Assessment of the Russian Offensive Campaign, June 19

June 19, 5:30 p.m. ET

Click on here to view the ISW’s interactive map of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report.

The British Ministry of Defense believes that the Kremlin’s viewing of its invasion of Ukraine as a “special military operation” rather than a war is actively hampering Russian force generation capabilities. The British Ministry of Defense reported on June 19 that the Russian authorities were struggling to find legal means to punish military dissidents and those who refuse to mobilize because the classification of the conflict in Ukraine as a “special military operation” excludes legal punitive measures that might be employed during an official war.[1] The ISW has previously assessed that the Kremlin’s definition of the war as a “special operation” compounds ongoing problems with a poor perception of Russian military leadership among Russian nationalists, problems with troop payments, lack of available forces and unclear objectives among Russian forces. The Kremlin continues to attempt to wage a major, bitter war in Ukraine with forces assembled for what the Kremlin wrongly assumed would be a short invasion against token Ukrainian resistance. The Kremlin continues to struggle to correct this fundamental flaw in its “special military operation”.

Russian authorities are likely seeking to use war crimes trials against captured Ukrainian servicemen, particularly troops who defended Mariupol, to advance their narratives around the war. Russian sources reported that Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) authorities plan to hold war crimes courts until the end of August 2022 and that at least one such court will be held in Mariupol.[2] These tribunals would be judged in accordance with DNR legislation (which notably authorizes the death penalty, unlike Russian law) and would be modeled on the Nuremberg format for war crimes trials. The trials are a fictitious attempt to try legitimate POWs as war criminals and bolster the Kremlin’s misrepresentation of its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine as a “denazification” operation. Despite the fact that the DNR authorities plan to try Ukrainian servicemen in the DNR, a Russian law enforcement source told state media TASS that the deputy commander of the Azov regiment and the commander of the 36th brigade of Ukrainian Navy would both be transferred to Russia for investigation and trial.[3] Russian authorities are likely to use these trials to tighten legal controls over occupied areas and further demoralize Ukrainian defenders by setting a harsh legal precedent in preliminary courts, as well as advancing the Kremlin’s false narrative of invading Ukraine to “denazify” it.

Key points to remember

  • Concentrated Russian artillery power coupled with likely understrength infantry units remained insufficient to allow Russian advances into Severodonetsk.
  • Russian forces continued to prepare to advance on Sloviansk from southeast of Izyum and west of Lyman.
  • Russian forces are focused on strengthening defensive positions along the southern axis due to recent successful Ukrainian counterattacks along the Kherson-Mykolaiv Oblast border.
  • Successful Ukrainian counter-attacks in the Zaporizhia region forced Russian forces to send reinforcements to this weakened sector of the front line.
  • Russian forces are likely conducting false flag artillery attacks against Russian-held territory to deter Ukrainian sentiment and encourage the mobilization of proxy forces.

We do not report in detail on Russian war crimes because these activities are well covered by Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we assess and plan. We will continue to assess and report on the effects of these criminal activities on the Ukrainian army and population and more specifically on the fighting in Ukrainian urban areas. We strongly condemn these Russian violations of the law of armed conflict, the Geneva Conventions and humanity, even if we do not describe them in these reports.

  • Main Effort – Eastern Ukraine (composed of one subordinate effort and three supporting efforts);
  • Subordinate main effort – Encirclement of Ukrainian troops in the cauldron between Izyum and Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts
  • Support Effort 1—City of Kharkiv;
  • Support Effort 2—South Axis;
  • Activities in Russian-occupied areas

Main Effort – Eastern Ukraine

Subordinate Main Effort – South of Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk Oblasts (Russian objective: encircle Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine and capture the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, territory claimed by Russian proxies in the Donbas)

Concentrated Russian artillery power, coupled with likely understrength infantry units, remains insufficient to allow Russian advances into Severodonetsk, as Russian troops continued to fight for control of the city but did few gains on June 19. Russian forces continued their efforts to surround the remaining Ukrainian troops in the Azot Industrial Plant.[4] Russian Telegram channels also claimed that Russian forces were advancing on Lysychansk from the south and fighting at Berestove, Spirne, Vovchoyarivka and the Lysychansk oil refinery.[5] Russian troops conducted airstrikes around Severodonetsk and Lysychansk and reinforced their grouping south of the area around Orikhove and Toshkivka.[6] Russian forces are likely looking to leverage their attempts to interdict the T1302 Bakhmut-Lysychansk highway to support offensive operations in Lysychansk.

