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Ukraine launches counteroffensive on three fronts as Russia escalates attacks – ISW

Ukraine launches counteroffensive on three fronts as Russia escalates attacks – ISW
Ukraine continues efforts to gradually degrade Russian manpower and logistics assets, but operations have “slowed down” in some directions. For new attacks, Ukraine still needs “certain Western weapons systems,” Zelenskyy says. 

In its update on the Russia-Ukrainian war, the Institute for the Study of War’s (ISW) assessment reveals that the Russian military has intensified its operations and expanded its control over Ukrainian territory.

“Russian forces have launched a new wave of attacks, targeting multiple key locations in eastern Ukraine. The offensive has demonstrated the Russian military’s continued determination to exert control over the region,” the ISW reported.

At the same time, Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on 6 July and are continuing efforts to gradually degrade Russian manpower and logistics assets. Ukrainian forces are conducting counteroffensive activities in the Bakhmut, western Donetsk, and western Zaporizhzhia directions.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy acknowledged the generally slower pace of Ukrainian counteroffensive gains in an interview with CNN on 5 July. Zelenskyy stated that Ukrainian operations have “slowed down” against entrenched Russian defensive positions, remarking that he believes Ukraine still needs certain Western weapons systems before launching new attacks along the front.

Ukrainian and Russian officials largely de-escalated their rhetoric regarding the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) on 6 July. Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Head Kyrylo Budanov stated on 6 July that the danger of a disaster at the ZNPP is “gradually decreasing.” Earlier, various Ukrainian officials on 4 July stated that Russian forces may have placed objects resembling explosive devices on the roofs of two of the ZNPP’s reactor buildings.

According to the ISW’s report, the first Deputy Chief of Staff of the Russian Presidential Administration, Sergey Kiriyenko, and Zaporizhzhia Oblast occupation head Yevgeny Balitsky also notably visited the ZNPP on 6 July. They posted images reportedly near the plant’s dry nuclear waste storage facility and noted that the plant continues to “operate normally.”

As ISW reported, they “may have visited the plant to portray Russia as a capable custodian of the ZNPP, and their rhetorical posturing during the visit suggests that Russian officials may be stepping back from harsh warnings of imminent disaster at the plant. ISW continues to assess that Russian rhetoric surrounding the ZNPP is meant to discourage Western support for Ukraine by accusing Ukraine of nuclear irresponsibility, as well as to dissuade Ukrainian forces from conducting counteroffensive operations into occupied Zaporizhzhia Oblast.”

Other takeaways from the ISW’s report:

    • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko stated that Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin and Wagner forces are not in Belarus as of 6 July, indicating that Prigozhin may be failing to uphold the deal Lukashenko mediated between Prigozhin and Russian President Vladimir Putin following Wagner’s armed rebellion on 24 June.
    • Russian sources also indicated that Prigozhin is in Russia, although ISW cannot confirm Prigozhin’s whereabouts at this time.
    • Russian forces continued ground attacks in the Bakhmut and Avdiivka-Donetsk City areas.
    • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko claimed on 6 July that Russia would transfer all planned tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus by the end of 2023, if not earlier. ISW has not observed any imagery of the construction of special hardened storage facilities necessary to store tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, and Ukrainian officials indicated that Russia likely has not deployed tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus as of 5 July.
    • Russia continues to expand combat power without conducting general mobilization. Russian officials continue efforts to create territorial defense units in Russian border oblasts. Belgorod Oblast Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov stated during a live broadcast on 6 July that the Belgorod Oblast Territorial Defense will form a second regiment with 3000 personnel.

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