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Euromaidanpress
Euromaidan Press
22 Jul 2023
Hans Petter Midttun


Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 514: Russia attacks Ukrainian South four days in a row




Germany handed over the first 10 Leopard 1A5 tanks to Ukraine. Ukraine continues its counteroffensive in the Bakhmut area. Russia attacks Ukrainian South four days in a row.

Daily overview — Summary report, July 22

Situation

According to information from the General Staff as of 06.00 22.07.2023, supplemented by its [18:00 assessment].

Situation in Ukraine. July 21, 2023. Source: ISW.

“[The Russian Federation continues to wage its war of aggression. Despite the significant losses, Russia has not abandoned its plans to fully occupy Ukrainian territory.]

[The enemy continues to kill civilians in Ukraine, ignore the laws and customs of war, and use terror tactics, as it launches strikes and shells both military and civilian targets.]

Tonight, the Russian Federation launched another air and missile attack on Ukraine. The information is currently being updated.

Over the past 24 hours, the enemy launched 16 missile strikes, more than 20 airstrikes, and launched 50 MLRS attacks on Ukrainian cities and Ukrainian Armed Forces. As a result of Russian terrorist attacks, unfortunately, children and adults have been killed or injured, grain storage points in the south of Ukraine, industrial facilities have been destroyed and damaged, and more than 70 civilian houses and other infrastructure have been destroyed or damaged.

The threat of missiles and airstrikes remains high across Ukraine.

The enemy continues to focus its main efforts on the Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Marinka axes, and heavy battles continue. More than 40 combat clashes took place during the day.

  • Volyn’ and Polissya axes: no significant changes detected. There are no signs of the formation of enemy offensive groupings. [Certain units of the armed forces of the Republic of Belarus continue their missions in the areas bordering Ukraine.]
Situation in Ukraine. July 21, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: the enemy shelled with mortars and artillery more than 15 settlements, such as Goncharivske of the Chernihiv Oblast; Stukalyvka, Bilovody, Stepne, Morozova Dolyna of the Sumy Oblast and Hatishche, Vovchans’ki Khutory, Bochkove, Krugle and Budarky in the Kharkiv Oblast.
  • Kupiansk axis: our soldiers are holding their positions firmly. Krasne Pershe, Novomlyns’k, Kup’yans’k, Novoosynove and Synkivka of the Kharkiv Oblast were shelled by artillery and mortars.
Donetsk Battle Map. July 21, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Lyman axis: the enemy forces conducted unsuccessful offensives in the Nadia, Makiyivka, Nevsky areas of the Luhansk Oblast, and Serebryansky forest and Dibrova in Donetsk Oblast. They carried out airstrikes in the Serebryansky Forest, Spirnoght and Dibrova areas of the Donetsk Oblast. Nevs’ke and Bilogorivka in the Luhansk Oblast and Tors’ke, Verkhn’yokam’ians’ke, Spirne and Rozdolivka in Donetsk Oblast were shelled by artillery.
Bakhmut Battle Map. July 21, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Bakhmut axis: under heavy enemy artillery fire, our defenders successfully repelled enemy attacks in the Hryhorivka area, and more than 15 settlements got shelled, including Kostyantynivka, Oleksandro-Shultine, Stupochki, Klishchiivka, Druzhba, and New York of the Donetsk Oblast.
  • Avdiivka axis: our defenders successfully repelled Russian assaults at Pervomaysky of the Donetsk Oblast. The enemy launched airstrikes in the Avdiivka area. They shelled more than 15 settlements, including Novokalynove, Krasnohorivka, Stepove, Avdiivka, Pervomaiske and Nevels’ke of the Donetsk Oblast.
  • Marinka axis: Defence Forces continue to hold back the advance of Russian troops in the areas of Krasnohorivka and Mar’inka. The enemy shelled more than 15 settlements, including Mar’inka, Georgiivka, Maksimilianivka, Hostre, Pobyeda and Novomykhailivka of the Donetsk Oblast.
  • Shakhtarske axis: the enemy forces carried out unsuccessful offensives at Novomykhailivka and Blagodatny of the Donetsk Oblast. More than 10 settlements were shelled, in particular, Vugledar, Prechistivka, Neskuchne and Blagodatne got under fire.
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. July 21, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Zaporizhzhia and Kherson axes: the enemy is concentrating forces to prevent further advance of our troops. They carried out an airstrike at Kozatsky of the Kherson Oblast. More than 30 settlements, including Novodarivka, Malynivka, Chervone, Mali Shcherbaki, Stepove, Lobkove, Pyatikhatky of the Zaporizhzhia Oblast, were shelled by artillery; Dmytrivka, Tyaginka, Sadove, Dniprovs’ke, Antonivka of the Kherson Oblast, Kherson, as well as Ochakiv of the Mykolaiv Oblast.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. July 21, 2023. Source: ISW.

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

At the same time, the Defense Forces of Ukraine continue to conduct offensive operations on the Melitopol and Berdiansk axes, while equipping captured positions.

Motorized rifle regiment of the occupiers, which participates in hostilities in the Pershotravnevo Oblast of the Luhansk Oblast, Russian servicemen have a low level of morale and psychological state. It was established that the main factors that negatively affect it are large losses in manpower during hostilities, untimely provision of ammunition to the occupiers, and uncertainty regarding the terms of replenishment of the personnel of units that suffered combat losses. The number of those wishing to leave their units and withdraw from the areas of hostilities to the Russian Federation is increasing.

Ukrainian Air Force conducted 14 strikes on areas where personnel, weapons and military equipment are concentrated, and 3 strikes on the enemy’s anti-aircraft missile systems.

Ukrainian Defence Forces [downed] 11 operational-tactical reconnaissance UAVs.

Ukrainian missile and artillery units hit 2 enemy manpower, weapons and military equipment concentrations, 5 artillery units at firing positions and the enemy EW station.“

Russians are trying to seize the initiative on the Lyman-Kupiansk front, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesman for the Eastern Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. “On the Bakhmut front, Ukrainian forces are conducting a measured but steady offensive. On the Lyman-Kupiansk front, Russia wants to seize the initiative; a record number of 908 attacks by the occupiers were recorded in the past day. The Bakhmut and Lyman-Kupiansk fronts remain a priority. (On the Bakhmut front – ed.) we conduct a very measured and progressive offensive, taking into account the fact that we do not have an advantage in forces and means over the enemy. Therefore, we make maximum use of manoeuvres, coverage, and various tactical innovations in order to advance evenly and confidently, but with minimal losses to our personnel.

Cherevaty emphasised that the Defence Forces are freeing hundreds of metres of our land every day, kilometres every week. The time will come; it will be tens of kilometres. That is, this process is measured, stable, but unrelenting.

Cherevatyi emphasised that on the Bakhmut front, the Defence Forces continue to hold the initiative and put pressure on the Russians. The Russians are desperately resisting; they fired 519 times at Ukrainian positions and carried out one air raid. In total, there were eight combat engagements on this front, as a result of which 74 invaders were killed, another 152 invaders were wounded, and one was captured. The Ukrainian defenders also destroyed one Russian tank, six self-propelled guns, two Gvozdika self-propelled guns, a D30 howitzer, an Aistonok counter-battery radar station, and three Russian ammunition depots.

On the Lyman-Kupiansk front, the Russians are trying to seize the initiative and conduct offensive actions. The invaders fired a record 908 times on Ukrainian positions with all types of artillery and also carried out 11 air raids. According to Cherevatyi, 29 clashes took place during the day, during which 76 occupiers were killed and another 158 were injured. The defenders also burned down two tanks, Msta self-propelled guns, two mortars, a howitzer, two UAVs and a field warehouse with Russian ammunition.”