Russian forces continued to prepare for offensive operations towards Sloviansk from southeast of Izyum and west of Lyman, but made no confirmed advances in either direction on 19 June. Russian forces carried out reconnaissance and artillery strikes against Ukrainian positions southeast of Izyum around Dibrove, Virnopillya, Kurulka, Bohorodychne and Dolyna, as well as west of Lyman.[7]

Russian forces continued offensive operations east of Bakhmut to interdict Ukrainian lines of communication along the T1302 Bakhmut-Lysychansk highway on 19 June. Russian forces reportedly fought around Nyrkove, Mykolaivka and Berestove and conducted air, artillery and missile strikes against Ukrainian positions. east of Bakhmut and near the T1302.[8] Russian forces are likely to continue efforts to gain access to T1302 to support operations in Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, especially as fighting in the region has largely stalled and Russian forces are increasingly unable to consolidate control of the city, even with superior artillery.

Support Effort #1—City of Kharkiv (Russian objective: withdraw forces north and defend ground lines of communication (GLOC) to Izyum)

Russian forces concentrated on holding their occupied borders north of the city of Kharkiv and fired on Ukrainian positions in northern Kharkiv Oblast on 19 June. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian troops had unsuccessfully attempted reconnaissance operations in force in Rubizhne (in Kharkiv, not in Luhansk Oblast). ), and Russian forces are likely fighting for more advantageous positions along the entire front line north of the city of Kharkiv.[9] Russian forces also continued their artillery strikes on the city of Kharkiv and surrounding settlements.[10]

Support Effort #2—South Axis (Objective: Defend Kherson and Zaporizhia Oblasts against Ukrainian counterattacks)

Recent Ukrainian counterattacks forced Russian troops to concentrate on maintaining their defensive positions along the southern axis on June 19.[11] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces in Kherson Oblast were strengthening their air defense systems in the region, likely in response to continued and successful attacks by Ukrainian air force against Russian forces south of Davydiv Brid .[12] Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov claimed that Ukrainian troops were approaching Kherson Oblast.[13] Although the ISW cannot independently confirm current Ukrainian troop positions, it is likely that localized Ukrainian counterattacks will continue to push back Russian forces, especially along the Kherson-Oblast border. Mykolaiv, and Ukrainian forces may be able to further threaten the city of Kherson in the coming weeks. .

Russian forces continue to accumulate materiel and manpower in central Zaporizhia Oblast, particularly along the Dniprorudne-Vasylivka-Orikhiv line, likely in response to Ukrainian counterattacks.[14] Fedorov said Ukrainian forces had pushed the Zaporizhia Oblast front line 10 km to the south. Ukrainian officials have previously reported that the Zaporizhia front line has shifted five to seven kilometers to the south and it is unclear whether Ukrainian forces have advanced a total of 10 km or more than these earlier advances. . The Ukrainian regional military administration in Zaporizhia said that Russian troops are moving equipment and vehicles from Crimea via Melitopol to the Vasylivka and Polohy regions and that Russian sabotage groups have clashed with Ukrainian troops near the border of Zaporizhia-Donetsk Oblast on June 19.[15] Russian forces are likely building up troops in Zaporizhia Oblast to defend against ongoing Ukrainian counterattacks on Melitopol that could threaten Russian control of the city.

Russian forces continued their missile and artillery strikes against various locations in Kherson, Zaporizhia, Dnipropetrovsk, Mykolaiv and Odessa oblasts.[16] Although Ukrainian air defense intercepted missiles before they directly hit Odessa, Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command noted that Russian forces likely targeted Odessa and other areas not experiencing direct hostilities. to exert psychological pressure on the population and undermine local economies.[17] Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command further reported that Russian forces are restructuring their naval group to include more submarines, which is a likely response to successful Ukrainian attacks on Russian naval assets in the Black Sea.[18]

Activity in Russian-occupied areas (Russian objective: to consolidate administrative control of the occupied areas; to define the conditions for a possible annexation to the Russian Federation or another future political arrangement chosen by Moscow)

Russian forces likely employ false flag artillery strikes against infrastructure in Russian-held areas of Donetsk Oblast to deter pro-Ukrainian sentiment and encourage the mobilization of proxy forces. Open-source Twitter accounts confirmed the SIE’s previous assessment that the artillery attacks on the city of Donetsk were likely carried out from Russian-held territory, refuting accusations by Russian authorities who blamed Ukrainian troops for the attacks.[19] Such false flag attacks are likely propagated by the Russian authorities to create hostility towards the Ukrainian military.

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