Ukraine Project

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, June 10, 2023

Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations in at least four areas of the front on June 10. Russian sources reported Ukrainian activity in Luhansk Oblast near Bilohorivka. Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty noted that Ukrainian forces advanced up to 1,400m in unspecified areas of the Bakhmut front, and Russian milbloggers reported Ukrainian advances northwest and northeast of Bakhmut. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and other Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian troops conducted localized attacks in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, particularly in the Velyka Novosilka area. Geolocated footage posted on June 10 additionally indicates that Ukrainian forces in western Zaporizhia Oblast made localized gains during counterattacks southwest and southeast of Orikhiv, and Russian milbloggers continued to claim that Russian forces in this area are successfully defending against attempted Ukrainian advances.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, June 9, 2023

Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in least four areas of the front on June 9. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian forces repelled limited and localized Ukrainian ground attacks in the Kreminna area. Ukrainian officials stated on June 9 that Ukrainian forces advanced 1.2 kilometers in continued offensive operations near Bakhmut on June 8. Ukrainian forces continued limited counteroffensive operations in western Donetsk Oblast near the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border on June 9, and made tactical gains in the area. Ukrainian forces also continued ground attacks in western Zaporizhia Oblast overnight from June 8 to 9 and during the day on June 9, and a Russian source suggested that Ukrainian forces made incremental gains during the attacks.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, June 8, 2023

Ukraine has conducted counteroffensive operations with differential outcomes in at least three sectors of the front as part of wider counteroffensive efforts that have been unfolding since Sunday, June 4. Ukrainian officials signaled that Ukrainian forces have transitioned from defensive to offensive operations in the Bakhmut sector and are making gains of between 200 meters and nearly two kilometers on the flanks of the city. Ukrainian forces have made tactical gains during limited localized counterattacks in western Donetsk Oblast near the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border since June 4. Ukrainian forces additionally conducted an attack in western Zaporizhia Oblast on the night of June 7 to 8 but do not have appeared to have made gains as part of this attack as of the time of this publication.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, June 7, 2023

The destruction of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant (KHPP) dam is significantly changing the geography and topography of the Kherson frontline sector in southern Ukraine. Near-infrared (NIR) imagery captured at 0400 am ET on June 7 indicates that the flooding is heavily disrupting Russian prepared defensive positions on the east (left) bank of the Dnipro River – especially affecting Russian first-line positions in Hola Prystan and Oleshky. Various sources reported that Oleshky, Hola Prystan, Kozacha Laheri, and Dnipryany are almost entirely flooded with water levels rising to the height of a one-story buildings in some areas. The Ukrainian headquarters established to remediate the consequences of the dam’s destruction reported that as of June 7 29 settlements are partially or fully flooded, 19 of which are located on the Ukrainian-controlled territory and 10 on Russian occupied territories. Russian sources published footage indicating that water had begun receding in Nova Kakhovka and had dropped by 30cm. Russian sources also claimed that water levels decreased by three to four meters in some areas from a high of 10 meters. Water levels in nearby Mykolaiv City reportedly increased by 70cm as of June 7. Flooding will likely worsen and further change the geography in Kherson Oblast over the next 72 hours.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, June 6, 2023

Damage to the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant (KHPP) dam in the early hours of June 6 caused massive flooding of the Dnipro River delta, river wetlands, estuaries, and shoreline settlements in Kherson Oblast. Russian and Ukrainian sources began reporting loud noises resembling explosions emanating from the KHPP (across the Dnipro River in the Nova Kakhovka area about 55km northeast of Kherson City) between 0200 and 0230 local time on June 6, followed by reports of rushing water and an overall increase in the water level of the Dnipro. Ukraine’s Kherson Oblast Administration announced the evacuation of several raions (districts) of the west (right) bank of Kherson Oblast as of 0730 local time and reported that the Tyahinka, Odradokamianka, Beryslav, Ivanivka, Mykilske, Tokarivka, Ponyativka, Bilozerka, and Ostriv areas had been partially or completely flooded. Russian Kherson Oblast occupation officials announced the evacuation of the Nova Kakhovka, Hola Prystan, and Oleshky raions. Ukrainian officials noted that over 80 settlements are within the flood zone in Kherson Oblast. General Director of Ukraine’s hydroelectric power plant regulator Ukrhydroenergo Ihor Syrota said that water is draining from the Kakhovka Reservoir at a rate of 15-20cm an hour, which Syrota stated means that the reservoir will be entirely dry in the next four days. A researcher at the Ukrainian Department of Water Bioresources at the Kherson Oblast Agrarian and Economic University, Yevhen Korzhov, noted that the rate of water discharge from the dam may lead to flooding as far downstream as Kizomys, about 120km southwest from the KHPP. A Russian milblogger claimed that the water level in Nova Kakhovka, immediately adjacent to the KHPP, reached as high as 11m. Various Russian sources additionally highlighted footage showing that several east (left) bank settlements, including Oleshky, Korsunka, and Dnipryany, are entirely or nearly entirely underwater.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, June 5, 2023

