Russian sources reported on July 15 that the Russian military command dismissed 106th Guards Airborne (VDV) Division Commander Major General Vladimir Seliverstov. Russian sources stated that the reason for Seliverstov’s dismissal is currently unknown but speculated that it could be associated with Seliverstov’s reputation for speaking up on behalf of his soldiers. Russian sources claimed that the 106th VDV Division has been operating in the Bakhmut area since January, and ISW has recently observed the 106th VDV Division’s 137th Guards VDV Regiment defending against Ukrainian counteroffensive operations on Bakhmut’s northern flank. A Russian milblogger has claimed that elements of the 106th VDV Division are also supporting Russian defensive operations south of Bakhmut. Relatives of mobilized personnel serving in the 137th VDV Regiment notably appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Tula Oblast Governor Alexei Dyumin, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in April about poor conditions and lack of supplies in the unit. Vocal discontent about conditions in areas where Russian forces are defending against Ukrainian counteroffensive operations may have prompted Seliverstov to appeal to the Russian military command, which may have contributed to his dismissal. ISW has not observed confirmation of Seliverstov’s dismissal, but Russian reporting about the dismissal follows a pattern similar to that of previous claims of command changes that have proven true.
Seliverstov’s dismissal may be a part of an ongoing purge of insubordinate commanders by the Russian military command and may suggest that the corrosion of the Russian chain of command in Ukraine is accelerating. The Russian military command recently dismissed 58th Combined Arms Army (Southern Military District) Commander Major General Ivan Popov after he reportedly attempted to bypass Chief of the Russian General Staff and overall theater commander Army General Valery Gerasimov and bring his complaints about the situation in western Zaporizhia Oblast directly to Putin. Popov’s complaints reportedly centered on a lack of rotations for his troops, and in a leaked audio message Popov also complained about heavy losses and a lack of effective counterbattery capabilities. These issues are likely impacting Russian forces throughout the theater in Ukraine, and reports of Seliverstov’s dismissal only four days after reports of Popov’s dismissal suggest that the Russian command may have fired Seliverstov for similar reasons. ISW assessed that Popov’s insubordination is indicative of a pattern of behavior that has developed within the Russian command in Ukraine, in which commanders have challenged the authority of senior commanders and sought to use their responsibility for key sectors of the front to cajole the Kremlin to support them.
The Russian military leadership is likely attempting to dissuade commanders from emulating recent cases of insubordination by punishing those involved in leaking Popov’s message of complaints. Shoigu is also likely attempting to mitigate the aftermath of Popov’s leaked audio recording within the Russian government and punish Russian State Duma Deputy and former Deputy Commander of the Southern Military District (SMD) Lieutenant General Andrei Gurulev for the leak. Russian sources speculated that Shoigu is demanding that the Russian State Duma Defense Committee expel Gurulev for leaking Popov’s audio message. A Russian source close to Russian security officials claimed that the United Russia party is preparing a set of punishments that will include censoring Gurulev from discussing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. One source claimed that Gurulev’s fate in the State Duma depends on an upcoming meeting between Secretary of the General Council of United Russia Party Andrey Turchak and Shoigu. Turchak previously publicly accused Gurulev of leaking the audio recording to stage a ”political show.” Another source claimed that Gurlev was summoned to meet with Chairman of the Russian State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin on July 17.
- Russian sources reported on July 15 that the Russian military command dismissed 106th Guards Airborne (VDV) Division Commander Major General Vladimir Seliverstov.
- Seliverstov’s dismissal may be a part of an ongoing purge of insubordinate commanders by the Russian military command and may suggest that the corrosion of the Russian chain of command in Ukraine is accelerating.
- The Russian military leadership is likely attempting to dissuade commanders from emulating recent cases of insubordination by punishing those involved in leaking Popov’s message of complaints.
- Growing insubordination will likely exacerbate existing factional divides within the Russian military and the wider Russian security sphere.
- Factions within the Russian security forces and the Kremlin appear to be fighting for control over the Russian insider information space.
- Polyakov’s arrest suggests that different factions within the Kremlin and Russian security entities are exploiting the Russian information space and secret information to advance their political and financial objectives against the backdrop of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
- Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on June 15 and reportedly made limited gains.
- The New York Times (NYT) reported that the Ukrainian military has adjusted its strategy to minimize Ukrainian casualties while continuing to attrit Russian forces, supporting ISW’s previous assessments.
- The Belarusian Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced that it developed a plan for Wagner Group personnel to train Belarusian forces as Ukrainian, Russian, and Belarusian sources continue to report that Wagner forces are moving to Belarus.
- Russian authorities likely continue to forcibly integrate Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) dioceses into the Kremlin-controlled Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) as part of a wider religious persecution campaign in occupied Ukraine.
- Russian forces conducted offensive operations and made limited territorial gains near Svatove.
- Ukrainian forces reportedly made limited territorial gains on Bakhmut’s southern flank, while Russian sources claimed that Russian forces made limited advances on Bakhmut’s northern and southern flanks.
- Russian forces continued limited offensive operations on the Donetsk City-Avdiivka line but did not make any territorial gains.
- Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations along the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhia Oblast border and reportedly made limited gains.
- Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations and reportedly made limited advances in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
- The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced the completion of Russia’s spring 2023 conscription cycle on July 15.
- The Ukrainian Resistance Center reported that the Kremlin launched a program to recruit young adults in Russia for service in occupation administrations in Ukraine.