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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 518: Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on “hot shutdown”

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 518: Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on “hot shutdown”
Russia puts Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant Unit 4 on “hot shutdown.” Russia promises “tough retaliation measures” in response to attacks on Moscow and Crimea. The liberation of Andriivka may improve the situation on Bakhmut front.  Daily overview — Summary report, July 26 The report is based on media reports, expert analyses, and official information posted online.
Source: War Mapper.
Situation According to information from the General Staff as of 06.00 26.07.2023, supplemented by its [18:00 assessment].
Situation in Ukraine. July 25, 2023. Source: ISW.
“On July 25, the enemy launched 1 missile and 65 airstrikes, 84 MLRS attacks at the positions of Ukrainian troops and various settlements. Unfortunately, the attacks have caused civilian casualties, damaged residential buildings and other civilian infrastructure. The likelihood of missiles and airstrikes across Ukraine remains high. On July 25, there were 26 combat engagements.
  • Volyn and Polissya axes: no significant changes.
Luhansk Battle Map. July 25, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: the adversary continues to maintain its military presence. The occupant forces launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Veterynarne and Hraniv (Kharkiv oblast). The adversary fired mortars and artillery at more than 20 settlements, including Semenivka (Chernihiv oblast), Vil’na Sloboda, Svarkove, Stepne, Basivka, Mohrytsya, Pokrovka, Oleksandrivka (Sumy oblast), Hur’yiv Kozachok, Hraniv, Vovchans’k, Bochkove, Budarky (Kharkiv oblast).
  • Kupiansk axis: the Ukrainian troops are standing their ground. The adversary launched an airstrike in the vicinity of Novoselivs’ke (Luhansk oblast). Krasne Pershe, Dvorichna, Zapadne, Kup’yans’k, Kyslivka, and Berestove (Kharkiv oblast) came under artillery and mortar fire from the adversary.
Donetsk Battle Map. July 25, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Lyman axis: the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensives in the area south of Dibrova (Luhansk oblast). The invaders launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast), Serebryanka, Spirne, and Kuz’mynivka (Donetsk oblast). The settlements of Nevs’ke, (Luhansk Oblast), Tors’ke, Verkhn’okam’yans’ke, Spirne, and Rozdolivka (Donetsk Oblast) were shelled with artillery.
Bakhmut Battle Map. July 25, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Bakhmut axis: the Ukrainian defenders successfully repelled adversary attacks in the areas east of Stupochky and near Dyliivka (Donetsk oblast). The enemy launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Klishchiivka, Predtechyne, and Dyliivka (Donetsk oblast). More than 10 settlements, including Vasyukivka, Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Bohdanivka, Ivanivske, Chasiv Yar, and Pivnichne (Donetsk oblast), suffered from enemy artillery shelling.
  • Avdiivka axis: under heavy fire from enemy aircraft and artillery, the Ukrainian defenders successfully repelled Russian troops’ attacks in the vicinity of Avdiivka. At the same time, the enemy fired artillery at more than 10 settlements, including Novokalynove Avdiivka, Lastochkyne, Vodyane, and Karlivka, (Donetsk oblast).
  • Marinka axis: the Ukrainian Defence Forces continue to hold back the Russian offensive in the vicinity of the city of Marinka. The enemy launched airstrikes near Nevelske and Krasnohorivka. The settlements of Krasnohorivka, Maksymil’yanivka, and Heorhiivka (Donetsk oblast) came under artillery fire.
  • Shakhtarske axis: the adversary launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Novomykhailivka, Zolota Nyva, and Makarivka (Donetsk oblast). The occupiers shelled more than 10 settlements, including Novomykhailivka, Vuhledar, Novoukrainka, and Velyka Novosilka (Donetsk oblast).
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. July 25, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Zaporizhzhia and Kherson axes: the adversary focuses its main efforts on preventing the further advance of Ukrainian troops. The invaders launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Novodarivka, Levadne, Mala Tokmachka, and Orikhiv (Zaporizhzhia oblast). The enemy fired artillery at more than 30 settlements, including Novoandriivka, Levadne, Malynivka, Hulyaipole, Zaliznychne, Stepove, Lobkove, Kam’yans’ke (Zaporizhzhia oblast), Dudchany, Beryslav, Kozats’ke, Molodizhne, Antonivka, Komyshany, Kizomys, and Stanislav (Kherson oblast). At the same time, the Ukrainian Defense Forces continue to conduct the offensive operation on Melitopol’ and Berdyans’k axes, consolidating their positions.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. July 25, 2023. Source: ISW.

