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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 486: Wagner group returns to field camps

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 486: Wagner group returns to field camps
Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

Wagner group stopped troops 200 km from Moscow. Russian authorities announce “counter-terrorist measures” in Moscow city and oblast. Prigozhin says, the Wagner group to return to field camps.

Prigozhin stops Wagner forces 200 km away from Moscow, says they return to field camps

Daily overview — Summary report, June 24

Source: War Mapper.

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, June 24, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. June 23, 2023. Source: ISW.

 

Last night, the adversary launched yet another missile and air strike on Ukraine, detailed update information to follow.

On June 23, the enemy launched a missile and air strike on Ukraine, using 14 Kh-101/Kh-555 cruise missiles, 3 Shahed drones, and 4 S-300 anti-aircraft guided missiles targeting Zaporizhzhia.

The Ukrainian air defence forces and means intercepted 14 missiles and 2 drones. Also, Ukrainian defenders intercepted 1 Russian Ka-52 attack helicopter and 7 reconnaissance UAVs.

In addition, the enemy launched 51 airstrikes and 59x MLRS attacks. Unfortunately, the attacks caused civilian casualties.

The likelihood of missile and air strikes across Ukraine remains high.

The adversary focuses its main efforts on Lyman, Avdiivka, and Marinka axes, with more than 28 combat engagements taking place On June 23.

  • Volyn and Polissya axes: no significant changes.
Luhansk Battle Map. June 23, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: the adversary launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Pavlivka (Sumy oblast), Hatyshche, and Pletenivka (Kharkiv oblast). The invaders fired mortars and artillery at the settlements of Karpovychi, Karabany, Mykhal’chyna Sloboda (Chernihiv oblast), Seredyna-Buda, Shalyhyne, Popivka, Atyns’ke, Iskryskivshchyna, Volfyne, Pavlivka, Stukalivka, Obody, Kindrativka (Sumy oblast), Hur’yiv Kozachok, Udy, Veterynarne, Kozacha Lopan’, Strilecha, Oliinykove, Neskuchne, Ohirtseve, Hatyshche, Vovchans’k, Nesterne, Pletenivka, Budarky, Zemlyanky, Ozerne, Vil’khuvatka, Chuhunivka, Topoli (Kharkiv oblast).
  • Kupiansk axis: the adversary shelled Krasne Pershe, Fyholivka, Dvorichna, Zapadne, Kup’yans’k, Masyutivka, Kyslivka, and Berestove (Kharkiv oblast) with artillery and mortars.
Donetsk Battle Map. June 23, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Lyman axis: the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensives towards Vesele and south of Dibrova. The invaders launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Nevs’ke (Luhansk Oblast), Bilohorivka, and Sivers’k (Donetsk Oblast). Nevs’ke, Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast), Tors’ke, Serebryanka, Verkhn’yokam’yans’ke, Spirne, and Rozdolivka (Donetsk oblast) were shelled with artillery.
Bakhmut Battle Map. June 23, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Bakhmut axis: the adversary launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Khromove, Ivanivske, Pervomaiske, and Predtechyne (Donetsk oblast). Vasyukivka, Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Bohdanivka, Chasiv Yar, Ivanivske, Pivdenne, and New York (Donetsk oblast) suffered from enemy artillery shelling.
  • Avdiivka axis: the adversary attempted offensive operations in the vicinity of Avdiivka (Donetsk oblast), to no success. The invaders launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Novokalynove, Ocheretyne, Nevelske, Avdiivka, and Sjeverne. The occupant forces fired artillery at the settlements of Berdychi, Avdiivka, Tonen’ke, Karlivka, and Nevel’s’ke (Donetsk oblast).
  • Marinka axis: the enemy conducted offensive operations in the vicinity of Mar’inka (Donetsk oblast), to no success. At the same time, the settlements of Krasnohorivka, Mar’inka, and Heorhiivka (Donetsk oblast) were shelled with enemy artillery.
  • Shakhtarske axis: the enemy conducted unsuccessful offensives towards Vuhledar and Zolota Nyva. The occupant forces launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Zolota Nyva, Storozheve, Makarivka, and Blahodatne (Donetsk oblast). The invaders shelled the settlements of Paraskoviivka, Novomykhailivka, Blahodatne, Vil’ne Pole, Zelene Pole, Novopil’, Vodyane, Vuhledar, and Storozheve (Donetsk oblast).

    Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. June 23, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Zaporizhzhia and Kherson axes: the adversary stays on the defensive, focusing its main efforts on preventing the advance of our troops. The enemy attempted to regain the lost positions near Makarivka (Donetsk oblast). The invaders launched airstrikes in the vicinities of settlements of Novodanylivka, Orikhiv, Stepnohirs’k (Zaporizhzhia oblast), Vesele, Kozats’ke, and Antonivka (Kherson oblast). The occupant forces shelled the settlements of Novodarivka, Temyrivka, Levadne, Malynivka, Hulyaipole, Huliaipilske, Charivne, Zaliznychne, Bilohir’ya, Novodanylivka, Omel’nyk, Chervona Krynytsya, Preobrazhenka, Orikhiv, Yehorivka, Novoandriivka, Stepove, P’yatykhatky (Zaporizhzhia oblast), Prydniprovs’ke, Nikopol’ (Dnipropetrovska oblast), Kachkarivka, Respublikanets’, Kozats’ke, Shlyakhove, Burhunka, Zolota Balka, Dudchany, Ivanivka, Molodizhne, Bilozerka, Romashkove, Antonivka, Zelenivka, Kherson, Zymivnyk, Dniprovs’ke, Yantarne, Berehove, Veletens’ke (Kherson oblast).
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. June 23, 2023. Source: ISW.

[The Russian occupiers continue to use the infrastructure of temporarily captured settlements to provide medical aid to their wounded servicemen. In the village of Chkalov, Zaporizhzhia region, on the territory of a kindergarten, the invaders set up a field hospital. The arrival of two trucks with medical equipment was recorded.]

On June 23, the Ukrainian Air Force launched 13 air strikes on the concentrations of the adversary troops.

On June 23, the Ukrainian missile and artillery troops hit 4 concentrations of troops and military equipment, 15 artillery units at their firing positions, 2 electronic warfare assets, and 5 air defence assets.

 

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Russian Defence Minister should have been tried, and Putin is being deceived – New criticism of Wagner Group’s head, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Prigozhin’s video. “Yevgeny Prigozhin, owner of the Russian Wagner Private Military Company (PMC), criticised Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and the General Staff for the failure of hostilities, stating that Ukraine did not plan to attack Donbas in 2022, and said that the Russian officials wanted the war, and the oligarchs wanted to make money.   

After 2014, the entire Donbas was scattered and looted by various people. Some of them were from the presidential administration, some from the FSB, some oligarchs, such as Kurchenko [Serhii – ed.], were involved. These are people who stole money from the residents of Donbas, who were in the unrecognised republics of LNR [so-called Luhansk People’s Republic – ed.] and DNR [so-called Donetsk People’s Republic – ed.]. […]

Prigozhin also said that as of February 2022, Ukraine was not preparing an offensive on Donbas. As of 24 February, there was nothing extraordinary [on the contact line in Donbas – ed.].  Now the Russian Defence Ministry is trying to deceive society, is trying to deceive the president and create a story that there was insane aggression on the part of Ukraine, and they tried to attack us together with the entire NATO bloc.”

Prigozhin once again criticised the combat capability of the Russian army, which is not capable of conducting large-scale combat operations, and the generals decorate themselves with medals like a Christmas tree. He personally accused Shoigu of killing thousands of Russian soldiers in the first days of the war. He killed the most combat-ready part of the army, Prigozhin said. The war, according to him, was needed so that a bunch of critters would promote themselves and show off what a strong army we have so that Shoigu would get [the title of] marshal and a second hero star. The war was also beneficial to the oligarchic clan that actually rules Russia today. […]

Prigozhin also criticised the Russian General Staff and its head Valery Gerasimov for the lack of leadership. Later, Prigozhin said that he wrote a statement to the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation regarding Shoigu and Gerasimov. They still hope that they can win this war. But since there is no management, there are no military successes, the leadership of the Ministry of Defence carefully deceives the president and the president receives reports that do not correspond to reality. Two reports are being formed: one on the ground, the other on the president’s desk. […]

On the ground, the Russian army is now retreating on the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson fronts. The Armed Forces of Ukraine are pushing out the Russian army. We are washed in blood. No one provides reserves. There is no management.”

