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Russia’s war on Ukraine. 28.07.2023. Friday extended report

Operational situation

Ukrainian Defense Forces continue their offensive operations on the Bakhmut, Melitopol, and Berdyansk directions. The enemy concentrates its main efforts on the Kupyansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Maryinka directions.

General conclusion:

  • The Ukrainian Defense Forces continued their offensive on at least three sectors of the front line and made advancements, achieving successes near Bakhmut and developing progress in Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
  • The situation has become more challenging for the enemy’s 291st motorized rifle regiment in the area of Robotyne, particularly on its left flank.
  • The situation for the Russian forces is further deteriorating as the Ukrainian Defence Forces’ “Tavriya” Operational Grouping not only broke through the enemy lines between Robotyne and Verbove but also began to expand the wedge advancing on Verbove;
  • The command of the Russian troops has recognized the potential for further developments and began to concentrate two BARS detachments and a battalion from the 810th separate marines brigade (returning from Myrne) and one of the units of the 4th military base in this direction;
  • The 35th Russian army is currently concentrated in the Polohy area and is not actively engaged in the ongoing operation, except for the 398th separate motorized rifle brigade, suggesting that it likely serves as the operational reserve for the enemy’s “Vostok” grouping.

Change in the line of contact (LoC):  

  • Over 30 combat clashes took place on different directions.
  • On the Lyman direction, Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive actions in the Nadia district of Luhansk Oblast.
  • On the Bakhmut direction, the Ukrainian Defense Forces successfully repelled Russian attacks in the areas west and south of Klishchiivka.
  • On the Avdiivka direction, the Ukrainian Defense Forces successfully repelled attacks by Russian troops in the Avdiivka area, and continued to hold back the advance of Russian troops in the Maryinka area.
  • Zaporizhzhia direction:
    • Vasylivka direction (Pyatykhatky): advanced units of the “Tavriya” Operational Grouping resumed their advance. During the past 2 days, they had some success between Kamianske and Lobkove and are now in less than 2 km from the northern outskirts of Luhove, one of the main points of the Russian defense in the Vasylivka direction.
    • Tokmak direction (Robotyne): east of Robotyne, units of the Russian 1430th motorized rifle regiment of the territorial troops continued their retreat, rolling back to a distance of up to 1 km. The advanced units of the “Tavriya” Operational Grouping reached the Robotyne-Verbove line despite the fact that the enemy had previously deployed the 1st, 3rd and 14th BARS detachments to this area. They maneuvered around Robotyne from the east and are now positioned at a distance of about 3 km from the north-eastern outskirts of Novoprokopivka, a key defensive point for the enemy on the Tokmak direction.
    • Berdyansk direction (Velyka Novosilka): The Ukrainian Defense Forces liberated Staromayorske village, Donetsk Oblast. Russian forces made unsuccessful attempts to restore the lost position in the areas of Rivnopol and Makarivka.
    • Enemy units of the 60th separate motorized rifle brigade left Staromayorske and moved south from it towards Zavitne Bazhannia village. Russian forces should be expected to retreat from Urozhaine.
  • In the Black Sea-Azov naval operational area, there were 7 Russian ships  including one cruise missile carrier on combat duty in the Black Sea, 1 in the Sea of Azov, 8 in the Mediterranean, including 3 cruise missile carriers. The total salvo is 32 Kalibr cruise missiles.

Possible operation situation developments:

  • On the Kupyansk direction, with the advance towards the Pershotravneve – Kopanky – Novoserhiivka – Cherneshchyna line, the enemy will be forced to deploy the remaining reserves, specifically the 30th separate motorized rifle brigade, in their operations. However, even if they achieve some success, the enemy will not have enough strength for an assault on Borova.
  • In the near future, the enemy will resume attacks in the direction of Tverdokhlibove and Kopanky;
  • A Russian attack from the Dzherelne area in the direction of Andriivka by the 12th tank regiment and the 9th BARS detachment should be expected. Units of the enemy 7th motorized rifle regiment and 27th separate motorized rifle brigade will continue their attacks in the direction of Berestove and Stelmakhivka on both flanks in the Novoselivske area;
  • On the Berdyansk direction, the enemy will have to retreat to the Remivka – Volodyne – Staromlynivka – Kermenchyk line by the end of July. The reserves positioned in this sector, including the 5th separate tank brigade, the 131st motorized rifle regiment, and several separate battalions, will be employed to maintain control of Kermenchyk village and the dominant heights around it. The deployment of these reserves for the defense of Novodonetsk will hinder the enemy’s efforts in that area.
  • Russian forces will try to cover Vasylivka with units of the 95th motorized rifle regiment, deploying them along the Verkhnya Krynytsia-Lisne line;

