Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, June 9, 2023
Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, June 9, 2023
Riley Bailey, Kateryna Stepanenko, Grace Mappes, Nicole Wolkov, Annika Ganzeveld, and Mason Clark
June 9, 2023, 7:50 pm ET
Click here to see ISW’s interactive map of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report.
Click here to access ISW’s archive of interactive time-lapse maps of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. These maps complement the static control-of-terrain map that ISW produces daily by showing a dynamic frontline. ISW will update this time-lapse map archive monthly.
Note: The data cutoff for this product was 1:30pm ET on June 9. ISW will cover subsequent reports in the June 10 Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment.
Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in at 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 President Vladimir Putin acknowledged on June 9 that the Ukrainian counteroffensive recently began and noted that Ukrainian forces still have offensive potential, a departure from previous Kremlin efforts to downplay Ukrainian counteroffensives. Putin stated that fighting has been ongoing for five days and claimed that Ukrainian forces “did not reach their aims in any area of combat” after committing “strategic reserves.” Putin claimed that Ukrainian forces suffered significant losses and attributed Russian successes to superior Russian military equipment and personnel. Putin added that the Russian military command is “realistically” assessing the current situation and “will proceed from these realities.” Putin’s discussion of the Ukrainian counteroffensive is a notable departure from his previous distanced approach to discussing battlefield realities and may indicate that the Kremlin is learning from its previous failed approach to rhetorically downplay successful Ukrainian counteroffensives in 2022. ISW previously reported on May 2 that the Kremlin reportedly adopted a new information policy directing officials to not downplay the prospects of a Ukrainian counteroffensive and focus on the Russian fight against Western-provided weapon systems.
Contrarily, much of the Russian information space prematurely claimed that the Ukrainian counteroffensive has failed after Russian forces damaged more Western-provided Ukrainian military equipment on June 9. Battlefield footage shows damaged or destroyed Western-provided infantry fighting vehicles and tanks in western Zaporizhia Oblast, though the number of Ukrainian vehicles several Russian sources claimed Russian forces destroyed are highly inflated. Ukrainian forces previously lost military equipment in the same location on June 8. Some prominent Russian ultranationalists claimed that damaged or destroyed Western-provided equipment indicated that Ukrainian forces failed to launch a large-scale counteroffensive. Russian nationalists are widely celebrating the 58th Combined Arms Army (Southern Military District), despite Russian forces only executing basic defensive operations that should not be so unusual as to deserve wide praise. One Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed that Ukrainian offensive activity is in the decline, while a retired Russian general expressed gratitude to elements of the Russian 58th Combined Arms Army and proclaimed these elements as heroes despite battles continuing along different frontlines. Another Russian milblogger claimed that a counteroffensive can only last up to 10 to 15 days, implying that Ukrainian counteroffensive will soon culminate. However, other ultranationalists warned that Ukrainian forces have not yet carried out the main offensive and noted that Russian forces are reinforcing the second echelon in anticipation of Ukrainian breakthroughs. A Wagner-affiliated milblogger condemned the excessive enthusiasm around the destruction of Ukrainian military equipment, noting that Western kit is not “some kind of magic.” Many Russian ultranationalists appear to be overcorrecting for their previous fears of the Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Ukrainian officials directly acknowledged that Ukrainian forces expect to suffer equipment losses during counteroffensive operations. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar stated on June 9 that losses are expected during combat operations and that “military equipment that cannot be destroyed” has yet to be invented. Malyar added that Russian sources are heavily amplifying footage of Ukrainian equipment losses for informational effects. The Economist reported that Ukrainian forces are using critical Western equipment in areas of the frontline where Ukrainian forces have recently suffered equipment losses. ISW previously assessed that Ukrainian forces appear to have committed only a portion of their available reserves for current counteroffensive operations, and that the existing reports of damaged Western-provided equipment are not a definitive measure of current Ukrainian combat power. Available footage of Ukrainian equipment losses additionally indicates that many of these armored vehicles have been rendered immobile, but not outright destroyed, and are likely recoverable by Ukrainian forces. The footage also suggests that the Ukrainian crews of these armored vehicles, who are far more valuable than the vehicles themselves and can remount new or repaired vehicles, likely survived and withdrew once the vehicles became immobilized.