Prigozhin says Russian Defence Minister attacked Wagner: “There are 25,000 of us, and we are going to sort this out”, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Prigozhin’s press service on TelegramRIA Novosti. “The leader of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has claimed that the regular Russian army launched a missile strike on his mercenaries’ rear camps. Prigozhin added that Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has now fled Rostov like a coward and said “that creature will be stopped”. The Russian Ministry of Defence has called this statement a provocation.

Prigozhin said that the attack was carried out by the Russian Armed Forces: The information from the field suggests that the attack was carried out from the rear, i.e. by forces of the Russian Defence Ministry. These scumbags carried out missile attacks on our rear camps. A large number of our fighters were killed. […]

I am asking everyone not to resist. We will consider anyone who tries to resist as a threat and immediately destroy them. Including any checkpoints on our way. I am asking everyone to stay calm, not to succumb to provocations, and to stay in their homes. Preferably, do not go outside along our route. Justice in the army will be restored, and then justice in the whole of Russia… Shoigu has just fled Rostov like a coward. At 21:00, cowardly as a woman. That creature will be stopped…

There are 25,000 of us, and we are going to figure out why this lawlessness is happening in this country. 25,000 are anticipated as a tactical reserve, and the strategic reserve is the entire army and the entire country. Anyone who wants to join, do so. We need to put an end to this outrage. This is not a military coup, this is a march for justice. Our actions don’t interfere with the troops at all.” […]

Meanwhile, the Russian Defence Ministry claims that all the messages and videos being disseminated on social media on behalf of Prigozhin about “the Russian Defence Ministry striking the ‘rear camps’ of the Wagner Group” are untrue and are an information provocation.”

Armoured vehicles spotted on streets of Rostov after Prigozhin’s statement, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Meduza; Rostov media outlet 161.ru; Russian Telegram channels; BBC Russian Service. “Photos of armoured vehicles on the streets of the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don are being posted on Russian social media following the statement made by Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner Group, about a de facto declaration of war against the Russian army. Checkpoints are being set up at entrances to Moscow. […]

Russian media outlets are reporting that security forces have been put on high alert in the city of Moscow. Astra, citing sources, says that employees of law enforcement agencies in Moscow have received an order to “keep in touch with everyone, don’t go anywhere.”

According to the BBC, the FSB (Federal Security Service), supported by Special Rapid Response units of the National Guard, have set up checkpoints on the Don highway (the Moscow – Voronezh – Rostov-on-Don road). Those on duty there have been ordered to open fire in the event of a threat. Vehicles are on standby, but the unit has not yet received an order to advance.

Several other media outlets have added that Operation Fortress, a plan to protect Interior Ministry facilities, is being implemented in Moscow. The exact actions that personnel are to take under this plan are a state secret, but it is openly known that the entrances and exits to the Interior Ministry building are blocked.”

Military HQ surrounded by tanks in Rostov, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Russian publication Meduza; Telegram channel Astra. “The headquarters of the Southern Military District in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don is surrounded by tanks and men in uniform, while it is not known for certain who exactly surrounded the headquarters – servicemen of the Russian army or mercenaries of the Wagner Private Military Group (PMC).”

Leader of Wagner PMC asserts his units have army helicopter shot down, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing audio recording published by Prigozhin’s press service on Telegram. “Prigozhin claims that Wagner militants shot down a helicopter that opened fire on a civilian convoy. At the same time, the leader of the PMC did not specify exactly where it happened. 

Earlier, Prigozhin said that his “army” crossed the state border of the Russian Federation “everywhere” and entered the city of Rostov-on-Don, and the General Staff of the Russian Federation ordered army units to open fire.”

Three enemy ammo depots smashed in Bakhmut direction, Ukrinform reports, citing the spokesperson for the Eastern Grouping of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Serhii Cherevatyi. “In the previous days, the enemy made attempts to actively storm our positions in the Lyman-Kupiansk direction but was strongly repelled. Over the past day, the enemy’s activity has reduced. There were just two military clashes, Cherevatyi told.

In his words, Russia’s artillery strikes were the most active in the Lyman-Kupiansk direction. The enemy launched 535 cannon and rocket artillery attacks, as well as 13 air attacks. Thirty-one [Russian] occupiers were eliminated and 67 injured. One T-72 tank, one Giatsint-B howitzer, one 82 mm mortar, and three trucks with ammunition were hit, Cherevatyi noted.

In the Bakhmut direction, Russian troops were inactive. However, the enemy launched 282 artillery strikes and four air strikes. Sixty occupiers were reported eliminated, 141 injured, and one was taken prisoner. Additionally, the Ukrainian military destroyed seven Russian howitzers, two self-propelled artillery systems, one Rapira anti-tank gun, one ZALA unmanned aerial vehicle, three ammunition depots, two command and observation posts.”

Loss of Bakhmut would be mega-defeat for Russian Federation, which is why they are moving their forces to East, Censor.net reports, citing the spokesman of the Eastern Group of Forces, Serhii Cherevaty, with reference to Radio Liberty.Partly so (there are more Russian troops in the east of Ukraine. – Ed.), partly he rotates these units, including to the Bakhmut direction. In particular, landing units.

This shows that it is extremely important for them to keep Bakhmut, because it would be a mega defeat, an epic fail. That ten months of trying to take it, not taking it to the end and losing somewhere hundreds (thousands) wounded and tens of thousands killed, he emphasized.”

In Taurian direction, there are tangible successes of Defense Forces and advancing forward, Censor.net reports. “The commander of the operational-strategic grouping of troops “Taurian”, General Oleksandr Tarnavsky, made public information about the successes of the Armed Forces in the South direction. On the Tavria direction, there are tangible successes of the Defense Forces and advancement. Units of missile troops and artillery performed 1,344 fire missions during the day.

Over the last day, the enemy lost more than three companies in killed and wounded. 51 units of enemy military equipment were destroyed. In particular, 3 tanks, 14 BBM (BMP, MTLB), “Supercam” UAV, “Orlan-10” UAV, “Merlin” UAV, 2 2A36 “Hyacinth-B” guns, 3 2C5 “Hyacinth-S” guns, 3 self-propelled artillery 2C7 “Pion” installations, 2 self-propelled artillery installations 2C3 “Acacia”, 2 howitzers 2A65 “Msta-B”. 6 enemy ammunition depots were also destroyed.”

Heavy fighting continues in Avdiivka and Mariinka areas, offensive actions in Melitopol and Berdiansk areas, Censor.net reports, citing Espreso and the spokesman of the joint press center of the Defense Forces of the Taurian direction, Captain Valery Shershen. “Offensive actions continue in the Melitopol and Berdiansk directions – Defence Forces are attacking in the Novodanilivka-Robotyne and Mala Tovkmachka – Novofedorivka areas, he said. According to Shershn, the nature of local offensive actions is currently unchanged.

We have partial success, we are entrenched on the achieved lines, we inflict fire damage with artillery, we carry out counter-battery countermeasures. The enemy has concentrated their main efforts on conducting defence and preventing the advance of our troops in the Melitopol direction. He is using reserves, trying to restore lost positions, the captain added. […]

The enemy does not stop trying to return the lost settlements – of course, he will not succeed. For us, these are already very well-protected bridgeheads for further advance and offensive actions. The advance is hindered by extensive mining of the occupied territories in the enemy’s defense lines. There are positive points – about it is too early to talk about them. We are all looking forward to the further liberation of populated areas. The prerequisites for this are being created, we will not rush and pass off wishful thinking. We are creating conditions in the Ugledarsky direction to continue effective offensive actions. This is a very important bridgehead for us and we are actively working here, concluded Shershen.”

On the night of June 23, 2023, the enemy attacked Ukraine from strategic aircraft, the Ukrainian General Staff reports. “This time the attack was aimed at a military airfield in the Khmelnytskyi region. The launches were carried out around midnight from the Caspian Sea, from four Tu-95ms bombers.

All 13 Kh-101/Kh-555 cruise missiles were destroyed by anti-aircraft defence, most of them in Khmelnytskyi. In addition, the defenders of the sky destroyed a reconnaissance UAV of an unknown type.”

Russian officers killed in explosion in occupied Mariupol – Resistance, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Mariupol Resistance and Petro Andriushchenko, adviser to the legally elected mayor of Mariupol, on Telegram. “Mariupol Resistance has reported that an explosion has occurred in the temporarily occupied city, killing four Russian officers.”

