The Ukrainian General Staff stated that Ukrainian forces seized the “strategic initiative“ in the Bakhmut direction and are currently conducting a broad offensive in the area. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar similarly stated that Ukrainian forces seized the “operational initiative” in the area and reported that Ukrainian forces advanced 1,200m in the direction of Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut) and 1,500m in the direction of Kurdyumivka (13km southwest of Bakhmut). Ukrainian Commander in Chief General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi also stated that Ukrainian forces have the “strategic initiative“ in a phone conversation with Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley on June 29.ISW previously assessed that Ukrainian forces had gained the initiative at every level of war across almost the entire front following the Russian capture of Bakhmut on May 21. Ukrainian officials are likely now acknowledging that Ukrainian forces possess the initiative in order to signal that Ukrainian forces intend to leverage it to a greater degree.
Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations in at least two other sectors of the front and reportedly made gains on June 29. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast and on the administrative border between Zaporizhia and Donetsk oblasts.The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces achieved partial success along the Rivnopil-Volodyne line (up to 16km southwest of Velyka Novosilka).
The Kremlin may intend to assume formal control over the Wagner Group following its armed rebellion and turn it into a state-owned enterprise, although it is not clear if the Kremlin has committed itself to such a course of action. The Wall Street Journal reported that Russian authorities decided to assume control over Wagner’s activities abroad. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin reportedly flew to Damascus to tell Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that Wagner will no longer operate as an independent organization in Syria and that Wagner personnel reported to the Russian military base in Latakia. Russian Foreign Ministry representatives also reportedly told Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadera and Malian leadership that Wagner will continue operations in their respective countries. Putin claimed on June 27 that the Kremlin “fully funds” and “fully supplies” Wagner, and Russian officials may use Wagner’s existing status as a state-financed and -supplied organization to complete its formal nationalization.The nationalization of Wagner would likely aid in the Russian Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) effort to subsume existing Wagner personnel into the regular Russian Armed Forces through contracts. The nationalization of Wagner would not likely dramatically disrupt its foreign activities, and the Kremlin may be interested in assuming de jure responsibility for Wagner’s operations abroad to deprive the group of a remaining source of influence and independent cash flow. ISW has previously assessed that the agreement brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko will very likely eliminate Wagner as the independent actor that it is in its current form but could allow elements of the organization to endure. The Kremlin has not indicated that it intends to nationalize Wagner, and it is possible that Putin has yet to determine what course of action to take in subordinating the group more firmly under the Kremlin’s control.
Recent satellite imagery may have detected active construction of a speculated new Wagner Group base in Asipovichy, Belarus. Mid-resolution imagery collected between June 15 and 27 shows new activity at an abandoned Belarusian military base (formerly used by the Belarusian 465th Missile Brigade) 15km northwest of Asipovichy. This activity could be construction for a rumored new Wagner Group base. This site is within 15km of a large Belarusian combined arms training ground — a facility that Wagner Group personnel would need to access to service the Belarusian military in a training and advisory role that Belarusian officials have suggested Wagner will fulfill. Russian opposition outlet Verstka previously reported on June 26 that Belarusian authorities are constructing a base for 8,000 Wagner Group fighters near Asipovichy.Polish Deputy PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski stated that Poland anticipates that around 8,000 Wagner Group fighters will deploy to Belarus. Further study of this area of interest with higher resolution collection instruments may provide additional clarity on the nature of the activity in the area and the size of the force that may be based there.
Wagner Group personnel may deploy elsewhere in Belarus, however. There is nothing particularly unique or interesting about a potential Wagner Group base in Asipovichy. Verstka’s original report indicated that the Wagner Group would have multiple camps in Belarus. Belarus hosts many training grounds and field camps that accommodated 30,000 Russian soldiers in early 2022 — many of which were on the border with Ukraine in Gomel and Brest oblasts. The Wagner Group in Belarus could use some of these facilities as bases as well as or instead of the rumored base in Asipovichy.
Kremlin-affiliated businessmen may be acquiring Prigozhin’s domestic media empire, likely as part of ongoing effort to destroy his reputation in Russia. Russian independent outlet The Bell, citing sources who cooperate with Prigozhin’s companies, reported that the Russian presidential administration will likely have direct control over Prigozhin’s media assets. Sources noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “personal banker” Yuriy Kovalchuk may acquire assets of Prigozhin’s “Patriot” media holding group and the RIA FAN news outlet for his “National Media Group.” The Bell also noted that some Russian Telegram channels claimed that president of the “Herst Shkulev Media” holding group Viktor Shkulev may purchase Prigozhin’s media assets for one ruble with a commitment to retain the media editorial teams for three months and to pay salary arrears to staff. Sources expressed confidence that the Russian Presidential Administration will likely directly control Prigozhin’s media assets regardless of the identity of the future owner of these companies.
Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov refused to address Army General Sergei Surovikin’s whereabouts on June 29, prompting more speculations in the Russian information space. Peskov could have denied ongoing speculations about Surovikin if there were no investigation of him. Peskov’s refusal suggests that Russian officials may be investigating Surovikin since Russian officials usually refuse to comment on ongoing investigations. Russian news aggregator Baza reported that Surovikin’s daughter, Veronika Surovikina, claimed that Russian authorities did not arrest Surovikin and that he continues to work. Russian sources claimed that Surovikin’s deputy, Colonel General Andrey Yudin, denied claims that Russian officials were holding him and Surovikin at the Lefortovo pre-trial detention center in Moscow. A Russian milblogger denied Surovikin’s detention but claimed that the Kremlin is continuing to investigate members of the military leadership with close ties to Prigozhin. Russian opposition news outlet Vazhnye Istorii reported that two of their sources close to the Russian General Staff and Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed that Russian authorities questioned Surovikin and released him. It would be logical for Russian officials to question Surovikin or any other military officials with ties to Prigozhin after Wagner’s armed rebellion.
Western observers continue to speculate about the whereabouts of Russian Chief of the General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov following Wagner’s rebellion, although his lack of public appearance is not necessarily indicative of his current official standing within the Russian military leadership. Gerasimov has previously not appeared in public for long periods of time, particularly between the summer of 2022 and his reemergence in the winter of 2023 in the weeks leading up to his appointment to overall theater commander. These stretches of absence prompted speculations that the Kremlin either had replaced him or intended to replace him as Chief of the General Staff. The Kremlin and the Russian MoD carefully responded to these previous bouts of speculation by routinely affirming Gerasimov’s role as Chief of the General Staff, although they have yet to respond to the most recent round of speculation fueled by Wagner’s armed rebellion. ISW recently assessed that the Kremlin will likely attempt to balance a desire to mitigate widespread disdain for MoD establishment figures like Gerasimov that fueled Wagner’s rebellion with trying to disempower those who may have sympathized with the rebellion. Russian speculations that Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) Commander Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky recently assumed Gerasimov’s responsibilities for Russian operations in Ukraine would be in line with this effort, although there continues to be no confirmation that such a transfer of responsibilities has occurred. It is possible that Putin has yet to decide how to fully respond to Wagner’s rebellion, including decisions on a potential overhaul of the Russian military’s command cadre or changes in whom among the military leadership Putin favors. Until the Kremlin’s response to the rebellion becomes clearer Gerasimov’s public absence alone is not an indicator of his position within the Russian military leadership. ISW has previously observed that Gerasimov’s involvement, or lack thereof, in public meetings with Putin indicated the likely degree of favor that Gerasimov has enjoyed with Putin during the full-scale invasion of Ukraine but not his retention or loss of his formal position.
Russian sources claimed that the Kremlin replaced the head of the Kaliningrad Oblast Rosgvardia (National Guard) on June 28. Russian sources reported that Murmansk Oblast Rosgvardia Head Viktor Galiy assumed the position of the Kaliningrad Oblast Rosgvardia head.
- The Ukrainian General Staff stated that Ukrainian forces seized the “strategic initiative” in the Bakhmut direction and are currently conducting a broad offensive in the area.
- Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations in at least two other sectors of the front and reportedly made gains on June 29.
- The Kremlin may intend to assume formal control over the Wagner Group following its armed rebellion and turn it into a state-owned enterprise, although it is not clear if the Kremlin has committed itself to such a course of action.
- Recent satellite imagery may have detected active construction of a speculated new Wagner Group base in Asipovichy, Belarus.
- Kremlin-affiliated businessmen may be acquiring Prigozhin’s domestic media empire, likely as part of ongoing effort to destroy his reputation in Russia.
- Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov refused to address Army General Sergei Surovikin’s whereabouts on June 29, prompting more speculations in the Russian information space.
- Western observers continue to speculate about the whereabouts of Russian Chief of the General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov following Wagner’s rebellion, although his lack of public appearance is not necessarily indicative of his current official standing within the Russian military leadership
- Russian and Ukrainian forces continued limited ground attacks south of Kreminna.
- Ukrainian forces intensified counteroffensive operations in the Bakhmut area and reportedly made advances.
- Russian forces continued limited offensive operations along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City front.
- Russian forces in early May constructed a dam on the outskirts of Tokmak in occupied Zaporizhia Oblast ahead of the Ukrainian counteroffensive.
- A Russian BARS (Russian Combat Reserve) affiliated source claimed that Russian forces are moving military equipment to unspecified areas on the east (left) bank of the Dnipro River.
- The Crimea-based Atesh partisan group stated that Russian forces are increasing their presence in Armyansk to defend key infrastructure in northern Crimea.
- Russian Cossack armed formations are reportedly signing contracts with the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) as part of a larger formalization effort to integrate irregular forces into MoD structures.