Russian operational losses from 24.02.22 to 28.07.23

Personnel – almost 244,830 people (+560);

Tanks – 4,190 (+4);

Armored combat vehicles – 8,161 (+14);

Artillery systems – 4,775 (+30);

Multiple rocket launchers (MLRS) – 698 (0);

Anti-aircraft warfare systems – 458 (+1);

Vehicles and fuel tanks –7,240 (+11);

Aircraft – 315 (0);

Helicopters – 311 (0);

UAV operational and tactical level – 4,007 (+11);

Intercepted cruise missiles – 1,347 (0);

Boats/ships – 18 (0).

Humanitarian, general:

  • According to information provided by the MOD’s Situation Center, over the past day Russian troops shelled 8 regions of Ukraine. 102 towns and villages and 89 infrastructure objects were attacked with various types of weapons. There are killed and wounded civilians. 
  • The State Border Service of Ukraine has released an intercepted conversation wherein Russian forces threaten a civilian ship bound for a seaport in Ukraine. The voice on the recording inquiries about the ship’s cargo, questioning if it includes any military equipment. The threat further informs the ship that transit to Ukrainian ports is prohibited, and any vessel attempting to do so will be regarded by the Russian Federation as carrying military equipment.
  • The SBU is conducting a pre-trial investigation into the July 29, 2022 explosion in Olenivka colony where Russian authorities held Ukrainian POWs. Of the 59 bodies returned to Ukraine as of today, 52 have been identified so far. The work on seven more is ongoing.
  • According to the representative of the “Azov” brigade, Arsen Dmytryk, who survived the terrorist attack in Olenivka, the day before the attack in the colony, the Russian occupiers transferred 193 Ukrainian POWs to a separate barrack, which was then blown up. He could not confirm whether the source of the explosion was inside or outside of the barrack because he was asleep when it happened.
  • As a result of the full-scale Russian invasion, 1,605 objects of cultural infrastructure were damaged or destroyed in Ukraine, excluding monuments of cultural heritage, the press service of the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy informed. In total, 760 club buildings, 607 libraries, 90 museums and galleries, 28 theaters and philharmonic halls, and 120 art education institutions were affected.
  • The Verkhovna Rada appealed to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the parliaments and governments of its member states regarding the need to strip the Russian Federation of its membership in UNESCO due to its attacks on the Ukrainian UNESCO heritage objects.


China supports Russia’s war in Ukraine economically and by massively supplying dual-use goods.

Recent investigations by Politico have unveiled China’s substantial role in supporting Russia’s actions in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. While publicly calling for a diplomatic resolution, China has been surreptitiously supplying Russia with dual-use goods, which can be employed both for civilian and military purposes. This covert assistance allows Russia to bolster its military capabilities and navigate the impact of international sanctions more effectively.

According to Politico’s findings, Russia has notably increased its imports of dual-use goods from China, including thermal optics, valued at $104.7 million, drones worth $114.9 million, and ceramics used in body armor, amounting to $227.4 million. The shipments of Chinese-made integrated circuits to Russia also doubled last year, reaching $179 million, as reported by WSJ. Moreover, according to Nikkei, China has supplied 75% of Russia’s microchips from the United States since the previous year. The Kyiv School of Economy has also reported that Russia is heavily reliant on semiconductor imports from China, which has surged to 87% this year (compared to 33% in 2021),

In addition to direct supplies from China and reexports of foreign-made components, Chinese dual-use goods are finding alternative routes to Russia. Notably, Turkey has experienced a significant increase in reexports of transistors, diodes, and similar semiconductors to Russia, amounting to $3.2 million compared to $79,000 in 2021. Similarly, Kazakhstan, which shares borders with both Russia and China, has also seen a substantial surge in its exports of computer systems and components to Russia, reaching $296 million, along with a seventy-three-fold increase in microchip exports, totaling $18 million in 2022. Furthermore, Kazakhstan has reexported drones worth $1.2 million to Russia.

Despite China publicly advocating for a diplomatic resolution to the war and asserting that it does not supply weapons to involved parties, it de facto helps Russia to produce weapons and employ dual-use goods on the battlefield. Furthermore, China’s support helps Russia endure the impact of sanctions and economic downturn more effectively. Bilateral trade between the two countries has seen significant growth, with the total trade value reaching over $93.8 billion in January to May of this year, a 40.7% increase compared to the same period last year. Notably, in the first half of 2023, China imported 2.13 million barrels per day (bpd) of Russian oil to build stockpiles and export refined products, as reported by FT.