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

  • In the early hours of 24 June 2023, the feud between Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner Group and the Russian MoD escalated into outright military confrontation.
  • In an operation characterised by Prigozhin as a ‘march for freedom’, Wagner Group forces crossed from occupied Ukraine into Russia in at least two locations. In Rostov-on-Don, Wagner has almost certainly occupied key security sites, including the HQ which runs Russia’s military operations in Ukraine.
  • Further Wagner units are moving north through Vorenezh Oblast, almost certainly aiming to get to Moscow. With very limited evidence of fighting between Wagner and Russian security forces, some have likely remained passive, acquiescing to Wagner.
  • Over the coming hours, the loyalty of Russia’s security forces, and especially the Russian National Guard, will be key to how the crisis plays out. This represents the most significant challenge to the Russian state in recent times.
  • Since summer 2022, the Russian Navy has invested in major enhancements to the security of the Black Sea Fleet’s main base at Sevastopol.
  • This includes at least four layers of nets and booms across the harbour entrance. In recent weeks, these defences have highly likely also been augmented by an increased number of trained marine mammals.
  • Imagery shows a near doubling of floating mammal pens in the harbour which highly likely contain bottle-nosed dolphins. In Arctic waters, the navy also uses Beluga whales and seals. Russia has trained animals for a range of missions, but the ones housed in Sevastopol harbour are highly likely intended to counter enemy divers.

Losses of the Russian army 

As of Saturday 24 June, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the invasion to the present day:

  • Personnel – about 223910 (+580)
  • Tanks – 4024 (+7)
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 7804 (+6)
  • Artillery systems – 4015 (+30)
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 619 (+2)
  • Air defence means – 383 (+4)
  • Aircraft – 314 (+0)
  • Helicopters – 308 (+1)
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 6731 (+23)
  • Vessels/boats – 18 (+0)
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 3460 (+13)
  • Special equipment – 548 (+3)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0)
  • Cruise missiles – 1228 (+14)

Russia has increased the production of “Kalibers” and Kh-101 by 3-4 times, – Defence Intelligence, Censor.net reports, citing Major General Vadym Skibitsky, deputy head of the Defence Intelligence, in an interview with RBC-Ukraine. ”Indeed, these missiles… (“Kalibr” and Kh-101. – Ed.), there was an increase in production. This is about 3-4 times. Yes, the Russians produce about thirty-forty missiles, depending on the type. Less – “Kindzal”, up to six units. The level of production now is even a little more than it was before the war (full-scale invasion. – Ed.), Skibytsky noted.

He added that the enemy used most of its stockpiles in massive strikes between October and January, while it stockpiled missiles in March and April. The occupiers have accumulated their reserves, resumed production in most positions, changed or even improved the tactics of using both missile weapons and unmanned aerial vehicles. We saw the result of such measures in May. Especially if you take the indicators of unmanned aerial vehicles. They were used the most, starting from October last year, Skibytsky noted.

He also spoke about the anti-ship complex “Bal”, which was deployed in the Bryansk region. Intelligence has confirmed data that the Russians were actively working to modernize it and get the opportunity to use it against ground targets. Again, the Bal and Bastion complexes were used both from the Crimean Peninsula and from the Kherson region against land targets. But the effectiveness of such use was low because these complexes are primarily intended to combat naval targets. “Bal” is an anti-ship complex, and therefore it is not very effective against land targets, said Skibytskyi.

In the same interview, he says that Russia uses the most foreign components in the production of “Iskanders” and “Kindzal”. Skibytsky also reported that despite the sanctions, the enemy produces 25 “Kalibers”, 2 “Kindzal”, 35 Kh-101, 5 ballistic missiles 9M723 for Iskander-M per month.

Humanitarian 

Almost 700 cases of death and injury of civilians from mines have been recorded in Ukraine, – State Emergency Service, Censor.net reports, citing Serhii Reva, the head of the humanitarian demining organization department of the State Emergency Service, with reference to Ukrinform. “The war makes its adjustments in people’s lives, and citizens have become more cautious. But at the same time, every week in Ukraine one or another case is recorded when there is an injury or, unfortunately, the death of people. And as of today, unfortunately, we have a number in about 700 recorded cases, these are those when people were injured or died from explosive objects,” he said.

The representative of the State Emergency Service also cited data from the Ministry of Reintegration that about 200 people died from landmines in Ukraine, including children. Therefore, demining work is not only demining of explosive objects, it is also conducting explanatory work among the population, bringing to them the rules, recommendations regarding when a person has discovered something (a suspicious object – ed.), what he needs to do at the same time, – noted Reva.”

Ukraine brings back bodies of 51 dead soldiers, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Oleg Kotenko, Commissioner for Persons Missing in Special Circumstances. “On 23 June, Ukraine brought back the bodies of 51 defenders killed in action. […] He added that the process of recovering the bodies of Ukrainian soldiers continues.”

Ukraine has potential to produce food for 600M people, Ukrinform reports, citing Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine on Telegram. “Taras Vysotsky, first deputy minister of agrarian policy and food of Ukraine, believes that Ukraine has the potential to increase the number of people consuming Ukrainian food to 600 million in the coming years.

Vysotsky noted that a discussion on the importance of the Ukrainian agricultural sector in ensuring international food security was held at Ukraine Recovery Conference in London. According to the deputy minister, during the event, the Ukrainian side received assurances of investors’ readiness to invest in Ukraine’s agricultural sector.

As Ukrinform reported, the Ministry of Agrarian Policy and Food of Ukraine presented a strategy for the agricultural sector’s development for the next ten years at Ukraine Recovery Conference in London. According to the strategy, Ukraine’s grain and oilseed production should increase to 150 million tonnes in 10 years.”

Environmental

Water level in Zaporizhzhia NPP cooling pond continues to drop insignificantly, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing an announcement  by Energoatom, Ukraine’s national regulator of nuclear power plants. “A slight drop in the water level in the cooling pond of the Zaporizhzhia NPP was recorded on 23 June, for the second day in a row. As of 06:00 on 23 June, a slight decrease in the water level in the cooling pond has been recorded. Currently, it is 16.60 metres,” the message reads.

Energoatom also reported a slight decrease in the water level the day before, on 22 June. At that time, it was 16.61 m. For comparison, as of 14 June, when the water level remained unchanged, it was16.67 m. At the same time, even with a slight decrease in the water level, this is enough for the plant to keep running.

The situation remains stable and under control, Energoatom notes. The water level in the TPP canal, from where the ZNPP pond is fed if necessary, is currently at  11.15 metres. It should be noted that the water level in the canal has not dropped significantly recently, and its indicators no longer depend on the Kakhovka reservoir, Energoatom emphasised.”

What to do in case of disaster at ZNPP: Ukrainians advised to stay at home for day, Ukrinform reports, citing Ihor Klymenko, the Minister of Internal Affairs. “If people are at home in the event of a disaster at Zaporizhzhia NPP and it is too far to the shelter, they should not run to it during the day. The first thing is to lock yourself in your home for up to 1 day. Until the local authorities, civil defense authorities give an appropriate order to move to a particular area or move around a certain territory, he said. Klymenko added that the radioactive background that may be in the air will last about 1 day.

We are talking about a possible thermal release, which will lose its highest concentration during the day. That is, the radioactive background will decrease by 80% during the day, the minister assured. According to him, during this time, if there are no evacuation measures, every citizen should lock themselves in their rooms and close the ventilation. Ventilation systems – air conditioners, heaters – should be turned off. Citizens should also seal all openings in their homes or apartments with either a dampened cloth or tape.

“It is necessary to stay in rooms without windows and external doors – it means that everything should be clearly closed. Radiation is, by and large, dust. And protection from dust, if you are outside, is a regular respirator or a mask, which we used during the coronavirus. This is all you need to know,” the minister added.

The head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs urged people to watch the media, which will inform the public about the situation and safety measures. As reported, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky instructed Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko to take the necessary measures and to educate the public about the risks at Zaporizhzhia NPP.”

Demilitarization of ZNPP depends on IAEA, international community, Ukrinform reports. “The demilitarization of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant depends on the IAEA and the international community. Deputy Chief of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine Vadym Skibitskyi said this in an interview with RBC-Ukraine. Much depends on the IAEA and its leadership, on the international community, which will still put pressure on the Kremlin to fulfill the basic conditions and secure not just the nuclear facility, but the entire region where the power plant is located, he said.

According to Skibitskyi, the intelligence service does not rule out the possibility of either a planned attack or an incident leading to an accident at ZNPP. Therefore, we clearly advocate that the entire territory of the nuclear power plant should be demilitarized. All military units, weapons and military equipment should be withdrawn from there, he said.