The Russian command structure responsible for areas of southern Ukraine is unclear and likely overlapping. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) published a video statement on June 8 from the commander of the Russian grouping in the Zaporizhia operational direction, Colonel General Alexander Romanchuk, wherein he reported details about Ukrainian assaults in southern Ukraine. Romanchuk is reportedly the Deputy Commander of the Southern Military District (SMD), although his level of responsibility for southern Ukraine remains unclear. A Russian colonel previously claimed that Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) commander Colonel General Mikhail Teplinksy also played a decisive role in commanding Russian forces that repelled recent Ukrainian assaults in southern Ukraine. Teplinsky is rumored to be deputy theater commander and responsible for the Zaporizhia, Kherson, and southern Donetsk operational directions. It is unclear if Romanchuk would report to Teplinsky or SMD Commander Colonel General Sergey Kuzovlev. The Russian MoD also claimed that overall theater commander and Chief of the Russian General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov took command of Russian operations in southern Ukraine on June 5. The command relations between these four officers — Romanchuk, Teplinsky, Kuzovlev, and Gerasimov — who have all been described as primarily responsible for Russian forces in this area are unclear.
Russian forces carried out missile and drone strikes across Ukraine on the night of June 8 to 9. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces launched 16 Shahed-131/136 drones and six Kh-101/55 cruise missiles fired from two Tu-95 aircraft over the Caspian Sea and that Ukrainian air defenses shot down 10 Shahed drones and four Kh-101/55 missiles. The Ukrainian General Staff also reported that Russian forces launched eight missile strikes against residential buildings in Zhytomyr Oblast. Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Colonel Yuriy Ihnat reported that current Russian missile strikes aim to distract Ukrainian air defense systems, while Russian missile strikes in May mainly targeted Kyiv.
Several independent sources reported additional evidence that an internal explosion likely destroyed the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant (KHPP) dam on June 6. Norwegian seismic monitoring center NORSAR reported that seismic data indicates that an explosion occurred on June 6 at 2:54am local time, about the same time as the collapse of the KHPP dam. NORSAR seismologist Volker Oye stated that seismic data indicated a pulse of energy that was “typical of an explosion.” Seismic data cannot locate the energy pulse of the explosion to a more exact location than within 20 to 30km of the KHPP, however. Oye stated that it would be an “unusual coincidence” if something other than an explosion caused the energy pulse. The New York Times reported that an unnamed senior White House official stated that US spy satellites equipped with infrared sensors detected an explosion at the KHPP dam before it collapsed. The Wall Street Journal reported that multiple engineers and munition experts assessed that an explosive blast likely detonated at a specific point or multiple points of weakness, which destroyed the KHPP dam. ISW previously reported that engineering and munitions experts that the New York Times interviewed believe that a deliberate explosion caused the KHPP dam’s collapse. The preponderance of evidence suggests that a deliberate explosion damaged the KHPP dam. ISW continues to assess that the balance of evidence, reasoning, and rhetoric suggests that the Russians deliberately damaged the dam.
The White House revealed on June 9 that Iran is helping Russia build a drone manufacturing factory in Yelabuga, Republic of Tatarstan, Russia, underscoring the growing military cooperation between Tehran and Moscow despite Western sanctions. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby stated on June 9 that the drone factory — which the Wall Street Journal reported in February 2023 could produce at least 6,000 Iranian Shahed-136 drones — could be operational by early 2024. Kirby previously announced on May 15 that Russia is seeking to purchase new drones from Iran after expending most of its Iranian drone supply. A factory producing Iranian drones in Russia would support Russia’s war effort against Ukraine. Russia could provide Iran with advanced military equipment that would modernize Iran’s air force, such as Su-35 fighter jets, attack helicopters, radars, and YAK-130 combat trainer aircraft, in return for helping construct the factory. Officials of an unspecified US ally previously stated that Iranian officials travelled to Yelabuga in January 2023 to discuss the construction of a new drone manufacturing facility in the city, reporting the same claim the facility could produce 6,000 or more drones in the coming years.
Chief of the Russian General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov discussed increasing Russian-Chinese military cooperation with Chinese Central Military Commission (CMC) Joint Staff Department Chief of Staff Liu Zhenli on June 9. Gerasimov emphasized the importance of joint military exercises within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the Association of South East Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) Defense Ministers Meeting (SMOA Plus) format. Gerasimov also claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping confirmed that Russian–Chinese strategic cooperation is at “the highest level.”
- Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in at least four areas of the front on June 9, making further gains around Bakhmut and in Western Donetsk.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged on June 9 that the Ukrainian counteroffensive recently began and noted that Ukrainian forces still have offensive potential, a departure from previous Kremlin efforts to downplay Ukrainian counteroffensives.
- Contrarily, much of the Russian information space prematurely claimed that the Ukrainian counteroffensive has failed after Russian forces damaged more Western-provided Ukrainian military equipment on June 9.
- Ukrainian officials directly acknowledged that Ukrainian forces expect to suffer equipment losses during counteroffensive operations.
- The Russian command structure responsible for areas of southern Ukraine is unclear and likely overlapping.
- Russian forces carried out missile and drone strikes across Ukraine on the night of June 8 to 9.
- Several independent sources reported additional evidence that an internal explosion likely destroyed the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant (KHPP) dam on June 6.
- The White House revealed on June 9 that Iran is helping Russia build a drone manufacturing factory in Yelabuga, Republic of Tatarstan, Russia, underscoring the growing military cooperation between Tehran and Moscow despite Western sanctions.
- Chief of the Russian General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov discussed increasing Russian-Chinese military cooperation with Chinese Central Military Commission (CMC) Joint Staff Department Chief of Staff Liu Zhenli on June 9.
- Russian and Ukrainian forces conducted limited and localized ground attacks south of Kreminna.
- Russian forces continued ground attacks near Bakhmut and on the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
- Ukrainian forces continued limited ground attacks on the administrative border between Donetsk and Zaporizhia oblasts and in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
- Russia continues to evade international sanctions and has reportedly restored access to key Western microchips and electronics that Russia needs to produce military equipment.
- A Ukrainian report states that Russian authorities may be preparing evacuations from northern Crimea.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on June 9 that Russia will begin deploying tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus in July 2023, and this is not an escalation from Putin’s prior nuclear weapons rhetoric.
We do not report in detail on Russian war crimes because these activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We will continue to evaluate and report on the effects of these criminal activities on the Ukrainian military and the Ukrainian population and specifically on combat in Ukrainian urban areas. We utterly condemn these Russian violations of the laws of armed conflict, Geneva Conventions, and humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.
- Russian Main Effort – Eastern Ukraine (comprised of two subordinate main efforts)
- Russian Subordinate Main Effort #1 – Capture the remainder of Luhansk Oblast and push westward into eastern Kharkiv Oblast and encircle northern Donetsk Oblast
- Russian Subordinate Main Effort #2 – Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast
- Russian Supporting Effort – Southern Axis
- Russian Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts
- Activities in Russian-occupied areas
Russian Main Effort – Eastern Ukraine
Russian Subordinate Main Effort #1 – Luhansk Oblast (Russian objective: Capture the remainder of Luhansk Oblast and push westward into eastern Kharkiv Oblast and northern Donetsk Oblast)
Russian and Ukrainian forces conducted limited and localized ground attacks south of Kreminna on June 9. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian ground attacks near Bilohorivka (10km south of Kreminna) and Vesele (32km south of Kreminna). The Russian Southern Group of Forces spokesperson claimed that Russian sources repelled three Ukrainian ground attacks in the Lysychansk direction. A Russian milblogger indicated that limited engagements near Bilohorivka continue and claimed that the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) 123rdMotorized Rifle Brigade made marginal advances in the area. Former LNR official Rodion Miroshnik claimed that Russian forces control most of Bilohorivka, but ISW is unable to confirm this claim. Geolocated combat footage published on June 9 shows that the Russan 24th Separate Guards Spetsnaz Brigade continues to operate in the Kreminna area. Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty also stated that Russian forces are anticipating Ukrainian attacks but are unsure where Ukrainian forces would attack on the Luhansk frontline.
Russian Subordinate Main Effort #2 – Donetsk Oblast (Russian Objective: Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)
Click here to read ISW’s retrospective analysis on the Battle for Bakhmut.