Beijing capitalizes on Moscow’s vulnerabilities while at the same time helping Russia in its devastating war against Ukraine. China chose to overlook Russia’s recent missile attack on Odesa, which resulted in minor damage to its Consulate General’s building but destroyed around 60,000 tons of grain, including some intended for shipment to China. Russia has abandoned the Black Sea Grain Initiative and demonstratively prepares to target civil cargo ships heading to and from the Ukrainian ports. The rising food prices and uncertainty with Ukraine’s food exports under the Russian sea blockade will hurt China, the biggest importer of Ukrainian food under the BSGI (8 million tons out of almost 33 million tons).

The Pitfalls of Covert Diplomacy with Russia: A Misguided Approach

A team of former U.S. officials is allegedly in talks with the Kremlin, proposing solutions that appear out of touch with the realities of the war.

According to The Moscow Times report, there are ongoing covert diplomatic talks between former senior U.S. national security officials and high-ranking members of the Kremlin. These discussions fall under the category of track 1.5 diplomacy, which lies between official and expert-level discussions. These talks aim to foster mutual understanding of each other’s red lines and explore opportunities to mitigate potential conflicts between the two sides. However, the proposed solutions put forward by this team seem out of touch with the realities of the ongoing war and Russia’s aggressive actions in the region.

The report highlights that the main challenge in these talks is Russia’s failure to clearly articulate its specific wants and needs. Some Russian contacts, initially perceived as anti-war, acknowledge that losing the war is not an option for Moscow. However, this statement appears trivial, as it is common sense that no party would willingly choose to lose a war. 

The perspective presented by the undisclosed source in the report appears to deviate from reality, suggesting that isolating and crippling Russia to the point of humiliation or collapse would impede any meaningful negotiations. While the Kremlin has shown little interest in a diplomatic resolution to the conflict, Western leaders have reiterated their stance that humiliating Russia is unacceptable, and they do not seek a regime change in Moscow. The Prigozhin mutiny showed that the White House and the Kremlin were equally worried about power changes in Moscow.

A former U.S. national security official further expressed the belief that a stronger Russia could bring stability to its neighboring regions. However, given the significance of the conflict in Europe (full-scale war in Ukraine) and the inevitable shift of Central Asia’s influence from Russian dominance to China, such statements seem doubtful. Russia’s constant nuclear saber-rattling, unprovoked and reckless behavior in the air and at sea, as well as malign activities in Africa and the Middle East, contradict the notion of Russia playing a “stabilizing” role at any circumstance.

The official also mentioned the U.S.’s intention to guarantee Ukraine’s independence while involving Russia more constructively in European security matters. However, suggesting “fair” referenda in Russian-occupied territories goes against the principle of respecting Ukraine’s sovereignty, which has been a fundamental policy of the Biden Administration.It demonstrates a naive understanding of the situation on the ground and the Kremlin’s objectives in Ukraine. Implementing such a move could set a dangerous precedent, suggesting that illegal, unprovoked, and aggressive wars pay off at the end of the day.

The undisclosed source expresses regret that the negotiations between the U.S. and Russia regarding security guarantees for Russia before the full-scale invasion were made public, complicating the negotiation process. However, the source appears to overemphasize the exposure of the talks and overlook the Kremlin’s demands in its ultimatum, which included the demand for the U.S. to permanently leave the European continent and exclude Central and Eastern European countries from NATO. 

It comes as no surprise that the West rejected such impudent blackmail. It was ridiculous from the start that Russia, the largest nuclear power and one of the most significant militaries, at least as they appeared before the all-out invasion, needed special security guarantees. This is especially evident given the fact that it is Russia that illegally occupied territories of Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine. It is Russia that started the second war on the European continent in the new millennium.

The set of ideas presented by the track 1.5 team, likely including individuals such as Richard Haass, Charles Kupchan, and Thomas Graham, is a decades-old misguided thinking that has contributed to the most significant conflict since the Second World War.

The White House National Security Council Spokesperson stated that the U.S. “has not requested official or former officials to open a back channel, and is not seeking such a channel. Nor are we passing any messages through others.” It appears that the ideas proposed by self-designated envoys are not aligned with the official narrative and, more importantly, do not contribute to finding a resolution. Instead, such actions may signal the Kremlin that there is still room to challenge the West’s resolve, despite assurances that the support for Ukraine will continue. It is crucial to recognize that a compromise should not imply allowing the aggressor to keep most of its gains and seek more in the future.

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