Ukraine has conducted counteroffensive operations with differential outcomes in at least three sectors of the front as part of wider counteroffensive efforts that have been unfolding since Sunday, June 4. Ukrainian officials signaled that Ukrainian forces have transitioned from defensive to offensive operations in the Bakhmut sector and are making gains of between 200 meters and nearly two kilometers on the flanks of the city. Ukrainian forces have made tactical gains during limited localized counterattacks in western Donetsk Oblast near the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border since June 4. Ukrainian forces additionally conducted an attack in western Zaporizhia Oblast on the night of June 7 to 8 but do not have appeared to have made gains as part of this attack as of the time of this publication.
Ukrainian forces conducted a limited but still significant attack in western Zaporizhia Oblast on the night of June 7 to 8. Russian forces apparently defended against this attack in a doctrinally sound manner and had reportedly regained their initial positions as of June 8. Russian sources began reporting late at night on June 7 that elements of Ukrainian brigades that have recently been equipped with Western kit launched an attack southwest of Orikhiv in western Zaporizhia Oblast. Several Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces attacked along the Mala Tokmachka-Polohy line with the aim of breaking through the Russian defensive line between Robotyne and Verbove (both about 15km southeast of Orikhiv). Russian sources acknowledged that Ukrainian forces broke through the first line of defense in this area, held by elements of the 291st and 70th Motorized Rifle Regiments (42nd Motorized Rifle Division, 58th Combined Arms Army, Southern Military District) and the 22nd and 45th Separate Guards Special Purpose (GRU) Brigades, but reported that these Russian elements succeeded in counterattacking and eventually pushing Ukrainian forces back to their original positions. Available geolocated combat footage suggests that limited Ukrainian forces crossed the N08 Polohy-Voskresenka highway, but Russian sourcing indicates that Russian forces likely pushed Ukrainians back in the Orikhiv direction towards the frontline and regained the lost positions.
Ukrainian forces also reportedly lost Western-provided vehicles on June 8. Losses are inevitable during any military undertaking. Ukrainian forces will suffer losses, including of both Western and Soviet equipment, during any offensive operations. Western equipment is not impervious to damage any more than the equipment that the Ukrainians have been using and losing since February 2022. The loss of equipment — including Western equipment — early on in the counteroffensive is not an indicator of the future progress of Ukraine’s counteroffensive. It is important not to exaggerate the impact of initial losses of Western or any other equipment, particularly in penetration battles against prepared defensive positions.
The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) responded to the Ukrainian attack with an uncharacteristic degree of coherency and praised Southern Military District elements for repelling the attack and regaining lost positions. The Russian MoD published a video statement by the commander of the Russian grouping in the Zaporizhia direction, Colonel General Alexander Romanchuk, wherein Romanchuk reported that Ukrainian forces started attacking around 0200 local time June 8 and that Russian forces, particularly those of the 42nd Motorized Rifle Division, succeeded in repelling the attack. Romanchuk claimed that Ukrainian forces telegraphed the ground attack with extensive artillery preparation of the battlefield. The Russian MoD also released a statement by 58th Combined Arms Army Commander Major General Ivan Popov, who credited elements of the 58th Combined Arms Army with effectively laying mines to impede Ukrainian advances. The overall Russian response to the attack, both among various milbloggers and the Russian MoD, was notably coherent and relatively consistent with the available visual evidence, which may suggest that Russian forces were not surprised and reacted in a controlled and militarily sound manner. As ISW has previously assessed, the Russian information space reacts with a high degree of chaos and incoherence when taken by surprise by battlefield developments that do not allow the propaganda apparatus to develop a clear line. By contrast, the Russian responses to this attack suggest that Russian forces defended in the way that they had prepared to, thus giving Russian sources a rhetorical line to coalesce around.
- Ukraine has conducted counteroffensive operations with differential outcomes in at least three sectors of the front as part of wider counteroffensive efforts that have been unfolding since Sunday, June 4.
- Ukrainian forces conducted a limited but still significant attack in western Zaporizhia Oblast on the night of June 7 to 8. Russian forces apparently defended against this attack in a doctrinally sound manner and had reportedly regained their initial positions as of June 8.
- The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) responded to the Ukrainian attack with an uncharacteristic degree of coherency and praised Southern Military District elements for repelling the attack and regaining lost positions.
- Russian sources provided explanations for claimed Russian successes during the June 8 attacks, praising Russian forces’ effective use of electronic warfare (EW) systems, air support, and landmines against Ukrainian forces.
- Russian forces appear to have executed their formal tactical defensive doctrine in response to the Ukrainian attacks southwest of Orikhiv.
- Ukrainian attacks in western Zaporizhia on June 8 do not represent the full extent of Ukrainian capabilities in the current counteroffensive.
- It is additionally noteworthy that the Russian Southern Military District Forces deployed in this particular area are likely to be a higher quality force grouping than Russia has elsewhere in theater, and their defensive performance is unlikely to be reflective of defensive capabilities of Russian groupings elsewhere on the front.
- Russian forces and occupation authorities continue to exacerbate the humanitarian ramifications of the flooding resulting from the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant (KHPP) dam break.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly postponed his annual press conference from June 2023 until November or December 2023.
- Russian forces continued to conduct limited ground attacks on the Kupyansk-Svatove line and around Kreminna.
- Ukrainian forces made limited gains around Bakhmut, and Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
- Ukrainian forces continued to conduct limited ground attacks on the administrative border between Donetsk and Zaporizhia oblasts.
- The Russian MoD continues to posture itself as a firm authority over the defense industrial base (DIB) through emphasizing its ability to transport new equipment to the front.
- Russian occupation authorities are reportedly resorting to punitive measures against civilian populations in occupied Ukraine due to Russian occupation authorities’ decreasing influence over civilians.