June 1, 2024

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, June 1, 2024

Institute for the Study of War

Grace Mappes, Angelica Evans, Riley Bailey, Christina Harward, and Frederick W. Kagan

June 1, 2024, 6:00pm ET

Click here to see ISW’s interactive map of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report.

Click here to see ISW’s 3D control of terrain topographic map of Ukraine. Use of a computer (not a mobile device) is strongly recommended for using this data-heavy tool.

Click here to access ISW’s archive of interactive time-lapse maps of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. These maps complement the static control-of-terrain map that ISW produces daily by showing a dynamic frontline. ISW will update this time-lapse map archive monthly.

Note: The data cut-off for this product was 1:00pm ET on June 1. ISW will cover subsequent reports in the June 2 Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment.

Russian forces conducted a large-scale drone and missile strike mainly targeting Ukrainian energy infrastructure on the night of May 31 to June 1. Ukrainian Air Force Commander Lieutenant General Mykola Oleshchuk reported on June 1 that Russian forces launched 47 Shahed-136/131 drones and 53 missiles, including 35 Kh-101/555 cruise missiles from aircraft over the Caspian Sea, four Iskander-M ballistic missiles from occupied Crimea, an Iskander-K cruise missile from occupied Crimea, 10 Kalibr cruise missiles from the northeastern Black Sea, and three Kh-59/69 cruise missiles from aircraft over occupied Zaporizhia Oblast.[1] Oleshchuk reported that Ukrainian forces destroyed 46 Shahed drones, 30 Kh-101/555 cruise missiles, the Iskander-K cruise missile, and four Kalibr cruise missiles, and noted that Russian forces have not abandoned their intentions of destroying Ukrainian fuel and energy infrastructure. Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Major Ilya Yevlash noted that Russian forces have recently intensified their combined drone and missile strikes against Ukraine and continue efforts to exhaust Ukraine’s scarce air defense assets.[2] Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko stated that Russian missiles struck energy facilities in Zaporizhia, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Kirovohrad, and Ivano-Frankivsk oblasts.[3] Ukrainian state-owned hydroelectric power plant (HPP) regulator Ukrhydroenergo reported that Russian strikes critically damaged equipment at two unspecified HPPs, and Ukraine’s largest private energy operator DTEK reported that Russian strikes seriously damaged two unspecified thermal power plants (TTP).[4] Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces struck the Kremenchuk HPP in Kirovohrad Oblast, the Dnipro HPP in Zaporizhia Oblast, the Burshtyn TPP in Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, and the Ladyzhyn TPP in Vinnytsia Oblast.[5] Ukrainian officials also reported damage to civilian areas, critical infrastructure, and energy facilities in Kharkiv, Lviv, Vinnytsia, Odesa, and Kherson oblasts, and Zaporizhzhia City.[6]

The current lack of clarity about US restrictions on Ukraine’s use of US-provided weapons to strike military targets in Russian territory misses an opportunity to deter further Russian offensive efforts across the border into northern Ukraine. US National Security Council Director for Europe Michael Carpenter told the Voice of America in an interview published on May 31 that the US policy allowing Ukrainian forces to strike certain Russian military targets in Russia “applies to counter-fire capabilities that are deployed just across the [Ukrainian] border [into Russia]” and “is meant to enable Ukrainians to defend themselves against what would otherwise be a Russian sanctuary across the border.”[7] Responding to a question about whether this policy permits Ukrainian strikes with US-provided weapons across the border from Sumy Oblast, Carpenter responded vaguely “yes, across the border for Russian attacks that are coming across, where otherwise Russians would enjoy a relative sanctuary.” Politico reported on May 31 citing two people close to the Ukrainian presidential administration that Ukrainian officials are frustrated that Ukrainian forces are “restricted to the border area in Kharkiv [Oblast]” when using US-provided weapons to strike Russian territory, however.[8] Carpenter’s comments and the Politico report together suggest there is ambiguity on what the US has explicitly authorized regarding these strikes amid signaling that the US is open to expanding these authorizations to other areas in Ukraine should Russian forces launch offensive operations elsewhere along the international border area.

