk.
  • Russian forces are attempting to advance west of the Lysychansk area toward Siversk.
  • Russian forces are likely attempting to gain access to village roads southeast of Bakhmut in order to advance on the city from the south.
  • Ukrainian forces conducted a limited counterattack southwest of Donetsk City.
  • Russian forces continued limited and unsuccessful assaults in northern Kharkiv Oblast.
  • Russian authorities are conducting escalated conscription measures in occupied territories to compensate for continuing manpower losses.
  • Russian authorities are continuing to consolidate administrative control of occupied areas of Ukraine, likely to set conditions for the direct annexation of these territories to the Russian Federation.

We do not report in detail on Russian war crimes because those activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We will continue to evaluate and report on the effects of these criminal activities on the Ukrainian military and population and specifically on combat in Ukrainian urban areas. We utterly condemn these Russian violations of the laws of armed conflict, Geneva Conventions, and humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

  • Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine (comprised of one subordinate and three supporting efforts);
  • Subordinate Main Effort—Encirclement of Ukrainian troops in the cauldron between Izyum and Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts
  • Supporting Effort 1—Kharkiv City;
  • Supporting Effort 2—Southern Axis;
  • Mobilization and force generation efforts;
  • Activities in Russian-occupied Areas

Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine

Subordinate Main Effort—Southern Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk Oblasts (Russian objective: Encircle Ukrainian forces in Eastern Ukraine and capture the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)

Russian forces continued offensive operations to the northwest and east of Slovyansk on July 5.[6] Ukrainian Defense Ministry Spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanuk stated that elements of the Russian 8th and 58th Combined Arms Armies, mobilization reserve of the 1st and 2nd Army Corps (forces of the Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples’ Republics), and elements of the 2nd Guards Tank Army, 41st Combined Arms Army, 90th Tank Division, 68th Army Corps, and Airborne Forces (VDV) are currently active in the Donbas and likely participating in efforts to advance on Slovyansk.[7] Russian forces conducted unsuccessful attacks on Dolyna and Krasnopillya, both along the Kharkiv-Donetsk Oblast border northwest of Slovyansk.[8] Russian forces conducted continued artillery strikes against Ukrainian positions southeast of Izyum along the E40 highway and fired on Dibrove, Dolyna, Adamivka, Bohorodychne, and Mazanivka.[9] Russian forces also fired on Kryva Luka, about 20km east of Slovyansk, in order to continue to set conditions for advances on Slovyansk from the southwest of Lyman.[10] Slovyansk Mayor Vadym Lyakh reported that Russian forces conducted an artillery strike directly on Slovyansk and indicated that artillery strikes on the city have recently intensified.[11]

Russian forces continued efforts to push west from Lysychansk and the Luhansk Oblast border towards Siversk on July 5.[12] The Ukrainian General Staff stated that Russian forces conducted an airstrike near Siversk and fired on civilian infrastructure in Serebryanka—a settlement 5 km northeast of Siversk directly along the Luhansk-Donetsk Oblast border.[13] Russian sources also reported that Russian troops have begun demining and clearing Severodonetsk and Lysychansk to expand their control and administrative presence of the area and continue to use it as a base for future offensives to the west.[14]



Russian forces continued offensive operations southeast of Bakhmut on July 5. Russian forces conducted ground assaults on Novoluhanske (about 25 km southeast of Bakhmut) and Vershyna (about 10km southeast of Bakhmut) and shelled Ukrainian positions between Novoluhanske and Bakhmut in the areas of Kodema and Zaitseve.[15] The continued targeting of Ukrainian positions southeast of Bakhmut indicates that Russian forces likely seek to gain access to village roads between Novoluhanske and Bakmut that lead to the T0513 highway, which runs northwards directly into Bakhmut. Opening that route along with the E40 highway would allow them to advance on Bakhmut along two converging axes.