Military Update

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.
On July 25, Ukrainian Air Force launched 9 airstrikes on the concentrations of troops, weapons and military equipment of the adversary. Also, our defenders intercepted 1 Ka-52 helicopter, 5 Shahed-136 combat UAVs, and 2 operational-tactical level reconnaissance UAVs of the adversary. On July 25, the Ukrainian missile and artillery troops hit 1 concentration of manpower, weapons, and military equipment, 7 artillery systems at their firing positions, 2 electronic warfare stations, and 2 anti-aircraft missile systems of the adversary.“ Industrial objects hit by Shahed drones in Kharkiv region, fire breaks out, Ukrinform reports, citing Pervomaiskyi Mayor Mykola Baksheiev. “Russia’s Shahed loitering munitions have attacked the Kharkiv region’s Pervomaiskyi community. Industrial objects were struck, and a fire broke out. Our community has come under the enemy’s Shahed [drone] attack. Industrial objects were hit. As a result, a fire broke out there, Baksheiev wrote.Liberation of Andriivka may improve the situation on Bakhmut front – Eastern Group of ForcesUkrainska Pravda reports, citing Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesperson of the Eastern Group of Forces. “Commenting on the combat actions near the village of Andriivka, Cherevatyi specified that a possible liberation of this settlement will once again improve the tactical positioning of the Ukrainian forces and allow further advances with the goal of encirclement or driving out the Russian forces from the city of Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast. Andriivka, like any settlement around Bakhmut that will be liberated, would allow for encirclement of Bakhmut or driving out the Russian forces from the city. In general, the Defence Forces are holding the initiative on the Bakhmut front and continue to liberate hundreds of metres of the Ukrainian land every day. They manage to liberate several kilometres a week, and time will come when it will be dozens of kilometres. The main principle here is to move gradually and preserve manpower, while causing as much damage and losses to the Russians as possible. Cherevatyi added that yesterday 95 Russian occupiers were killed, 187 were injured and 3 captured on the Bakhmut front. Some media outlets mistakenly interpreted Cherevatyi’s words in the newscast as a confirmation of a liberation of the village of Andriivka on the Bakhmut front by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.” AFU destroys eight more Russian ammunition depots near BakhmutUkrinform reports, citing the spokesman for the Eastern Group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Serhii Cherevatyi. “[On Monday], 95 occupiers were killed in Bakhmut direction, 187 were wounded and three were taken captive. A lot of enemy equipment was also destroyed: two tanks, three armoured personnel carriers, three infantry fighting vehicles, a Gvozdika self-propelled artillery system, five cannons, two anti-tank missile systems, one Borisoglebsk electronic warfare station, an S60 anti-aircraft gun, as well as Orlan 10 UAVs, three kamikaze drones, eight ammunition depots and one fuel and lubricant depot, said Cherevatyi. Commenting on the information about the successful actions of Ukrainian defenders in the area of Andriivka, the spokesman noted that any settlements taken around Bakhmut allow completing the operation to encircle Bakhmut and push out or encircle the enemy. Cherevatyi also said that near Bakhmut, the Ukrainian military is making the most of the available range of ammunition provided by international partners. At the same time, according to Cherevatyi, the Lyman-Kupiansk direction remains the leader in terms of the number of enemy attacks. […] The enemy fired 601 times at our positions from all types and calibers of artillery. There were five enemy assaults and 22 air raids. The enemy lost 23 occupiers killed and 108 wounded. Also, three enemy T-72 tanks, two D-30 cannons, four mortars, a light armored tractor, as well as a UAV, a field ammunition depot and two vehicles were hit, informed Cherevatyi.” According to British Defence Intelligence, (last 48 hours): https://twitter.com/DefenceHQ/status/1684160431516946432
  • Russia’s Black Sea Fleet has altered its posture since Russia pulled out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI), in preparedness to enforce a blockade on Ukraine.
  • The modern corvette SERGEY KOTOV, has deployed to the southern Black Sea, patrolling the shipping lane between the Bosphorus and Odesa. There is a realistic possibility that it will form part of a task group to intercept commercial vessels Russia believes are heading to Ukraine.
  • The BSGI has moderated the involvement of the Black Sea in the war: there is now the potential for the intensity and scope of violence in the area to increase.
  • Since 18 July 2023, Russia has conducted greater numbers of long-range strikes against Odesa and other areas of southern Ukraine. These attacks have featured an unusual number of AS-4 KITCHEN missiles, a 5.5 tonne weapon originally designed to destroy aircraft carriers.
  • Damage has included several grain silos at Chornomorsk Port, south of Odesa, as well as the historic city centre. On 24 July 2023, Russia extended one way attack drone strikes to the docks on the Danube River, approximately 200 metres from the Romanian border.
  • Between August 2022 and June 2023, when the Black Sea Grain Initiative was still in force, Russia generally refrained from striking civil infrastructure in the southern ports. Since Russia failed to renew the deal, the Kremlin likely feels less politically constrained, and is attempting to strike targets in Odesa because it believes Ukraine is storing military assets in these areas. Since the start of the war, Russia’s strike campaign has been characterised by poor intelligence and a dysfunctional targeting process.

Losses of the Russian army

As of Wednesday 26 July, 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 243680 (+460)
  • Tanks – 4177 (+3)
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 8136 (+5)
  • Artillery systems – 4727 (+22)
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 698 (+0)
  • Air defence means – 457 (+3)
  • Aircraft – 315 (+0)
  • Helicopters – 311 (+1)
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 7211 (+17)
  • Vessels/boats – 18 (+0)
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 3993 (+16)
  • Special equipment – 708 (+5)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0)
  • Cruise missiles – 1307 (+0)
Russia is really increasing production of “Lancet” UAVs, although it is exaggerating data, – Defence IntelligenceCensor.net reports, citing RBC-Ukraine, with reference to Andrii Yusova, a representative of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine. “Volumes are propaganda, but this is a factor that cannot be written off. “Lancet” UAVs are being produced, “Shahed” UAVs are arriving, they are setting up production, he noted. Yusov emphasized that Ukraine needs new weapons and means to counter the attacks of the occupiers and the faster advance of our troops. This is a matter of protecting the lives of our military and civilians, he added. Yusov also stated that Russia is currently the world leader in smuggling, as this is the only way it can obtain the necessary components for the production of modern weapons.” US on new drone-manufacturing facility in Russia: Many more drones to comeUkrainska Pravda reports, citing CNN, quoting analysts from the US Defence Intelligence Agency. “US intelligence has suggested that a Shahed drone manufacturing facility in Russia will have a significant negative impact on the war in Ukraine. Analysts from the Defence Intelligence Agency said that the drone-manufacturing facility, which is currently under construction in Russia, is expected to provide Russia with a new drone stockpile that is orders of magnitude larger than what it has been able to procure from Iran so far. The analysts also said that Iran provides Russia with equipment designed to facilitate the completion of the manufacturing plant. The construction is likely to wrap up by early 2024. […] The defence intelligence analysts added that Iran has provided Russia with over 400 Shahed-131, Shahed-136 and Mohajer drones to date, a stockpile that Russia has almost completely depleted, CNN wrote.” In Russia, they are working on the expansion of their military industry – this is challenge for Ukraine and entire free world, – Defence IntelligenceCensor.net reports, citing Liga.Novyny with reference to Andriy Yusov, the representative of Defence Intelligence. “The Russians are modernizing missiles at various levels and want to expand the production of equipment. The missile strikes on Odesa show that the Russian Federation’s high-precision missiles are a myth. If they hit the port and hit a cultural object, then something is wrong with the missiles or with vision, Yusov said. He called Russia a leader in military smuggling, which collects various goods all over the world to modernize its equipment. They cannot produce missiles as a reserve, but they are working on expanding their military-industrial complex – this is a challenge for Ukraine and the entire free world. They need modern technologies; the production base has remained Soviet. Circuits, chips, processors – all modern electronics, which the Russians are trying to obtain by any means, the intelligence officer summarized. As Censor.NET wrote, earlier Yusov reported that the Russians managed to modernize the Kh-22 and Onyx missiles, as well as resume the use of the Bastion complexes.” Ukrainian Defence Forces destroy up to five Russian electronic warfare stations every week in east – CherevatyUkrinform reports, citing Serhiy Cherevaty, spokesman for the Eastern Group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. “Enemy electronic warfare systems are among the priority targets for the Defense Forces. Ukrainian defenders destroy up to five such stations in the eastern sector every week. In fact, unfortunately, one of the things that the enemy is quite well developed in is electronic warfare, so electronic warfare systems are one of the priority targets for our artillery, for our attack drones. That is why several different types of electronic warfare systems are destroyed every week, ranging from the ‘Aistyonok’ anti-battery stations to more powerful ones such as ‘Borysoglebsk’, ‘Leer’, ‘Zhitel’. The Defense Forces destroy about five of them on average per week in our direction, the spokesman said.” Our losses in Bakhmut direction are 8 times less than enemy’s, in Berdiansk and Mariupol – 5.3 times, – Ministry of Defense, Censor.net reports, citing Deputy Minister of Defense Hanna Maliar. “During the offensive, defenders of Ukraine performed military miracles that will be included in textbooks. According to her, the Defense Forces: attack in conditions when the enemy has more weapons and people. While an attack is considered possible, the opposite is the case. At the same time, our troops are advancing. And the question should be asked first of all not about the number of kilometres traveled, but in general about the fact – are we moving forward or not. The fact that we are moving in conditions of enemy superiority is a sign of the high skill and courage of our defenders, Maliar explained. She also informs that the number of our casualties on the offensive lines is much lower than that of the enemy. In Bakhmut direction, we die 8 times less than the enemy. In Berdiansk and Mariupol directions, 5.3 times less. This is despite the fact that usually, the side that advances loses more, the official added.” Russia increased fines for failure to appear at the military commissariat tenfold, raise conscription age limitUkrainska Pravda reports, citing RIA Novosti. “On 25 July, the State Duma of the Russian Federation adopted in III reading a law on raising the conscription age limit to 30. The lower bar will remain the same – 18 years. That is, the age of conscription in the Russian Federation is set from 18 to 30 years and not from 21 to 30 years, as previously assumed. The wording of the draft law has changed due to the fact that the demographic situation is serious, [and it’s] affecting the amount of mobilised resources, and in order for us not to drag, we need just such a wording, explained Andrey Kartapolov, chairman of the Duma Defence Committee. There will be no transitional period; the law will enter into force on 1 January 2024. […] The State Duma also adopted an amendment banning citizens of the Russian Federation from leaving Russia if they have been called up to the military commissariat, including at the place of work or study. Medical and general educational organisations are obliged to provide electronic form information about citizens, which is necessary for keeping military records. In addition, the State Duma of the Russian Federation adopted in the II and III readings the draft law on fines for failure to appear at the military commissariat: they will reach up to 30,000 roubles [about US$ 330 – ed.]. […] Currently, the maximum fine under this article in Russia is 3,000 roubles.”