Russians hit an agricultural facility in Odesa with Kalibr missiles at night, injuring 2 people, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Nataliia Humeniuk, Head of the Joint Press Centre for Operational Command South and Oleh Kiper, Head of Odesa Oblast Military Administration. “The Russian occupiers attacked premises belonging to an agricultural business in Odesa Oblast with Kalibr missiles on the night of 20-21 July. Missiles hit grain warehouses and a building where agricultural machinery was stored, injuring two people. […]

Humeniuk added that Russian forces fired Kalibr missiles, taking a missile carrier on duty in the Black Sea in the middle of the night and aiming the missiles on a very difficult course, using the terrain features. Missiles were flying at a very low altitude, and it was difficult to detect them, so the strike happened almost simultaneously with an air-raid warning. […]

Later, Oleh Kiper, Head of Odesa Oblast Military Administration, stated that this was the fourth Russian attack on Odesa Oblast in a week and that Russian forces had destroyed 100 tonnes of peas and 20 tonnes of barley. Kiper said two people were wounded as a result of the explosion, sustaining glass cuts.”

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

British Intelligence Map.
  • Russian former intelligence officer and leading nationalist mil-blogger Igor Girkin was almost certainly arrested for ‘extremism’ on 21 July 2023. Girkin has long been a critic of the Russian Ministry of Defence’s conduct of the war. However, in recent days his comments turned to direct criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his time in power.
  • The move is likely to infuriate fellow members of the mil-blogger community – and elements within the serving military – who largely see Girkin as an astute military analyst and patriot. He played a major role in Russia’s war in the Donbas from 2014 and spent months on the front line in 2022.
  • While Girkin is no ally of the Wagner Group, he was likely only prepared to push the limits of public criticism in the context of Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s June 2023 abortive mutiny. The taboo against unmasked criticism of the Putin regime has significantly weakened.
  • In the coming days, Russia’s Wagner Group is likely to release the last of its convict-recruits from their mandated service. Its Project K prison recruitment scheme peaked in early 2023 and at least 40,000 men served under it.
  • A significant number of the now pardoned convicts are likely to take up the offer to continue with Wagner as professional contractors. Meanwhile, the Russian MOD has taken over Wagner’s prison recruitment pipeline.
  • The end of the scheme marks a way point in the history of Wagner and of Russia’s war in Ukraine. The soldiers provided by Project K enabled Russia to seize Bakhmut: one of its few recent claims to success. The project grew Wagner into the organisation which, last month, directly challenged the authority of President Putin. It also marks one of the bloodiest episodes in modern military history: up to 20,000 convict-recruits were killed within a few months.

As of Friday 21 July, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the invasion to the present day:

Losses of the Russian Army. Source: Euromaidan Press.
  • Personnel – about 241330 (+640)
  • Tanks – 4140 (+7)
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 8096 (+16)
  • Artillery systems – 4629 (+19)
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 693 (+1)
  • Air defence means – 448 (+8)
  • Aircraft – 315 (+0) 
  • Helicopters – 310 (+0)
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 7159 (+14)
  • Vessels/boats – 18 (+0)
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 3944 (+11)
  • Special equipment – 691 (+5)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0)
  • Cruise missiles – 1298 (+0)

Russia to expand number of men liable for compulsory military service, Reuters reports. “Russia will keep compulsory military service for 18-year-olds, state media reported on Friday, permanently increasing the number of young men liable to conscription, after lawmakers dropped a proposal not to start before the age of 21. All men in Russia are currently required to do a year’s military service between the ages of 18 and 27, or equivalent training while in higher education.

Andrei Kartapolov, a former general who chairs the defence committee of the lower house of parliament, or State Duma, had proposed that the conscription period be pushed back in stages to ages 21-30.”

Humanitarian

‘Many may die’ warns UN after end of Black Sea grain deal, Reuters reports. “A spike in grain prices since Russia quit a deal allowing the safe Black Sea export of Ukraine grain “potentially threatens hunger and worse for millions of people, the United Nations’ aid chief told the Security Council on Friday. Some will go hungry, some will starve, many may die as a result of these decisions, Martin Griffiths told the 15-member council, adding that some 362 million people in 69 countries were in need of humanitarian aid. […]

The U.N. has long argued that the Black Sea deal was a commercial operation and it had benefited poor states by helping lower food prices more than 23% globally since March last year. The World Food Programme also shipped 725,000 tonnes of grain to Afghanistan, Djibouti Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. […]

Russia pounded Ukrainian food export facilities for a fourth day in a row on Friday and practiced seizing ships in the Black Sea. Moscow has described the attacks as revenge for a Ukrainian strike on Russia’s bridge to Crimea. The new wave of attacks on Ukrainian ports risks having far-reaching impacts on global food security, U.N. political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo told the Security Council.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan hopes to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin next month and said those talks could lead to the restoration of the Black Sea grain deal, calling on Western countries on Friday to consider Russia’s demands.

US Ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said Russia had no legitimate reasons for quitting the deal. Russia’s grain and fertilizer exports are not subject to Western sanctions, but Moscow said restrictions on payments, logistics and insurance have been a barrier to shipments. They would have you believe that sanctions have blocked their exports. That couldn’t be further from the truth, Thomas-Greenfield said. Russia is simply using the Black Sea as blackmail … it’s holding humanity hostage.

Russia’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said Moscow does not object to the Black Sea deal – especially given its significance per the global food market for many states – and was ready to return if its list of demands was met. […] A key demand by Moscow is the reconnection of Russia’s Agricultural Bank, Rosselkhozbank, to the SWIFT international payments system. It was cut off by the European Union in June 2022. Before Russia withdrew from the Black Sea deal on Monday, the U.N. had “brokered a concrete proposal” with the European Commission to connect a Rosselkhozbank subsidiary to SWIFT.”

Environmental

Level of mining in Zaporizhzhia region is ten times higher than in other regions, Censor.net reports, citing the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Ihor Klymenko in an interview with Radio Liberty published on Thursday. “Such mining carried out by the enemy on the territory of Zaporizhzhia region, and the offensive now shows this, is ten times higher than in Chernihiv or Sumy regions, where the enemy also mined the territory,” Klymenko said. According to the minister, Today our territory is completely mined.

In particular, Klymenko noted that in the Kyiv region, explosive ordnance disposal experts continue to work, and the area of active population has been almost cleared, but thousands of hectares of fields will have to be cleared. That is why we are waiting for mechanical demining machines to work in the fields, he said.

Klymenko noted that the timing of demining depends on human resources and the provision of the necessary equipment. According to the minister, the number of mines defused by the Ministry of Internal Affairs is now almost half a million.”

Russian attacks on Ukraine’s military objects cause over UAH 305B in environmental damage, Ukrinform reports. “Russian armed aggression has seriously affected Ukraine’s environmental security, and Russian attacks against the country’s military objects have caused over UAH 305 billion in environmental damage. The relevant statement was made by Head of the Environmental Safety and Mine Action Department at the Ukrainian Defense Ministry Ruslan Berehulia.

Russian aggression against Ukraine has seriously affected the environmental security of the entire country, especially in the areas that used to be under occupation and where hostilities took place. Russian troops are destroying oil depots, bombing and shelling enterprises and factories, burning down forests, and creating threats to nuclear power facilities. This results not only in huge losses but also causes irreparable damage to the environment: destruction of ecosystems, soil pollution, and reduced biodiversity, Berehulia told.

Currently, it is impossible to calculate the damage caused, as the active phase of hostilities is underway. Meanwhile, in order to determine the environmental losses in 2022-2023, the ministry inspected 55 military objects, where cases of environmental damage had been recorded. At the moment, the total environmental damage reached more than UAH 305 billion, including over UAH 300 billion as soil pollution caused by waste from the ruined infrastructure; about UAH 700 million as soil contamination with petroleum products and other dangerous chemical substances; about UAH 4 billion as unorganized emissions of pollutants into the air. The amount of the damage caused to the forest fund came to about UAH 7 million, Berehulia noted. According to him, the above amount of environmental damage is not final and will further increase if Russia continues its policy of armed terror.”