Ukrainian forces conducted a limited counterattack southwest of Donetsk City on July 5. Ukrainian and Russian sources reported that Ukrainian troops regained control of Solodke, about 30 km southwest of Donetsk City.[16] Russian forces also continued to fire at Ukrainian positions along the line of contact in the Donetsk City-Avdiivka area.[17]

Supporting Effort #1—Kharkiv City (Russian objective: Defend ground lines of communication (GLOCs) to Izyum and prevent Ukrainian forces from reaching the Russian border)

Russian forces continued limited ground assaults north of Kharkiv City on July 5. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces are focusing on maintaining defensive positions and repelling Ukrainian advances and that Russian troops attempted an unsuccessful assault near Sosnivka.[18] The Derhachi City Council reported that Ukrainian forces also repelled Russian assaults on Prudyanka, Dementiivka, and Pytomnk.[19] Russian forces continued intense air and artillery strikes on Ukrainian military infrastructure and force concentrations in Kharkiv City and the surrounding settlements.[20]

Supporting Effort #2—Southern Axis (Russian objective: Defend Kherson and Zaporizhia Oblasts against Ukrainian counterattacks)

Russian forces prioritized holding defensive lines and repelling Ukrainian counteroffensives along the Southern Axis on July 5. Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command reported that Ukrainian forces repelled a Russian platoon-level attack near Lozove (southwest of Davydiv Brid in Kherson Oblast), which indicates that Ukrainian forces likely either reestablished a bridgehead at Lozove at an unspecified previous date or have consistently maintained the one they established in early June.[21] This report is the first mention by Ukrainian officials of control of terrain on the left bank of the Inhulets River near Davydiv Brid since the Ukrainian General Staff reported a Ukrainian counteroffensive near Sukhyi Stavok on June 5.[22] Russian Telegram channel Rybar claimed on July 4 that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian assaults on the Snuhurivka-Lozove-Bila Krynytsya lines along the Inhulets River.[23] While exact control of terrain around Lozove and Davydiv Brid remains unclear, Ukrainian forces likely did seize some territory in this area. NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) remotely sensed data showed fires near south and east of Lozove on July 5, consistent with the Ukrainian Southern Operational Command’s report. Russian forces continued targeting Ukrainian military infrastructure behind the front line across the Southern Axis on July 5.[24]

[Source: NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System, July 5]

Ukrainian Southern Operational Command reported that Russian forces are reinforcing unspecified positions along the Southern Axis with unspecified units from Khabarovsk Krai.[25] The report likely refers to the Russian 57th and/or 64th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigades (MRBs) (subordinate to the 5th and 35th Combined Arms Armies, respectively) based in Khabarovsk Krai. The 57th MRB reportedly operated around Severodonetsk, Luhansk Oblast in mid-April, and the 64th MRB participated in the Battle of Kyiv and likely participated in the war crimes in Bucha. [26]

Mobilization and force generation efforts (Russian objective: Expand combat power without conducting general mobilization)

Russian authorities continued to escalate conscription measures in order to support force generation efforts. Ukrainian Defense Ministry Spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk stated that Russian forces have intensified conscription practices to provide more manpower for the 2nd Army Corps (forces of the Luhansk People’s Republic), which likely suffered considerable losses during protracted operations for control of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk.[27] The Ukrainian Resistance Center also stated that Russian authorities are preparing for conscription in Berdyansk by ordering building managers to provide lists of conscription-aged residents.[28] Russian authorities will likely continue to set conditions for conscription in occupied territories to renew combat capabilities.[29]

Activity in Russian-occupied Areas (Russian objective: consolidate administrative control of occupied areas; set conditions for potential annexation into the Russian Federation or some other future political arrangement of Moscow’s choosing)

Russian authorities continued efforts to strengthen administrative and economic control of occupied areas of Ukraine on July 5. The Ukrainian Resistance Center claimed that Ukrainian partisans discovered a network of pro-Russian collaborators in occupied Kherson Oblast on July 5.[30] The report indicated that this network of collaborators informs occupation forces about Ukrainian activities, which suggests that Russian authorities are continuing to leverage pro-Russian sentiment to extend control over occupied areas.[31] However, the Ukrainian Resistance Center also claimed that Russian authorities have failed to find enough collaborators to form an occupation government in Kherson Oblast and are therefore installing officials directly from Russia.[32] This claim is consistent with previous reports that proxy leadership in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) has imported several Russian public administration officials to the DNR government to shape its policies under a Russian framework.[33] Despite the number of Ukrainian collaborators in Kherson Oblast, Russian occupation authorities likely prefer Russian officials in administrative roles to align occupied areas with the Russian system on an administrative level. This phenomenon may indicate that the Russians are preparing to annex the occupied territories directly to the Russian Federation rather than establishing one or more independent statelets.

Occupation authorities are continuing measures to integrate Ukrainian economic assets into the Russian trade economy. The Russian-backed head of the Zaporizhia occupation administration, Yevheny Balytskyi, stated that occupation authorities in Zaporizhia Oblast have agreed to export Ukrainian grain to Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Iraq. Balytskyi claimed that the administration will export over 150,000 tons of grain to Iran alone.[34] Both ISW and the Critical Threats Project have sought, but not found, confirmation of these reports from Iran, Iraq, or Saudi Arabia.