Humanitarian 

Russia’s Danube attacks tighten noose on Ukraine’s grain sectorReuters reports. “Russian airstrikes on Ukrainian grain facilities on the Danube this week threaten a vital river route for Kyiv’s exports, as Moscow seeks to tighten the noose around a key sector of the economy days after abandoning the Black Sea shipping deal. Last week, airstrikes caused tens of millions of dollars of damage to the grain sector in Odesa region, and Monday’s strikes on infrastructure along the Danube brought back memories of the export gridlock that followed Russia’s February 2022 invasion. Without the Danube, the export (situation) becomes critical. To do it with just land routes is a very small amount. We’d be going back to the beginning of the full-scale invasion, said Denys Marchuk, deputy head of the Ukrainian Agrarian Council. We have no other way to work. If the Black Sea is closed, the Danube is one of the main routes which we will need to use, he told Reuters by phone. Police said Danube grain warehouses had been hit on Monday in a drone attack along with tanks for storing other cargo. Reuters verified video showing damaged grain warehouses at Reni, a transport hub on the Danube bordering NATO and EU member Romania. […] Insurance sources have said war risk cover for Ukraine’s ports that was part of the defunct Black Sea grain deal had been suspended with some insurance providers reviewing provisions for Danube ports. Insurance industry sources said on Tuesday there were few requests to cover new charters for vessels looking to pick up cargoes from Ukraine’s Danube ports. […] The Danube corridor has grown in importance for Kyiv since the demise of the grain deal which Russia quit last week. The route could export around 2.5 million tons of grain and oilseeds per month before the attacks, according to Mera. Road and rail export routes would only be able to handle up to 2 million tons of produce per month, Marchuk said. That is nowhere near enough to cover Ukraine’s export potential. Ukraine expects to harvest 44 million tons of grain this year, down from a record 86-million-ton harvest in 2021 before the invasion. Ukraine traditionally exports most of the grain it harvests. Some of Ukraine’s western neighbours have also restricted imports of Ukrainian grain under pressure from their farmers, who said they were suffering from the added competition. The attack on the Danube infrastructure followed a week of Russian strikes that hit grain-related infrastructure at Odesa’s main ports.” Ukrainian Defence Intelligence reveals secret report for Kremlin on how Russia disrupted grain dealUkrainska Pravda reports, citing Defence Intelligence of Ukraine . “Defence Intelligence has published a classified report for Russia’s top military and political leadership, which contains information on the obstruction of the grain deal. In general, the text of the document is devoted to the technologies used to impede the implementation of the grain corridor and, as a result, led to the final breakdown of the agreement. According to the report, the so-called “joint coordination centre” saw its main task as minimising the volume of grain exported under the grain agreement. In particular, the document states: “High-quality inspection of vessels was also one of the key elements in curbing the uncontrolled growth of grain exports from Ukrainian ports. The activities of the Russian inspectors were conducted in strict accordance with the developed methodological documents on the organisation of ship inspections. As a result of the inspections, 46 vessels were restricted from participating in the Initiative, and 303 vessels were restricted for a total of 342 days”. The measures to disrupt the Black Sea Grain Initiative were divided into several stages. At the first stage, on the initiative of the Russian president, Russia’s participation in the grain agreement was suspended from 10 October 2022 to 3 November 2022. According to the document, this led to a drop in grain exports from 4.2 million tonnes in October to 2.6 million tonnes in November. The next stage included measures to restrict the access of ships to the port of Pivdennyi, reduce the number of inspection teams (no more than two), and stop the registration of grain carriers. This allowed Russians to effectively restrain the number of ships heading to Ukrainian ports and significantly limit the volume of food exports from Ukraine, which in general led to Kyiv’s inability to export about 20 million tonnes of cargo. Russians report that “the smallest amount of food exported from Ukrainian ports (7.8 million tonnes) occurred during the third stage of the Black Sea Grain Initiative (from 19 March to 17 July 2023). Special attention was paid to the disruption of grain supplies under the World Food Programme: “Ukrainian attempts to use the Black Sea Initiative to continue the so-called ‘Grain from Ukraine’ programme involving vessels chartered under the World Food Programme have been stopped. Such vessels were registered only after submitting written commitments not to participate in such actions”. The authors of the report conclude: “The accumulated archive of knowledge will allow, when solving similar problems, to achieve a high level of efficiency in the shortest possible time”. The Ukrainian Defence Intelligence believes that if the grain agreement is extended, Russians will use all the accumulated “experience” to effectively disrupt the agreements. The Ukrainian agency believes that the document shows that all actions to disrupt the grain deal are part of a single, pre-designed plan, and the targeted shelling of Ukrainian port infrastructure is just another step in its implementation.”