As reported, on June 22, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the Russian Federation was considering a scenario of a terrorist attack at the Zaporizhzhia NPP and had prepared everything for this. In addition, Chief of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine Kyrylo Budanov informed that the Russians had mined a cooler at Zaporizhzhia NPP, and if it was disabled, there was a significant likelihood that there would be big problems.”

Reintegration of Crimea will be more difficult than in case of other territories, Censor.net reports, citing Deputy Prime Minister – Minister for Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories Iryna Vereshchuk in an interview with Ukrinform. “Yes, the reintegration of Crimea will not be simple. It will be more difficult than the reintegration of other temporarily occupied territories and will require a separate approach. And, perhaps, special legislation. Regarding hardness and softness: we must be tough in our approaches to the restoration of Ukrainian state power and in matters of justice and fairness, Vereshchuk emphasized.

At the same time, she added, it is necessary to be flexible in matters of economic and humanitarian reintegration. The main thing is not to repeat the mistakes of the past. There should be no Russian influence on the peninsula. This is the guarantee of our security. Here we are betting on new personnel: young, motivated, and competent. They will do everything properly, she said.

According to the Defense Intelligence, a large part of the occupation administration removed their assets and families from the temporarily occupied peninsula. They consider withdrawal from Crimea as one of the real scenarios.

Support

For the success of counteroffensive, Ukraine needs more aviation and ammunition, – Kuleba, Censor.net reports, citing EP. “Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that for a successful counteroffensive, the armed forces need more planes, helicopters and MANPADS to end Russian dominance in the air. According to the minister, throwing Russia out of the sky is the second most important challenge after the supply of artillery ammunition. He called for such assistance.

The biggest problem of the counteroffensive is the stability of the supply of artillery ammunition, and in sufficient quantity. And the second biggest problem of the counteroffensive is Russia’s dominance in the air, Kuleba explained. The head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized that the current counteroffensive, or the potential next one, should not be considered decisive.

Kuleba also admitted that if his results are not perceived as successful in the West, the voices of those who insist on negotiations will become louder.”

Ukrainian Pion guns now fire US-made projectiles, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Militarnyi portal, with reference to the Twitter account of one of the fighters of the 43rd Brigade of Ukraine’s Armed Forces. “Ukrainian gunners have received US-made 203-mm M106 projectiles for their 2C7 Pion (Peony) self-propelled guns. According to the publication, such projectiles are a part of military aid from the US.

The high-explosive M106 projectiles were originally used to be fired from an M-110, the US 203.2-mm self-propelled howitzer. Militarnyi writes that after more than a year of active hostilities, stocks of Soviet-made projectiles for the Pion guns are running low, so the allies decided to help Ukraine replenish the 203-mm ammunition. A 2C7 Pion is a Soviet 203-mm self-propelled gun designed to destroy priority ground-based targets and enemy fortifications.”

Rheinmetall to Deliver 20 More Marder to Ukraine This Summer, European Pravda reports. “The German armaments group Rheinmetall has announced that it intends to deliver 20 more Marder infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine this summer. According to Welt, the company confirmed the corresponding contract order announced in early June on Friday in Düsseldorf. The German government will pay for the previously stored equipment in Bundeswehr warehouses.

It means that Ukraine will receive 60 Marder vehicles: 40 from Rheinmetall and 20 from Bundeswehr warehouses. Rheinmetall can make a further 60 available, and work on this is already underway at Rheinmetall’s plants in Kassel (Hessen) and Unterlüß (Lower Saxony).”

Duda: Poland Offered Training for Ukrainian Pilots on F-16, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Poland could assist with training Ukrainian pilots on Western fighter jets, specifically F-16s, as they possess such aircraft and personnel with experience. We also offer our training when it comes to F-16 aircraft. As you know, we have a certain pool of F-16s. We have pilots with extensive experience working with F-16s, flying them in different places, not only in Poland. So we have the opportunity for this training, stated Polish President Andrzej Duda in an interview with Ukrainian television channels, including Espreso.

He added that Poland had offered such training. I believe that this will contribute to Ukraine’s victory and serve as a deterrent to the aggressor […]. Providing Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets was discussed during a meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group (the “Ramstein” group) last week.

Following the meeting, it became known that Ukraine’s partners plan to approve a training programme for Ukrainian pilots, engineers, and technicians for the F-16 fighter jets by July. The training itself will take place in a specially established center in one of the European countries.”

Türkiye Licensed Bayrak to Start Production of Drones in Ukraine, European Pravda reports. “The Turkish company Baykar has obtained the necessary licenses from the authorities to manufacture Bayraktar TB2 and Akıncı drones in Ukraine. We have obtained the appropriate license permissions from Türkiye for the full production of Baykar TB2 and Akıncı unmanned aerial vehicles in Ukraine, Yeni Akit quotes Haluk Bayraktar, Baykar’s CEO.

The company plans to commence production in Ukraine in 2025. The total planned investment in the enterprise amounts to $95.5 million. […] According to Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov, the drones manufactured in Ukraine will be equipped with engines of Ukrainian production. Additionally, a training center will be established.”

Danish, Croatian companies to produce demining equipment in Ukraine, Ukrinform reports. “On the sidelines of the Ukraine Recovery Conference in London, two landmark memoranda were signed on the organization of the production of modern equipment for demining in Ukraine,” Dmytro Kysylevsky, Deputy Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Economic Development, posted on Facebook.

In particular, the Pozhmashyna industrial company is preparing production at its facilities in cooperation with the Hydrema Danish company. And the A3Tech-Ukraine company agreed on the production of special equipment using the technologies of the DOK-ING Croatian manufacturer of multi-purpose vehicles.

If there is state order, the Danish government will provide funding, including grant funding, to meet the needs of the Ukrainian services in such equipment, Kysylevsky added.”