Russian authorities continued to consolidate control of Ukrainian energy assets. The Ukrainian Resistance Center reported on July 5 that Russian authorities intend to restaff the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) with Russian employees, likely mostly from Rosenergoatom. The Ukrainian Resistance Center claimed that Russian authorities intend to disconnect the NPP from the Ukrainian power grid by the end of September, which indicates that Russian authorities intend to fully divert Ukrainian energy to the Russian Federation.[35]

 


[1] https://ria dot ru/20220705/spetsoperatsiya-1800246996.html

[2] http://kremlin dot ru/events/president/news/67843

[3] https://telegra.ph/Ministr-oborony-Rossii-general-armii-Sergej-SHojgu-provel-selektornoe-soveshchanie-s-rukovodyashchim-sostavom-Vooruzhennyh-Sil-07-05https://t.me/mod_russia/17415https://t.me/mod_russia/17416;

[4] https://t.me/strelkovii/2869

[5] https://t.me/miroshnik_r/7851https://vz dot ru/news/2022/7/5/1166218.html

[6] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02RDxkKcuFdk2ozJ4LFUMVr3fzUgXV6TjThc7enBxe3cnQgoHYtfi9vLfYnXYfNPaelhttps://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02SAnWVMn7gEi7gsoYgEduvT9B6tr3cjTqY7gRuK1K3X7tkGzkAYC7PJeepXrFubs2l; https://t.me/milinfolive/86398https://t.me/spravdi/12478

[7] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhvJ8-KnZKg&t=1s&ab_channel=UkrinformTV

[8] https://t.me/synegubov/3558?single; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02RDxkKcuFdk2ozJ4LFUMVr3fzUgXV6TjThc7enBxe3cnQgoHYtfi9vLfYnXYfNPaelhttps://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02SAnWVMn7gEi7gsoYgEduvT9B6tr3cjTqY7gRuK1K3X7tkGzkAYC7PJeepXrFubs2l https://twitter.com/a_vikulin/status/1544239133551460354

[9] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02SAnWVMn7gEi7gsoYgEduvT9B6tr3cjTqY7gRuK1K3X7tkGzkAYC7PJeepXrFubs2l; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02RDxkKcuFdk2ozJ4LFUMVr3fzUgXV6TjThc7enBxe3cnQgoHYtfi9vLfYnXYfNPael

[10] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02RDxkKcuFdk2ozJ4LFUMVr3fzUgXV6TjThc7enBxe3cnQgoHYtfi9vLfYnXYfNPael

[11] https://t.me/stranaua/50634; https://t.me/stranaua/50647; https://t.me/stranaua/50654; https://t.me/stranaua/50671; https://www.facebook.com/Vadymlyakh/posts/pfbid02xGHnRN4syCiXMQ6Pkjj3EZM3Qjdv2zTMjd94p9FQqpg1DssMtJ9KASgKDAwRxRmClhttps://t.me/stranaua/50642; https://t.me/truexanewsua/52977; https://t.me/pavlokyrylenko_donoda/3922https://t.me/spravdi/12474

[12] https://t.me/sashakots/34167; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02RDxkKcuFdk2ozJ4LFUMVr3fzUgXV6TjThc7enBxe3cnQgoHYtfi9vLfYnXYfNPael

[13] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02RDxkKcuFdk2ozJ4LFUMVr3fzUgXV6TjThc7enBxe3cnQgoHYtfi9vLfYnXYfNPael

[14] https://t.me/epoddubny/11414https://t.me/epoddubny/11416; https://t.me/millnr/9061; https://t.me/rybar/34960

[15] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02RDxkKcuFdk2ozJ4LFUMVr3fzUgXV6TjThc7enBxe3cnQgoHYtfi9vLfYnXYfNPael; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02SAnWVMn7gEi7gsoYgEduvT9B6tr3cjTqY7gRuK1K3X7tkGzkAYC7PJeepXrFubs2l

[16] https://t.me/strelkovii/2871 ; https://glavcom dot ua/country/incidents/zsu-zvilnili-shche-odne-selishche-na-donechchini--858336.html; https://t.me/oleksiihoncharenko/22194