Ukrainian and Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks around Bakhmut on June 9. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar reported that Ukrainian forces are conducting active operations in the Bakhmut area. Ukrainian Ground Forces Commander Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi reported that Ukrainian operations are ongoing in the Bakhmut direction and that Russian forces are on the defensive in Bakhmut. Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty reported that Russian and Ukrainian forces conducted 15 engagements near Bakhmut on June 9. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces made limited advances west of Berkhivka (6km northwest of Bakhmut) and toward Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut), and that Ukrainian forces conducted assault operations near Dubovo-Vasylivka (6km northwest of Bakhmut). The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near: Orikhovo-Vasylivka (11km northwest of Bakhmut), Bohdanivka (5km northwest of Bakhmut), Ivanivske (6k west of Bakhmut), Bila Hora (12km southwest of Bakhmut), and Stupochky (13km southwest of Bakhmut). Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces conducted ground attacks southwest of Berkhivka. Another milblogger amplified footage on June 8 purportedly showing the 200th Separate Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade of the 14th Army Corps (Northern Fleet) operating near Bakhmut.
Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line on June 9. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive actions near Opytne (3km southwest of Avdiivka), Sieverne (6km west of Avdiivka), and Nevelske (13km southwest of Avdiivka) and that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks near Marinka. Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces conducted assault operations near Sieverne (6km west of Avdiivka) and Pervomaiske (11km southwest of Avdiivka). The Ukrainian General Staff reported that a Chechen “Akhmat” unit is operating, looting goods, and filming staged combat videos in the southwestern part of Donetsk City.
Russian Supporting Effort – Southern Axis (Russian objective: Maintain frontline positions and secure rear areas against Ukrainian strikes)
Ukrainian forces continued limited ground attacks on the administrative border between Donetsk and Zaporizhia oblasts and made marginal gains in the area on June 9. Geolocated footage published on June 9 indicates that Ukrainian forces made marginal gains east of Blahodatne (5km south of Velyka Novosilka). The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian aviation conducted airstrikes near Blahodatne, further indicating that Ukrainian forces are operating near the settlement. The Russian MoD reported that Russian forces repelled four Ukrainian assaults south and southwest of Velyka Novosilka.
Ukrainian forces continued ground attacks in western Zaporizhia Oblast on June 9. The Russian MoD claimed that Russian forces repelled two Ukrainian attacks south and southeast of Orikhiv. Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces intensified ongoing ground assaults south and southeast of Orikhiv on the night of June 8 to 9 and continued attacking Russian positions throughout the day. Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces pushed through the first lines of defense of Russian forces in the area, although other milbloggers claimed that Russian forces later recaptured these positions. A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces advanced closer to Robotyne (15km south of Orikhiv) despite Russian forces recapturing positions. Russian milbloggers claimed that elements of the 291st Motorized Rifle Regiment and 70th Motorized Rifle Regiment (both of the 42nd Motorized Rifle Division, 58th Combined Arms Army, Southern Military District) as well as the 22nd Separate Guards Special Purpose (GRU) Brigade defended against Ukrainian assaults south and southeast of Orikhiv. Russian milbloggers also claimed that Ukrainian forces continued assaults southwest of Orikhiv and that Russian forces forced Ukrainian forces to retreat from recently captured positions near Lobkove (25km southwest of Orikhiv). Milbloggers claimed that neither Russian nor Ukrainian forces control Lobkove, although geolocated footage published on June 9 indicates that Ukrainian forces are still operating close to the settlement.
Ukrainian forces continued to strike rear Russian positions throughout southern Ukraine on June 8 and 9. Russian and Ukrainian sources claimed on June 8 that residents heard explosions in Berdyansk, Zaporizhia Oblast, and Russian sources speculated that Ukrainian forces struck the city with Storm Shadow Cruise missiles. Geolocated footage published on June 8 shows a gas station on fire in Berdyansk, although it is unclear if it occurred as a result of a Ukrainian strike. Geolocated footage published on June 9 shows the aftermath of a Ukrainian strike on a Russian military headquarters on the Arabat Spit south of Henichesk, Kherson Oblast. Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces struck a children’s recreation area with Storm Shadow missiles in the area.
Ukrainian officials continue to report that declining water levels in the Kakhovka reservoir do not currently threaten the safety of the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP). Ukrainian state nuclear energy agency Enerhoatom reported on June 9 that the situation at the ZNPP remains stable and controlled and that the cooling pond at the ZNPP has enough water to cool the facility. Enerhoatom also reported that the ZNPP will have access to water for the cooling pond even at the lowest possible water levels in the Kakhovka reservoir.
