Russo Ukrainian War, Day 127: Azov defenders returned to Ukraine. The largest prisoner exchange of the war.

 

Daily review

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

144 Ukrainians, including 95 Azov defenders, returned to Ukraine in the largest prisoner exchange of the war. In Mykolaiv, a residential building is destroyed by a missile, 5 civilians killed. In Kremenchuk, casualties of a missile attack on a shopping mall are being identified. Putin said that the Russian forces “do not strike at any civilian targets.” The Russian army is trying to block Lysychansk and take control of the section of the Lysychansk-Bakhmut highway. The Ukrainian army liberated two settlements north of Kherson. The UN Office for Human Rights prepared a report on human rights violations during the war in Ukraine. NATO to increase its military contingent in Europe by 7.5 times. Sweden and Finland to join NATO. The UK will allocate $1.2 billion to air defense systems, drones, and equipment for electronic warfare in Ukraine.

Daily overview — Summary report, June 29 

Russo-Ukrainian War, Day 127: Azov defenders returned to Ukraine. The largest prisoner exchange of the war. ~~

According to a military expert Stanislav Haider, as of June 29, 

The Ukrainian army pushed back another attack in the Bohorodychne-Krasnopillya area, near Maryinka, Avdiivka, and on the T1302 highway.

Lysychansk vicinity: No information is available. Please do not comment while the operation is underway.

The Kharkiv Oblast. In the north of the Oblast, by the Bayrak-Rubizhne area and Tsupyvka, local tactical fighting is continuing, a “see-saw” style. In the Izium direction and Pechenihy reservoir, the Ukrainian army is continuing to take tactical steps, so-called “artillery duels” that slow down the Russian army attack on Sloviansk.

The Zaporizhzhia direction and southern Donetsk region, the Russian invaders were reinforced by two battalion tactical groups brought from other directions. It will be helpful for a while but will not help the long-term situation. Russians are focused on protecting the Polohy and preventing the approach to Volnovakha.

In the Zaporizhzhia Oblast, four settlements were liberated about a week ago. The Ukrainian army secured its positions here over the last couple of days. The Russians will continue to attack so the details are not shared publicly yet.

The Kherson Oblast. A few settlements were liberated east of Kyselivka. The details are not publicly shared at this point. The Russians entered Snihurivka. In the area of the Vysokopillia and Arkhanhelske, the Ukrainian army undertook successful tactical actions that can in the future turn into operational success. Fighting will soon intensify in this area.

In the last 24 hours, Ukrainian aviation attacked Russians 20 times. As a result, the Russians suffered losses: a command and observation post, 2 ammunition depots, a missile and artillery depot, personnel, and equipment.

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 06.00 am, June 30, 2022 is in the dropdown menu below.

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According to information from the General Staff as of 06.00 30.06.2022, supplemented by its [18:00 assessment].

According to information from the General Staff as of 06.00 30.06.2022, supplemented by its [18:00 assessment].

“In the Volyn and Polissya directions, units of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus continue to be in the border areas of the Brest and Gomel regions. According to available information, the military commissariats of the specified regions are studying the possibilities of covert mobilization of the population.

There are no significant changes in the Siversky direction. [Russian forces continue to provide enhanced protection of the Ukrainian-Russian border. In addition, yesterday the aggressor fired on civilian and military infrastructure in the areas of the settlements of Turya and Luhivka in the Sumy region. Inflicted an air strike on the settlement of Uhroidy.]

[In the Slobozhansky direction:]

· In the Kharkiv direction, Russian forces continue to defend the previously occupied positions. It carried out shelling from tanks, mortars, artillery and MLRS in the districts of the city of Kharkiv, the settlements of Pytomnyk, Ukrayinka, Peremoha, Dementiyivka, Prudyanka, Korobochkyne and Rubizhne. [Yesterday, Russian forces fired at the settlements of Kharkiv, Bazaliyivka, Pryshyb, Shestakove, Ruska Lozova, Verkhniy Saltiv, Ivanivka, and Zamulivka.]

· The defenders resolutely suppressed an attempt of enemy assault in the area of ​​the Dementiyivka settlement. The occupiers left. Airstrikes were carried out near Prudyanka and Verkhniy Saltiv.

· In the Sloviansk direction, Russian forces regroup and hold previously occupied frontiers. Fired artillery of various calibres in Mazanivka, Dibrivne and Krasnopill districts. [Yesterday, they shelled in the areas of Dolyna, Bohorodychne, Mykilske, Hrushuvakha and Dovhenke settlements. The occupiers also launched an airstrike near Husarivka.]

