June 2, 2024

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, June 2, 2024

Institute for the Study of War

Grace Mappes, Angelica Evans, Nicole Wolkov, Kateryna Stepanenko, and Frederick W. Kagan

June 2, 2024, 8pm ET 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with US and Singaporean officials and highlighted the upcoming Global Peace Summit during the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on June 2. Zelensky met with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to discuss the battlefield situation, Ukraine’s need for additional air defense systems, and the importance of Ukraine’s ability to strike Russian military targets near Kharkiv Oblast.[1] Zelensky also met with Singaporean President Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Prime Minister Lawrence Wong, and Singaporean businessmen and emphasized Ukraine’s interest in increasing its cooperation with Singapore and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).[2] Zelensky announced during the conference that 106 countries have confirmed their participation in the upcoming June 15-16 Global Peace Summit in Switzerland and noted that Ukraine invited every country to the upcoming summit except for Russia, which is the aggressor in this conflict.[3] Zelensky warned that Russian officials are attempting to disrupt the peace summit and discourage countries from attending the summit by threatening to “block” the import and export of food, agricultural, and chemical products. Zelensky also noted that the summit is an important step towards the resolution of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.[4] Ukrainian and Western media reported on June 2 that diplomatic sources in Saudi Arabia stated that Saudi Arabia will not participate in the Global Peace Summit following the May 31 announcement that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) will not send a representative to the summit.[5]

The provision of Western air defense systems and the lifting of Western restrictions on Ukraine’s ability to strike military targets in Russian territory with Western-provided weapons remain crucial for Ukraine to repel Russian glide bomb and missile strikes against Kharkiv City. A dozen Western countries have recently partially or completely lifted restrictions on Ukraine’s use of Western-provided weapons to strike military targets in Russian territory.[6] These policy changes will allow Ukrainian forces to use Western-provided systems to strike Russian firing and staging areas in Russia’s border areas and airspace. Ukrainian officials reported that Ukrainian forces downed a number of Russian military aircraft in February 2024, many of which were conducting glide bomb strikes in the Avdiivka direction.[7] Ukrainian forces’ ability to down Russian military aircraft in a frontline area indicates that Ukrainian forces will likely be able to replicate the same effects with both Ukrainian and Western-provided systems to protect northern Kharkiv Oblast and Kharkiv City from Russian glide bomb strikes launched from Russian airspace. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has previously stated that Russian forces would not be able to seize Kharkiv City if Ukrainian forces received two Patriot air defense systems to deploy to the region.[8] Russian forces have targeted Kharkiv City with glide bombs and various missile strikes in the past several weeks, although two Patriot batteries in northern Kharkiv Oblast would have limited effectiveness in defending against Russian airstrikes without the ability to fire on Russian aircraft in Russian airspace.[9]

Ukrainian field commanders are reportedly compensating for training difficulties that mobilization has exacerbated by training new personnel on the frontline. Ukrainian field commanders told the Washington Post that they have devoted significant time to teaching basic skills to newly-redeployed personnel because they do not learn these skills at training centers.[10] The Washington Post reported on June 2 that Ukrainian soldiers who had served in the rear also lack adequate skills upon arrival at the front even though many had been serving in the military prior to the start of the full-scale invasion in 2022. The problems the Washington Post identified are not surprising in these circumstances. Most of the Ukrainian forces on the frontline have been fighting for more than two years and are exhausted, so Ukraine is under pressure to speedily rotate them with fresh forces and replace losses to maintain its defense.[11] There is a difficult tradeoff to make between pulling experienced soldiers from the frontline to train new personnel or accepting bottlenecks in training the new personnel. One Ukrainian officer reportedly told the Washington Post that Ukraine needs NATO instructors to train new personnel and to halve training times to one month.[12] Russian rear-area strike campaigns against even the westernmost regions of Ukraine have ensured that Ukraine has effectively no safe rear area in which it can safely train personnel, and sending personnel to train in NATO states – such as the ongoing UK-led Operation Interflex training program – both removes Ukrainian field commanders from the training process and increases the delay in deploying soldiers as Ukraine must transport these personnel to and from NATO states. Ukraine will not resolve these issues quickly, and the average overall quality of Ukrainian forces on the frontline will likely decrease as experienced personnel rotate out and newly-deployed personnel reach the frontline even as the number of available soldiers increases. New soldiers will likely learn rapidly as they fight alongside experienced veterans, however.