Legal

ICC could open case against Russia over civilian hostages – ombudsman, Ukrinform reports. “Verkhovna Rada Human Rights Commissioner Dmytro Lubinets believes it would be appropriate if the International Criminal Court brought charged the Russian authorities regarding the civilian hostages the aggressors are holding. We would consider it expedient for the International Criminal Court to probe the Russian side over civilian hostages, just like this happened regarding the deportation of Ukrainian children. After all, there’s plenty of evidence and grounds for the relevant cases to be launched, Lubinets wrote. […]

According to the ombudsman, the Russian Federation illegally detains Ukrainians in the temporarily occupied territories and on Russian territory. He also reminded that Article 3 of the 4th Geneva Convention prohibits warring parties from taking civilian hostages. It’s true that Ukraine needs to follow the path of a democratic state, record Russian crimes against our people, protect their rights, and demand justice, that’s for sure! Our efforts are to unite and do everything possible, every day, to bring Ukrainians home and contribute to victory, he is convinced. As reported, Lubinets said more than 25,000 civilian hostages from Ukraine are believed to be held by Russia.”

Support

Germany handed over first 10 Leopard 1A5 tanks to Ukraine, Censor.net reports, citing the press center of the government of the Federal Republic of Germany. “Germany handed over ten Leopard 1A5 tanks to Ukraine. Germany also provided Ukraine with 20 MG3 machine guns for Leopard 2 tanks, “Marder” IFVs, and Dachs engineering tanks.

The aid package included 1,305 shells and 2,064 155 mm smoke munitions; bridge system and 12 trailers; 10 ground surveillance radars; 16 Zetros trucks; four off-road vehicles for border protection; and 100,000 first-aid kits.

Earlier, Acting Minister of Defense of Denmark Troels Lund Poulsen said that Denmark and Germany will transfer 80 Leopard-1 tanks to Ukraine. In total, Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands promised about 100 such tanks.”

Bulgaria to provide Ukraine with about 100 armoured personnel carriers, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing European Pravda with reference to the Bulgarian portal BGNES. “In Bulgaria, the parliamentary majority has approved the provision of additional military assistance to Ukraine, namely about 100 Soviet-style armoured personnel carriers. […] The decree stipulates that Bulgaria will provide armoured vehicles that it will transfer to Ukraine with its existing weapons, as well as spare parts for its maintenance.

The APCs have been in the warehouse of the Bulgarian Ministry of Internal Affairs since the 1980s. Additional assistance can also be set out in a separate intergovernmental agreement between Kyiv and Sofia. This is the first time that the Bulgarian side transfers armoured vehicles to Kyiv directly, and not through intermediaries.”

US to give Ukraine new $400 million military aid package, Reuters reports. “The United States plans to announce as soon as Tuesday a new military aid package for Ukraine worth up to $400 million, primarily comprised of artillery, air defence missiles and ground vehicles as Ukraine’s counteroffensive grinds on, three US officials said on Friday.

Included in the package are several Stryker armoured personnel carriers, mine clearing equipment, munitions for National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS), munitions for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), anti-tank weapons including TOW and Javelin and munitions for Patriot and Stinger anti-aircraft systems, according to the officials.”

Ukraine seeks air defence systems for the south, which Russia has been attacking heavily for 4 days in a row, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing evening address by President Zelenskyy. “The Ukrainian government is negotiating with partners for additional air defence systems to protect Odesa, Mykolaiv and other cities in the rear, which have particularly suffered from massive Russian attacks in recent days. In just four days of this week, since Monday, Russian terrorists have already used almost 70 missiles of various types, almost 90 ‘Shaheds’ against our state, and to a significant extent – against Odesa and Odesa region, Mykolaiv, our other southern cities and communities.

Of course, our warriors managed to shoot down some of the enemy missiles and drones, and I thank each of our defenders of the sky for this… But unfortunately, the capacity of Ukrainian air defence is not yet enough to protect the entire Ukrainian sky…  We are working with our partners as actively as possible to obtain additional air defence systems that can provide peace and security to our Odesa and all other cities and communities of our country.”

Ukraine will continue to strengthen its air defence with Western models, as effectiveness of Soviet systems is declining, Censor.net reports, citing the spokesman of the Air Force Command of the AFU, Colonel Yurii Ihnat in an interview with RBC-Ukraine. “[The mobile fire groups] are not very effective, but 10-15%, sometimes even 30% of downed targets fall on them. […] [Ukraine is] losing the potential of the old Soviet weapons, because, on the one hand, the equipment is failing, and on the other hand, there are fewer Soviet anti-aircraft missiles produced by Russia. It is clear that we do not have the opportunity to use them. But we are being strengthened by Western systems, which, although fewer, are much more effective, Ihnat added.

He explained that first of all, we are talking about the Patriot and SAMP-T systems, which are capable of shooting down ballistic targets. Patriot has already demonstrated this by shooting down the Dagger, and SAMP-T still needs to be tested in combat conditions. In particular, NASAMS and Iris-T are also four complexes that will be the basis of air defence of the Air Force in the future, he noted.

Furthermore, the Gepard-type air defence systems of the Ground Forces are anti-aircraft guns that can also destroy targets in automatic mode, which gives a very effective operation. But they have a short range. In addition, the French Crotale. These are the main means that will probably replace the Air Defense Forces of the Ground Forces now, Ihnat noted. […]

Manufacturers should be interested in long-term cooperation with Ukraine in the future, because we will in any case replace the entire Soviet fleet of equipment that we have – the S-125, Buk-M1, C-300 of various modifications, which we can no longer count on in the future, Ihnat explained. He added that Ukraine plans to replace the entire Soviet park with Western complexes, in connection with which it expects continued assistance from the West.

He also talked about how the allies will soon strengthen Ukrainian air defence. Germany gives us four Iris-T systems. Then NASAMS, it was announced at the summit in Vilnius about two more systems that Norway provides us. The USA is more restrained in some forecasts and promises, this has been observed for a long time. This can be seen even on the example of the F-16. When they consider it necessary, then they will say it, Ihnat said.

It will be recalled that Oleksii Danilov, Secretary of the National Security Council, stated that Ukraine currently lacks the capabilities to shoot down the missiles with which the Russians attack Ukrainian ports, but the state is already working on strengthening air defence.”

Battalion named after Dmytro Kotsyubaylo urgently needs drones with thermal imagers for Kupiansk direction, – Butusov, Censor.net reports, citing Facebook by the editor-in-chief of Censor.NET Yurii Butusov. “”Friends, the situation on the Kupiansk and Lymansk directions has now worsened, the situation in some areas must be recognized as critical. I will write about these events a little later, and now the battalion named after Dmytro Kotsyubail, the fire team” of this front, needs emergency help with drones, primarily drones with thermal imaging cameras, Butusov notes.

According to him, the Censor.NET team is transferring one Mavik-3T today, but much more is needed. Who has a Mavik-3T right now – the front needs it, my fund is ready to buy it, we ordered a batch of night Maviks, but they are taking a long time. […] The front urgently needs drones of all types. In the offensive areas, the Russian troops have created an advantage in drones, we need to correct this situation, the journalist adds.”

Pentagon reveals facts of theft of Western weapons in Ukraine that were returned, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing CNN, referring to a report by the Pentagon’s Inspector General. “There were cases of theft of Western weapons in Ukraine during the first months of the full-scale war, but the weapons have been found and seized. […]

The Pentagon report notes that missiles and helicopters were easier to track through intelligence mechanisms, but smaller items, such as night vision devices, were more difficult to control.”

Defence Ministry says US inspection showed no theft of Western weapons in Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Ukraine’s Defence Ministry.Deputy Defence Minister Volodymyr Havrylov, in response to media reports about possible cases of theft of Western weapons, stated that the US inspection has no claims to Ukraine’s accounting of the weapons provided to it.”