A Russian source claimed that Russian forces are still operating on the Kinburn Spit in Mykolaiv Oblast as of June 9. A Russian milblogger claimed on June 9 that Russian units continue to conduct combat activities on the Kinburn Spit and that the spit is not an island due to flooding. The southern branch of the Ukrainian government organization ”Forests of Ukraine” previously reported that flooding completely cut off the Kinburn Spit from mainland Ukraine as of the evening of June 7. ISW has not observed recent confirmation that Russian forces are operating on the Kinburn Spit since flooding began as a result of the destruction of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant (KHPP) on June 6.
Russian Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts (Russian objective: Expand combat power without conducting general mobilization)
Russia plans to offer veteran status to conscripts serving in border regions of Russia. Russian State Duma Defense Committee Chairman Andrey Kartapolov stated on June 9 that any serviceman that undertakes the task of protecting the Russian borders should receive veteran statuses and noted that the defense committee is presently working on this issue. Kartapolov added that the proposed law would also retroactively extend the veteran status to servicemen who previously defended the borders. Russian officials previously stated that conscripts defended Belgorod Oblast against incursions, which indicates that Kartapolov’s announcement likely implies conscripts. The Kremlin has been steadily expanding its veteran benefits to Russian servicemen and civilians involved in its invasion, likely in an attempt to incentivize support for the Russian war effort.
Russia continues to evade international sanctions and has reportedly restored access to key Western microchips and electronics that Russia needs to produce military equipment. US Department of State sanctions coordinator Jim O’Brien reported that Russian access to microchips and electronic are at “about pre-war levels” because European countries are continuing to sell materials to countries that resell supplies to Russia. O’Brien noted that US identified five countries that enable Russian circumvention of sanctions: Turkey, Kazakhstan, Georgia, the United Arab Emirates, and Armenia.
Zaporizhia Oblast occupation officials claim to have created a local “people’s militia” to patrol the occupied region. Zaporizhia Oblast Occupation Head Yevgeny Balitsky announced on June 9 that Russian officials swore personnel into the “people’s militia” who will work with occupation police and military commandant’s office, likely in an effort to intensify repressions in occupied territories.
The Donetsk People’s Republic’s (DNR) Federal Security Service (FSB) reportedly arrested former DNR Lieutenant Colonel Mikhail Mikhailenko for allegedly supplying Ukrainian intelligence with information since 2018.
Activities in Russian-occupied areas (Russian objective: Consolidate administrative control of annexed areas; forcibly integrate Ukrainian civilians into Russian sociocultural, economic, military, and governance systems)
A Ukrainian report states that Russian authorities may be preparing for evacuations from northern Crimea. The Ukrainian Resistance Center reported on June 9 that Russian authorities have ordered occupation officials in northern Crimea to prepare for evacuations further into Crimea or into Russia. The Ukrainian Resistance Center reported that Crimean partisans have also observed evacuation preparations in Armyansk. The Ukrainian Resistance Center also reported that occupation authorities are preparing to loot areas of northern Crimea in tandem with evacuations.
Significant activity in Belarus (ISW assesses that a Russian or Belarusian attack into northern Ukraine is extraordinarily unlikely).
ISW will continue to report daily observed Russian and Belarusian military activity in Belarus, but these are not indicators that Russian and Belarusian forces are preparing for an imminent attack on Ukraine from Belarus. ISW will revise this text and its assessment if it observes any unambiguous indicators that Russia or Belarus is preparing to attack northern Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on June 9 that Russia will begin deploying tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus in July 2023. Putin met with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Sochi, Russia, and stated that the necessary Belarusian storage facilities will finish construction on July 7 and 8, after which Russia will begin transferring tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus. Putin emphasized that the deployment of Russian weapons on Belarusian territory is proceeding according to plan. Putin’s announcement does not represent an escalation in prior Russian nuclear weapons rhetoric, and Russia remains unlikely to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, as ISW has previously assessed. Putin’s announcement is also very unlikely to require a change in NATO’s nuclear posture.
Note: ISW does not receive any classified material from any source, uses only publicly available information, and draws extensively on Russian, Ukrainian, and Western reporting and social media as well as commercially available satellite imagery and other geospatial data as the basis for these reports. References to all sources used are provided in the endnotes of each update.
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