In the Donetsk direction, Russian forces, with the support of artillery, try to block the city of Lysychansk and take control of the section of the highway Lysychansk — Bakhmut. Fired at civilian infrastructure in the areas of the settlements of Lysychansk, Verkhnyokamyanka and Siversk. Made an airstrike near Vovchoyarivka. Conducts an offensive near Verkhnyokamyanka and assaults in the area of ​​the Lysychansky Oil Refinery, hostilities continue. [It supported sabotage and reconnaissance groups in the area of ​​Verkhnyokamyanka to support the offensive. Ukrainian soldiers found and neutralized them. The remnants of the occupiers’ SRG retreated.]

· In the Kramatorsk direction, Russian forces did not conduct active hostilities, shelling our positions with artillery.

· In the direction of Bakhmut, shelling was recorded near Berestovo, Pokrovsky and Zvanivka, and an airstrike in the Pokrovsky area. Ukrainian soldiers stopped the offensive and inflicted significant losses on the occupiers in the areas of Klynove and Novoluhanske settlements, as well as repulsed the assault in the direction of the Vuhlehirskaya TPP. In both cases, Russian forces withdrew. [Yesterday, Russian forces fired at the positions of our troops with artillery of various calibres near Klinove, Rozdolivka, Vyimka and Ivano-Daryivka. It struck an air strike near the village of Vidrodzenna. It tried to improve the tactical situation in the area of ​​the settlement of Spirne by offensive actions, was unsuccessful, and withdrew. Our soldiers neutralized a Russian sabotage and reconnaissance group near Berestove.]

· In Avdiyivka, Kurakhivka, Novopavlivka, and Zaporizhzhia directions, Russian forces shelled Vodyane, Avdiivka, Maryinka, Vuhledar, Poltavka, Novoukrayinske, Novosilka, and Orikhov districts. Delivered airstrikes on our positions near Avdiivka and Shcherbaky. Tried to conduct assaults in the Pavlivka area, was unsuccessful, and withdrew. [Yesterday, Russian forces fired mortars, artillery and MLRS at our positions in the areas of the settlements of Avdiivka, Vesele, Pavlivka, Bilohirya, Inzhenerne, Olhivske, Preobrazhenka, and Huliaipilske. In addition, the Russian occupiers launched airstrikes on civilian infrastructure near Orikhove and Scherbaky.]

In the Pivdennyy Buh directions, Russian forces continue to systematically shell civilian and military infrastructure and are regrouping troops. Delivered missiles and airstrikes in the districts of Knyazivka, Potemkyny and Bereznehuvaty. Conducted aerial reconnaissance. The threat of missile strikes on the region’s critical infrastructure continues.

Two “Kalibre” sea-based cruise missile carriers are in readiness for the use of missile weapons in the Black Sea.

Our aviation and missile and artillery units continue to successfully carry out combat tasks — they hit enemy concentrations and ammunition depots.

[In the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine, the occupying power continues to carry out measures of the administrative-police regime. The collection of personal information of local residents, compulsory certification and ban on the population to enter the territory controlled by the Ukrainian authorities are underway.]

[Some units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, which were withdrawn from the territory of Ukraine to regain combat capability, are unable to replenish their units in time due to the reluctance of personnel to take part in the war against Ukraine. Personnel who refused to take part in the war are released, there are attempts to prosecute such persons.]”

According to British Defence Intelligence, (last 48 hours): 

Situation. June 30 2022. Credit: Defense Ministry, UK. ~

Situation. June 30 2022. Credit: Defense Ministry, UK.

· Ukrainian forces continue to hold their positions in the city of Lyschansk following their withdrawal from Sievierodonetsk. Russian forces continue to pursue an approach of creeping envelopment from the Popasna direction, removing the need to force a major new crossing of the Siverskyi Donets River in this sector.

· Current ground combat is likely focused around the Lyschansk oil refinery, 10km south-west of the city centre. At the operational level, Russian forces continue to make limited progress as they attempt to encircle Ukrainian defenders in northern Donetsk Oblast via advances from Izium.

· It is highly likely that Ukrainian forces’ ability to continue fighting delaying battles, and then withdraw troops in good order before they are encircled, will continue to be a key factor in the outcome of the campaign.

· Russian forces continue to make incremental advances in their efforts to encircle the town of Lysychansk. Since 25 June 2022, Russian forces have advanced a further 2km near the Lysychansk oil refinery, south of the town.

· There is a realistic possibility the missile strike on the Kremenchuk shopping centre on 27 June 2022 was intended to hit a nearby infrastructure target. Russia’s inaccuracy in conducting long-range strikes has previously resulted in mass civilian casualty incidents, including at Kramatorsk railway station on 9 April 2022.

· Russian planners highly likely remain willing to accept a high level of collateral damage when they perceive military necessity in striking a target.