Wallace: “Great Britain provided Ukraine with 15 times more ammunition than planned”, Censor.net reports, citing British Defence Minister Ben Wallace, with reference to The Guardian.Ukraine received 184,000 more artillery shells from Great Britain than planned in London. He noted that Great Britain provided a significant amount of military equipment, ammunition and non-lethal aid.

Although in some areas we have provided less than expected…we have exceeded plans in critical areas such as artillery, responding promptly to Ukraine’s priorities and developments on the battlefield. For example, we have delivered 15 times more artillery ammunition than was originally planned, Wallace said.”

Russia threatens to bomb German Rheinmetall plant if it is built in Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing BILD, referring to Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia. “Russia claimed that it considers the German defence concern Rheinmetall, which is planning to open a plant in Ukraine, a military target.This plant, if it is built, will become <…> a lawful target for the Armed Forces of Russia,” Zakharova claimed.

This is not the first time Russian officials have threatened the future enterprise. Earlier, Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia, wrote in his post on Telegram: If krauts [krauts or “fritz”, Russian derogatory term for Germans – ed.] finally decide to build (though they seem quite pragmatic), we are looking forward to it. He promised the fireworks from Kalibr missiles.

Meanwhile, CEO of Rheinmetall Armin Papperger told the media that the concern is going to protect the plant with self-made air defence means.

At the beginning of July, the German defence concern Rheinmetall announced that it would open an armoured vehicle plant, which is going to produce ammunition, tanks and other armoured equipment, in Ukraine within the next 12 weeks. Preliminarily, the plant is set to produce 400 tanks a year. Papperger states that the main goal of the concern is to support our Ukrainian partners in their fight for freedom and democracy and satisfy their crucial needs as soon as possible“.

Ukrainians donate record amount of money for needs of Armed Forces in June, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing  Opendatabot, an open data platform that has analysed the flows to the three largest charitable foundations in Ukraine: United24, Come Back Alive and Serhiy Prytula Charity Foundation. “Although Ukrainians have been donating less money to defence since the beginning of 2023, June has set a record, collecting nearly half of the amount equivalent to all donations made since the beginning of the year.

Ukraine’s three largest charitable foundations received a total of UAH 8.35 billion [roughly US$227,250,000] in the first six months of 2023. For comparison, this is 22% less than in the second half of 2022. The vast majority of funds transferred by Ukrainians to United24 accounts were earmarked for the needs of the Ukrainian Armed Forces (defence), amounting to UAH 4.93 billion [roughly US$134,000,000], or 89% of all donations received by the platform. The remaining 11% was raised for medical aid and the recovery of Ukraine – UAH 0.45 billion [roughly US$ 12,000,000] and UAH 0.16 billion [roughly US$4,350,000], respectively.

Meanwhile, United24 received UAH 2.4 billion [roughly US$65,300,000] for defence in June, an absolute record. In addition, this is equivalent to almost 50% of all donations for defence in the first half of this year. This platform raised the previous maximum of UAH 2.24 billion [roughly US$60,900,000] in July 2022. However, the results of donations for the Ukrainian Armed Forces in June were 4.8 times higher than in January-May this year, when United24 collected an average of UAH 0.5 billion [roughly US$13,600,000] per month for this purpose.”

New developments

  1. Crimean bridge must be neutralized – Zelensky, Ukrinform reports, citing CNN. “The Crimean bridge, this is not just a logistical road, this is the road used to feed the war with ammunition, and this is being done on a daily basis. […] So understandably this is our objective. Any target that is bringing war, not peace, must be neutralized, Zelensky said. According to him, the Crimean bridge is “an enemy facility built outside the law, outside international laws and all applicable norms. Zelensky also reiterated his government’s objective is to reclaim the whole of the Crimea.”
  2. Russia announces inspection of all vessels in Black Sea waters, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Sergey Vershinin, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. “Vershinin stated that the Russian Federation will consider all ships travelling through the Black Sea as containing military cargo, but before taking any measures, it will inspect the ships. It is about the fact that we must ensure that the ship is carrying something bad. This means an inquiry, an inspection, if necessary, to make sure if it is true or not,” Vershinin said on Friday at a briefing in Moscow. There is no maritime humanitarian corridor anymore; now there is a zone of heightened military danger, the Russian said.”
  3. US Secretary of State hopes Türkiye can bring Russia back to the Grain Initiative, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Politico. “US Secretary of State Antony Blinken hopes Türkiye will help bring Russia back to the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which Russia withdrew from earlier in the week. […] He has reiterated that Russia is “weaponising food” and doing something truly unconscionable. So I hope the world is watching this, and seeing how Russia is cynically manipulating food in order to advance its objectives in Ukraine.”
  4. French government assumes China supports Russia in war. Ukrainska Pravda reports.  European Pravda; CNN, referring to Emmanuel Bonn, advisor to the President of France. “A CNN correspondent asked Bonn whether the West has any evidence that China supplies Russia with military aid for the war against Ukraine. Yes, there are indications that they are doing things we wish they wouldn’t do, Bonn replied. To a clarifying question, whether this is about the armament, Bonn responded that there is evidence of a mass supply of military equipment. Later, French officials specified that Bonn meant double-use technologies and non-lethal military aid like helmets and armour.”
  5. Poland to move soldiers to east of country due to Wagner risks, state news agency reports, Reuters reports. “Poland’s security committee decided in a meeting on Wednesday to move military units to the country’s east due to the Wagner Group’s presence in Belarus, state-run news agency PAP quoted its secretary as saying on Friday. […] On Thursday, the Belarusian defence ministry said Wagner mercenaries had started to train Belarusian special forces at a military range just a few miles from the border with NATO-member Poland. […] The Committee analysed possible threats, such as the dislocation of Wagner Group units. Therefore, the Minister of National Defence, chairman of the Committee, Mariusz Blaszczak, decided to move our military formations from the west to the east of Poland.”
  6. Putin declares that Poland is hatching “revanchist plans” and is preparing aggression against Belarus, Censor.net reports. “Russian dictator Vladimir Putin accused Poland of preparing armed aggression against Belarus. He stated this during a meeting with members of the Russian Security Council. As far as Belarus is concerned, it is part of the Union State, and aggression against Belarus will mean aggression against the Russian Federation. We will respond to this with all available means. […] According to him, the truth is that there is not enough Ukrainian cannon fodder and soon “the Poles themselves, Lithuanians and all others who don’t feel sorry for them will go on the move. We will remind you that the Ministry of Defense of Poland decided to transfer the military to the eastern borders of the country due to possible threats related to the training of “Wagner” mercenaries in Belarus.
  7. Putin called western territories of modern Poland gift from Stalin, Censor.net reports. “Russian dictator Vladimir Putin said that Warsaw received the western lands of modern Poland largely thanks to Stalin’s position. Putin said this at a meeting with members of the Russian Security Council. He accused Poland of an aggressive policy and recalled a number of events in the second third of the twentieth century. It ended with the tragedy of 1939, when Poland was abandoned by the Western Allies to the German military machine and actually lost its independence and sovereignty, which it regained to a large extent thanks to the USSR. And it was thanks to the Soviet Union, thanks to Stalin’s position, that Poland gained significant lands in the West, German lands. That’s right, the western territories of modern Poland are Stalin’s gift to the Poles, Putin said.”
  8. Security forces of Russian Federation detained terrorist Girkin, – Russian media, Censor.net reports, citing Russian RBC. “On 21 July, Russian terrorist Igor Strelkov-Girkin was detained in Russia. He is charged with extremism under the article on extremism. […] It is noted that law enforcement officers took Strelkov from his home at noon. The Investigative Committee is conducting a search in his apartment. According to preliminary data, the detention was carried out at the request of a former employee of the Wagner PMC.” 