Ukrainian field commanders’ decisions to train newly-deployed personnel on the front before committing them to combat indicates that the overall quality of Ukrainian forces will likely remain higher than that of Russian forces in the near- to mid-term. Russian forces have consistently used newly-deployed mobilized personnel, penal convicts, and fresh contract and volunteer soldiers without adequate training to conduct mass, infantry-led “meat assaults” to make marginal gains in Ukraine and have proven willing to continue suffering extensive casualties for these gains.[13] The Russian force generation mechanism has largely met the replacement rate of casualties in Ukraine, however, incentivizing fast redeployments of new personnel for additional “meat” assaults over effective training. Russian milbloggers have consistently complained about ineffective Russian training since partial mobilization in September 2022, and a former Russian Storm-Z instructor recently claimed that Russian “strategic” reserves are “doing nothing for months” due to training bottlenecks resulting from an inadequate number of instructors.[14] Further Ukrainian cooperation with NATO instructors, particularly if those NATO instructors assist training in rear areas in Ukraine, provides further opportunities for Ukraine to improve its basic training mechanisms and improve the quality of newly deployed personnel.

The New York Times (NYT) published an investigation on June 2 into the forced relocation and deportation of 46 Ukrainian children from a foster home in occupied Kherson Oblast during 2022.[15] The NYT analyzed photos, social media posts, and official government documents and concluded that Russian government officials participated in the forced relocation of these children and that occupation officials are withholding the children from their parents and relatives as part of a wider effort to strip Ukrainian children of their identities. The NYT reported that a Russian federal adoption site listed 22 of these Ukrainian children for adoption in Russia and placed at least two children with Russian families. The NYT consulted legal experts who determined that the Russian intent to strip children of their Ukrainian identity is a violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and may amount to a war crime. ISW analysts assisted with the preparation of this report by reviewing some of its findings and sources.

The Telegraph reported on June 1 in a since-removed article that British officials ordered the United Kingdom’s (UK) Security Service (MI5) to refocus its counterintelligence efforts towards Russian, People’s Republic of China (PRC), and Iranian agents operating in the UK.[16] Unnamed government sources told The Telegraph that the growing number of PRC agents and Iranian organized criminal groups in the UK have shifted MI5’s recruiting targets and that the UK’s support for Ukraine had led to increased Russian spying in the UK. ISW is refraining from publishing additional details from the article until The Telegraph provides further details about the article’s removal.

Russian war commentator Alexander Artamonov drew backlash from Kremlin-affiliated Russian propagandists for claiming that Ukrainians are “second-class citizens.” contradicting the Kremlin’s false efforts to portray Ukrainian and Russian people as one nation. Artamonov reportedly stated on a live broadcast on a Russian state television channel on June 1 that he “does not have a very high opinion of Ukrainians” and that he “insists Ukrainians are second-class citizens.”[17] Russian State Duma Deputy and convicted unregistered Russian foreign agent Maria Butina, Russian ultranationalist and former State Duma Deputy Zakhar Prilepin, Kremlin-affiliated Russian milbloggers, and other pro-war Russian commentators heavily criticized Artamonov and reiterated the false narrative that Russians and Ukrainians are actually the same.[18] Artamonov notably received backlash for contradicting the Kremlin’s established false narrative that claims that Ukrainians are Russians in an attempt to delegitimize and erase Ukrainian identity and justify Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Russian occupation officials and Russian forces in occupied Ukraine have subjugated Ukrainian civilians in occupied territory to violence, property theft, religious persecution, forced deportation, and impressment into the Russian military — all as part of an ongoing campaign to eradicate an independent Ukrainian national and cultural identity.[19]

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with US and Singaporean officials and highlighted the upcoming Global Peace Summit during the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on June 2.
  • The provision of Western air defense systems and the lifting of Western restrictions on Ukraine’s ability to strike military targets Russian territory with Western-provided weapons remain crucial for Ukraine to repel Russian glide bomb and missile strikes against Kharkiv City.
  • Ukrainian field commanders are reportedly compensating for training difficulties that mobilization has exacerbated by training new personnel on the frontline.
  • Ukrainian field commanders’ decisions to train newly-deployed personnel on the front before committing them to combat indicates that the overall quality of Ukrainian forces will likely remain higher than that of Russian forces in the near- to mid-term.
  • The New York Times (NYT) published an investigation on June 2 into the forced relocation and deportation of 46 Ukrainian children from a foster home in occupied Kherson Oblast during 2022.
  • The Telegraph reported on June 1 in a since-removed article that British officials ordered the United Kingdom’s (UK) Security Service (MI5) to refocus its counterintelligence efforts towards Russian, People’s Republic of China (PRC), and Iranian agents operating in the UK.
  • Russian war commentator Alexander Artamonov drew backlash from Kremlin-affiliated Russian propagandists for claiming that Ukrainians are “second-class citizens.” contradicting the Kremlin’s false efforts to portray Ukrainian and Russian people as one nation.
  • Russian forces recently advanced near Vovchansk, Avdiivka, Donetsk City, and Krynky.
  • Russia continues to indoctrinate Russian minors into military-political thinking to set conditions for long-term force generation.
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