This US ambiguity misses an opportunity to deter Russian preparations for offensive operations elsewhere across the border into northern Ukraine. Ukrainian officials have recently warned that Russian forces are also concentrating forces in Kursk and Bryansk oblasts across the border from Sumy Oblast, and ISW has previously assessed that even a limited grouping would achieve its desired effect of drawing and fixing Ukrainian forces to this area.[9] The Kremlin may decide to launch offensive operations in different Ukrainian border oblasts outside of Kharkiv Oblast if it believes it can continue to mass forces across the border without risk of Ukrainian strikes. Ukrainian forces would be forced to defend against such offensive operations before the US grants explicit authorization necessary for cross-border strikes outside of areas bordering Kharkiv Oblast. The increased likelihood of other Russian offensive operations in northern Ukraine would require Ukrainian forces to reallocate existing resources to deter or defend against the offensive operations, creating opportunities for Russian forces elsewhere in the theater to exploit. US clarity that Ukraine can use US-provided weapons against Russian ground forces concentrations in Russia that appear to be preparing for imminent cross-border operations would likely change Russian commanders’ calculations about the wisdom of making such ostentatious preparations. ISW continues to assess that the US should allow Ukraine to strike all legitimate military targets in Russia’s operational and deep rear with US-provided weapons.

Individual Western governments are stipulating disparate policies about Ukraine’s future use of Western-supplied F-16 fighter jets. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo stated on May 28 that Ukraine will only be able to use Belgian-supplied F-16s on the territory of Ukraine.[10] It is unclear from De Croo’s statement, however, if Belgium will allow Ukraine to use Belgian-supplied F-16s to conduct strikes on Russian territory from Ukrainian airspace. Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren stated on May 31 that the Netherlands has stipulated no restrictions on Ukraine’s use of Dutch-supplied F-16s and that Ukraine can use these F-16s “above or on Russian territory” as long as Ukraine follows Article 51 of the UN Charter and international humanitarian law.”[11] Article 51 of the UN Charter notably stipulates that “nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against” a UN member state — a reminder that Ukrainian strikes on Russian territory in the context of the Russian invasion are part of Ukraine’s inherent right of self-defense.[12] Continued variations in Western governments’ F-16 policies will require Ukraine to track which aircraft Ukrainian forces can and cannot use to conduct certain strikes, complicating Ukraine’s ability to plan and conduct aviation operations using F-16s.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged that some Ukrainian reserve brigades remain understrength and stated that the slow arrival of US security assistance is complicating Ukrainian efforts to effectively commit reserves to ongoing defensive operations.[13] Zelensky published excerpts from an interview with the Guardian on June 1 wherein he stated that the arrival of US security assistance to Ukraine has so far been slow and insufficient to equip reserve brigades sufficiently in order to conduct rotations for frontline units.[14] Zelensky stated that Russian forces understand that Ukrainian forces have understrength reserves and cannot commit reserves without appropriate materiel and that this fact has incentivized Russian efforts to stretch Ukrainian forces along a wider front in eastern and northeastern Ukraine.[15] Zelensky stated that sufficient security assistance will allow Ukraine to bring reserve brigades to their intended end strength and prevent Ukrainian forces from having to draw forces from eastern Ukraine to defend in northern Kharkiv Oblast.[16] Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi recently reported that Russian forces aim to force Ukrainian forces to commit available reserves to the defensive operation in northern Kharkiv Oblast, and the Russian military command may assess that Ukrainian forces lack the combat ready reserves required to respond to all ongoing Russian offensive operations in eastern and northeastern Ukraine.[17] The arrival of resumed US security assistance at scale to the frontline, reportedly expected in June or July 2024, will aid Ukrainian efforts to bring reserves closer to their intended end strength and stand up planned new brigades.[18]

Key Takeaways:

  • Russian forces conducted a large-scale drone and missile strike mainly targeting Ukrainian energy infrastructure on the night of May 31 to June 1.
  • The current lack of clarity about US restrictions on Ukraine’s use of US-provided weapons to strike military targets in Russian territory misses an opportunity to deter further Russian offensive efforts across the border into northern Ukraine.
  • Individual Western governments are stipulating disparate policies about Ukraine’s future use of Western-supplied F-16 fighter jets.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged that some Ukrainian reserve brigades remain understrength and stated that the slow arrival of US security assistance is complicating Ukrainian efforts to effectively commit reserves to ongoing defensive operations.
  • Russian forces recently marginally advanced near Kupyansk, Chasiv Yar, and Avdiivka.
  • The Russian Ministry of Justice designated the “Way Home” social movement, a movement of relatives of mobilized Russian servicemembers that has been calling for their relatives’ demobilization, as a “foreign agent” on June 1.
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