Assessment

  1. On the War

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of Friday 21 July:

(quote) Russian forces continued offensive operations in the Kupiansk area and reportedly advanced on July 21. The Russian Western Group of Forces Spokesperson Sergei Zybinsky claimed that Russian forces captured five Ukrainian strongholds and four observation points during fighting near the Senkivka rail station and Masyutivka (both 12-14km northeast of Kupiansk). Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces advanced three kilometers in an unspecified area in the Kupiansk direction, captured the Movchanove rail station (just north of the Senkivka rail station), and attacked Ukrainian positions west and south of Lyman Pershyi (11km northwest of Kupiansk). A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces advanced to unspecified positions at the Oskil River in the Kupiansk direction. ISW has not observed visual confirmation of any of these claims. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian ground attacks southwest of Masyutivka. Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty stated that Russian forces are attempting to seize the battlefield initiative in the Kupiansk direction.

Russian forces continued offensive operations in the Kreminna area and reportedly made marginal advances on July 21. A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces advanced in the Serebryanske forest area (10km southwest of Kreminna) from the northwest. Another Russian milblogger posted footage of unspecified Russian Airborne (VDV) assault detachments capturing Ukrainian trench positions reportedly in a forest near Kreminna. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Nadiya (15km southwest of Svatove), Makiivka (22km northwest of Kreminna), Nevske (18km northwest of Kreminna), Dibrova (7m southwest of Kreminna), and in the Serebryanske forest area.

Ukrainian forces continued ground attacks on the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line and did not advance on July 21. The Russian MoD claimed that Russian forces repelled two Ukrainian counterattacks in the Kupiansk area near Lyman Pershyi and Synkivka (8km northeast of Kupiansk) and attacks in the Kreminna area near Dibrova, Kovalivka (10km southwest of Svatove), Karmazynivka (12km southwest of Svatove), and Zolotarivka (12km south of Kreminna). Russian milbloggers largely corroborated the MoD’s claims and additionally claimed that Russian forces repelled a Ukrainian armored assault near Torske (15km west of Kreminna).

Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on the northern and southern flanks of Bakhmut and made limited gains on July 21. Geolocated footage published on July 21 shows that Ukrainian forces advanced along the E40 (Bakhmut to Sloviansk) highway northeast of Orikhovo-Vasylivka (11km northwest of Bakhmut).The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations north and south of Bakhmut where Russian forces deployed reinforcements. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that heavy fighting continues in the Orikhovo-Vasylivka-Paraskoviivka (up to 8km north of Bakhmut) and the Klischiivka-Andriivka (7km to 10km southwest of Bakhmut) directions. Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty reported that Ukrainian forces continue to hold the initiative in the Bakhmut direction, where Ukrainian offensives are making steady progress. Cherevaty reported that Ukrainian forces are engaging in maneuver actions in the Bakhmut direction to avoid heavy losses. […] A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces gained a foothold on the heights north of Orikhovo-Vasylivka.[64]

Russian forces conducted attacks in the Bakhmut area and made no confirmed gains on July 21. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces unsuccessfully attacked Ukrainian positions on the southwest outskirts of Klishchiivka and near Hryhorivka (9km northwest of Bakhmut). A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces unsuccessfully attacked Ukrainian forces from the direction of Berkhivka (6km northwest of Bakhmut). […]

Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted limited offensive operations along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line and did not make any confirmed gains on July 21. Avdiivka City Military Administration Head Vitaliy Barabash reported that Ukrainian forces have achieved unspecified success in the area of Avdiivka in the past two to three weeks. […]

Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line and made no confirmed advances on July 21. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces unsuccessfully attacked near Pervomaiske (11km southwest of Avdiikva), Nevelske (14km southwest of Avdiivka), Krasnohorivka (23km southwest of Avdiivka), Marinka, and Novomykhailivka (10km southwest of Donetsk City). Russian sources claimed that Russian forces pushed Ukrainian forces out of positions near Vesele and Kamianka (5km northeast of Avdiivka), but ISW has not observed visual confirmation of these claims. Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces attacked Ukrainian positions near Marinka, Krasnohorivka, and Nevelske. Barabash reported that Russian forces are continuing attempts to encircle Avdivika and have been deploying reinforcements to the area, including unspecified naval infantry elements that were previously in Nikolske near Mariupol.

Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations in western Donetsk Oblast but did not advance on July 21. Russian milbloggers claimed that elements of the 155th Naval Infantry Brigade (Pacific Fleet) repelled Ukrainian assaults with armored vehicles north of Mykilske (27km southwest of Donetsk City).

Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations along the administrative border between Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk oblasts on July 21 and made gains in the area. Geolocated footage published on July 21 indicates that Ukrainian forces advanced closer to Pryyutne (16km southwest of Velyka Novosilka). The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces achieved success in the Novodarivka-Pryyutne (13km to 16km southwest of Velyka Novosilka) direction. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted unsuccessful ground attacks near Staromayorske (9km south of Velyka Novosilka).

Russian forces counterattacked in the Zaporizhzhia-Donetsk Oblast border area on July 21 and made no confirmed gains. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful ground attacks to recapture previously lost positions north of Pryyutne. A Russian milblogger claimed on July 20 that Russian forces counterattacked near Pryyutne and pushed Ukrainian forces out of positions north of the settlement. The geolocated footage of Ukrainian advances in the area published on July 21 indicates that these Russian counterattacks were likely unsuccessful.

Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast on July 21 and made no confirmed gains in the area. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces achieved success in the Novodanylivka-Verbove (up to 16km southeast of Orikhiv) and Novodanylvika-Robotyne (up to 12km south of Orikhiv) directions. […] Russian sources claimed that small Ukrainian groups conducted ground attacks towards Verbove as well as along the Pyatykhakty-Zherebyanky line (up to 26km southwest of Orikhiv).

Russian forces reportedly counterattacked south of Orikhiv and advanced in the area on July 21. Russian sources amplified footage on July 21 purporting to show elements of the Russian 291st Guards Motorized Rifle Regiment (42nd Motorized Rifle Division, 58th Combined Arms Army, Southern Military District) at recaptured positions following successful counter-attacks near Robotyne. ISW has not observed visual confirmation of recent Russian advances near Robotyne.

Russian sources claim that Ukrainian forces maintain a presence on the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast and that fighting continues near the Antonivsky Bridge as of July 21. A Russian milblogger claimed that fighting is ongoing near Ukrainian positions close to the Antonivsky Bridge and that Russian forces repelled a small Ukrainian group that attempted to land near Hola Prystan (12km southwest of Kherson City). […]

The arrest of former Russian officer and ardent ultranationalist Igor Girkin (Strelkov) on July 21 may be the public manifestation of a shifting balance of power among Kremlin factions, possibly to the detriment of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), in which Girkin had served. The Russian Investigative Committee arrested Girkin on July 21, and Girkin will be held until September 18 on extremism changes. Girkin’s wife, Miroslava Reginskaya, reported that representatives from the Russian Investigative Committee detained Girkin at his home in Moscow, and noted later that the Moscow’s Meshansky Court arrested Girkin and that he will be held until September 18 on extremism charges. Girkin unsuccessfully attempted to argue in the court that he is not a high flight risk due to his sentence at the Hague Tribunal, but the court cited Girkin’s notoriety and “connections in law enforcement” as the reasons for his immediate incarceration. Girkin’s lawyer, Alexander Molokhov, argued that Russian law enforcement is prosecuting Girkin for his May 25, 2023 Telegram posts, which reportedly discussed the lack of payments to servicemen of the 105thand 107th airborne (VDV) regiments. Court documents, however, indicate that Russian authorities opened a case against Girkin on July 18 – the day on which Girkin published several harsh critiques of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Girkin had been consistently criticizing Putin prior to July 18, however, but his past criticisms had not triggered an arrest. […]

Russian insider sources claimed that Girkin’s arrest is part of the Russian Presidential Administration’s efforts to crack down on select high-profile Russian ultranationalists following Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s armed rebellion on June 24. A Russian source affiliated with the Russian security services leaked a document – approved after the Wagner rebellion – in which the Russian Presidential Administration purportedly ordered the Russian authorities to “take repressive measures against those who are insane, including Strelkov-Girkin.” The document additionally targeted several high-profile propagandists including Margarita Simonyan, prominent milbloggers, Russian State Duma deputies with extensive online presence, and Prigozhin. Russian insider sources have previously claimed that Kremlin factions have begun a struggle for control over the Russian information space and that First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Russian Presidential Administration Sergey Kiriyenko has been attempting to undermine Simonyan. The Russian Investigative Committee – the government organization that reportedly arrested Girkin – is a structure subordinated to Putin. ISW previously reported that Kiriyenko has been notably expanding his control over Russian social media outlets and increasing his reach in the Russian federal government since Prigozhin’s rebellion.