It is almost certain that Russia will continue to conduct strikes in an effort to interdict the resupplying of Ukrainian frontline forces. Russia’s shortage of more modern precision strike weapons and the professional shortcomings of their targeting planners will highly likely result in further civilian casualties.

Losses of the Russian army 

As of Monday 30 June, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the war to the present day:

As of Thursday 30 June, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the war to the present day:

  • Personnel — more than 35600 (+150),
  • Tanks — 1573 (+1),
  • Armoured combat vehicles — 3726 (+6),
  • Artillery systems — 790 (+9),
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS — 246 (+0),
  • Air defence means — 104 (+1),
  • Aircraft — 217 (+0),
  • Helicopters — 185 (+0),
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks — 2602 (+4),
  • Vessels/boats — 14 (+0),
  • UAV operational and tactical level — 641 (+1),
  • Special equipment — 61 (+0),
  • Mobile SRBM system — 4 (+0),
  • Cruise missiles — 143 (+1)

Russian enemy suffered the greatest losses (of the last day) in the Bahmut direction.

Humanitarian 

Another exchange of prisoners took place, thanks to which 144 Ukrainian defenders returned home, the Ukrainian General Staff reports. This is the largest exchange since the beginning of a full-scale Russian invasion. Of the 144 fired, 95 are Azovstal defenders. Among them are 43 servicemen of the Azov Regiment. The release included 59 soldiers of the National Guard; 30 — Navy; 28 — Armed Forces of Ukraine; 17 — State Border Guard Service of Ukraine; 9 — Territorial Defense of the Armed Forces; and 1 — National Police of Ukraine. The oldest of the released turned 65, the youngest — 19.

Most of the released Ukrainians have serious injuries: gunshot and shrapnel wounds, explosive injuries, burns, fractures, and amputations of limbs. They all receive appropriate emergency medical and psychological care.

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1542236208809406464

Russia claims it will not exchange [more] Ukrainian PoWs, Ukrayinska Pravda reports, citing Fontanka. “Russia has claimed that a decision has been made not to exchange Ukrainian prisoners of war, according to Aleksandr Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation. “We have decided not to give them back, we’ve received the appropriate approvals. Because they thought: ‘We’ll surrender and then get home to our families. No, the only places they’re going to are temporary detention centres and pre-trial detention centres.”

On 28 June Bastrykin said that 2,000 Ukrainian prisoners of war arrived “yesterday.” Kyrylo Budanov, head of Ukrainian intelligence responsible for the exchange of Ukrainian soldiers who took part in the defence of Azovstal, said that he hopes to free a significant number of Ukrainian prisoners of war shortly.”

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1542011904218071041

Russians intend to send Crimean teachers to work in occupied Ukrainian cities — CrimeaSOS, Ukrayinska Pravda reports, citing CrimeaSOS. “Residents of temporarily occupied Crimea have been requested to make lists of teachers who may be sent to work in other Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine, namely to Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts.

Most Ukrainian teachers refuse to cooperate with the occupying forces’ regime. For example, 90% of the 2,700 employees of the Melitopol Department of Education refused to work under the aggressors’ control. Similarly, only two out of sixty school principals in Kherson agreed to cooperate with the aggressors. At the same time, the Russians claim that Ukrainian children in the occupied cities, including those in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast, will study the Russian school curriculum starting on September 1.”

Millions of refugees from Ukraine have crossed borders into neighbouring countries, and many more have been forced to move inside the country. The escalation of conflict in Ukraine has caused civilian casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure, forcing people to flee their homes seeking safety, protection and assistance the UNHCR reports. As of 28 June:

Individual refugees from Ukraine recorded across Europe: 5,387,366

· Belarus, Hungary, Republic of Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia 2,887,942

· Other European countries 2,499,424

Refugees from Ukraine registered for Temporary Protection or similar national protection schemes in Europe: 3,537,148

· Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia 1,340,229

· Other European countries 2,196,919

Border crossings from Ukraine (since 24 February 2022): 8,402,336

Border crossings to Ukraine (since 28 February 2022): 3,097,412

OHCHR recorded 10,631 civilian casualties in Ukraine as of June 26. 4,731 were killed (including 330 children) and 5,900 injured (including 489 children).

️Environmental 

Threat to nuclear security: Russian occupiers want to turn off cooling of Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant during a search for weapons, Ukrayinska Pravda reports, citing the National Atomic Energy Generating Company Energoatom. “The invaders, who are at the ZNPP, are going to accuse the Ukrainian nuclear power plant workers of storing weapons within the territory of the plant. For this purpose, several plant workers were detained and tortured to coerce a confession (or rather to accept blame) that back in March, they had dropped some weapons, explosives or shells, into the concrete basins of the cooling pools at ZNPP.

