June 30, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: Russian troops said to be withdrawing Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

Institute for the Study of War

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.

Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi stated on June 30 that Ukrainian forces continue to advance in eastern and southern Ukraine despite lacking essential resources. Zaluzhnyi said that the Ukrainian forces are still making battlefield gains even if they advance only 500 meters per day. Zaluzhnyi also stated that Ukrainian forces are continuing to use Western-provided armored vehicles and tanks in combat instead of saving them for “parades” when responding to a question about military equipment losses. Zaluzhnyi noted that Ukraine needs aircraft in order to support its counteroffensive efforts, which are hindered by the lack of air superiority.

Ukrainian intelligence reported that Russian forces and officials are gradually leaving the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) possibly in preparation for an intentional “accident” at the facility. The Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported on June 30 that the Russian contingent at the ZNPP is gradually leaving the facility and that three employees of Russian state nuclear energy company Rosatom who managed the facility have recently left for Russian occupied Crimea. The GUR reported that Ukrainian employees at the ZNPP who have signed contracts with Rosatom received instructions that they must evacuate the facility by July 5. The GUR reported that Russian forces are decreasing patrols around the ZNPP itself and in neighboring Enerhodar and that workers at the ZNPP have also received instructions to blame Ukrainian forces in the event of an emergency. ISW has not observed visual confirmation of Russian units leaving the ZNPP or the immediate area as of June 30. GUR Chief Kyrylo Budanov stated on June 30 that Russian forces have prepared for an artificial disaster at the facility. Ukrainian officials in Mykolaiv, Kherson, Zaporizhia, and Dnipropetrovsk oblasts oversaw emergency preparation exercises for a possible “accident“ at the ZNPP on June 29. Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko reported that Ukrainian officials lack the ability to monitor the ZNPP closely enough to become instantly aware of an “accident” at the ZNPP. The president of Ukrainian nuclear energy operator Energoatom, Petro Kotin, stated that the closest radiation censors on the right (west) bank of the Kakhovka Reservoir would alert Ukrainian officials within a few hours of a potential release of radiation at the ZNPP.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations in at least three sectors of the frontline on June 30.
  • Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi stated on June 30 that Ukrainian forces continue to advance in eastern and southern Ukraine despite lacking essential resources.
  • The Russian information space is reacting disproportionately to the Russian military’s failure to drive a small Ukrainian force from east (left) bank Kherson Oblast.
  • Ukrainian intelligence reported that Russian forces and officials are gradually leaving the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) possibly in preparation for an intentional “accident” at the facility.
  • Russian forces remain unlikely to cause an intentional “accident” at the ZNPP, and Russia is likely continuing to use the threat of an intentional radiological incident to attempt to constrain Ukrainian counteroffensive actions and Western support for Ukraine ahead of the upcoming NATO summit.
  • The Wagner Group is reportedly still actively recruiting personnel within Russia, although it is unclear if new recruits are signing Wagner contracts or military contracts with the MoD.
  • The Wagner Group reportedly will operate three large field camps in Belarus and an apparent Belarusian milblogger reported that Wagner Group personnel will deploy to Asipovichy, Belarus, soon.
  • A Kremlin-affiliated news outlet reported that the Wagner Group will continue operating in Africa, although the details of its operations remain unclear.
  • Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin reportedly dissolved his domestic media company Patriot.
  • Russian and Ukrainian forces continued to engage in battles along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Ukrainian forces continued to counterattack and reportedly made some gains in the Bakhmut area.
  • Ukrainian and Russian forces continued to skirmish on the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, and Ukrainian forces advanced as of June 30.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast and on the administrative border between Donetsk and Zaporizhia oblasts.
  • Russian authorities continue efforts to improve monetary and educational benefits to servicemen in order to retain loyalty and incentivize military service.
  • Russian officials and occupation authorities are attempting to explain away the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.
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