[17] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02RDxkKcuFdk2ozJ4LFUMVr3fzUgXV6TjThc7enBxe3cnQgoHYtfi9vLfYnXYfNPaelhttps://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02SAnWVMn7gEi7gsoYgEduvT9B6tr3cjTqY7gRuK1K3X7tkGzkAYC7PJeepXrFubs2l; https://t.me/milchronicles/865; https://twitter.com/GeoConfirmed/status/1544255057809620992; https://twitter.com/RALee85/status/1544046057037914113;

[18] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02RDxkKcuFdk2ozJ4LFUMVr3fzUgXV6TjThc7enBxe3cnQgoHYtfi9vLfYnXYfNPael;

[19] https://t.me/der_rada/1844

[20] https://t.me/synegubov/3558https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02SAnWVMn7gEi7gsoYgEduvT9B6tr3cjTqY7gRuK1K3X7tkGzkAYC7PJeepXrFubs2lhttps://t.me/der_rada/1844https://t.me/spravdi/12478;

[21] https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1401035137076982

[22] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/332984152348003

[23] https://t.me/rybar/34960

[24] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02SAnWVMn7gEi7gsoYgEduvT9B6tr3cjTqY7gRuK1K3X7tkGzkAYC7PJeepXrFubs2lhttps://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02RDxkKcuFdk2ozJ4LFUMVr3fzUgXV6TjThc7enBxe3cnQgoHYtfi9vLfYnXYfNPaelhttps://www.facebook.com/100064555155257/posts/pfbid0rZDoXnX5DcJRRS9bRDVUM5Sv2uVH9sJmChLuBUS1nRrZnTGQdT2e3j7Aj4uQzEhl/?d=nhttps://www.facebook.com/100064555155257/posts/pfbid0rZDoXnX5DcJRRS9bRDVUM5Sv2uVH9sJmChLuBUS1nRrZnTGQdT2e3j7Aj4uQzEhl/?d=n; https://t.me/zoda_gov_ua/10022

[25] https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=358892029534489

[26] https://incident.obozrevatel dot com/crime/vsu-likvidirovali-pod-severodonetskom-komandira-rotyi-57-j-brigadyi-vs-rf-foto-18.htm; https://gur.gov dot ua/content/voennye-prestupnyky-neposredstvenno-uchastvuiushchye-v-sovershenyy-voennykh-prestuplenyi-protyv-naroda-ukrayny-v-h-bucha-voennosluzhashchye-64-otdelnoi-motostrelkovoi-bryhady-35-oa-vvo.html

[27] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhvJ8-KnZKg&t=1s&ab_channel=UkrinformTV

[28] https://sprotyv.mod.gov dot ua/2022/07/05/okupanty-gotuyut-mobilizacziyu-na-pivdni/

[29] https://sprotyv.mod.gov dot ua/2022/07/05/okupanty-gotuyut-mobilizacziyu-na-pivdni/

[30] https://sprotyv.mod.gov dot ua/2022/07/05/rosiyany-tak-i-ne-zmogly-znajty-dostatnyu-kilkist-kolaborantiv-na-hersonshhyni-aby-sformuvaty-uryad/ ; https://www.kommersant dot ru/doc/5446796

[31] https://sprotyv.mod.gov dot ua/2022/07/05/na-hersonshhyni-partyzany-vyyavyly-merezhu-zradnykiv/

[32] https://sprotyv.mod.gov dot ua/2022/07/05/rosiyany-tak-i-ne-zmogly-znajty-dostatnyu-kilkist-kolaborantiv-na-hersonshhyni-aby-sformuvaty-uryad/ ; https://www.kommersant dot ru/doc/5446796

[33] https://t.me/pushilindenis/2403

[34] https://tass dot ru/ekonomika/15123727?utm_source=google.com&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=google.com&utm_referrer=google.com

[35] https://sprotyv.mod.gov dot ua/2022/07/05/rosiyany-cherez-vidmovu-ukrayinskyh-energetykiv-spivpraczyuvaty-zvozyat-vlasnyj-personal-na-zahoplenu-zaes/

 

 


Monday, July 4, 2022

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, July 4

Karolina Hird, George Barros, Grace Mappes, and Frederick W. Kagan

July 4, 7:00 pm ET

Click here to see ISW's interactive map of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report.

Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated the Russian seizure of Lysychansk and the Luhansk Oblast border and appeared to direct the Russian military to conduct an operational pause. Putin met with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu on July 4 to discuss recent Russian gains in Luhansk Oblast and presented Colonel General Alexander Lapin and Major General Esedulla Abachev with the “Hero of Russia” award for their leadership during the Lysychansk operation.[1] Putin and Shoigu presented the capture of Lysychansk and Luhansk Oblast as a major victory for Russian forces in Ukraine. Putin also stated that the Russian units that participated in the battle for Lysychansk should rest to increase their combat capabilities.[2] Putin‘s public comment was likely meant to signal his concern for the welfare of his troops in the face of periodic complaints in Russia about the treatment of Russian soldiers. His comment was also likely accurate—Russian troops that fought through Severodonetsk and Lysychansk very likely do need a significant period in which to rest and refit before resuming large-scale offensive operations. It is not clear, however, that the Russian military will accept the risks of a long enough operational pause to allow these likely exhausted forces to regain their strength.

Former Russian military commander Igor Girkin, an ardent Russian nationalist who commanded militants during the 2014 war in Donbas, posted a scathing critique of the Kremlin’s handling of the war on his Telegram channel and questioned the significance of the seizure of Lysychansk. He suggested that Russian forces had paid too high a price for a limited gain. In a series of Telegram posts published prior to Putin’s meeting with Shoigu on July 4, Girkin complained that Russian forces have failed to meet the announced goals of the “second stage of the special operation” (the operations in eastern Ukraine following Russia’s retreat from Kyiv) to his nearly 400,000 subscribers.[3] Girkin noted that the Ukrainian defense of Lysychansk was deliberately designed to inflict maximum damage on Russian troops and burn through Russian manpower and equipment. He strongly suggested that accepting battle on the Ukrainians‘ terms was a significant misstep by the Russian leadership.[4] Girkin stated (before Putin’s remarks were made public) that Russian troops need time to rest and replenish in order to recover their offensive potential and noted that the lack of individual soldier replacements and unit rotations is severely degrading morale. He warned, however, that taking time to reconstitute offensive capability would allow Ukrainian troops to seize the initiative and further threaten Russian gains.[5] Girkin additionally claimed that Russian forces have limited prospects of advancing elsewhere in Ukraine due to Ukrainian personnel and equipment superiority.[6]

Girkin’s critique is a noteworthy example of the way Russian milbloggers and military enthusiasts have become disillusioned with the Kremlin’s handling and execution of operations in Ukraine, particularly after the dramatic failed river crossing attempt at Bilohorivka in early May.[7] Girkin’s statements directly undermine the Kremlin’s efforts to frame Lysychansk as a significant victory or turning point and show that the disillusionment amongst ultra-nationalist elements in the Russian information space continues to run deep. Girkin’s assessment of Russian military failures notably aligns with much of ISW’s (and other Western agencies’ and experts’) analysis, suggesting that he and some other milbloggers continue to make and publish assessments of the situation and forecasts independent of the Kremlin line. Girkin likely hopes to use his status as a prominent former participant in the war in Donbas in 2014 to persuade Putin to take certain measures to secure Russian success in a war that Girkin still thinks is justified and necessary—specifically mobilizing the Russian population for war on a much larger scale.[8] Girkin, along with other members of the Russian nationalist milblogger space, will likely continue to offer critiques of the Kremlin’s line on operations in Ukraine to advocate for general mobilization and more competent Russian military leadership.

Ukrainian forces are increasingly targeting Russian military infrastructure with indirect fire and US-provided HIMARS systems deep in occupied territory. Ukrainian forces reportedly struck Russian ammunition depots in Dibrivne, Kharkiv Oblast, (close to the frontline) on July 4 and Snizhne, Donetsk Oblast, (approximately 75 km from the frontlines) overnight on July 3-4 following a strike on one of four Russian ammunition depots in Melitopol on July 3.[9] The Ukrainian General Staff also published a video on July 4 of a Ukrainian HIMARS (high mobility artillery rocket system) operating in an unspecified area of Zaporizhia Oblast.[10] The increased ability of Ukrainian forces to target critical Russian military facilities with Western-provided HIMARS demonstrates how Western military aid provides Ukraine with new and necessary military capabilities.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian leadership may be setting conditions for an operational pause following the seizure of Lysychansk and the Luhansk Oblast boundary.
  • Russian forces are consolidating territorial and administrative control over Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations to the east of Bakhmut to prepare for advances on Bakhmut and Siversk.
  • Russian forces continued limited and unsuccessful assaults north of Kharkiv City.
  • Ukrainian partisan activity is targeting Russian railway lines around Melitopol and Tokmak.
  • Russian leadership may be setting conditions for the conscription of Ukrainian citizens living in occupied territories.