Under this pretext, Russian invaders want to drain the cooling pools to check the basins and to stop the pumps that supply water to the safety systems of the power units. Energoatom emphasises that if ZNPP is left without cooling, it could become a threat to nuclear safety due to the risk of overheating and equipment failure, especially in the current heat.”

Legal 

Moscow-administered Kherson prepares referendum on joining Russia-TASS, Reuters reports. “The Moscow-imposed military-civilian administration in Ukraine’s Kherson region said it had begun preparations for a referendum on joining Russia, Russian state news agency TASS reported on Wednesday.”

341 children were killed, and 631 children injured, the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine reports as of June 30. 2,096 educational establishments are damaged as a result of shelling and bombings, 215 of them are destroyed fully. 20,488 crimes of aggression and war crimes and 10,195 crimes against national security were registered.

Russo-Ukrainian War, Day 127: Azov defenders returned to Ukraine. The largest prisoner exchange of the war. ~~

Support 

UK to allocate £1B to Ukraine for offensive operations, Ukrinform reports, citing Bloomberg. “Britain will almost double its military support to Ukraine with an extra £1 billion (over $1.2 billion), to help the country move to offensive operations. The uplift in funding, to be announced by Boris Johnson at the NATO summit in Madrid on Thursday, will go toward air defence systems, uncrewed aerial vehicles, electronic warfare equipment and thousands of pieces of vital kit for Ukrainian soldiers, his office said in an emailed statement”.

NATO allies to send weapons to Kyiv for as long as necessary — Germany’s Scholz, Reuters reports. “NATO allies will continue to supply Ukraine with weapons in its war against Russia for as long as necessary, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in Madrid on Wednesday. The message is: We will continue to do so — and to do this intensively — for as long as it is necessary to enable Ukraine to defend itself, he added.”

Hans Petter Midttun: The statement is probably intentionally ambiguous. Since NATO has not defined what a victory looks like, it is impossible to define the scope of the commitment. What does “as long as necessary” mean? Until Russia offer a ceasefire agreement? Until Russian advance has been stopped? Until Russian forces have been evicted from Ukraine? All of Ukraine (1991 borders) or parts of Ukraine (23 February 2022 frontline)? What does support “this intensively” mean? USA or Germany “intensive”? And what exactly does “as long as it is necessary to enable Ukraine to defend itself” mean? Ukraine has been defending itself for more than 8 years already.

Ukraine is establishing a Strategic Group and a Defense Coordination Center, the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine (DIU) reports. “To improve the coordination of the support of the Ukrainian [Armed Forces] together with foreign allies, the military-political leadership of Ukraine has created a Strategic Group, Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Andriy Yermak, said. The group will include representatives of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, as well as representatives of the military headquarters of the United States, Great Britain and other key partner countries, “said Andriy Yermak.

“Every day we face many complex organizational, logistical, technological and other problems. Therefore, at the initiative of the Office of the President of Ukraine, the Coordination Center for Defense of our state also started working. He is a key part of the security assistance system, ”he said.

We are learning. Quickly, the Minister of Defense of Ukraine Alexey Reznikov said. “Today, our army is equipped with modern powerful equipment and weapons. The one we could only dream of a few months ago. They seemed unreachable. As once Stinger, Javelin, NLAW, which have become familiar to our defenders. Our partners provide us with crucial support not only in the political, diplomatic and military-technical areas. An important component is the training of our servicemen.

The main focus is on training specialists in the application of self-propelled and towed large-calibre artillery systems; MLRS; means of artillery reconnaissance, including radar; means of air defence; different types of wheeled and tracked vehicles; demining systems, including underwater; and different types of ships and their weapons systems, including anti-ship.

Since April, thousands of servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine have been trained in the use and operation of foreign-made weapons and military equipment abroad. To date, they have mastered 155 mm artillery systems M777, FH-70, ACS M109, “Caesar” and PzH 2000, MLRS M142 HIMARS, ACS “Crab”, as well as a significant number of armoured combat vehicles M113, FV-103, Bushmaster, Senator, Mastiff, Husky and Wolfhound.

Our partners continue to train the personnel of the Armed Forces. Now the next Ukrainian military is acquiring the basics of operation of 155 mm M777 artillery systems, Crab SAU, M142 HIMARS, M270 and MARS II multiple rocket launchers.

Training continues on self-propelled anti-aircraft guns “Cheetah 1A2”; Sandown class minesweepers; crews of VAB armoured personnel carriers, M80-A infantry fighting vehicles; specialists in conducting air reconnaissance and surveillance; and specialists in the neutralization of explosives and demining, including underwater.