Environmental

US State Department reacts to IAEA information about mines at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power PlantUkrainska Pravda reports, citing Ukrinform, quoting Vedant Patel, Principal Deputy Spokesperson of the US Department of State. “The US State Department is calling for an end to hostilities in the immediate vicinity of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), as the mining of the nuclear facility threatens the security of the entire region. Such a violent and volatile type of activity near, in such close proximity to, a nuclear power plant – in this case, ZNPP – is incredibly unsafe. Patel was commenting on the issue of the United States’ position on the IAEA’s announcement that landmines have been found on the territory of the ZNPP. Patel stressed that this puts the immediate region in harm’s way. And so we continue to call for such activity so close to ZNPP to stop, the State Department representative said. The US has warned the Kremlin of imminent liability if Russia creates a nuclear disaster at the ZNPP.” Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant makes shutdown transition for maintenanceReuters reports. “Operators carrying out maintenance at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant have switched the shutdown mode of two reactors, the Moscow-installed administration of the plant, located on the war’s front-line, said on Tuesday. […] One of the plant’s six reactors, according to the IAEA, needs to be kept in a hot shutdown mode in order to produce steam required for nuclear safety, including the processing of liquid radioactive waste in storage tanks. In order to conduct a scheduled technical inspection of the equipment of power unit No. 5, the management of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant decided to transfer it to the ‘cold shutdown,’ state, the administration said on its Telegram channel. And in order to provide steam for the station’s own needs, the reactor plant of power unit No. 4 was transferred to the ‘hot shutdown’ state. The IAEA said in a statement on Monday that the plant administration had informed the agency about the transition. The other units remain in cold shutdown, the IAEA said in the statement. […] IAEA inspectors stationed at the plant had noted mines in a buffer zone between the site’s internal and external perimeter barriers and had also observed mines during previous checks, Rafael Grossi, the agency’s director general, said on Monday.” Occupants put Zaporizhzhia NPP Unit 4 on “hot shutdown” – Energoatom, Censor.net reports. “On July 24, at the occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, power unit No. 4 was put on “hot shutdown” by order of the illegitimate management. This was stated by Energoatom. Such actions of the occupiers are a gross violation of the requirements of the license to operate this nuclear facility. Now the operation of ZNPP Unit 4 should be carried out exclusively in a cold shutdown state, Energoatom noted. Energoatom recalled that after Russia blew up the dam of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant and the actual disappearance of the Kakhovka reservoir, there were real risks of insufficient cooling water supply to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. This blocks the ability of ZNPP to operate at capacity, and the Russian occupation administration of the plant and representatives of Rosatom are aware of this. This means that it is an undeniable risk to nuclear and radiation safety due to the long downtime of the power unit’s equipment, lack of proper routine maintenance and repair of equipment. Petro Kotin, President of Energoatom, addressed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, emphasizing the need to call on the IAEA to take measures to influence the occupation administration of ZNPP to put all power units of the plant into a cold shutdown state and to distribute a corresponding note among the Agency’s member states.” Russians completely ruin 180 schools in UkraineUkrinform reports, citing Ukrainian Education and Science Minister Oksen Lisovyi. “Today we have 180 schools that have been ruined completely. More than 300 educational institutions were destroyed, and over 1,300 damaged and liable to expert assessment, whether they can be rebuilt or not,” Lisovyi told. In his words, the Ukrainian government allocated UAH 1.5 billion to set up bomb shelters before the next academic year starts. Three-quarters of schools have bomb shelters of different level and quality. 75% of schools are provided with bomb shelters, but this does not mean that 75% of pupils can resume studies. It is about 9,000 schools, and we have 13,000 schools in total. Our priority is to resume [offline] studies, where it is allowed for security reasons. In the regions close to the areas of hostilities, classes will be conducted online, Lisovyi noted. In order to improve the quality of education, the ministry recommends that higher educational institutions also resume offline studies, where the security situation allows. Many of such institutions can set up bomb shelters architecture-wise, but sometimes they are not spacious enough to accept all students. Another issue, according to Lisovyi, may be the migration of teachers. This may also create obstacles for the resumption of offline studies. Hence, the management of each educational institution will decide on the start of offline studies on its own.”

Support

Biden Administration Announces Additional Security Assistance for Ukraine, the US Department of Defence announces. “Today, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced additional security assistance to meet Ukraine’s critical security and defense needs. This authorization is the Biden Administration’s forty-third drawdown of equipment from DoD inventories for Ukraine since August 2021 as the US government has continuously provided Ukraine with the weapons and equipment it needs for the battlefield. Today’s commitment in security assistance, valued at up to $400 million, includes additional air defense munitions, artillery and other ammunition, armored vehicles, anti-armor weapons, and other equipment to help Ukraine counter Russia’s ongoing war of aggression. The capabilities in this package include additional munitions for Patriot air defense systems and National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS); Stinger anti-aircraft systems; additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS); 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds; 120mm and 60mm mortar rounds; 32 Stryker Armored Personnel Carriers; Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missiles; Javelin and other anti-armor systems and rockets; Hornet Unmanned Aerial Systems; Hydra-70 aircraft rockets; Tactical air navigation systems; Demolitions munitions for obstacle clearing; over 28 million rounds of small arms ammunition and grenades; Night vision devices and thermal imagery systems; and spare parts, training munitions, and other field equipment. The United States will continue to work with its Allies and partners to provide Ukraine with capabilities to meet its immediate battlefield needs and longer-term security assistance requirements.” Ukraine calls on partners to strengthen air shield over south – PMUkrinform reports. “Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal called on international partners to help Ukraine strengthen its air defences in the southern regions. He said this at the government meeting on Tuesday, an Ukrinform correspondent reports. Russia is a threat to all states in the Black Sea region. We call on our partners to strengthen the air shield over the south of Ukraine, Shmyhal noted. He emphasized that Russia has been terrorizing the southern regions of Ukraine for more than a week. According to him, the aggressor’s goal is to intimidate people, destroy Ukrainian port infrastructure, cause maximum damage to Ukrainian agricultural exports, and provoke a global food crisis.” Zelenskyy: Good news about drones will be more frequentUkrainska Pravda reports, citing Zelensky’s evening address. “President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that the results of the first year of the Army of Drones are now available and can be seen in the news, and good news about the use of drones will be appearing more often. Today, a non-public but still strategically important event took place: government officials presented the results of the first year of the Army of Drones. It’s not just a project anymore, but a real Ukrainian drone army.” Zelenskyy said there had been a presentation of the various types of Ukrainian drones used for defence, as well as a meeting with manufacturers, designers and donors. Zelenskyy emphasised that the Army of Drones will increase, as the Armed Forces need all types of drones – from fairly simple Mavic drones to naval and attack drones that are capable of operating at long distances.” Arms export for Ukraine’s sake: Japan PM calls for speeding up internal talksUkrinform reports, citing Kyodo News. “Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has instructed ruling parties to speed up discussions on easing the country’s strict rules on military exports, as the government seeks to strengthen the domestic defence industry and expand support for Ukraine in its fight against Russian encroachment. Kishida told working group lawmakers of his Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito that his government would soon present its views on defence equipment and technology exports and asked them to resume stalled talks on the issue. […] Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said the government and the ruling bloc would work together to create the desired security environment for Japan and establish rules to support countries that have been invaded militarily, calling the export of defence equipment an important political tool. As Ukrinform reported earlier, at the beginning of July it became known that the ruling coalition in Japan intended to propose that the country’s parliament review the current restrictions on the export of defence equipment and to allow the transfer of weapons to countries that have been invaded by other states in violation of international law.” Ukraine to receive US$240 million and mine clearance equipmentUkrainska Pravda reports, citing Yuliia Svyrydenko, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development and Trade  of Ukraine. “Ukraine’s international partners will give it over US$244 million for humanitarian mine clearance. […] By the end of this year, Ukraine is set to receive [mine clearance] equipment from its international partners, including 10 much-needed demining machines from the Croatian company DOK-ING, 10 Global Clearance Solutions machines, nearly 200 vehicles for explosives experts, over 600 metal detectors, and 50 blasting machines, Svyrydenko wrote on Facebook. Ukraine will also receive individual mine clearance kits, explosive protective suits, quadcopters, and robotic systems for the disposal of ammunition. Donors from across the world include the US, the EU, Japan, Germany, the UK, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Denmark, Canada, Austria, Switzerland, Korea and the Howard Buffett Foundation, and will give Ukraine more than US$244 million for humanitarian mine clearance.” European Commission paid new tranche worth 1.5 billion euros of macro-financial assistance to UkraineEuropean Pravda reports. “On Tuesday, the European Commission announced the allocation of 1.5-billion-euro tranche of macro-financial aid to Ukraine. […] As Russia continues its ruthless war, we continue to support Ukraine. Today we paid another €1.5 billion, to help keep the state running and repair infrastructure. More will come, stated von der Leyen on Twitter. Ukraine received the first tranche of EU macro-financial assistance in January, totalling 3 billion euros out of a planned 18 billion euros. The previous tranche was disbursed by the European Commission in June. The decision on this €18 billion aid package was a difficult one, and EU leaders finally reached an agreement in mid-December.  Kyiv received the first tranche without any conditionality. However, according to the agreement, Ukraine will receive the next €15 billion only if it fulfils its obligations. Macro-financial assistance is a loan provided to Ukraine at a favourable interest rate.”