We do not report in detail on Russian war crimes because those activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We will continue to evaluate and report on the effects of these criminal activities on the Ukrainian military and population and specifically on combat in Ukrainian urban areas. We utterly condemn these Russian violations of the laws of armed conflict, Geneva Conventions, and humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

  • Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine (comprised of one subordinate and three supporting efforts)
  • Subordinate Main Effort—Encirclement of Ukrainian troops in the cauldron between Izyum and Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts
  • Supporting Effort 1—Kharkiv City
  • Supporting Effort 2—Southern Axis
  • Mobilization and force generation efforts
  • Activities in Russian-occupied Areas

Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine

Subordinate Main Effort—Southern Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk Oblasts (Russian objective: Encircle Ukrainian forces in Eastern Ukraine and capture the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)

Russian forces took measures to consolidate control of captured territory around Severodonetsk and Lysychansk on July 4.[11] The Russian Ministry of Defense announced that Russian forces completed the capture of Luhansk Oblast with the capture of Lysychansk.[12] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian troops are fortifying their positions around Lysychansk and Bilohorivka.[13] Severodonetsk Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk also noted that Russian forces are trying to establish an administrative presence in Severodonetsk and have established a commandant’s office to replace the local government.[14] Russian forces will likely begin to institute administrative occupational control over Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.

Russian forces continued offensive operations to the east of Bakhmut on July 4 to prepare for subsequent offensive operations toward Bakhmut and Siversk.[15] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted a reconnaissance in force on the outskirts of Berestove and undertook offensive operations around the Vuhledar Power Plant, Vasylivka, Spirne, Klynove, and Mayorsk.[16] Russian forces will likely continue efforts to move west of the T1302 Bakhmut-Lysychansk highway to eventually drive on Bakhmut and Siversk, although their ability to do so successfully following losses sustained during attempts to take Lysychansk is questionable.[17] NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) remotely sensed data showed fires near Spirne, Klynove, and the Vuhledar Power Plant on July 4, consistent with the Ukrainian General Staff’s reports.

 

[Source: NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System, July 4]

Russian forces conducted limited ground assaults southwest of Donetsk City to improve their tactical position in the Donetsk City-Avdiivka area on July 4.[18] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted assaults in the direction of Pobeda and Mariinka, just southwest of Donetsk City. Russian forces have reportedly occupied the dominant heights surrounding Novoselivka Druha (10km northeast of Avdiivka) and are using this position to exert fire control over Avdiivka.[19]

Russian forces continued offensive operations northwest of Slovyansk near the Kharkiv-Donetsk Oblast border and made incremental gains on July 4.[20] The Ukrainian General Staff stated that Russian forces had “partial success” in Mazanivka, about 20 km northwest of Slovyansk, and fought in Bohorodychne and Dolyna.[21] Russian forces also reportedly redeployed a battalion tactical group (BTG) from Izyum to Snizhkivka- just south of Izyum in the direction of Barvinkove, which may suggest that Russian forces are preparing for renewed offensives southeast of Izyum towards Barvinkove. NASA FIRMS data for July 4 showed large concentrations of heat anomalies in the wooded areas to the southeast of Izyum indicating probable locations for Russian indirect fire and Ukrainian counterbattery fires.

 

[Source: NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System, July 4]

Supporting Effort #1—Kharkiv City (Russian objective: Defend ground lines of communication (GLOCs) to Izyum and prevent Ukrainian forces from reaching the Russian border)

Russian forces did not make any territorial gains on the Kharkiv City Axis on July 4. Ukrainian sources reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults on Prudyanka along the T2117 highway and Sosnivka, less than 10 km from the Russian border.[22] Russian forces continued air, artillery, and rocket strikes on Ukrainian military infrastructure and settlements north, northeast, and east of Kharkiv City.[23] Russian Telegram channel Rybar claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted spoiling attacks, likely small reconnaissance in force operations, on Russian positions near Kozacha Lopan, east of Udy.[24] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian ground forces with aviation support on the Kharkiv City Axis are focusing on restraining any Ukrainian offensive operations.[25] The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that Russian forces destroyed the temporary deployment points of the Ukrainian 92nd Mechanized and 40th Artillery Brigades in Kharkiv City.[26]

Supporting Effort #2—Southern Axis (Russian objective: Defend Kherson and Zaporizhia Oblasts against Ukrainian counterattacks)