New Developments

  1. “This is real”: US highly attuned to situation in Russia, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing CNN. “Officials in the United States are closely following the events in Russia after the latest statements by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner Private Military Group (PMC). As the source of the publication notes, unlike Prigozhin’s previous statements about the ineptitude of the Russian Ministry of Defence, these comments do not appear to have followed a Ukrainian military breakthrough or tactical success. The source of the publication reports that in the United States, they consider Prigozhin’s latest statements to be something more than his usual rhetoric. This is real, said a source of the outlet.”
  2. Putin informed of Prigozhin’s “rebellion” 24/7, access to news being blocked in Russia, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Russian state-owned news agencies TASSRBKNovaya Gazeta; Telegram channel SotaVazhnie Istorii; Russian Service of the BBC. “Russian security officials have been regularly reporting to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the measures taken to counter the “armed rebellion” of the founder of Wagner Private Military Group (PMC) Yevgeny Prigozhin. There are now issues with accessing the news in Russia. According to TASS, citing a spokesman for Russian President Dmitry Peskov, security officials report to Putin around the clock about the measures they are taking in connection with Prigozhin’s attempt to organise a rebellion.”
  3. Putin to deliver video address, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Kremlin-aligned news agencyTASS. “Dmitry Peskov, the Press Secretary of the President of the Russian Federation, said that Putin would deliver an address “shortly”. There is no information on the topic of his speech, but it is expected to be related to the events involving Yevgeny Prigozhin, Chief of the Wagner Private Military Company.”
  4. Russian authorities announce “counter-terrorist measures” in Moscow city and oblast, Ukrainska PravdaMoscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and Moscow Region Governor Andrei Vorobyov have said that “counter-terrorist measures” are being implemented in the capital of the Russian Federation and the Moscow Oblast; in particular, they provide for additional control on the roads. In connection with the incoming information, anti-terrorist measures are being carried out in Moscow, aimed at strengthening security measures. Additional control on the roads has been introduced. Restriction of mass events is possible. Please treat the measures taken with understanding.” Vorobyov also announced enhanced security measures in Moscow Oblast. Security measures have been strengthened in Moscow Oblast; the situation is controlled by law enforcement agencies and the FSB. Counter-terrorist measures are being carried out. Additional checks are possible on the roads in the southern direction; in this regard, I ask [the citizens], if possible, to refrain from using personal vehicles in the south of Moscow Oblast, especially outside the region.”
  5. Prigozhin claims to have taken control of military targets in Rostov and heading for Moscow, Ukrainska PravdaEvgeny Prigozhin, Head of the Wagner Private Military Group (PMC), claims that he took control of the military facilities of Rostov-on-Don, including an airfield, and that his soldiers have already shot down three Russian helicopters; he says they are now “heading for Moscow”. He announced that the Wagner Group has taken control of the local headquarters building, military facilities, and the airfield.”
  6. FSB and Russian General Surovikin address Wagnerites, asks to stop their “march”, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Interfaxnews agency, Medusa outlet and Russian Telegram channels. “The Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation called on the Wagner Private Military Group (PMC) militants not to obey the orders of Yevgeny Prigozhin and detain him, while  General Sergei Surovikin recorded a video message, calling on the mercenaries to stop.
  7. Meeting on Ukraine’s Peace Formula to be held in Denmark, Ukrinform reports, citing CNN. “A meeting of high-ranking officials from Ukraine, as well as a number of Western nations and the Global South, will be held in Copenhagen in the coming days, where the Ukrainian Peace Formula will be discussed. Senior Western and Ukrainian officials are expected to meet in Copenhagen in the coming days to discuss President Volodymyr Zelensky’s peace proposal, a Ukrainian government source told CNN. According to the source, representatives from the Global South are expected to attend. As reported earlier, in November 2022, Volodymyr Zelensky presented a 10-point Peace Plan to the G20 leaders in Bali to end the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The source did not reveal more details about the scheduled meeting.”
  8. Biden adviser to discuss achieving a just peace in Ukraine with non-Western countries, Ukrainska PravdaUS national security adviser Jake Sullivan is to meet in Denmark with representatives of the Global South to discuss how to achieve a just peace in Ukraine. This was stated at a briefing on Friday by John Kirby, Strategic Communications Coordinator of the White House National Security Council. As Kirby noted, Biden’s national security adviser and the entire White House team work closely with the Ukrainians, whether it’s talking to them about security assistance or this idea of a just peace and the principles behind that. […] Representatives of India, Brazil and South Africa, as well as Türkiye and possibly China, may attend the meeting, but their list has not yet been finalised.”
  9. One of Scholz’s party members, Tierze, called Russia invincible and called for diplomacy, net reports, citing European Pravda. The former president of the German Bundestag, Wolfgang Thierze, calls not to abandon the policy aimed at softening and balancing relations with Russia. The politician of the ruling Social Democratic Party believes that Russia is invincible militarily. Therefore, according to him, it is necessary to pay tribute to diplomacy again so that the guns are silenced as soon as possible. At the same time, Tierze emphasized that there should be military solidarity with Ukraine. The President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, is not the same as Russia, he also said. According to the ex-speaker, Russia remains an important part of Europe and, after Putin, should be part of the perspective of the pan-European security architecture.”

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  June 23, 2022:

Russian forces continued to conduct limited ground attacks in the Kupiansk area on June 23. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Synkivka (8km northeast of Kupiansk). Some Russian sources claimed that Russian forces advanced west of Synkivka and established a small bridgehead on the west (right) bank of the Oskil River, but ISW is unable to confirm this claim. Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty stated that Russian and Ukrainian forces only participated in two engagements in the Kupiansk direction and that Russian forces have lost the initiative in the area.

Russian and Ukrainian forces continued to skirmish south of Kreminna on June 23. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive actions near Bilohorivka (12km southwest of Kreminna). Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces made marginal advances west of Kreminna and in Bilohorivka, and that Russian forces entrenched themselves near Spirne (25km south of Kreminna). Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces attacked near Kreminna on June 22 and Shyplivka (9km south of Kreminna) on June 23.

Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks in the Bakhmut area on June 23. Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty reported that there were no combat engagements in the Bakhmut direction and that Russian and Ukrainian forces continued mutual counter-battery fire in the area. Satellite imagery published on June 22 indicates that Russian forces have constructed new fortifications near Semyhiria (16km southeast of Bakhmut) since May 18.

Russian and Ukrainian forces continued limited offensive operations along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City front on June 23. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Avdiivka, Sieverne (6km west of Avdiivka), Marinka (27km southwest of Avdiivka), Pobieda (32km southwest of Avdiivka), and Novomykhailivka (36km southwest of Avdiivka).A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces achieved unspecified successes near Avdiivka and also conducted offensive operations near Pervomaiske (11km southwest of Avdiivka) and Novomykhailivka. Another milblogger claimed that Russian forces made marginal advances southeast of Krasnohorivka (22km southwest of Avdiivka) between June 21 and June 22. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces counterattacked near Staromykahilivka (18km southwest of Avdiivka) and captured unspecified positions. Combat footage published on June 21 reportedly shows Ukrainian forces attacking Russian positions southeast of Krasnohorivka. 

Russian and Ukrainian forces continued ground attacks in the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area on June 23. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces attempted to recapture lost positions near Makarivka, Donetsk Oblast (about 7km south of Velyka Novosilka). […] Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces along the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border attempted to attack along the Levadne-Priyutne line (about 15km southwest of Velyka Novosilka) and had some success near Rivnopil (10km southwest of Velyka Novosilka). The Russian MoD and a Russian milblogger confirmed that Russian forces maintain control over Urozhaine (9km due south of Velyka Novosilka). Russian milbloggers indicated that elements of the 336th Naval Infantry Brigade (Baltic Fleet) and unspecified Eastern Group of Forces units are fighting in this area.

Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast on June 23. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian troops had partial success on the Novodanylivka-Robotyne line (just south of Orikhiv) and the Mala Tokmachka-Novofedorivka line (just southeast of Orikhiv). The Ukrainian General Staff also stated that Russian forces deployed reserves to the Orikhiv area to defend against Ukrainian advances. Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces launched an attack on the Novodanylivka-Robotyne line, broke through towards Russian defensive lines, and advanced up to 1.5km in the Robotyne direction. Russian sources claimed that elements of the 810th Naval Infantry Brigade (Black Sea Fleet) and the 70th, 71st, and 291stMotorized Rifle Regiments of the 42nd Motorized Rifle Division (58th Combined Arms Army, Southern Military District) are defending the area north of Robotyne. Russian milbloggers also claimed that positional fighting continued near Pyatykhatkhy (southwest of Orikhiv).

Ukrainian forces continued strikes on Russian rear areas in southern Ukraine on June 23. Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian troops launched four Storm Shadow missiles at a Russian concentration area, reportedly a Rosgvardia base, in Henichesk, Kherson Oblast, about 175km southeast of Kherson City.  Kherson Oblast occupation head Vladimir Saldo additionally stated on June 23 that the June 22 Ukrainian strike on the Chonhar Bridge (along the E105 highway connecting Russian-occupied Kherson Oblast and Crimea) was much worse than initially reported and that it will take 15 to 20 days for the bridge to reopen for traffic. Satellite imagery posted on June 23 additionally shows that Russian forces have begun constructing pontoon bridges under the Chonhar Bridge.

Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin appears to have launched an armed rebellion on June 23 to force a leadership change within the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) which is unlikely to succeed. Prigozhin amplified a video from a Wagner-affiliated Telegram channel on June 23 which reportedly shows the aftermath of a missile strike on a rear-area Wagner camp and accused the Russian MoD of conducting that strike. ISW cannot independently verify the veracity of the video, and it may have been manufactured for informational purposes. Prigozhin used the video to then justify his most explicit rhetorical escalation against the Russian MoD to date and a call for action against the Russian MoD. Prigozhin claimed that the Wagner Commanders’ Council made the decision to stop “the evil brought by the military leadership” who neglect and destroy the lives of tens of thousands of Russian soldiers. Prigozhin urged the Russian people not to resist, to remain calm, remain in their homes, and warned that Wagner will “deal” with those who destroyed Russian soldiers before returning to the frontlines in Ukraine after restoring justice for all. Prigozhin also notably accused Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu of personally planning an operation to destroy Wagner and claimed that 25,000 Wagner personnel are prepared to act. Prigozhin later posted an audio message qualifying his previous statements and claiming that there is no “coup,” only a “march for justice.”