New developments

  1. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister calls blockade of Ukrainian grain in EU unacceptableUkrainska Pravda reports, citing France24. “Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, considers unacceptable the intentions of individual EU countries to extend the restrictions on the import of Ukrainian grain after 15 September. […] We should not play into the hands of Putin; we should not play his game. […] Kuleba stressed that Russia is destroying the grain infrastructure of Ukraine, in particular, because it wants to provoke additional tensions between Ukraine and its western neighbours.”
  2. Belarus arms emergency ministry to be ready in case of armed conflictReuters reports. “The Belarusian ministry of emergency situations is completing the arming and military training of its personnel to be ready to aid the defence and internal ministries in the event of an armed conflict, the head of the emergency ministry said on Monday. Emergency Minister Vadim Sinyavsky told state Belarus 1 television that employees will be ready to assist the ministries in the event of an armed conflict or some kind of riots in which a significant number of personnel must be involved. […] Russia and Belarus are linked in a partnership called the “union state” in which Moscow is by far the dominant player. The perception that Lukashenko, a pariah in the West, depends on Putin for his survival had fanned fears in Kyiv that Putin would pressure him to join a fresh ground offensive and open a new front in Russia’s faltering invasion of Ukraine.”
  3. Tough retaliation measures”: Russia responds to attacks on Moscow and CrimeaUkrainska Pravda reports, citing a statement released by the Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Russian Federation. “The Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Russian Federation has said it will take tough retaliation measures in light of the recent attacks on Moscow and Russian-occupied Crimea. The Russian side retains the right to undertake tough retaliation measures.”
  4. Russian started war – White House on drone attack on MoscowUkrainska Pravda reports, citing Karine Jean-Pierre, White House Press Secretary. “This is a war that Russia started, said Karine Jean-Pierre, responding to a request to comment on the drone attack on Moscow city centre. Karin Jean-Pierre emphasised that the Russian Federation has been striking civilian facilities in Ukraine almost every day during all the months of the war. Russia has been bombarding the Ukrainian port of Odesa; killing and injuring Ukrainian civilians; devastating UNESCO-listed World Heritage Sites; and destroying tens of thousands of tons of grain that were going to be shipped to countries around the world, she said. At the same time, Karin Jean-Pierre noted that the US does not support Ukraine’s strike on Russian territory, emphasising that Crimea is Ukrainian territory.”
  5. Russia extends deadline for repair of Crimean bridge until end of yearUkrainska Pravda reports, citing Russian Astra Telegram channel with reference to the order published on the website of the Russian government. “The restoration of the bridge after the explosion in October has been extended until 31 December 2023. Previously, the Russians planned to repair it by 1 July. After another attack on 17 July, the Russians planned to finally launch two-way traffic on the Crimean Bridge in November.”
  6. US responds to Lukashenko’s remarks threatening Poland with WagneritesUkrainska Pravda reports, citing Matthew Miller, Spokesperson for the US Department of State during a briefing. “The US Department of State has said that the US will defend NATO territory, commenting on the words of self-proclaimed Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who said that the Wagner Group militants supposedly want to attack Poland. Miller stressed that the US would defend every inch of NATO territory. At the same time, Miller said that the Belarusian leader’s words were another in a series of irresponsible comments by Lukashenko.”