Girkin’s arrest follows other criminal charges against ultranationalists with past ties to Russian security services and indicates that unknown Russian officials may be targeting prominent ultranationalists who routinely reveal insider information about the Kremlin. ISW has consistently assessed that Girkin likely has the backing of an unknown silovik – possibly within the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) – who promoted their interests by using Girkin as a conduit to reveal select information to Russia’s online ultranationalist community. Russian authorities arrested on July 14 former FSB officer Colonel Mikhail Polyakov, who reportedly ran several popular insider Telegram channels that speculated on internal Kremlin and Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) dynamics between different factions. Russian authorities also initiated a criminal case against Girkin’s affiliate, former Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) Colonel Vladimir Kvachkov, on charges of discrediting the Russian Armed Forces on July 18 – the same day on which Girkin’s criminal charge was opened. Girkin himself was an FSB officer and had been consistently using passports under fictitious names that he received from the FSB. Girkin recently accused the FSB’s Service for the Protection of the Constitutional Order (UZKS) of deliberately censoring him by interfering with his presentations at a St. Petersburg bookstore on July 9. The court publicized Girkin’s court proceedings, and the Russian media had been consistently televising Polyakov’s arrest and raids of Wagner financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s property – and it is possible that select Russian officials are trying to undermine the reputation of a security structure or of an affiliated silovik who protected Girkin. One milblogger observed that the media attention around Polyakov’s arrest suggests that some unnamed figure is attempting to ruin the FSB’s reputation.

Wagner’s rebellion likely shifted the balance of power in the Kremlin, potentially depriving some patrons – including Girkin’s patron – of Putin’s favor and, therefore, of some of their power. Girkin claimed on July 12 that Prigozhin’s rebellion shifted the balance of power within the Kremlin in favor of the group that reportedly includes Kiriyenko. Girkin claimed that members of the “Ozero Cooperative” – an association unifying the dachas of Putin and several members of his inner circle in Leningrad Oblast – want to oust Putin in favor of one of its own members, such as Prigozhin or Kiriyenko. Girkin warned that the “Ozero Cooperative” members will target the Ministry of Defense, Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev, the FSB, and other structures outside the control of the presidential administration. While Girkin’s specific affiliations remain unknown, the recent crackdowns on ultranationalist figures in connection with the Russian security services are likely a public manifestation of a significant change within the Kremlin’s power politics. […]

The Kremlin appears to be attempting to soften the Russian Ministry of Defense’s July 19 announcement about viewing civilian ships in the Black Sea as legitimate military targets. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin stated on July 21 that the Russian MoD’s July 19 announcement that the Russian military will consider all ships en route to Ukrainian ports as potential military cargo vessels meant that Russian forces will inspect the ships. The Russian MoD’s announcement, however, still indicates that Russian forces intend to treat civilian ships as legitimate military targets, and even Vershinin’s interpretation of the announcement states that Russian forces will board and possibly seize foreign civilian vessels.

Russia is maneuvering to retain the option of modifying the current agreement rather than negotiating an entirely new one as it seeks to extract extensive concessions from the West. Vershinin also argued that the July 22, 2022 memorandum underpinning the Black Sea Grain Initiative remains valid because neither Russia nor the United Nations (UN) gave notification about the termination of the memorandum that the UN, Türkiye, Russia, and Ukraine signed. […]

The Russian MFA is likely trying to assert that Russia is still a de jure participant in the agreement despite its exit from the grain deal in an effort to leave open a channel for Russia to renegotiate the grain deal on conditions more favorable to Russia rather than negotiating an entirely new one. Ukrainian Ambassador to Türkiye Vasyl Bondar reported on July 21 that the Joint Coordination Center in Istanbul, which monitors the grain corridors in the Black Sea, has stopped operating and that all Russian personnel at the center have left. […] 

Putin delivered an array of demands for Russia’s return to the agreement on July 19, notably including the lifting of sanctions on Russian grain and fertilizer deliveries and the reconnection of Russian banks servicing food supplies to the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) banking system. The Russian military’s intensifying strikes against Ukrainian port and grain infrastructure and threats of maritime escalation in the Black Sea likely aim to pressure the West to acquiesce to these demands among other things. The Kremlin routinely engages in escalatory rhetoric aimed at prompting Western concessions and often will have some officials promote that rhetoric while having other officials feign willingness to engage in negotiations.

Putin continued efforts to sow intra-NATO and Ukrainian-NATO divisions likely aimed at supporting the Kremlin’s Black Sea Grain Initiative effort and undermining long-term Western support for Ukraine. Putin’s rhetoric heavily drew upon historical parallels meant to evoke fear and distrust between European countries and the United States as well as between Ukraine and Poland. Putin’s rhetoric is consistent with prior rhetoric from Russian senior officials meant to sow distrust between Ukraine and its allies, undermine ongoing Western security assistance to Ukraine, and encourage Western states to push Ukraine prematurely into negotiations with Russia.

Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on July 21 and made gains in some areas. Geolocated footage published on July 21 indicates that Ukrainian forces made gains northeast of Orikhovo-Vasylivka (11km northwest of Bakhmut) and closer to Pryyutne (12km southwest of Velyka Novosilka). The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations north and south of Bakhmut, where heavy fighting continues in the Orikhovo-Vasylivka-Paraskoviivka (up to 8km north of Bakhmut) and the Klischiivka-Andriivka (7km to 10km southwest of Bakhmut) directions. The Ukrainian General Staff also reported that Ukrainian forces achieved success in the Novodarivka-Pryyutne (13km to 16km southwest of Velyka Novosilka) direction in the Zaporizhzhia-Donetsk Oblast border area as well as the Novodanylivka-Verbove (up to 16km southeast of Orikhiv) and Novodanylvika-Robotyne (up to 12km south of Orikhiv) directions in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast. […]

Pro-Wagner Group sources continue to express loyalty to Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin as the future of the Wagner Group and Prigozhin’s role in the organization remains unclear. A Wagner-affiliated milblogger released an interview with an alleged unnamed Wagner platoon commander on July 21. The platoon commander claimed that none of the Wagner personnel he knows signed contracts with the Russian MoD except for fighters whom Wagner fired for drunkenness and looting and a Wagner commander with the surname Troshev (callsign “Seda”). Putin notably claimed that he offered Wagner fighters the option to serve under a Wagner commander with the callsign “Seda” at the June 29 meeting with Prigozhin and Wagner commanders. […] The platoon commander expressed his dedication to Wagner by stating that he would not care if the MoD killed him, but he would not “disgrace [his] name or the name of Wagner PMC.” He also claimed that Wagner would not have existed without Prigozhin, that all Wagner fighters took an oath to Prigozhin and to an unnamed Wagner commander (likely Wagner Group co-founder and commander Dmitry Utkin), and therefore, that they would remain with them. ISW has consistently observed Wagner-affiliated sources voicing their support for Prigozhin despite Kremlin efforts to destroy Prigozhin’s reputation. ISW has notably not observed Wagner-affiliated sources refusing to support Prigozhin or attempting to separate Wagner from Prigozhin. […]