The training takes place in Great Britain, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, France and Germany. Moreover, this week, with the support of the United Kingdom, another project was launched — a course of basic general military training of servicemen of the Armed Forces. The first few hundred servicemen have already arrived for training. In total, the project is designed to train more than one thousand of our servicemen.

We are learning. We learn quickly. We will quickly master aviation and other types of high-tech weapons. We will kick the terrorist occupant out of our land. Victory is ours,” Reznikov said.

EU starts delivery of over 90 off-road trucks to support Ukraine Army, Ukrinform reports. “The EU has started to deliver more than 90 off-road trucks to the Armed Forces of Ukraine under the European Peace Facility. The trucks will support medical, engineering and logistic units of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the [EU Delegation to Ukraine said in a statement posted on its website].”

Ukraine gets $1.3B from the US as part of a state budget financing package, Ukrinform reports. “Ukraine has received a $1.3 billion grant from the United States as part of a state budget funding package, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Twitter.”

Canada to provide $150M loan to Ukraine, Ukrinform reports. “Canada will provide a CAD200 million (nearly USD150 million) loan to Ukraine through the International Monetary Fund to help meet its urgent liquidity needs.”

Kuleba: Ukraine already working with the EU on the seventh package of sanctions, Ukrinform reports. “Yesterday, the G7 issued its declaration, and I will remind you that eight people actually took part in this meeting — seven leaders and President of the European Council Charles Michel, who represented the EU, was the eighth. They made it clear that the next [round of] sanctions would be unveiled soon. The United States and Canada already announced their sanctions, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba told journalists. He also noted that he considered the decisions of Canada and the United States a great impetus for the European Union.”

New developments 

A. Russian senator threatens Lithuania with war due to Kaliningrad, Ukrayinska Pravda reports, citing Interfax. “Vladimir Dzhabarov, the First Deputy Chairman of the Committee of the Federation Council on International Affairs, said that the “blockade” of Kaliningrad Oblast could lead to an armed conflict with Russia. Lithuania has restricted the transit of steel and ferrous metals to Kaliningrad Oblast, citing the clarifications of the European Union. Moscow has said that these transit restrictions violate international agreements and has threatened to retaliate.”

According to Reuters, trade through Lithuania to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad could return to normal within days, two sources familiar with the matter said, as European officials edge towards a compromise deal with the Baltic state to defuse a row with Moscow. While Western powers have pledged to stand up for Ukraine, reiterating their resolve at both G7 and NATO summits this week, it is proving hard for Europe both to stand by strict sanctions and avoid further escalation with Russia. That’s why European officials, with the backing of Germany, are seeking a compromise to resolve one of their many conflicts with Moscow, said one of the people.

B. Russia threatens retaliation against Norway over access to Arctic islands, Reuters reports. “Russia said on Wednesday that restrictions imposed by Norway [as a consequence of EU sanctions] were blocking goods for Russian-populated settlements on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, and threatened unspecified retaliatory measures unless Oslo resolves the issue.”

C. Norway blames a “pro-Russian group” for a cyber attack, Reuters reports. “A number of institutions in Norway have been subjected to a so-called distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) cyber attack in the last 24 hours, the Norwegian NSM security authority said on Wednesday, blaming a criminal pro-Russian group”.

D. Putin states that war goals have not changed, but tactics “may be different”, Ukrayinska Pravda reports, citing Interfax. “Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that Russia’s goals against Ukraine have not changed, but the tactics may be different.”

E. Citing Russia threat, Biden to ramp up US forces in Europe, Reuters reports. “The United States will create a new permanent army headquarters in Poland and deploy additional land, air and sea forces across the length and breadth of Europe in response to threats from Russia, US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday. New US warships will go to Spain, fighter jet squadrons to Britain, ground troops to Romania, air defence units to Germany and Italy and a wide range of assets to the Baltics, Biden announced at a NATO summit in Madrid.

US officials declined to provide details on how many additional personnel would be sent to Europe as a result of the changes. The US military has already added some 20,000 extra personnel on the continent since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, bringing the total to around 100,000.”

F. Turkey lifts its veto at NATO, The New York Times reports. “The leaders of the alliance began a summit today with a breakthrough: Turkey dropped its opposition to having Sweden and Finland join NATO. The announcement came after Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, met for almost three hours with his Swedish and Finnish counterparts as NATO leaders gathered in Madrid.

G. Ukraine remains committed to NATO integration — official statement after the Summit, European Pravda reports. “Official Kyiv believes Ukraine already meets NATO standards and is committed to integration. Zhovkva, who heads the Ukrainian delegation to the summit, stresses that NATO membership remains the best guarantee of security for Ukraine.”