Assessment

  1. On the War
The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of Tuesday 25 July: Russian forces conducted offensive operations near Svatove and made claimed advances on July 25. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that elements of the 15th Motorized Rifle Brigade (2nd Combined Arms Army, Central Military District) captured Serhiivka (12km southwest of Svatove) and advanced along a front four kilometers wide to a depth of two kilometers in the area. ISW has not observed visual confirmation of this claim, however. Russian sources claimed that Russian forces crossed the Zherebets River and attacked Ukrainian positions near Karmazynivka (12km southwest of Svatove). A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces expanded their foothold near Novoyehorivka (15km southwest of Svatove). Former Ukrainian Luhansk Oblast Head Serhiy Haidai reported on July 25 that Russian forces are attacking in groups of 50 to 70 personnel and are using “Storm-Z” units in the Kupiansk and Lyman directions. Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks near Kreminna and made claimed advances on July 25. The Russian MoD claimed that elements of the 234th Airborne Assault Regiment (76th Air Assault Division) repelled Ukrainian attacks in the Serebryanske forest area (10km southwest of Kreminna), counterattacked, and advanced 1.5 kilometers. ISW has not observed visual evidence to confirm this claim. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful attacks south of Dibrova (7km southwest of Kreminna). A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces unsuccessfully attacked near Torske (15km west of Kreminna). The Russian MoD claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian attacks near Kreminna and did not make any advances on July 25. The Russian MoD claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian attacks near Chervonopopivka (6km north of Kreminna), Nevske (18km northwest of Kreminna), Bilohorivka (10km south of Kreminna), Torske, and in the Serebryanske forest area. Recent Russian MoD claims of Russian advances along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line may be exaggerated in order to draw attention away from Ukrainian counteroffensive efforts elsewhere along the front, as ISW has previously assessed. Russian milbloggers are not widely amplifying or circulating the Russian MoD’s claims of Russian gains, which is a deviation from the typical information space cycle and suggests that the MoD claims are likely exaggerated for rhetorical effect. Ukrainian military sources have additionally not acknowledged any fighting in these areas over the past several days, even as they acknowledge Russian ground attacks elsewhere in the theater. ISW has not observed either visual confirmation or additional milblogger speculation of fighting or gains in these areas. Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations in the Bakhmut area and made tactically significant gains south of Bakhmut on July 25. Geolocated footage posted on July 25 shows that Ukrainian forces advanced south of Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut). A Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces gained a position on the heights adjacent to Klishchiivka on July 24 and that there is heavy fighting on the outskirts of the settlement. Several milbloggers also claimed that Ukrainian forces occupied a section of the heights near Klishchiivka and that Ukrainian forces entered the southern and southwestern outskirts of the settlement. One Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces occupy 90 percent of the forest area along the western outskirts of Klishchiivka. Several milbloggers claimed that neither Russian nor Ukrainian forces control the entire settlement, however. The Ukrainian General Staff reported on July 25 that Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations north and south of Bakhmut and that Russian forces withdrew from Andriivka (20km southwest of Bakhmut and directly south of Klishchiivka.  A Russian milblogger also claimed that Ukrainian forces broke through Russian defensive lines to Andriivka (10km southwest of Bakhmut), though other milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces have increased offensive operations but have not advanced to the settlement. Russian forces continued ground attacks in the Bakhmut area on July 25 and reportedly advanced north of Bakhmut. The Ukrainian General Staff also reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations northwest of Orikhovo-Vasylivka (11km northwest of Bakhmut), south of Ivanivske (6km west of Bakhmut), east of Stupochky (12km southwest of Bakhmut), near Dyliivka (15km southwest of Bakhmut), and west of Klishchiivka. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that elements of the Russian Southern Grouping of Forces repelled Ukrainian attacks near Klishchiivka and Zaitseve (20km south of Bakhmut). A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces regained control of the outskirts of Berkhivka (6km northwest of Bakhmut) and unspecified territory and positions in the forest area near Yahidne (2km north of Bakhmut). Another milblogger claimed that Russian forces unsuccessfully counterattacked near Bohdanivka (6km northwest of Bakhmut), Orikhovo-Vasylivka, and Klishchiivka and did not advance. […] Russian sources reported that Ukrainian forces conducted ground attacks in the Avdiivka-Donetsk City area on July 25 and did not advance. The Russian MoD claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Pervomaiske (11km southwest of Avdiivka) and Marinka (on the southwestern outskirts of Donetsk City). Russian forces conducted ground attacks in the Avdiivka-Donetsk City area on July 25 but did not advance. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Avdiivka, Pervomaiske, Marinka, and Krasnohorivka (directly west of Donetsk City). […] Ukrainian forces continued counter-offensive operations along the administrative border between Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk oblasts on July 25 and reportedly made gains in some areas. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in the Berdiansk (Zaporizhzhia-Donetsk Oblast border area) direction and achieved success in the direction of Staromayorske (9km south of Velyka Novosilka). Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces Spokesperson Major Valerii Shershen stated that Ukrainian forces advanced up to 750m in the direction of Staromayorske. […] A Russian milblogger claimed that a small Ukrainian infantry group conducted an assault on the northern outskirts of Staromayorske. Russian sources also claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian assaults near Pryyutne (16km southwest of Velyka Novosilka) and Urozhaine (9km south of Velyka Novosilka). […]  Russian forces conducted limited counterattacks in the Zaporizhzhia-Donetsk Oblast border area but did not advance on July 25. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted an unsuccessful ground attack in the direction of Rivnopil (11km southwest of Velyka Novosilka). A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces also unsuccessfully counterattacked near Pryyutne. Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast and reportedly made marginal advances west of Orikhiv on July 25. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensives in the Melitopol (western Zaporizhzhia Oblast) direction. Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted assaults from near Lobkove (26km southwest of Orikhiv) towards Luhove  (31km southwest of Orikhiv) and noted that Ukrainian forces in the area usually conduct assaults from near Pyatykhatky (25km southwest of Orikhiv) towards Zherebyanky (26km southwest of Orikhiv). Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces retreated to unspecified prepared lines of defense in the area. Other Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian assaults in the Pyatykhatky area and that Russian artillery units struck a small Ukrainian group with armored vehicles that tried to advance in the direction of Robotyne (12km south of Orikhiv). […] A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian artillery units prevented a Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance group from landing near the Antonivsky Bridge on the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted another strike on rear Russian targets in Crimea on July 25. The milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces struck a Russian military equipment repair facility near Kremnivka (51km north of Simferopol) with three Storm Shadow cruise missiles, damaging three units of unspecified equipment. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Ukrainian forces attacked a Russian patrol ship with naval drones on the night of July 24 to 25. The MoD claimed that Russian forces destroyed two Ukrainian naval drones within a kilometer of the “Sergey Kotov” patrol ship of the Black Sea Fleet as it was conducting navigation control tasks 370km southwest of Sevastopol. Russian President Vladimir Putin continued to manifest concern over potential threats that the Wagner Group and its financier Yevgeny Prigozhin may pose during an impromptu two-day extension of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s visit to St. Petersburg. BBC’s Russian Service reported on July 25 that Putin told Lukashenko at the beginning of their July 23 meeting that Putin was ready to adjust his schedule to prolong Lukashenko’s visit and “discuss important topics in more detail.” Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov reported on July 25 that Putin and Lukashenko intended to “’synchronize watches’ and exchange views” but not sign any agreements during their prolonged meeting. Peskov also reported that Putin and Lukashenko discussed the Wagner Group, the Union State, and external threats on the borders of Russia and Belarus. Putin’s decision to prolong his meeting with Lukashenko likely shows Putin’s continued concerns about Wagner, which it appears that Lukashenko did not allay. Lukashenko likely seeks to leverage his power over the Wagner Group to gain concessions from Putin. A Russian insider source claimed that the Wagner Group was the most important topic during the Putin-Lukashenko meeting, and that Lukashenko sought more economic assistance to Belarus through Union State programs. The insider source also claimed that Putin wanted Belarus to be more involved in the war in Ukraine and rejected Lukashenko’s compromise offer to have Belarusian forces conduct a show of force on Belarus’ border with Ukraine. Lukashenko was likely trying to leverage Putin’s concern over the Wagner Group throughout the entire visit to Russia to gain favourable conditions in Belarusian-Russian relations while deflecting Putin’s demands for closer integration into the Union State and support for Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russian leadership is attempting to mitigate the security vacuum left by the Wagner Group’s departure by creating formalized but decentralized military “enterprises” on the basis of federal subjects (regions). The Russian State Duma adopted the second and third readings of amendments to the federal law regulating the circulation of weapons in constituent entities of the Russian Federation on July 25 that will allow heads of Russian federal subjects to create specialized state unitary enterprises. Russian opposition media noted that certain intricacies in the amendments allow regional heads to create regionally based militarized state enterprises that are analogous to private military companies (PMCs) during a period of mobilization under martial law. The amendments notably require regional and local budgets to finance the special enterprises, which will be equipped with small arms by the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and will assist the Russian State Security Service (FSB), Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) and other military authorities in ensuring public order and border security. The amendments would allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to create the enterprises on a temporary basis and later abolish them, after which these enterprises would have to transfer all small arms and other weapons back to the Russian MoD within a month. The Kremlin is likely trying to balance two competing security requirements – the need for combat capable formations that can fulfill roles left by the Wagner Group following their armed rebellion and relocation to Belarus and the desire not to recreate the systemic threats to the Russian state that Wagner’s independence posed. The creation of formal militarized state enterprises that will fulfill border security and domestic law enforcement tasks is likely intended in part to remedy the gap left by Wagner. However, the fact that these enterprises are so heavily decentralized and will operate under the auspices of internal security organs on the basis and expense of regional and local governments suggests that the Russian military leadership is very alive to the risk of recreating a powerful Wagner analogue and is therefore trying to limit the scale and power each individual enterprise can obtain. These state enterprises also appear to be a renewed iteration of the failed volunteer battalion model that Russian regions employed throughout the summer of 2022, but these enterprises will operate under formalized and consolidated domestic security organs such as the FSB, likely to mitigate many of the weaknesses in the old volunteer battalion system. Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front and advanced on July 25. Geolocated footage published on July 25 shows that Ukrainian forces have made tactically significant gains south of Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut). The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations in the Bakhmut, Melitopol (western Zaporizhzhia Oblast), and Berdiansk (Zaporizhzhia-Donetsk Oblast border area) directions. Ukrainian sources reported that Ukrainian forces advanced up to 750 meters in the direction of Staromayorske (9km south of Velyka Novosilka), and Russian sources claimed Ukrainian forces made marginal advances west of Orikhiv. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar reported that Russian forces are dying at a rate eight times higher than Ukrainian forces in the Bakhmut area and 5.3 times higher in the Berdiansk and Melitopol directions. ISW has previously assessed that Ukrainian counteroffensive operations aim to create an asymmetrical attrition gradient that conserves Ukrainian manpower at the cost of a slower rate of territorial gains, while gradually wearing down Russian manpower and equipment. Russian forces conducted another series of Shahed drone strikes on rear areas of Ukraine overnight on July 24-25. Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Colonel Yuriy Ihnat reported on July 25 that Ukrainian forces recorded the launch of about 10 Shahed drones, five of which Ukrainian forces destroyed. Ukrainian military sources reported drones over Kyiv City and Cherkasy, Sumy, Poltava, and Zhytomyr oblasts. The Kyiv City Military Administration noted that this was the sixth drone strike on the capital city in July alone. […] Putin and the Kremlin reportedly failed to respond promptly to the Wagner Group’s June 24 rebellion, leaving local Russian officials to make decisions concerning the group’s drive on Moscow. The Washington Post reported on July 25 that Ukrainian and European security officials stated that Putin did not issue orders for most of June 24 despite warnings from Russian security services about the likelihood of the rebellion at least two or three days beforehand. Russian security services reportedly increased security at several strategic locations, including the Kremlin, in the days before the rebellion but took no other actions. Regional Russian officials reportedly had to decide how to respond to the rebellion, and regional military and security officials were reportedly the ones that decided not to try to stop Wagner convoys by force. The Kremlin’s and Putin’s alleged lack of response indicates that the Russian security apparatus had likely not prepared for a direct challenge to the Russian military leadership and likely did not have the capacity to quickly bring the rebellion to an end. The Kremlin is likely aware that its paralysis highlighted a degree of regime instability and appears to be consolidating Russia’s internal security apparatus in the Rosgvardia (Russian National Guard) to prepare for further internal threats and to signal resolve. Putin’s failure to act quickly also suggests that he is uncertain about his ability to rally the Russian elite around him and may indicate how factional internal Kremlin politics have become. A senior NATO official reportedly stated that unspecified senior Russian political figures in Moscow appeared ready to rally behind Prigozhin in the event that Wagner’s rebellion succeeded. The Kremlin is likely trying to identify Russian elites who may have been prepared to side with Prigozhin and likely views regional officials’ decisions not to stop Wagner’s advance as an indicator of disloyalty. Tula Oblast Governor and former head of Russia’s Special Operations Forces Alexei Dyumin has likely drawn further suspicion due to his previous affiliations with Prigozhin and his role in the negotiations that ended the rebellion. Key Takeaways:
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin continued to manifest concern over potential threats that the Wagner Group and its financier Yevgeny Prigozhin may pose during an impromptu two-day extension of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s visit to St. Petersburg. Lukashenko likely seeks to leverage his power over the Wagner Group to gain concessions from Putin.
  • Russian leadership is attempting to mitigate the security vacuum left by the Wagner Group’s departure by creating formalized but decentralized military “enterprises” on the basis of federal subjects (regions).
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front and advanced on July 25.
  • Russian forces conducted another series of Shahed drone strikes on rear areas of Ukraine overnight on July 24-25.
  • The Angry Patriots Club continues efforts to cast former Russian officer and ardent nationalist Igor Girkin (Strelkov) as an opposition figure and may be attempting to appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin through rhetoric about the illegality of Girkin’s arrest.
  • Putin and the Kremlin reportedly failed to respond promptly to the Wagner Group’s June 24 rebellion, leaving local Russian officials to make decisions concerning the group’s drive on Moscow.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations near Svatove, Kreminna, the Bakhmut area, the Avdiivka-Donetsk City area, and the Zaporizhzhia-Donetsk Oblast border area and made claimed advances near Svatove, Kreminna, and Bakhmut.
  • Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations near Kreminna, the Bakhmut area, the Avdiivka-Donetsk City area, along the administrative border between Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk oblasts, and western Zaporizhzhia Oblast and advanced in the Bakhmut area, in some areas along the administrative border between Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk oblasts, and west of Orikhiv.
  • US intelligence officials warned on July 25 that Russia’s drone supply will dramatically increase as a result of continued bilateral Russo-Iranian cooperation.
  • Russian officials continue efforts to deconflict legal discrepancies as part of the incorporation of occupied territories.“ 