Russian forces focused on regaining lost positions in northeastern Kherson Oblast on July 4. The Ukrainian General Staff reported Russian attacks on Ivanivka, Potemkyne, and Myrne.[27] Russian forces reportedly deployed 17 railway wagons with ammunition from Crimea to northern Kherson Oblast, likely to resupply Russian artillery units.[28] NASA’s FIRMS data showed abnormally high numbers of fires along the Mykolaiv-Kherson Oblast frontline on July 4, indicating intense indirect fire attacks. Russian and Ukrainian forces continued shelling across the line of contact along the entire Southern Axis on July 4.[29]

 

[Source: NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System, July 4]

[Source: NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System, July 4]

A Ukrainian partisan campaign may be targeting Russian rail lines near Melitopol in Zaporizhia Oblast. The Ukrainian Resistance Center reported that Ukrainian partisans blew up a railway bridge near occupied Lyubimivka between Melitopol and Tokmak, Zaporizhia Oblast on July 3, likely obstructing Russian resupply efforts from Crimea to the Zaporizhia Oblast front line.[30] Ukrainian partisans derailed a separate Russian armored train carrying ammunition near Melitopol on July 2.[31] Ukrainian partisans had previously targeted Russian armored trains and locomotives in Melitopol in late April and mid-May.[32] This pattern of reported activity may indicate a coordinated partisan campaign targeting Russian rail lines.

Mobilization and Force-generation Efforts (Russian objective: Expand combat power without conducting general mobilization)

Russian leaders may be preparing to mobilize Ukrainian citizens in occupied areas. The Representative of the Ukrainian President in Crimea stated on July 3 that the Russian administration in Crimea issued a decree creating a “conscription commission for the mobilization of citizens in the Republic of Crimea,” which would allow Russian authorities to forcibly mobilize residents of Crimea to fight against Ukraine.[33] While the status of Crimea under Russian Federation law (but not under Ukrainian or international law) is distinct from the areas of eastern and southern Ukraine that have been occupied since February 24, this decree may set an internal Russian precedent for Russian authorities to begin forced mobilization campaigns throughout occupied parts of Ukraine to support force generation efforts in the coming months.

Activity in Russian-occupied Areas (Russian objective: consolidate administrative control of occupied areas; set conditions for potential annexation into the Russian Federation or some other future political arrangement of Moscow’s choosing)

Russian authorities continued to set conditions for various annexation scenarios on July 4. Director of Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Kyrylo Budanov stated that Russia is preparing several annexation scenarios before September 11, the suggested date for the annexation of Ukrainian territory into the Russian Federation.[34] Budanov claimed that Russia may be preparing to join Ukrainian territories to Russia, create one large ”People’s Republic,” or annex individual territories to Russia. The suggestion of a singular, large ”People’s Republic” is novel and has not yet been discussed by Ukrainian or Russian authorities. A single ”People’s Republic” likely indicates that the Kremlin continues to hold territorial aspirations beyond the Donbas.

 


[1] . https://t.me/mod_russia/17385https://t.me/rlz_the_kraken/51078; https://tass dot ru/politika/15116687; https://ria dot ru/20220704/geroi-1800093356.html

[2] https://tass dot ru/politika/15116687; https://ria dot ru/20220704/geroi-1800093356.html

[3] https://t.me/strelkovii/2864https://t.me/strelkovii/2863

[4] https://t.me/strelkovii/2864

[5] https://t.me/strelkovii/2864

[6] https://t.me/strelkovii/2864

[7] https://understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-may-16; https://understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-may-14

[8] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/05/07/russia-ukraine-victory-day-mobilization/

[9] https://twitter.com/GeoConfirmed/status/1543925116618346500; https://twitter.com/Osinttechnical/status/1543735226978996224; https://twitter.com/RALee85/status/1543734894425247746; https://t.co/k1RUvAsWj1; https://twitter.com/IntelCrab/status/1543725137991696384; https://twitter.com/IntelCrab/status/1543725308200845312; https://twitter.com/IntelCrab/status/1543772125902807040; https://twitter.com/wahnheit/status/1543770413980946432; https://twitter.com/IntelCrab/status/1543736480815890432; https://t.me/ivan_fedorov_melitopol/229; https://t.me/ivan_fedorov_melitopol/228

[10] https://twitter.com/GeneralStaffUA/status/1543952771631747073

[11] https://t.me/luhanskaVTSA/4022; https://t.me/luhanskaVTSA/4019;

[12] https://t.me/mod_russia/17386

[13] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0387nadvbW8LgDAtauW9ZS5NuTVpC21pr4pdNxw437brMXCZifA5BEFdm43mni9GJrl