H. NATO invites Finland and Sweden to join, says Russia is a ‘direct threat’, Reuters reports. “NATO invited Sweden and Finland on Wednesday to join the military alliance in one of the biggest shifts in European security in decades after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushed Helsinki and Stockholm to drop their traditional neutrality. NATO’s 30 allies took the decision at their summit in Madrid and also agreed to formally treat Russia as the “most significant and direct threat to the allies’ security”, according to a summit statement.”

I. Putin: Russia will respond if NATO sets up infrastructure in Finland or Sweden, Reuters reports. “With Sweden and Finland, we don’t have the problems that we have with Ukraine. They want to join NATO, go ahead,” Putin told Russian state television. But they must understand there was no threat before, while now if military contingents and infrastructure are deployed there, we will have to respond in kind and create the same threats for the territories from which threats towards us are created.”

J. Kuleba to OSCE: Suspend Russia or It Will Destroy OSCE, European Pravda reports. “Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, called on the OSCE to find a way to suspend Russia’s mandate due to the war it has unleashed. Otherwise, Russia would destroy OSCE itself.

K. Macron doesn’t see a need for labelling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, Ukrinform reports. “We condemn these war crimes, but we do not need any qualifications to impose these sanctions on Russia, Macron said during the final press conference of the G7 summit when asked about Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. As reported, on Tuesday, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky called on the United States to recognize Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.”

L. Bulgaria expels 70 Russian diplomatic staff over espionage concerns, Reuters reports. “Bulgaria said on Tuesday it was expelling 70 Russian diplomatic staff over espionage concerns and had set a cap on the size of Moscow’s representation as tensions between two countries that were once close allies fractured over Ukraine.

M. German lawmaker calls for inquiry into deliberately making Germany dependent on Russian energy, Ukrinform reports, citing Guildhall. “Germany’s energy dependence on Russia could be created deliberately so it is necessary to investigate the reasons behind the move. It’s really the dependency which was created by Chancellor Schroeder and Chancellor Merkel in the last 16 to 20 years, and this dependency was on purpose. And we have to really investigate what the reason was that we cut off a lot of suppliers from Norway, the Netherlands, Algeria, and other countries, why we did not build LNG terminals instead of receiving Russian gas, [Roderich Kiesewetter, a member of the German parliament, Bundestag, with the CDU / CSU], said. He stressed the need for an investigation to find out why this dependency was created on purpose.”

N. The US accuses five firms in China of supporting Russia’s military, Reuters reports. “US President Joe Biden’s administration added five companies in China to a trade blacklist on Tuesday for allegedly supporting Russia’s military and defence industrial base, flexing its muscle to enforce sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of Saturday 29 June, 2022:

Assessed Control of Terrain in Ukraine and Main Russian Maneuver Axes as of June 29, 2022, 3:00 PM ET. Credit: ISW. ~

Assessed Control of Terrain in Ukraine and Main Russian Maneuver Axes as of June 29, 2022, 3:00 PM ET. Credit: ISW.

The Ukrainian Resistance Center reported on June 28 that the Kremlin is setting conditions to annex areas of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia into the Russian Federation under the template of the pre-1917 “Tavriia Gubernia.” The Tavriia (or Tauride) Gubernia was a historical province of the Russian Empire. Under the Tavriia Gubernia scenario, the left bank of Kherson Oblast and part of Zaporizhzhia Oblast would be directly annexed to the Russian Federation, likely as a single unit. The Ukrainian Resistance Center stated that Russian authorities are preparing for a pseudo-referendum to set conditions for the annexation of the Tavriia Gubernia (as opposed to proxy “people‘s Republics“). The Russians are also requiring Ukrainian citizens in southern Ukraine to open bank accounts with Russian state-owned Promsvyazbank. Head of Ukraine’s Kherson Oblast Administration Hennadiy Lahuta reported that Russian forces have locked down civilian traffic in northern Kherson Oblast and are not allowing anyone to enter or exit the occupied territory, which may be an additional attempt to control the civilian population in preparation for annexation measures.

Ukrainian sources warned on June 29 that Russian forces may be planning a false flag provocation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) to accuse Ukrainian authorities of mishandling nuclear facilities. Ukrainian nuclear operating enterprise Energoatom stated that Russian occupation authorities are planning to throw unsafe objects into the cooling system at the NPP in order to compromise the plant’s cooling mechanisms. Mayor of Enerhodar Dmytro Orlov added that Russian troops have been kidnapping and torturing employees of the NPP to coerce confessions that employees dropped weapons into the cooling systems to sabotage the plant and blame Ukrainian authorities for paying inadequate attention to the management of the NPP. Russian troops have previously demonstrated irresponsible and dangerous behaviour in and around nuclear power plants, firing on nuclear facilities at the Zaporizhzhia NPP in early March and digging into radioactive soil in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone.

