July 27, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: Ukrainian forces make marginal advances

Institute for the Study of War

Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on July 27 and made gains in some areas, although Ukrainian forces appear not to have continued significant mechanized assaults south of Orikhiv in western Zaporizhia Oblast. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posted footage on July 27 showing that Ukrainian forces liberated Staromayorske (9km south of Velyka Novosilka) in western Donetsk Oblast following heavy fighting in the area. Geolocated footage published on July 26 indicates that Ukrainian forces also made marginal advances north of Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut). Geolocated footage published on July 26 suggests that Ukrainian forces made additional advances east of Robotyne (10km south of Orikhiv) during offensive operations on July 26. Ukrainian Director of the Department of Application Planning at the Main Command of the National Guard Mykola Urshalovych stated on July 27 that Ukrainian forces achieved tactical victories in the Melitopol (western Zaporizhia Oblast) direction. Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces continued assaults at a lower tempo and with far less manpower near Robotyne on July 27 after Ukrainian forces launched an intense mechanized frontal assault that broke through Russian defensive positions northeast of the settlement on July 26. Geolocated footage published on July 27 suggests that Ukrainian forces may be operating in areas well forward of where ISW assesses Ukrainian advances to be as a result of ISW’s intentionally conservative assessments about control of terrain (covered in more detail in Southern Axis text).

The Kremlin and the wider Russian information space are intensifying efforts to portray the Ukrainian counteroffensive as a failed effort. Russian President Vladimir Putin stated to a reporter on July 27 that in recent days Russian forces destroyed 39 armored vehicles out of 50 that Ukrainian forces committed to intensified assaults in the Zaporizhia direction. Putin claimed that Russian forces also killed 60 percent of the Ukrainian personnel that conducted these assaults as well as 40 percent of Ukrainian combat aviation pilots in the area. Putin has previously claimed that Russian forces have destroyed an implausible amount of Ukrainian equipment during Ukrainian counteroffensive operations, although his figures concerning Ukrainian assaults in recent days indicate an inflection in his exaggeration of likely Ukrainian losses. Russian milbloggers similarly claimed that Russian forces destroyed dozens of Ukrainian armored vehicles and celebrated the alleged losses as proof that the Ukrainian counteroffensive is stalling. The Kremlin’s and the Russian information space’s framing of the Ukrainian counteroffensive notably violates a reported Kremlin manual instructing Russian media not to downplay the potential for successful Ukrainian counteroffensive operations. The intensifying portrayal of the Ukrainian counteroffensive as a failed effort suggests that the Kremlin’s policy on the coverage of the war is to bolster efforts to promote itself as an effective manager of the war effort.

Key Takeaways: 

  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on July 27 and made gains in some areas, although Ukrainian forces appear not to have continued significant mechanized assaults south of Orikhiv in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
  • A US official expressed caution about assessing that the July 26 uptick in Ukrainian counteroffensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast is part of the Ukrainian main effort, tempering July 26 statements to the contrary.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin used the Russia–Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum in St. Petersburg on July 27 to continue efforts to posture Russia as a more attractive ally to African partner states than the collective West.
  • Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin was also present in St. Petersburg on July 27 and took the opportunity to informally meet with an unknown number of African leaders, suggesting that the Wagner Group intends to remain a significant player in Africa.
  • Prigozhin additionally used the backdrop of the Russia-Africa summit to position Wagner as a viable anti-Western partner for post-coup Niger.
  • The Kremlin reportedly distributed a manual to Russian state media on framing the anniversary of the Baptism of Rus on July 28, likely as part of continued information operations and propaganda narratives to advance Russian military objectives.
  • Russia conducted another strike on Ukrainian port infrastructure in Odesa Oblast and rear areas of Ukraine overnight on July 26–27.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, in Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, and in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area on July 27 and did not make any confirmed advances.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on July 27 and have advanced south of Bakhmut, in the ZaporizhiaDonetsk Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
  • The Russian State Duma approved measures on July 27 aimed at clarifying confusion surrounding the recently updated laws regarding conscripts and reservists.
  • Russian authorities are discriminating against Ukrainian refugees in Belgorod Oblast, Russia.
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