Key Takeaways:

  • The arrest of former Russian officer and ardent ultranationalist Igor Girkin (Strelkov) on July 21 may be the public manifestation of a shifting balance of power among Kremlin factions, possibly to the detriment of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), in which Girkin had served.
  • Russian insider sources claimed that Girkin’s arrest is part of the Russian Presidential Administration’s efforts to crack down on select high-profile Russian ultranationalists following Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s armed rebellion on June 24. […]
  • Wagner’s rebellion likely shifted the balance of power in the Kremlin, potentially depriving some patrons – including Girkin’s patron – of Putin’s favor and, therefore, of some of their power.
  • Russian forces conducted missile and drone strikes against southern Ukraine for a fourth night on July 21 following Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
  • The Kremlin appears to be attempting to soften the Russian Ministry of Defense’s July 19 announcement about viewing civilian ships in the Black Sea as legitimate military targets.
  • Russia is maneuvering to retain the option of modifying the current agreement rather than negotiating an entirely new one as it seeks to extract extensive concessions from the West.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin continued efforts to sow intra-NATO and Ukrainian-NATO divisions likely aimed at supporting the Kremlin’s Black Sea Grain Initiative effort and undermining long-term Western support for Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on July 21 and made gains in some areas.
  • Pro-Wagner Group sources continue to express loyalty to Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin as the future of the Wagner Group and Prigozhin’s role in the organization remains unclear. […]
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations in the Kupiansk, Kreminna, Bakhmut areas, and along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line and reportedly advanced in the Kupiansk and Kreminna areas.
  • Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations in the Bakhmut area, and along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna and Avdiivka Donetsk City lines, and advanced in the Bakhmut area.
  • Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks in western Donetsk Oblast, the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhzhia Oblast area, and south of Orikhiv, and reportedly advanced south of Orikhiv.
  • Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations in the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhzhia Oblast area and in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast and made gains in the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhzhia Oblast area. […]
  • Russian occupation authorities continue to relocate Ukrainian children in occupied Ukraine to Russia.
  • A Wagner-linked source reported that Wagner temporarily relocated its headquarters from Molkino, Krasnodar Krai, to Belarus and that Wagner’s work to transfer combat experience to the Belarusian military is in full swing. (unquote)

Blinken: It’s vitally important to convince Putin that he will not outlast Ukraine, Ukrinform reports. “The fundamental problem is that President Putin believes, continues to believe, that he can outlast Ukraine and that he can outlast all of Ukraine’s supporters. It’s vitally important that we disabuse him of that notion,” [US Secretary of State Antony] Blinken said.

In this context, he said that it was primarily about support from many countries and, in particular, the G7 countries. At the NATO summit in Vilnius, the international community pledged to assume long-term security commitments for Ukraine and to help the country develop its defence capabilities so that Russia does not return to plans for new aggression in the future.

That sends a very strong signal to Vladimir Putin that we are not going anywhere. Ukraine is not going anywhere, and it will have the means to defend itself, Blinken said. If there is a change in Putin’s mindset when it comes to this, then maybe the Russian Federation will change its position, he said. Now we don’t see it, Blinken said.”

CIA Chief reveals Russia’s weak spots on battlefield, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Bloomberg. “William Burns, director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, has said that Ukraine will be able to move forward in its offensive against Russia. It is going to be a tough slog, but we’re going to do everything we can as an intelligence agency to provide the kind of intelligence support and sharing that’s going to help the Ukrainians to make progress. Burns has stated that Russia’s defence is underpinned by a number of significant structural weaknesses. These include low morale, poor command and disarray among the political and military leadership.

He also noted that the mutiny of Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin in June had exposed some of the significant weaknesses in the system that Putin has built. For a lot of Russians watching this used to [have] this image of Putin as the arbiter of order, the question was does the emperor have no clothes or at least why does it take so long for him to get dressed, Burns said.

Ukraine mirrors Russia’s threat towards shipping vessels in Black Sea, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing a statement of Ukraine’s Defence Ministry published on 20 July at 15:00. “From 00:00 of 21 July 2023 all vessels headed to the water area of the Black Sea in the direction of the Russian sea ports and Ukrainian ports, located in the temporarily Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories, may be considered by Ukraine as those carrying military cargo with all associated risks. Moreover, movement of ships in the northeast of the Black Sea and Kerch–Yenikale canal of Ukraine is considered dangerous and banned from 05:00 of 20 July 2023. The corresponding navigation information for sailors has been posted, the statement reads.

The responsibility for all risks lies completely on the Russian government, the Defence Ministry of Ukraine warned. The fate of the Moscow cruiser [destroyed by the Ukrainian forces – ed.] proves that the Defence Forces have all the necessary means for repelling Russian aggression at sea, the ministry stated.

It was stressed in the statement that Russia has once again brutally violated the global right to freedom of movement for vessels and is consciously sabotaging food trade, dooming millions of people to starvation. By openly threatening civil vessels, carrying food products from the Ukrainian ports, launching missile and drone attacks on civil infrastructure of peaceful cities, deliberately creating a military threat on the trade routes, the Kremlin has turned the Black Sea into a danger zone, the statement reads.”

Biden administration has taken “risks” with Ukraine support – Sullivan, Ukrinform reports, citing Politico. “The Joe Biden administration has accepted significant “risks” in sending advanced weapons to Ukraine, national security adviser Jake Sullivan told the Aspen Security Forum, defending against charges that the US was too timid in arming Kyiv. Much of the conference featured criticisms at the speed of America’s decision-making and delivery of air-defence systems, artillery, and ammunition. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke over video conference, complaining about the lack of F-16 fighter jets and long-range missiles that the US had yet to provide.

Asked about those broadsides, the national security adviser rejected the narrative of a White House scared of raising Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hackles. One caricature is that the administration is sitting around, you know, unwilling to provide things because we’re worried about the Russians. I think that is belied by the sheer magnitude of the breadth and sophistication of the capabilities that we have provided, Sullivan said. We have been prepared to take risks, and we will continue to be prepared to take risks to provide support to Ukraine.

At the same time, Sullivan noted that some caution was needed as the chance of severe escalation remains in place: It is responsible for every member of NATO and for the United States to think about the Russian reaction when we choose to do something because that matters for our security and management of global stability. So don’t be paralyzed by it. Consider it and then make decisions accordingly.”

  1. Consequences and what to do?

US senators propose to support Ukraine’s prompt entry into NATO, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Oksana Markova, Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United States, quoted by European Pravda. “US Senators Lindsey Graham, a Republican, and Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, presented a draft resolution to the US Senate to support Ukraine’s prompt accession to NATO. […]

The resolution proposed by Graham and Blumenthal proposes to consolidate that the US Senate supports Ukraine’s accession to NATO as soon as possible, and also asks the US president, together with other leaders of the Alliance, to develop a clear, comprehensive path for Ukraine’s accession to NATO. Also in the document, the senators propose to proclaim that Ukraine’s accession to NATO is extremely important for preventing future wars, promoting peace and ensuring the future security of Europe and the world.”

ME: If you attack a neighbour country, you don’t necessarily reach your strategic aim and objectives the next day. Nor the following days. You might reach them next month, next year, or in 20-30 years. It will take as long as it takes according to the selected strategy, recognising that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. You learn and adapt.

But you don’t attack unless you believe you can win.

While the war is still raging many analysts have stated that Russia has failed to reach its aims and objectives (which is blatantly obvious, since the war is still ongoing). Many questions Russia’s ability to reach them in the future, focusing on present territorial gains, speed of advance, military losses, the ability to regenerate new forces and sustain further operations, the morale and motivation of the soldiers, and more. They evaluate Russia’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as its ability to protect its weaknesses while exploiting those of its enemies.

Russia’s list of enemies is long. Ukraine’s international partners top the list; ahead of Ukraine.