Key Takeaways

  • Ukrainian sources reported that Russian authorities may be preparing to annex areas of southern Ukraine as the “Tavriia Gubernia” and that Russian authorities are setting conditions for annexation through preparing referenda in occupied areas.
  • Russian forces may be planning a false flag provocation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations in and around Lysychansk.
  • Russian forces made marginal gains east of Bakhmut along the E40 highway and may seek to prepare for a direct offensive on Bakhmut.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations to advance on Sloviansk from the northwest near the Kharkiv-Donetsk Oblast border.
  • Russian forces are continuing to engage in offensive operations north of Kharkiv City, indicating that the Kremlin has territorial ambitions beyond the Donbas that will continue to attrit manpower and equipment, potentially at the cost of offensive power on more critical axes of advance.

Russian forces continued to reinforce their defensive presence along the Southern Axis.

Putin still wants most of Ukraine, war outlook grim -US intelligence chief, Reuters reports. “Russian President Vladimir Putin still wants to seize most of Ukraine, but his forces are so degraded by combat that they likely can only achieve incremental gains in the near term, the top US intelligence officer said Wednesday.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, outlining the current US intelligence assessment of the more than four-month war, said that the consensus of US spy agencies is that it will grind on for an extended period of time. In short, the picture remains pretty grim and Russia’s attitude toward the West is hardening, Haines told a Commerce Department conference. […] Haines’ comments suggested that the billions of dollars in modern arms being supplied by the United States and other countries to Zelinsky’s forces may not give them the ability to turn the tide against Russia any time soon.

She said that Putin remains intent on overruning most of Ukraine even though Ukrainian forces beat back Russia’s attempt to capture the capital Kyiv in February, forcing Moscow to reduce its target to seizing the entire eastern Donbas region. We think he has effectively the same political goals that we had previously, which is to say that he wants to take most of Ukraine, Haines said.

Russian forces, however, have been so degraded by more than four months of combat that it is unlikely they can achieve Putin’s goal any time soon, Haines said in her first public assessment of the war since May. We perceive a disconnect between Putin’s near-term military objectives in this area and his military’s capacity, a kind of mismatch between his ambitions and what the military is able to accomplish,” she said.

Haines said US intelligence agencies see three possible scenarios, the most likely being a grinding conflict in which Russian forces “ake incremental gains, with no breathrough. The other scenarios include a major Russian breakthrough and Ukraine succeeding in stabilizing the frontlines while achieving small gains, perhaps near the Russian-held city of Kherson and other areas of southern Ukraine. It will take years for Russia to rebuild its forces, she said.

“During this period, we anticipate that they’re going to be more reliant on assymetric tools that they have, such as cyber attacks, efforts to control energy, even nuclear weapons in order to try to manage and project power and influence globally,” Haines said.

In the interim, Russian troops are unlikely to be able to conduct multiple simultaneous operations, Haines continued. Putin’s priority now, she said, is making gains in the Donbas region and collapsing Ukrainian forces, a development that Russia assesses will cause the resistance from within to slump.”

An assessment of the ongoing land battle in eastern Ukraine, by Michael Kofman, Research Program Director in the Russia Studies Program at CNA and a Fellow at the Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, DC:

“A few thoughts on the current course of the war. The Russian offensive grinds on in the Donbas. Both sides have made incremental gains, neither is near collapse, but equally, both lack the forces for a major breakthrough. Over the past month, Russian forces struggled to break out of Popasna, but have now taken Sievierodonetsk, and their advance at Toshkivka places them outside Lysychansk. The Russian military now threatens to sever the Sievierodonetsk/Lysychansk pocket.

After first reinforcing the city, [Ukraine Armed Forces (UAF)] was forced to withdraw from Sievierodonetsk to Lysychansk, and from the area around Zolote. This allowed the Russian military to advance, threatening ground lines of communication. If successful, Russian forces will eventually run into a UAF line of defence at Bakhmut-Siversk. This will reset the battle line further west, but UAF positions around Sloviansk and Kramatorsk remain heavily fortified. Russian forces have not had much success pushing from Izium.

Due to heavy losses in the early weeks of the war and difficulty in coordinating forces, the Russian military has been unable to conduct larger envelopments. Instead, forced into a plodding advance, concentrating fires, and levelling towns, to press UAF forces from their positions.

The Russian goal in Donbas is likely to set up a battle for Sloviansk/Kramatorsk, with an axis of advance from Izium and another from the east, assuming they were able to get past Bakhmut. This objective appears aspirational at best. The offensive in this part of the battlefield is likely to drag on, perhaps well into July or August. Though both sides are liable to become exhausted due to losses of manpower and materiel.

