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Russian Defense Minister downplays Ukraine’s counteroffensive amid NATO Summit – ISW

Russian Defense Minister downplays Ukraine’s counteroffensive amid NATO Summit – ISW

On 11 July, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu implausibly claimed that Russian air defenses have intercepted 176 HIMARS rockets and 27 Storm Shadow cruise missiles since the start of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, ISW reports.

Shoigu tried to present possible Ukrainian interdiction efforts in southern Ukraine as ineffective by claiming that Ukrainian forces have lost 26,000 servicemembers and 1,244 tanks and infantry fighting vehicles since starting counteroffensive operations on 4 June.

The Institute for Study of War assesses that Russian MoD reporting on Ukrainian losses is likely highly inflated, and even Russian milbloggers have recently accused the MoD of counting strikes on already damaged and destroyed vehicles as new Ukrainian equipment losses. In this way, Shoigu may be trying to portray the MoD as an effective manager of the war in Ukraine following the Wagner Group’s rebellion.

Overall, the Kremlin’s reactions to the first day of the NATO Summit were relatively muted. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov predictably characterized the NATO summit as having a ”pronounced, concentrated anti-Russian character.”

On 11 July Russian forces conducted a series of Shahed 131 and 136 drone strikes across Ukraine, likely in a demonstrative response to the 2023 NATO Summit in Vilnius and to threaten the Black Sea grain deal, ISW claims.

The Ukrainian Southern Operational Command reported that Russian forces tried to strike the grain terminal in Odesa Oblast, and that two drones struck an administrative building at a port facility. Ukrainian Southern Operational Command Spokesperson Captain First Rank Nataliya Humenyuk stated that Russian forces targeted port infrastructure to disrupt the Black Sea Grain deal.

The Russian drone strikes on port infrastructure also coincided with the first day of the NATO summit in Vilnius and are likely intended to discourage NATO members from providing additional military aid to Ukraine. Russia may be threatening the Black Sea grain deal to send a message to the deal’s original facilitator, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, that his recent statement of support for Ukraine’s NATO membership and the return of five Ukrainian Azovstal commanders on July 7 did not go unnoticed or appreciated by the Kremlin.

Other takeaways from the ISW’s report:

  • Germany and France pledged to provide Ukraine more weapons systems during the first day of the 2023 NATO Summit in Vilnius on July 11.
  • A coalition of 11 states signed a memorandum with Ukraine outlining the terms for training Ukrainian pilots on the F-16 aircraft at the 2023 NATO Summit in Vilnius on July 11.
  • Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on July 11 and made gains in some areas.
  • A Ukrainian Storm Shadow missile strike reportedly killed Deputy Commander of the Russian Southern Military District (SMD) Lieutenant General Oleg Tsokov at the command post of the 58th Combined Arms Army (CAA) in occupied Berdiansk, Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
  • Russian milbloggers criticized the Russian military command for failing to defend against Ukrainian strikes on Russian headquarters.
  • Chief of the Russian General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov reportedly fired Commander of the 58th CAA Major General Ivan Popov after Popov voiced his concerns over the need for troop rotations in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast amidst Ukrainian counteroffensives.
  • An unknown actor killed the Krasnodar City Deputy Head for Mobilization, Captain Stanislav Rzhitsky, on July 10.
  • Russian forces are conducting offensive operations along the Svatove-Kreminna line and made territorial gains.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on Bakhmut’s northern and southern outskirts.
  • Russian forces launched assaults on Ukrainian positions on the Donetsk City-Avdiivka frontline.
  • Russian and Ukrainian forces continued ground attacks along the administrative border between Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk oblasts.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations south of Orikhiv in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
  • The Kremlin continues measures to gradually mobilize Russia’s defense industrial base (DIB) to meet Russian military demands in Ukraine without conducting a wider economic mobilization.
  • The Ukrainian Resistance Center reported on July 11 that the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK) is struggling to establish regional branches in occupied territories in Ukraine.
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