Ukrainian officials stated on July 10 that Ukrainian forces have fire control over Bakhmut and Russian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) around the city. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar stated that Ukrainian forces have taken control of unspecified heights around Bakhmut, allowing Ukrainian forces to establish fire control over Bakhmut itself. Ukrainian officials have recently signaled that Ukraine seeks to trap Russian forces within the city, and it appears that Ukrainian operations in the Bakhmut area in recent days have been intended to slowly envelop Russian troops in Bakhmut and on its flanks. ISW was previously conservative when assessing claims of Russian fire control and general interdiction of Ukrainian lines of communication in and around Bakhmut as Russian forces gradually took control of the settlement, but Ukrainian claims of establishing fire control may be more credible. Both Ukrainian and Russian sources have indicated in recent days that Ukraine is gaining ground in the Bakhmut area and on its southwestern flanks including specific terrain features that can give Ukrainian forces fire advantage. The fear of Ukrainian fire control and imminent threats to Bakhmut is also permeating the Russian information space, and Russian milbloggers have repeatedly expressed fear over Ukrainian forces encircling Russian forces in Bakhmut. Russian sources claimed at least since February that Russian forces maintained fire control over critical Ukrainian GLOCs around Bakhmut, while Ukrainian officials and sources did not express concern over these Russian claims, in contrast, and withdrew their forces in good order in the face of the Wagner Group‘s expensive frontal assaults. The persistent signaling of Ukrainian officials about Ukrainian operational intent in Bakhmut, alongside the clear concern of milbloggers over exactly what this intent may be, suggests that Ukrainian counteroffensive actions in this direction may be credibly threatening the Russian hold on Bakhmut, although it is far too early to forecast the liberation of the city.
Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on July 9. Ukrainian Ground Forces Commander Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi stated that Ukrainian forces successfully continue to advance in the Bakhmut direction. Ukrainian officials reported that Ukrainian forces continued to conduct counteroffensive operations in the Berdyansk and Melitopol directions. The Russian Ministry of Defense and Kremlin-affiliated milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted attacks in western Zaporizhia Oblast. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces are attacking Russian positions in small groups and are targeting Russian rear positions, warehouses, and infrastructure. Ukrainian military officials also reiterated that Ukrainian forces are continuing their interdiction campaigns in southern and eastern Ukraine.
Five hundred days ago Russia launched an unprovoked war of conquest against Ukraine. The Russian military intended to take Kyiv within three days but failed to accomplish any of its intended objectives in Ukraine. Determined and skillful Ukrainian resistance has forced the culmination of multiple Russian offensives including the one aimed at Kyiv and has liberated Sumy and Chernihiv oblasts, as well as the parts of Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, and Kherson oblasts that Russian forces had temporarily seized. Ukrainian forces have secured and retained the initiative and are conducting counteroffensive operations along most of the frontline with Russian forces focused almost entirely on trying to hold on to the Ukrainian lands they still occupy. With Western assistance, Ukraine has ensured its independence but faces the critical task of liberating the strategically vital territory still under Russian control.
Ukrainian forces made tactically significant gains in the Bakhmut area and continued counteroffensive operations in at least three other sectors of the front on July 7. Geolocated footage published on July 6 indicates that Ukrainian forces have made tactically significant gains near Yahidne (2km north of Bakhmut). The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations north and south of Bakhmut, and Ukrainian Ground Forces Commander Colonel General Oleksandr Syrsykyi reported that Ukrainian forces established control over unspecified previously lost positions in the Bakhmut area.Ukrainian General Staff Spokesperson Andriy Kovalev reported that Ukrainian forces also achieved partial success near Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut).The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast and along the administrative border between Zaporizhia and Donetsk oblasts.The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and other Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations in the Kreminna direction along the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko stated that Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin and Wagner forces are not in Belarus as of July 6, indicating that Prigozhin may be failing to uphold the deal Lukashenko mediated between Prigozhin and Russian President Vladimir Putin following Wagner’s armed rebellion on June 24. Lukashenko and the Kremlin previously announced that Prigozhin, Putin, and Lukashenko reached an agreement that offered Prigozhin and the Wagner forces that participated in the rebellion unspecified security guarantees in Belarus. The full contents of this agreement have not been revealed, but it appears that Wagner is not fulfilling its end of the deal. Lukashenko stated on July 6 that Wagner forces are currently at their permanent camps (either in Russia or in Ukraine) to which they withdrew following the Battle for Bakhmut. Lukashenko added that Prigozhin is in St. Petersburg or may have even flown to Moscow on the morning of July 6. Lukashenko denied the reports that Belarus is constructing new training camps for Wagner forces and noted that Belarus offered Wagner several former Soviet military camps including some near Asipovichy, Mogilev Oblast. Lukashenko implied that Wagner had not yet agreed to deploy to these bases and that Wagner “has a different vision for [their] deployment,” the details of which Lukashenko refused to share. Lukashenko, however, denied that the deal has been terminated and noted that the question of Wagner forces’ transfer and setup “has not been decided” at the moment.
Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted counteroffensive operations in five sectors of the front on July 5 and made gains in some areas. Geolocated footage posted on July 5 shows that Ukrainian forces have advanced southwest of Berkhivka (6km northwest of Bakhmut), west of Yahidne (2km north of Bakhmut), and southwest of Bakhmut. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations south and north of Bakhmut, and Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar stated that Ukrainian forces are advancing in an unspecified area on Bakhmut’s southern flank. Ukrainian MP Yuriy Mysyagin stated that Ukrainian forces established a new position north of Opytne (6km northwest of the outskirts of Donetsk City) along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City front. Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted assaults in the Lyman direction, the Bakhmut direction, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City front, on the border between Zaporizhia and Donetsk oblasts, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast. Ukrainian Deputy Chief of the Main Operational Department of the General Staff General Oleksii Hromov reported on July 5 that Ukrainian forces have advanced 7.5km into Russian-controlled territory in western Zaporizhia Oblast and along the administrative border between the Zaporizhia and Donetsk oblasts. Hromov stated that Ukrainian forces have liberated nine settlements and 160 square kilometers of territory since the start of the Ukrainian counteroffensive on June 4.
Ukrainian forces appear to be focusing on creating an asymmetrical attrition gradient that conserves Ukrainian manpower at the cost of a slower rate of territorial gains, while gradually wearing down Russian manpower and equipment. Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov reported on July 4 that Ukrainian forces are performing their main task of destroying Russian manpower, equipment, fuel depots, artillery, and air defenses and that a “war of destruction is equal to a war of kilometers.” Danilov’s assessment underlines the prioritization of Ukraine’s ongoing campaign to attrit Russian manpower and assets over attempting to conduct massive sweeping mechanized maneuvers to regain large swaths of territory rapidly. NATO Military Committee Chair Admiral Bob Bauer reported on July 3 that Ukrainian forces are correct to proceed cautiously and avoid high casualties in the counteroffensive and acknowledged that the counteroffensive is difficult due to landmines and other obstacles up to 30km deep into Russian-occupied territory. Bauer stated that Ukrainian forces should not face criticism or pressure for moving slowly.
Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations in at least four sectors of the front made marginal advances on July 3. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Ukrainian forces also conducted counteroffensive operations in the Lyman direction. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar stated that Ukrainian forces continue counteroffensive operations the Bakhmut area, the western Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast. Malyar stated that Ukrainian forces recaptured nine square kilometers of territory in eastern Ukraine, and geolocated footage shows that Ukrainian forces have advanced southwest of Bakhmut. Malyar stated that Ukrainian forces also recaptured 28.4 square kilometers in southern Ukraine in the past week for a total of 158.4 square kilometers in southern Ukraine during an unspecified time period. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces made limited gains south of Orikhiv in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations in at least four sectors of the frontline on July 1. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian assaults in the Bakhmut area and along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City front. Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces made marginal gains near Rozdolivka (18km north of Bakhmut) and unspecified gains near Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut). Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations along the administrative border between Zaporizhia and Donetsk oblasts and made gains southwest of Velyka Novosilka. Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations south and southwest of Orikhiv in western Zaporizhia Oblast, with one milblogger claiming that Ukrainian forces made gains up 1.5km deep and 6km wide in the direction of Robotyne (12km south of Orikhiv). Other milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces are still at least 1.5km north of Robotyne as of July 1, consistent with ISW’s current assessment of the control of terrain in the area.
Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations in at least three sectors of the frontline on June 30. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in the Melitopol (western Zaporizhia Oblast) and Berdyansk (eastern Zaporizhia Oblast) directions. The Ukrainian General Staff added that Ukrainian forces achieved partial success on the Levadne-Pryyutne line on the administrative border of Donetsk and Zaporizhia oblasts and on the Mala-Tokmachka-Ocheretuvate line in western Zaporizhia Oblast. Ukrainian forces also reportedly consolidated newly reached lines in the Pryvillia-Zalizyanske direction north of Bakhmut and are continuing to exert pressure on Bakhmut’s flanks. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar reported that Ukrainian forces are confidently advancing on Bakhmut’s flanks and that Russian forces have transferred a large number of troops to the area. Malyar added that Ukrainian forces are advancing with varying degrees of success in southern Ukraine, advancing one kilometer on some days and advancing less on others. Select Russian sources also claimed that Ukrainian forces counterattacked around Kreminna and on the Donetsk City-Avdiivka frontline.