North of Kharkiv there has been a see-saw battle between UAF efforts to push Russian artillery away from the city and Russian efforts to retain a buffer. The fight is indecisive. It does not appear that UAF has the forces to threaten Russian supplies to Izium.

Around Kherson, west of the river, UAF forces have made steady gains eating away at Russian positions and inching a bit closer to the city. The battle lines are more fluid here, and Russian forces are the most spread out in these positions. Kherson is where a future UAF counter-offensive could play out. Despite the present focus on the Donbas, economically and strategically Kherson is more significant, and it is where UAF ability to conduct offensive operations will likely be tested in the future.

The battle over Donbas is important but not especially decisive for Ukraine. UAF has sought to exhaust Russian forces there by forcing attritional fights over cities/towns, while making localized counterattacks along other parts of the front. Recently there have been UAF advances in the southern part of the Donbas by Vuledar. This suggests that Russian forces, while concentrated on the Lysychansk salient, are stretched thinly across a 800km+ front.

The general lack of force availability (on both sides) has forced this into an attrition war. The Russian military holds a substantial advantage in fires, although not a dramatic advantage in manpower and materiel, hence a lack of momentum in operations. Despite the focus on [territory], who advanced at what rate, etc. the more important question is how the fighting affects the two forces and their prospects for sustaining the war. Gains may be small, but losses on both sides in a battle are high.

Russian forces are increasingly dependent on mobilized manpower from LDNR, Wagner ChVK, volunteers & reserve battalions manned by recently contracted servicemen. These units now absorb the bulk of the attrition. Fighting for Sievierodonetsk was largely by LNR mobilized units. The Russian military is using LDNR as dismounted infantry, and trying to cobble the rest together (VDV, Motor rifle units, Wagner formations) into groups capable of offensive manoeuvre. They shift more capable forces around the battlefield to attempt localized advances.

On the UAF side, significant losses in recent months have led to a growing dependence on territorial defence forces and lower-quality replacements. However, the situation does not suggest UA forces are anywhere near collapse in the Donbas. Ukrainian discourse in recent weeks had begun to paint a bleak picture in part to motivate faster delivery of Western military aid. UAF is in a capability trench, low on ammunition, with losses mounting, and in need of artillery and MLRS to attain some parity in an attrition war.

HIMARS will allow UAF to conduct strikes at tactical-operational depths, hitting Russian logistics & C2. But this capability is being provided in instalments and the impact could be greatest when it is first introduced before Russian forces attempt to adapt. This phase of the war will probably drag on into the summer. Costs on both sides are mounting, unsustainable casualties may lead to an operational pause in the coming months. That will still see a relatively dynamic battlefield rather than a stalemate (this is a guestimate).

Overall, the local military balance in Donbas favours Russia, but long term trends still favour Ukraine. However, that estimate is conditional on sustained Western military assistance and is not necessarily predictive of outcomes. This is likely to be a protracted war.

I will follow up with a thread on force quality and availability. This strikes me as the more important question to examine. There are issues with degradation of force quality on both sides, and adaptations taking place that will shape the course of the war.

I’ll add that at this rate Russian gains in the Donbas are likely to be limited chiefly to Luhansk oblast, i.e. I’m sceptical of Russian ability to press into Sloviansk/ Kramatorsk. If sufficiently armed, UAF should be able to generate forces for its own offensive in a later phase.”

NATO’s new strategic vision addresses a changed dynamic with Russia and China, The New York Times reports. “For the first time in more than a decade, NATO on Wednesday announced a new strategic vision designed to respond to a newly resurgent and bellicose Moscow and to meet the global challenges posed by China. The mission statement, published on Wednesday at NATO’s summit in Madrid, is meant as a guide for the alliance’s defence posture, military focus and spending. The last such document came 12 years ago, in 2010, while there was still considerable optimism about cooperation with a post-Soviet Russia.

The Euro-Atlantic area is not at peace,” the new statement, known as NATO’s “strategic concept” says. “The Russian Federation has violated the norms and principles that contributed to a stable and predictable European security order. We cannot discount the possibility of an attack against Allies’ sovereignty and territorial integrity. […]

The new strategic concept pledges cooperation among the 30 members to counter the growing cooperation between China and Russia. “The deepening strategic partnership between the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation and their mutually reinforcing attempts to undercut the rules-based international order run counter to our values and interests,” the document says. […]

The new version envisions Russia as “the most significant and direct threat to our security,” said Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary-general. The alliance’s stance on China was the subject of significant internal debate. Washington sees China as its main rival and as a threat to American power in the Pacific.”

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