[14] https://t.me/luhanskaVTSA/4025

[15] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0GfbuWUtdnkJiA21duGTUQ91naBvbBoQJs6siupM3cGAUhgsTbg45erxGPXFpHBF9lhttps://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0387nadvbW8LgDAtauW9ZS5NuTVpC21pr4pdNxw437brMXCZifA5BEFdm43mni9GJrl; https://t.me/rsotmdivision/142; https://twitter.com/GirkinGirkin/status/1543813758673469440; https://t.me/strelkovii/2863

[16] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0387nadvbW8LgDAtauW9ZS5NuTVpC21pr4pdNxw437brMXCZifA5BEFdm43mni9GJrl; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0GfbuWUtdnkJiA21duGTUQ91naBvbBoQJs6siupM3cGAUhgsTbg45erxGPXFpHBF9l

[17] https://t.me/strelkovii/2863

[18] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0GfbuWUtdnkJiA21duGTUQ91naBvbBoQJs6siupM3cGAUhgsTbg45erxGPXFpHBF9lhttps://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0387nadvbW8LgDAtauW9ZS5NuTVpC21pr4pdNxw437brMXCZifA5BEFdm43mni9GJrl

[19] https://t.me/milchronicles/867

[20] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0GfbuWUtdnkJiA21duGTUQ91naBvbBoQJs6siupM3cGAUhgsTbg45erxGPXFpHBF9lhttps://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0387nadvbW8LgDAtauW9ZS5NuTVpC21pr4pdNxw437brMXCZifA5BEFdm43mni9GJrl; https://t.me/milinfolive/86330

[21] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0GfbuWUtdnkJiA21duGTUQ91naBvbBoQJs6siupM3cGAUhgsTbg45erxGPXFpHBF9lhttps://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0387nadvbW8LgDAtauW9ZS5NuTVpC21pr4pdNxw437brMXCZifA5BEFdm43mni9GJrl

[22] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0GfbuWUtdnkJiA21duGTUQ91naBvbBoQJs6siupM3cGAUhgsTbg45erxGPXFpHBF9lhttps://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0387nadvbW8LgDAtauW9ZS5NuTVpC21pr4pdNxw437brMXCZifA5BEFdm43mni9GJrl; https://t.me/synegubov/3547

[23] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0387nadvbW8LgDAtauW9ZS5NuTVpC21pr4pdNxw437brMXCZifA5BEFdm43mni9GJrl; https://t.me/synegubov/3547; https://t.me/rybar/34877

[24] https://t.me/rybar/34876

[25] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0387nadvbW8LgDAtauW9ZS5NuTVpC21pr4pdNxw437brMXCZifA5BEFdm43mni9GJrl

[26] https://t.me/mod_russia/17381

[27] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0387nadvbW8LgDAtauW9ZS5NuTVpC21pr4pdNxw437brMXCZifA5BEFdm43mni9GJrl

[28] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0387nadvbW8LgDAtauW9ZS5NuTVpC21pr4pdNxw437brMXCZifA5BEFdm43mni9GJrl

[29] https://t.me/mykolaivskaODA/1681https://t.me/dnipropetrovskaODA/1250https://t.me/mykola_lukashuk/682https://t.me/rybar/34877https://t.me/zoda_gov_ua/9973https://t.me/zoda_gov_ua/9989https://www.facebook.com/100064555155257/posts/pfbid0jNXePgf51nBb3rR2oyMGMCtvgYAkgfa33b8sKNcKMXzKpAjQxEmjdVY2MWLJkFLbl/?d=nhttps://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0GfbuWUtdnkJiA21duGTUQ91naBvbBoQJs6siupM3cGAUhgsTbg45erxGPXFpHBF9l

[30] https://sprotyv.mod.gov dot ua/2022/07/03/poblyzu-melitopolya-pidirvaly-zaliznychnyj-mist/

[31] https://sprotyv.mod.gov dot ua/2022/07/03/partyzany-pid-melitopolem-vidpravyly-pid-ukis-rosijskyj-bronepoyizd/; https://t.me/riamelitopol/60204; https://www.facebook.com/100001701408811/videos/2172478259628933/RIA; https://t.me/riamelitopol/60204

[32] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-may-19 ; https://www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/Russian%20Operations%20Assessments%20April%2028.pdf

[33] https://www.facebook.com/ppu.gov.ua/posts/404441455063219

[34] https://www.rbc dot ua/ukr/news/kirill-budanov-voyna-zakonchitsya-sleduyushchem-1656837517.html