Was the invasion on 24 February 2022 a strategic blunder? Absolutely. Do the Russian Federation have the military forces needed to occupy Ukraine? Not a chance. Has Russia generated sufficient new forces for its offensive to succeed? Nope. Are they making the progress they hoped for? Not likely. Have they been able to rest their forces? Hardly. Are they facing continued manning problems? Yes, they are. Will it be able to defend the occupied territories? Possibly. Has it succeeded in “demilitarizing” Ukraine? Not even close. On the contrary, Ukraine has never been stronger militarily than right now. Is Ukraine about to negotiate peace on Russian terms? When hell freezes over.

But then again, Russia doesn’t need to occupy all of Ukraine to be victorious.

This isn’t a conventional war. It is a hybrid war aiming to undermine both Ukraine and the West through the joint and synchronised use of both military and non-military means. Over the last 9,5 years, we have seen Russia adapt, escalate, and de-escalate the use of the various means available to it as it sees fit.

Russia has most definitely been assessing Ukraine and the West’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as their ability to protect their weaknesses while exploiting those of Russia.

Not from the perspective of a conventional war but based on its hybrid war strategy. Its calculus has, therefore, ended up with a different and far more – from a Russian perspective – positive outlook.

Russia still believes that victory is within reach.

It is still trying to exhaust Ukrainian Air Defence to establish Air Control over Ukrainian territory, completely changing the nature of the war. It is not least upholding its efforts to undermine Ukrainian economic viability as a sovereign state. This includes the maritime embargo (that goes unchallenged) and the destruction of critical infrastructure. Most importantly, the West is not really “exploiting Russia’s weaknesses”. It refrains from confronting Russia directly. It is even restricting Ukraine’s ability to attack legal targets on Russian territory. The international community’s effort to “sanction Russia into submission” is not an attack on its weakness, but its strength: National resilience and resolve.

The costs it inflicts Russia are minuscule compared to the gains Russia stands to make from a potential victory.

To illustrate, we only need to frame the questions differently.

Did the full-scale invasion trigger a change in Western strategy? Nope. The US and Europe are upholding the same strategy they introduced in 2014. They only increased the scale and scope of what they were already doing. Did Russian atrocities in Bucha trigger a new strategy? Or the Russian massive attacks on Ukraine’s critical infrastructure? Or the destruction of the Kakhovka dam? Or its nuclear blackmail, including its mining of Zaporizhzhia NPP? Or the termination of the Black Sea Grain Initiative and its weaponizing of food? Not at all. Western unity was strengthened, but its strategy remained fixed.

Has the West developed a common strategy to end the war? Not as far as I can find. Is the West able to sustain a protracted war? Yes, but only in a couple of years from now. The next 12 months might, however, prove critical. Has NATO developed any red lines? None have been declared. Do the US and Europe share Ukraine’s desired end-state? No, they don’t. If they did, they would declare just that and stop reiterating the non-binding “as long as it takes” statement.

Are the USA and Europe being deterred? Yes, they are. The Vilnius Summit reaffirmed Western reluctance to confront Russia. The fear of an escalation is continuously being used to justify NATO’s inaction. Does Ukraine receive the defence support they need to recapture occupied territories? No, it does not. Ukraine is being forced to conduct a military operation none of the NATO member states would have endeavoured for lack of air power and required ammunition.

Is the Ukrainian economy suffering? Big time. Does the Russian maritime blockade work as intended? Absolutely.

Has the West the resilience needed in the face of the ongoing economic war? Not necessarily. Some have long called for concessions at the cost of European security. Even the US regularly brings up the need to end the war at the negotiation table. Is Russia capable of escalating the economic war? I am afraid so. They just did, terminating the Black Sea Grain Initiative. The West is experiencing an unprecedented level of protests as voters express their anger over increased costs of living. Is the EU willing or capable to escalate the sanctions to the level needed to destroy the Russian economy? Most probably not. EU’s unity and resolve were faltering already after the fifth package.

Who is the weakest link? I am not pointing fingers, but it isn’t Ukraine or Russia. They are already fighting an existential war. The West hasn’t yet realised that it is at war.

I am not saying that Russia will succeed because the West is still able to make sure it fails. The West only need to find the courage needed to achieve its demise.

I am simply saying that it has long assessed the US and NATO’s lack of resolve and resilience and has probably concluded that victory is within reach. At the end of the day, it is up to the West to prove it wrong.

That’s why the statements NATO General Secretary, Jens Stoltenberg, made last year remain crucially important. He fully acknowledged Ukraine’s efforts to protect European security and told the ones complaining about the economic repercussions of the war to stop complaining. The Ukrainian sacrifices are immensely higher than the price the NATO member countries are paying.

Yes, [support] has a price; but not to act and just let that brutality continue, and let that brutality of Russia be awarded is, for me, a higher price. Second, it is in our interest to help Ukraine. Because you have to understand that, if Ukraine loses this, that’s a danger for us. That will make Europe even more vulnerable to Russian aggression. Because then the lesson learned from Georgia in 2008, from annexing Crimea in 2014, from starting to undermine Donbas in 2014, and then the full-fledged brutal invasion by President Putin in February, is that they can just use force to get their will. It’s to re-establish an idea of spheres of influence, where big powers can decide what small neighbours can do. And that will make all of us more vulnerable.

So, even if you don’t care about the moral aspect of this, supporting the people of Ukraine, you should care about your own security interest. So, therefore, you have to pay; pay for the support, pay for humanitarian aid, pay the consequences of the economic sanctions, because the alternative is to pay a much higher price later on.

And then remember one thing, yes, we pay a price, but the price we pay, as the European Union, as NATO, is a price we can measure in currency, in money. The price they pay is measured in lives lost every day. So, we should just stop complaining and step up and provide support, full stop.

I have previously questioned NATO’s ability to deliver what is needed. Not for lack of will, but for the lack of equipment and ammunition. I have also reported on the Defence Industry facing supply chain problems, labour constraints and inflationary pressures that could hold back its efforts to scale up production. I elaborated on the issue in my report two days ago, commenting on the CNN article “US and NATO grapple with critical ammo shortage for Ukraine”.

Nearly a decade after the war started on 20 February 2014 – and nearly 9 years after the NATO member states “pledged” to an “aim to move towards the 2% guideline within a decade with a view to meeting their NATO Capability Targets and filling NATO’s capability shortfalls”, only 11 out of 31 member countries have reached or exceeded the 2% benchmark.

Nearly a decade into the war, the West has failed to ramp up the defence industries’ production capacity. Unfortunately, the shortcomings NATO is facing after decades of underbudgeting, streamlining and downsizing are both reflected on the battlefield in Ukraine and recognised by the Russian Federation adding credit to its belief that it might win. Recognising that NATO needs more time to generate new forces, procure more arms, sensors, command and control systems, build sustainability, and not least, rebuild the defence industry to re-establish deterrence, Russia knows time is on its side.

This war only ends when Ukraine wins. Ukraine only wins when it has the right weapons. That’s a problem we can solve”, Timothy Snyder said last year. The international community needs to start delivering the support that completely changes the military balance in our – Ukraine, the EU, the US, and NATO’s – favour.

The West need to convince Russia that its assessment is wrong. Victory is not within its reach because the West will do what is needed to ensure its defeat in Ukraine.

For that to happen, the US and NATO need to change their strategy. Ukrainian NATO membership while at war must back on the table along with military intervention according to the UN doctrine “Responsible to Protect”.

When the price Ukraine pay is measured in lives lost every day, NATO needs to stand shoulder to shoulder with the country defending European security. Only then will Russia pay attention. Only then will Russia find that Peace is more attractive than War.

Hans Petter Midttun, Independent Analyst, Hybrid Warfare, Non-resident Fellow at Centre for Defence Strategies, board member Ukrainian Institute for Security and Law of the Sea, former Defence Attaché of Norway to Ukraine, and Officer (R) of the Norwegian Armed Forces.