August 1, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: Ukraine attacks Russian Black Sea fleet patrol boats

Institute for the Study of War

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) accused Ukraine of attempting to attack two Black Sea Fleet patrol boats with unmanned semi-submersibles on August 1. The Russian MoD initially claimed that Ukraine launched three unmanned boats at the “Sergey Kotov” and “Vasily Bykov” Project 22160 large patrol ships in the southwestern part of the Black Sea, about 340km southwest of Sevastopol. The Russian MoD later clarified that the patrol ships were escorting Russian civilian transport ships en route to the Bosphorus Strait via the Black Sea and claimed that the patrol ships detected and destroyed all three semi-submersibles. Russian authorities may be amplifying claims of Ukrainian attacks to frame Ukraine as irresponsibly threatening civilian ships in the Black Sea, thereby setting conditions to further escalate naval activity and consolidate control in the Black Sea, though there is no indication that Ukrainian attacks on Russian military targets have threatened civilian vessels. Geolocated images posted on July 31 show the installation of anti-naval drone barriers in Sevastopol Bay, likely as part of the overall Russian effort to increase naval and defensive posturing in the Black Sea.

Ukrainian actors likely conducted another drone strike on Moscow City in the early hours of August 1. Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin claimed that Russian air defense downed several drones flying towards Moscow, and geolocated footage shows that one drone struck the 21st floor of the IQ-Kvartal Tower in central Moscow City. Russian media reported that the target of the strike was the Russian Ministry of Economic Development, located on the IQ-Kvartal Tower’s 21st floor. Russian sources claimed that drones previously struck the IQ-Kvartal Tower on the night of July 29 to 30. Social media footage from August 1 additionally shows a drone flying over Moscow suburbs in the Odintsovo district. Several sources suggested that the drones were Ukrainian-made. One Russian commentator accused Sobyanin of neglecting to secure Moscow against such continued drone attacks. Russian authorities will likely struggle to balance the need to quell domestic concern over continuing drone attacks deep within the Russian rear with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s continued refusal to fully mobilize Russian society for the war and its corresponding consequences.

Two Belarusian helicopters reportedly violated Polish airspace on August 1. Polish officials reported that two Belarusian helicopters entered Polish airspace on August 1 and that Poland will increase its troop presence at the Polish-Belarusian border in response. Lukashenko also dismissed the Polish government for overreacting to news that the Wagner Group deployed a 100-person element closer to the Belarusian-Polish border and claimed that Wagner forces are in Grodno and Brest, rather than near the international border. ISW continues to assess that Wagner forces in Belarus pose no military threat to Poland (or Ukraine, for that matter) until and unless they are re-equipped with mechanized equipment.

Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front and reportedly advanced near Bakhmut on August 1. Ukrainian officials reported that Ukrainian forces continued gradually advancing near Bakhmut, and a Russian source claimed that Ukrainian forces captured an unspecified height south of Bakhmut near Klishchiivka. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar reported on August 1 that in the past week, Ukrainian forces captured two square kilometers of territory in the Bakhmut direction and 12 square kilometers in southern Ukraine. Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted unsuccessful attacks against Russian forces along the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area near Staromayorske and Urozhaine and in western Zaporizhia Oblast near Robotyne. The UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) reported that the Russian 58th Combined Arms Army (Southern Military District) in western Zaporizhia Oblast likely struggles with severe fatigue and that elements of the 5th Combined Arms Army (Eastern Military District) south of Velyka Novosilka likely face a high level of pressure to defend the area and feel that the Russian military command should rotate them from the front line. The UK MoD also reported that Russian commanders in southern Ukraine largely struggle with artillery ammunition shortages, a lack of reserves, and challenges with securing the flanks of defending units.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) accused Ukraine of attempting to attack two Black Sea Fleet patrol boats with unmanned semi-submersibles on August 1.
  • Likely Ukrainian actors conducted another drone strike on Moscow City in the early hours of August 1.
  • The Russian MoD continues to posture Russian Chief of the General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov as an effective and involved overall theater commander in Ukraine.
  • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko may have signaled his intent to use the Wagner Group to create a foundation for an unspecified Belarusian “contract army.”
  • Two Belarusian helicopters reportedly violated Polish airspace on August 1.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front and reportedly advanced near Bakhmut on August 1.
  • Russian companies not under Western sanctions continue to recruit volunteers to fight in the war in Ukraine.
  • Iran is pursuing the construction of drone factories in Belarus and Russia, which will help Russia acquire Iranian drones more readily and provide Iran with numerous economic and military benefits.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, on the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast on August 1 and made advances in certain areas.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on August 1 and advanced near Kreminna and Bakhmut.
  • The Russian Cabinet of Ministers granted Russian volunteer fighters and Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic (DNR and LNR) militia fighters (opolcheniye) veteran status on August 1.
  • Russian occupation authorities continue to deport children from occupied regions of Ukraine to Russia under the guise of education and rehabilitation programs.
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