Early reports following Prigozhin’s statements suggest that Russian internal security forces are activating in response to Prigozhin’s statements and possible Wagner moves, primarily in Moscow and Rostov, and the Kremlin appears opposed to Prigozhin’s actions. Kremlin newswire TASS reported that security measures have been strengthened in Moscow and that Rosgvardia (Russian National Guard) special police (OMON) and special rapid response (SOBR) units have been alerted of the situation. Russian sources posted footage reportedly showing military equipment moving through the streets of Moscow. TASS also reported that Russian military personnel and law enforcement have set up military posts and checkpoints near the Southern Military District (SMD) headquarters in Rostov-on-Don, and BBC’s Russia Service reported that Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) employees and SOBR units have set up roadblocks along the Moscow-Voronezh-Rostov highway. A Russian milblogger also claimed that the “Grom” special forces detachment of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) has additionally activated. The FSB and Russian Anti-Terrorism Committee have both opened cases against Prigozhin. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov notably stated that Russian President Vladimir Putin has been informed and is aware of the situation. The emergency activation of the domestic security forces and the Kremlin’s direct response suggest that the Kremlin was very likely not aware of, and is explicitly opposed to, Prigozhin’s actions.

Prigozhin has established the informational conditions for this effort earlier in the day by accusing the Russian MoD and unnamed oligarchs of deceiving Putin and the Russian public in order to launch the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. Prigozhin released an interview in which he stated that the Russian MoD intentionally deceived the Russian public and Putin about an impending Ukrainian offensive with NATO support in 2022 and about the increase in Ukrainian aggression before the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Prigozhin asserted that the situation in eastern Ukraine on February 24, 2022, was no different than the previous eight years of hostilities. Prigozhin suggested that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was prepared to negotiate with the Kremlin but that the Russian leadership refused to abandon their maximalist positions. Prigozhin accused the Russian miliary leadership of launching the full-scale invasion for self-promotion and claimed that Shoigu advocated for the invasion in order to achieve a higher rank and state awards. Prigozhin accused Russia’s oligarchs of supporting the invasion of Ukraine for similar reasons of personal benefit. Prigozhin claimed that Russia’s oligarchs wanted the Kremlin to install former Ukrainian politician and Kremlin ally Viktor Medvedchuk as the new Ukrainian president after the removal of the Ukrainian government so that Medvedchuk would divide the assets of occupied Ukrainian territories between the oligarchs. Prigozhin’s rejection of the justifications of the war is not a rejection of the war itself, as he argued that the fighting in Ukraine is a “holy war with those who offend the Russian people.” Prigozhin’s attack on the Kremlin’s justifications of the war is likely meant to legitimize the potential removal of the Russian security and business elite from power without directing calling for an end to Putin’s war.

Prigozhin likely intends to truly conduct an armed rebellion against the Russian MoD, rather than expecting Kremlin support to compel MoD leadership changes or only escalating rhetorically. Prigozhin may have wildly miscalculated and called for an armed rebellion incorrectly thinking that he would have Putin’s backing, considering Putin’s past tenuous relationship with the MoD and Shoigu. This contingency is however extraordinarily unlikely, considering that Putin has recently more firmly aligned himself with the MoD, and the Kremlin’s responses to Prigozhin’s posturing thus far have indicated surprise and a lack of agreement with Prigozhin. Prigozhin’s actions and statements may alternatively be a rhetorical overreach in his ongoing dispute with the MoD and his campaign to retain his wavering influence within the Russian information space following the culmination of Wagner’s Bakhmut effort. However, this contingency is also highly unlikely, as initial indicators of actual Wagner movements are observable and the Kremlin is not responding to Prigozhin’s statements as only rhetoric.

It is therefore most likely that Prigozhin fully intends for Wagner to move against MoD leadership and forcibly remove them from power, more likely against the Southern Military District command in Rostov-on-Don but possibly also against Moscow. ISW is unable to confirm exactly where the bulk of Wagner forces are currently located, but it currently appears more likely that Prigozhin intends for Wagner to move on the MoD assets in Rostov. Following Wagner’s withdrawal from Bakhmut in late May and early June, a large contingent of Wagner forces likely remained in rear areas of Ukraine, particularly in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, or else at Wagner’s training facility near Molkino, Krasnodar Krai. Considering the relative proximity of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and Krasnodar Krai to Rostov Oblast, the more likely course of action may be that Prigozhin views the MoD in Rostov as the most viable target of a Wagner armed rebellion. Prigozhin claimed at 0200 local time (1900 EST) that Wagner forces have crossed Russia’s international border into Rostov Oblast and claimed they face no resistance, but ISW has not observed visual confirmed of any Wagner movements as of the time of this publication.

An armed Wagner attack against the Russian military leadership in Rostov-on-Don would have significant impacts on Russia’s war effort in Ukraine. Rostov-on-Don houses both the headquarters of the SMD, whose 58th Combined Arms Army is currently decisively engaged in defensive operations against Ukrainian counteroffensives in southern Ukraine, and the command center for the Russian Joint Group of Forces in Ukraine as a whole. Rostov-on-Don is therefore a critical command and control membrane for the Russian army, and any threats to the MoD’s presence are likely to have ramifications on some critical aspects of the war effort.

Prigozhin’s apparent start of an armed rebellion is the culmination of his campaign to retain control over his military forces, and he likely views the rebellion as an existential survival effort. Prigozhin’s largely independent control over Wagner forces has been the cornerstone of his campaign to become the central figure of the Russian ultranationalist movement. Prigozhin has long overstepped existing norms within the Russian information space that limit criticism of Russian leadership because he likely believed the Kremlin’s need for Wagner to fight in Ukraine shielded him from punishment. Prigozhin primarily used Wagner’s responsibility for tactical gains in and around Bakhmut to advocate for more influence and responsibility for himself and Wagner, and the effectiveness of this mode of self-promotion has likely declined since Wagner withdrew to rear areas following the capture of Bakhmut on May 21. The MoD recently ordered Wagner personnel to sign MoD contracts in an effort to fully subordinate Wagner to the MoD, and likely did so to seize on the opportunity of Wagner’s weakened relevance to Russian operations in Ukraine.

The MoD’s recent demands that Wagner fully subordinate itself to the MoD would entail Prigozhin losing control of his parallel military structure, and therefore both his main source of influence and his means for avoiding the consequences of his public self-promotion. The MoD reportedly gave Wagner an ultimatum between subordination to the MoD or the recognition of Wagner’s continued operations on the frontlines as illegal. Prigozhin may have attempted to negotiate continued independence for Wagner with his own contract outlining how Wagner and the MoD would coordinate continued Wagner operations, although the MoD outright rejected this possible attempt at negotiation. Prigozhin likely reached a perceived crucial decision point between surrendering his independent armed forces and actively resisting the MoD, and appears to have chosen the latter. The severe consequences that would result from a failed armed rebellion suggest that Prigozhin viewed his alternatives to be just as threatening.

Prigozhin’s likely intention was to gain the allegiance of senior Russian officers and military personnel, but he is unlikely to secure sufficient military support considering that Wagner-affiliated Army General Sergei Surovikin denounced Prigozhin’s call for armed rebellion. Prigozhin explicitly called for the entire Russian military and all of Russia to join Wagner in its effort to remove the Russian military leadership. Prigozhin’s longstanding calls for supplies and ammunition for Wagner indicate that Wagner likely does not have the necessary level of independent access to the materiel required to militarily depose the MoD leadership, and therefore MoD elements with their own supplies will need to support Wagner’s armed rebellion if it has any real chance at lasting success. The desired outcome of Prigozhin’s armed rebellion also relies on senior Russian officers and military personnel recognizing the legitimacy of the supposedly new Russian military command that would follow any attempt at an armed rebellion. Prigozhin likely sought to rally military support for the effort earlier in the day by seizing on longstanding grievances about high Russian losses in Ukraine, accusing Shoigu and Gerasimov of sending tens of thousands of Russian personnel unnecessarily to their death and calling on Russia to hold Shoigu and Gerasimov responsible for the claimed deliberate “genocide” of Russian citizens. Prigozhin has likely miscalculated the level of support for Wagner, as one of Wagner’s most high-profile alleged allies, Surovikin, called on Wagner personnel to not follow Prigozhin’s orders. Wagner likely previously relied on its relationship with high-profile allies like Surovikin to retain access to supplies and its responsibility for operations in the Bakhmut area. Surovikin’s rejection represents a major blow to Wagner’s ability to rally elements of the MoD to its cause, and other high-ranking officers with Wagner affiliations and sympathies are less likely to support Wagner given the public statement from a high-profile senior officer like Surovikin.

Even if the Wagner Group can credibly threaten the MoD, Putin is incredibly unlikely to acquiesce to a successful effort by Prigozhin to topple the MoD. Should Wagner be able to tangibly attack the MoD in Rostov, Moscow, or elsewhere, and actually force a change in the military leadership (which is as of this time highly unlikely due to the apparent lack of backing for Wagner amongst senior officers and military personnel), it is unlikely that Putin would accept this at outcome. ISW has not observed any indications that Putin will accept such a change in MoD leadership. The violent overthrow of Putin loyalists like Shoigu and Gerasimov would cause irreparable damage to the stability of Putin’s perceived hold on power, and Putin would be highly unlikely to accept any armed rebellion even if he supported the figures conducting it. 

Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations on at least two sectors of the front on June 23. Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces continued limited attacks in the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area and made marginal gains southwest of Velyka Novosilka. The Ukrainian General Staff additionally reported that Ukrainian forces made gains in western Zaporizhzhia south of Orikhiv on the Novodanylivka-Robotyne line and southeast of Orikhiv on the Mala Tokmachka-Novofedorivka line. Milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces broke through Russian defenses north of Robotyne and advanced to positions within 1.5km north of the settlement.

Russian forces conducted another series of missile and drone strikes against Ukraine on June 23, primarily targeting a Ukrainian airfield in Khmelnytskyi Oblast. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces launched 14 Kh-101/555 cruise missiles from strategic aviation over the Caspian Sea, targeting Khmelnystkyi Oblast and the Khmelnystki airfield, and reported that Ukrainian forces shot down all of the missiles. Satellite imagery published on June 22 shows that Russian forces deployed strategic aviation to an airfield near Mozdok, North Ossetia as of May 24, and Radio Liberty reported that Russian strategic bombers that targeted Khmelnystkyi Oblast took off from this airfield.

Key Takeaways

  • Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin appears to have launched an armed rebellion on June 23 to force a leadership change within the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) which is unlikely to succeed.
  • Early reports following Prigozhin’s statements suggest that Russian internal security forces are activating in response to Prigozhin’s statements and possible Wagner moves, primarily in Moscow and Rostov, and the Kremlin appears opposed to Prigozhin’s actions.
  • Prigozhin set informational conditions for this effort earlier in the day by accusing the Russian MoD and unnamed oligarchs of deceiving Putin and the Russian public in order to launch the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.
  • Prigozhin likely intends to truly conduct an armed rebellion against the Russian MoD, rather than expecting Kremlin support to compel MoD leadership changes or only escalating rhetorically.
  • It is therefore most likely that Prigozhin fully intends for Wagner to move against MoD leadership and forcibly remove them from power, more likely against the Southern Military District command in Rostov-on-Don but possibly also against Moscow.
  • An armed Wagner attack against the Russian military leadership in Rostov-on-Don would have significant impacts on Russia’s war effort in Ukraine.
  • Prigozhin’s apparent start of an armed rebellion is the culmination of his campaign to retain control over his military forces, and he likely views the rebellion as an existential survival effort.
  • Prigozhin’s likely intention was to gain the allegiance of senior Russian officers and military personnel, but he is unlikely to secure sufficient military support considering that Wagner-affiliated Army General Sergei Surovikin denounced Prigozhin’s call for armed rebellion.
  • Even if the Wagner Group can credibly threaten the MoD, Putin is incredibly unlikely to acquiesce to a successful effort by Prigozhin to topple the MoD.
  • Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations on at least two sectors of the front on June 23.
  • Russian forces conducted another series of missile and drone strikes against Ukraine on June 23, primarily targeting a Ukrainian airfield in Khmelnytskyi Oblast.
  • Russian forces continued to conduct limited ground attacks in the Kupiansk area, and Russian and Ukrainian forces continued to skirmish south of Kreminna.
  • Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks in the Bakhmut area.
  • Russian and Ukrainian forces continued limited offensive operations along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City front.
  • Russian and Ukrainian forces continued ground attacks in the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
  • Russian federal subjects and the Wagner Group continue efforts to conceal the true scale of Russian and Wagner losses in Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials reported that Russian and occupation administrations continue to disregard the lives of Ukrainian civilians in occupied territories.“

“Enemy has built defense that is difficult to overcome,” – Syrsky , Censor.net reports, citing The Guardian and RBC-Ukraine. “We must not underestimate the enemy. The enemy has predicted and continues to predict the most dangerous directions of our movements. For months, there had been talk of a spring counter-offensive by Ukraine. The successes of the battles for Kyiv, Kharkiv, and then the liberation of the northern Kherson region made the Ukrainian public and Western capitals expect more, or at least some signs that the war might soon end in victory.

Two weeks ago, the offensive in the east began under Syrsky’s command. It has been difficult. This week, Volodymyr Zelensky, while insisting that the world should allow Ukraine to implement its battle plan, admitted that progress is slower than we want. […]

Syrsky makes no secret of the difficult task his men are trying to accomplish. It’s difficult and it creates tension, he says of the latest developments on the frontline. According to him, Russia is conducting an offensive near Kreminna in the Luhansk region, and on Tuesday there were heavy fighting in the Serebryansky forest on the administrative border of the Donetsk region. The enemy sent the 83rd Air Assault Brigade to Bakhmut from the south, he says. And after the Kakhovka dam was blown up, crossing the Dnipro, which is necessary to liberate the left-bank part of the Kherson region, became even more difficult. […]

The Russians are trying to seize the initiative, so the situation is really difficult. […] We should not underestimate the enemy. The enemy has foreseen and continues to foresee the most dangerous directions of our movements and is building a strong defence there that is quite difficult to break through, he said.”

Active hostilities to continue next 2-3 months – Defence Intelligence, Ukrinform reports, citing Deputy Chief of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine Vadym Skibitskyi. “Active hostilities will continue at the front in the near future, and an assessment of the Russian Federation’s capabilities will be conducted in mid-summer. Let’s not predict for the whole year. I will say this: in the next 2-3 months there will be active hostilities. Both offensive and defensive because our strategic goal is the liberation of all our territories, Skibitskyi said.

According to him, Russian troops will try to accomplish those tasks to say whether they have finished their ‘special military operation’ or not. However, we will focus on the middle of summer – whether the enemy will be able to fulfill its plans for modernization, regrouping, formation of new formations, units, and how they will be reformed, Skibitskyi said.

He reminded that the Russian command has already officially announced the reform and restoration of the Leningrad and Moscow military districts. After that, it will be possible to assess the capabilities of the Russian Federation and predict the possible nature of Russia’s actions for the autumn-winter campaign, added the Deputy Chief of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine.”

Ukraine’s Western-trained brigades begin to enter the fight, The New York Times reports. “The arrival of new units could be pivotal. But progress has been slow for Ukraine in the early stage of its counteroffensive. They are fighting more effectively at night than their Russian counterparts, US officials say. They are using American-made Bradley fighting vehicles to destroy Russian armor with anti-tank missiles. And they are deploying combined arms tactics — synchronized attacks by infantry, armor and artillery forces — that they learned from American and other Western troops.

It is, finally, showtime for the 36,000 Ukrainian soldiers — nine brigades — that have been armed, equipped and trained outside of Ukraine over the past several months by the United States and its NATO allies. How these Western-trained troops perform over the next few months, military experts say, will help determine the success of Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive to push Russian forces out of occupied territory. Their performance will also demonstrate whether the tens of billions of dollars in weapons that Ukraine has received from its allies, including $40 billion from the Biden administration, is managing to transform the Ukrainian military into a NATO-standard fighting force.

Biden administration officials are hoping the nine brigades will show that the American way of warfare — using combined arms, synchronized tactics and regiments with empowered senior enlisted soldiers — is superior to the rigidly centralized command-structure that is the Russian approach. But the going has been slow for Ukraine, and even proponents of the American way acknowledge that the beginning of the counteroffensive has not yet provided any swift breakthroughs like the Ukrainian military’s one-week retaking of Kharkiv last fall.

This is the hardest part of the counteroffensive for the Ukrainian military, and it’s also the stage where Russian forces are able to bring their remaining advantages in artillery and air support, said Dara Massicot, a senior policy researcher at the RAND Corporation. If the Ukrainians are able to breach, then the dynamics could shift. […] The bulk of the nine Ukrainian brigades has yet to be committed to the fight, but the vanguard of that main assault force is already making its mark.

Pentagon officials and military analysts say Ukraine has gained an advantage by fighting at night. Using night-vision optics, Bradleys and German-supplied Leopard tanks can identify and attack Russian targets in darkness at longer ranges than the Russians. The difference is even more acute now that Russia is using older, less capable tanks after many of its newer, more advanced versions were destroyed in earlier battles, analysts said.