Russian and Ukrainian officials are signaling the start of the Ukrainian counteroffensive. ISW offers no assessment of these signals at this time. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed on June 5 that Ukrainian forces conducted a “large-scale offensive” across five sectors of the frontline in southwestern Donetsk Oblast on June 4. The Russian MoD claimed that Russian forces repelled all Ukrainian attacks and assigned Chief of the Russian General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov to oversee the southwestern Donetsk frontline. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar noted on June 5 that Ukrainian forces are “transferring to offensive actions” in some unspecified areas of the front. Malyar added that Russian sources are actively spreading information about the Ukrainian counteroffensive to deflect attention from Russian losses in the Bakhmut direction. The Russian MoD’s claims that Russian forces immediately repelled Ukrainian counteroffensives are consistent with previous false Russian claims made during past counteroffensives. Ukrainian forces are likely making limited gains despite Russian denials. ISW will not attempt to assess at this time whether or not these gains are part of broader counter-offensive operations. ISW observed an increase in combat activity in different sectors of the frontline but will not speculate about the intent, weight, or focus of Ukrainian counteroffensives operations. A successful counteroffensive operation may take days, weeks, or even months before its outcome becomes fully clear, during which time Russian sources may falsely claim to have defeated it.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, June 4, 2023

Elements of the all-Russian pro-Ukrainian Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK) and Freedom of Russia Legion (LSR) conducted another limited raid into Belgorod Oblast on June 4 and are reportedly continuing to operate in a Russian border settlement. Geolocated footage published on June 4 shows LSR and RDK personnel advancing towards Novaya Tavolzhanka (3.5km from the Ukrainian border). Belgorod Oblast Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov confirmed that there was fighting within Novaya Tavolzhanka, although the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that units of the Western Military District and the Russian Border Guard Service struck a Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance group near the settlement, forcing them to withdraw. Russian milbloggers claimed that a sabotage and reconnaissance group of 20 personnel entered Novaya Tavolzhanka without armored vehicles. Wall Street Journal Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Yarsoslav Trofimov reported that the pro-Ukrainian Russian fighters remain in Novaya Tavolzhanka as of 1700 (Moscow Standard Time).

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, June 3, 2023

Ukrainian officials continue to signal that Ukrainian forces are prepared to start counteroffensive operations. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated in a June 3 interview with the Wall Street Journal that Ukraine is ready to launch a counteroffensive. Zelensky stated that Ukraine “would like to have certain things, but … can’t wait for months” to start counteroffensive operations. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar stated on June 3 that “military plans love silence” and that she will “discuss something else” in the meantime, likely acknowledging that Ukrainian officials have started to more strictly enforce a regime of informational silence about operations in preparation for upcoming counteroffensives. Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs Ihor Klymenko stated on June 3 that Ukraine has formed all nine brigades of the “Offensive Guard” and that these formations are ready to take part in hostilities at Zelensky’s and Ukrainian Commander in Chief General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi’s orders.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, June 2, 2023

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) continues to respond disproportionately to limited raids into Russian territory, likely to project confidence and competence in the MoD’s ability to respond to perceived threats. The Russian MoD issued a second update about the June 1 Shebekino, Belgorod Oblast border raid, largely fixating on the timeliness and scope of the Russian response to the raid. The MoD claimed that additional Russian Western Military District (WMD) elements reinforced the border area within an hour of the start of the raid and conducted heavy air, artillery, and flamethrower strikes against the raiding units and their reserves. The MoD claimed that over 135 people and 35 vehicles in total conducted the raids and that various Russian defensive efforts - including small arms fire and mines - repelled the raids. The MoD later celebrated the commander of an unspecified motorized rifle battalion, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Nikitin, for leading the defensive effort, likely to preempt attempts to attribute the “victory” achieved by Belgorod border defense on Russian Colonel General Alexander Lapin as the information space did during the May 23 raid. The Russian MoD’s fixation on portraying Russian forces and the Russian military command as capable defenders of Russia likely reflects internal and broader information space anxiety over the coming Ukrainian counteroffensive as well as any reverberating informational impacts from any failures to defend against Ukrainian counterattacks.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, June 1, 2023

Russian forces conducted another series of missile strikes on Ukraine overnight on May 31 to June 1 and during the day on June 1. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces launched 10 Iskander ballistic missiles targeting Kyiv City from Bryansk Oblast, which borders Ukraine, in the morning on June 1, and that Ukrainian air defense destroyed all 10 missiles. The Ukrainian General Staff also reported that Russian forces launched two S-300 missiles targeting critical infrastructure in Kharkiv City during the day on June 1. Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Colonel Yuriy Ihnat stated that Ukraine cannot strike launch points of Russian Iskander missiles in Russia as Ukraine is under obligations not to strike Russian territory with Western-provided weapons. ISW has previously assessed that Russian forces began a new limited air campaign in recent months to degrade Ukrainian counteroffensive capabilities, but that the Russian prioritization of Kyiv is likely further limiting the campaign’s ability to meaningfully constrain potential Ukrainian counteroffensive actions.