German Defence Ministry points out shortcomings of Ukrainian counteroffensiveUkrainska Pravda reports, citing the German media outlet Bild, which has studied a secret document by the Bundeswehr. “The Bundeswehr has criticised the actions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine during the counteroffensive, stating that they are using the skills acquired during training abroad incorrectly. The German military considers the division of combat units one of the main disadvantages of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. They remark that a joint battle leadership is not recognizable. Not only does this increase the risk of friendly fire, but it also leads to manoeuvring elements lacking in focus [because the soldiers are trying] to build up [their] own momentum or establish fire superiority. In other words, as long as Ukraine divides the brigades which have undergone training in the West into groups of 10-30 soldiers, isolated from the rest of the troops, neither Western training, nor superior armament, nor large quantity of manpower will be of any use. In addition to this, Bundeswehr also criticised the training of experienced Ukrainian soldiers, who allegedly learn the principles of Western training worse than others, or do not participate in it at all. It is stated in the document that the command staff sometimes demonstrates considerable deficiencies in leadership and in the application of management processes at the respective level, which sometimes leads to wrong and dangerous decisions. These factors – the separation of combat units and absence of proper training of command staff – may explain the slow advancement of the Ukrainian forces during the counteroffensive. General Mark Milley, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced that the participants of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group in the US have prepared 17 Ukrainian combat brigades and over 63,000 soldiers for counteroffensive operations, and many of them have not yet been involved in combat operations. The US believes that Ukraine’s counteroffensive will last at least several more months.” Putin forewarned of rebellion 2-3 days in advance but did not order to suppress it – WPUkrainska Pravda reports, citing The Washington Post, citing intelligence assessments provided to the media outlet, as well as Ukrainian and European officials, security and NATO officials, and a Russian diplomatic source who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Russian President Vladimir Putin had been warned of a possible uprising 2-3 days before it broke out. However, when the rebellion began, he was paralysed and did not issue any orders for most of the day. The intelligence assessment provided to The Washington Post indicates that Russian secret services warned Putin 2-3 days in advance of a possible coup. The publication’s sources say that measures were taken to tighten security at several strategic sites, including the Kremlin, where Putin’s security staff had been expanded and handed out more weapons. However, no other actions were initiated. A European official believes that Putin had time to make a decision to put down the rebellion and arrest the organisers. Putin had time to take the decision to liquidate [the rebellion] and arrest the organizers. Then when it began to happen, there was paralysis on all levels … There was absolute dismay and confusion. For a long time, they did not know how to react. The sources said no orders were issued for most of the day [24 June – ed.].” Russia may be preparing false flag operation in Black Sea – US State DepartmentUkrainska Pravda reports, citing Matthew Miller, State Department spokesman. “The US State Department has warned that Russia may be preparing a false flag operation in the Black Sea amid a series of attacks on port infrastructure in the south of Ukraine. He recalled Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative and said that last week Russia had conducted a training attack on a mock ship in the Black Sea. We’ve had information to suggest that they may be preparing a false flag operation,” Miller said. The State Department official added that the US will continue to consult with partners on alternative ways to export Ukrainian grain. At the same time, Miller acknowledged that without opening sea routes, there is no perfect solution that would allow Ukraine to ship the same amount of grain as it did under the Black Sea Grain Initiative.”
  1. Consequences and what to do?
Ankara may declare at NATO-Ukraine Council that country to deal with “grain deal” on its own – expertUkrinform reports. “President of the Centre for Global Studies “Strategy XXI” Mykhailo Gonchar predicts that no radical decisions will be made at the July 26 meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council regarding the transportation of Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea due to Türkiye’s special position in the Alliance and the Black Sea region. I don’t have high expectations (of the NATO-Ukraine Council meeting – ed.) From my point of view, it will most likely be limited to moral, psychological, political and diplomatic support for Ukraine. […] I assume that Türkiye may insist that it will resolve this issue (transportation of Ukrainian grain – ed.) later in the course of a certain dialogue with Russia, Gonchar said. According to him, the rhetoric, which has changed in recent days on both the Turkish and Russian sides, means that the parties are now negotiating. In this context, the President of the Centre for Global Studies noted that there should be no illusions, Türkiye is simply trying to make money both literally and figuratively on both sides of the armed conflict. Gonchar noted that this has happened before, and now Türkiye wants to continue this line and not only get another discount on grain from us and on oil and gas from Russia but also demonstrate that the country is indispensable in the Alliance and can solve all issues in the Black Sea on its own. According to the expert, this is convenient for NATO, which has traditionally taken a restrained position on the Black Sea, and for Romania and Bulgaria, which feel protected and do not feel a great need for active action in the region. Summing up, Gonchar predicted that tomorrow’s meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council will result in a statement in support of Ukraine and a call for Russia to return to the grain deal. And what they (NATO member states – ed.) basically have to do is to take the UN “umbrella”, get concerned about the problem of possible hunger in Africa and solve the issue of creating a humanitarian corridor, that is, organize a cargo escort operation. They have an appropriate NATO mine countermeasures group in the Mediterranean Sea that regularly conducts exercises, they can do this, and Russia can do nothing about it, the president of the Centre for Global Studies “Strategy XXI” is convinced.” Hans Petter Midttun: Today’s assessment will be published as a separate article. A teaser: “How to achieve peace is one of the first questions that arises when a war starts. While a worthy notion, the question is ironically, also fraught with danger. If the resulting efforts are based on flawed assumptions, it might end up both escalating and expanding the war. The first eight years of the war are a brilliant example. Ukraine was forced to accept a “peace agreement” that locked in Russian control over a large slice of eastern Ukraine. The Obama administration officials held back weapons for Ukraine because of the belief that there is “no military solution” to the conflict with Russia and because of a desire to avoid an escalation. France and Germany fronted the Normandy Format meetings – pushing an agreement signed under the barrel of a gun – which by no means covered Russia’s total war effort. It did not include its illegal occupation and annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, its maritime warfare or its hybrid war and effort to undermine Ukraine from within. Still, as Russia escalated to achieve a military solution to its aggression, the West insisted that the war had no military solution. Because of a lack of will and ability – and a flawed peace initiative – a low-intensity war turned into a full-scale war. As the world is once again grappling with the question of how to achieve peace, it is crucially important to avoid the same mistakes. One of the most important faults throughout has been that negotiations from a position of weakness not only allow – but even encourage Russia to impose its military solutions as it continues to escalate. Another mistake has been to take advice from experts that seek to affirm the Russian narrative of the “inevitable escalation” and “nuclear confrontation” if the West employ military power in support of Ukraine. Experts that seek to fuel existing concerns and fears in the West that the war – that always was part of a broader confrontation – turns into just that: A broader confrontation between Russia and the West. By default, the West always seeks a political solution to a war (unless the US has been a victim of aggression). That’s why Russia is funding political parties and other organisations to undermine the West. Kremlin targets and at times, infiltrates politicians, experts, analysts, academics, think tanks, and non-governmental organizations to help manipulate the foreign policy of both the US and European countries to its advantage. It aims to strengthen Western conviction that the war has “no military solution”. While the idea of a political solution to the war might seem like both an attractive and laudable solution, it will prove detrimental to European security and stability. An armistice – a frozen conflict and the return to the “Minsk agreements” – will not only reward the aggressor by allowing it to keep occupied territories but also let Russia rebuild its defence industry and its armed forces in preparation for its next war. It will not least, allow it to continue its efforts to both undermine Ukraine from within as well as weaken Western resolve and cohesion using non-military means. Russia’s nature as an imperial power should be incontrovertible. It has grown continuously for centuries at the cost of its neighbours. Even as the Soviet Union was being dissolved, Russia set about re-establishing its control over the post-Soviet space. Its calls for a sphere of interest and the right to veto the decision of independent and sovereign countries are only a continuation of its past and present nature. Russia has been expanding for centuries and will continue to expand as long as the West allows it to continue its Western expansion at the cost of its neighbours, international law and peace and stability. It is in its imperialistic nature. The West faces two choices and negotiations are not one of them. It either stops Russian expansion through a demonstration of strength or accepts an ever-increasing Russian sphere of interest.
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