Ukraine has reinforced the new units with battle-hardened battalions as they prepare to maneuver through Russian minefields and breach other heavily fortified defenses. As part of their weekslong training, soldiers in the brigades briefly rotated into frontline combat units before their entire units deployed.

Ukraine does not discuss military losses, but the battlefield conditions pose a serious challenge for the Ukrainian troops. Russian forces have built a network of minefields, tank traps and other defenses, and the flat terrain, with little cover along much of the southern front, leaves the advancing forces vulnerable to Russian artillery. […]

The Bradleys and Leopards are performing well, said Rob Lee, a Russian military specialist at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia and a former US Marine officer. They’re more survivable than the other options Ukraine had. Ukrainian soldiers can be more confident in future battles knowing they’re more likely to survive.

Ukrainian troops have broken through initial fighting positions along a part of the front and continue to look for Russian vulnerabilities, but they remain several miles from Russia’s main defensive lines. […] Ukrainian forces have already faced minefields, trenches, anti-tank ditches, air assaults and artillery fire. Bad weather last week, which made muddy fields impassable for heavy armored vehicles, has also hampered both militaries’ efforts, officials said. […]

Ukraine is counting on the brigades to help break through Russian defenses, regain some of the nearly 20 percent of the country the Russians occupy, and possibly sever the land bridge connecting Russia to the strategically important Crimea Peninsula.

One Pentagon official said that a lot of training involved teaching Ukrainian troops how to go on the offensive, rather than stay on defense. For years, Ukrainian troops have worked on defensive tactics as Russian-backed separatists launched attacks in eastern Ukraine. When Moscow launched its full-scale invasion last year, Ukrainian troops put their defensive operations into play, denying Russia the swift victory it had anticipated.

If the counteroffensive stalls and the conflict turns into a prolonged insurgency, there are questions about whether Western countries will continue supporting Ukraine at current levels of military aid. Upcoming elections in some of those countries, particularly the United States, pose another potential pitfall for future support. […] Ukraine’s success in the counteroffensive would do two things, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said in Washington last week. It would strengthen its position at any negotiated table that emerges, and it may have the effect as well of actually causing Putin to finally focus on negotiating an end to the war that he started.”

Main forces have not yet entered battle, everything is ahead – Ukraine’s Ground Forces Commander, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Syrskyi in an interview with The Guardian. “Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of the Ukrainian Ground Forces, has said that the main forces of the Ukrainian army have not yet been involved in the offensive. Everyone wants to achieve a great victory instantly and at once. And so do we. But we have to be prepared to have this process take some time because there are a lot of forces massed on each side, a lot of materiel, and a lot of engineered obstacles.”

I want to say that our main force has not been engaged in fighting yet, and we are now searching, probing for weak places in the enemy defences. Everything is still ahead. Syrskyi has added that the Russians continue to anticipate the most dangerous areas and build a strong defence there, which is difficult to break through. Nevertheless, he is confident that a place for a breakthrough will be found. The general has also said that the grouping of Russian troops on Ukrainian territory currently numbers about 400,000.”

 

  1. Consequences and what to do?

Western companies tried to pay not to be included on Ukrainian list of war sponsors, Ukrainian Pravda reports, citing Ekonomichna Pravda. “Instead of withdrawing from the Russian market, the head offices of several Western companies offered the Ukrainian National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP) to remove them from the list of war sponsors and, in exchange, to allocate part of their revenues to the Armed Forces and government funds.

Ekonomichna Pravda’s sources have said that the companies made such an offer to the National Agency on Corruption Prevention after being included on the list of international sponsors of the war. Ukrainian officials declined this offer. It is also stated in the article that one of the Western retail chains, in an attempt to compensate for the negative impact of being on the list, gathered large Ukrainian food suppliers and offered them the best shelves in European supermarkets on favourable terms. However, Ukrainian producers also refused the offer.

There are only two food retailers on the NACP list: Auchan and Metro. Recently, the American company Mondelez was included in the Ukrainian list of international sponsors of the war, which resulted in a large-scale boycott of its products in Sweden and Norway.”

Accession to EU: Stefanishyna predicts that Ukraine completes remaining tasks of European Commission by fall, Ukrinform reports, citing Olha Stefanishyna, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration. “Ukraine was expecting a higher interim assessment from the European Commission on the implementation of seven recommendations in preparation for EU accession, while the recognition of progress in their implementation is unprecedented.

Our ambitions were higher – in particular, we expected that the anti-corruption package of measures would be evaluated more thoroughly. We also hoped that before this assessment we would fully adopt the legislation on launching the Constitutional Court reform, but it was adopted only in the first reading. But I believe that for the European Commission to recognize any set of commitments as fulfilled less than a year after receiving candidate status is also unprecedented, as countries have been working for years to implement sets of such recommendations, Stefanishyna said. […]

The Vice Prime Minister also noted the importance for Ukraine that this interim assessment clearly outlined the steps that still need to be taken to complete the implementation of all seven recommendations by October and move on to making decisions on starting EU accession negotiations. Stefanishyna predicted that Ukraine would complete the remaining European integration tasks by the fall.

We have to understand that the remaining five sets of recommendations are not at the zero stage, a lot of work has been done over the year. In fact, the decisions are ready, some of them need to be adopted only technically… Obviously, we will have time to do everything possible by October, she said.”

 

Hans Petter Midttun: The “rebellion” of Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner Group, is not a surprise. His criticism of the Russian Minister of Defence, Sergei Shoigu and the Head of the Russian General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, has grown increasingly belligerent during 2023.

The feud is in part related to his being denied credit for capturing Soledar (January) and Bakhmut (May). He repeatedly complained that the Russian Armed Forces failed to supply the Wagner Group with sufficient ammunition to capture Bakhmut. As a consequence, he repeatedly threatened to pull out his men.

Earlier this month, Shoigu ordered volunteer detachments to sign contracts with the military, arguing that it would improve combat effectiveness. More than 20 volunteer detachments had signed contracts with the military, Russia’s Defence Ministry said Thursday. The Wagner group was not one of them.

Russia’s most powerful mercenary said on June 11 that his Wagner would not sign any contract with Defence Minister, who he has described as unfit for duty. In his latest public attack on Shoigu, he accuses him of killing thousands of Russian soldiers and the most combat-ready part of the army in the first days of the war, which captures the essence of public discourse. Lately, he has even blamed the war on the Russian Minister of Defence.

On 24 February [2022] there was nothing extraordinary happening there. Now the Ministry of Defence is trying to deceive the public, deceive the president and tell a story that there was some crazy aggression by Ukraine, that – together with the whole Nato bloc – Ukraine was planning to attack us. The war was needed… so that Shoigu could become a Marshal so that he could get a second Hero Star… the war wasn’t for demilitarising or de-Nazifying Ukraine. It was needed for an extra star.”

While Prigozhin’s “rebellion” might have been inevitable given his political aspirations, the last 24 hours’ events, however, might have been triggered by the demand that Wagner mercenaries sign a contract with the Russian Ministry of Defence by 1 July.

According to British Defence Intelligence, on 19 June 2023, Prigozhin said that he was expecting a reply from the Russian MoD regarding a ‘contract’ of his own drafting which he had delivered to the ministry three days before.

“Although the content of Prigozhin’s document has not been made public, the act of him delivering it raises the stakes and is highly likely another deliberate effort to undermine the authority of the official military authorities. Prigozhin’s tone towards the MoD has become unambiguously confrontational. The MoD almost certainly sees this as deeply unfortunate at a time when it is grappling with Ukraine’s counter-offensive.”

The response – when or if it arrived – was probably not what he was hoping for. It left him with two choices: Either subordinate and integrate the Wagner Group into the Russian Armed Forces and, thereby, lose his power base and expose him for further prosecution, or refuse and fight it out.

The fact that he chose the latter is an indication of how exposed he saw himself without the Wagner Group as a power base.

The likelihood of him succeeding in outing Shoigu and Gerasimov is unlikely due to the apparent lack of backing for Wagner amongst senior officers. That said, his actions come at a time when the morale and motivation among the frontline soldiers are at rock bottom. Russia has suffered up to 600,000 casualties (KIA and WIA) according to Ukrainian reports. While Western assessments are far more conservative, even Ukraine’s allies hold the Russian casualties to around 300,000. Though unlikely given the Russian control over civil society, Prigozhin might trigger a nerve. It might be a Black Swan event.

A Prigozhin victory will not end the war as he seeks full mobilisation of Russian society. His defeat, however, will weaken the Russian military capability as the Wagner Group has generally been seen as its most efficient fighting force.

 

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