Civilian targets continue to be struck as bombardment continues and Russians produce more disinformation.
- Russia continued its campaign of systematic attacks on residential areas in Ukrainian cities with strikes on Vinnytsia, Kharkiv City, and Mykolaiv City.
- Russian forces continued efforts to advance on Siversk but their progress is unclear.
- Russian troops conducted limited ground assaults around Bakhmut and Slovyansk but made no gains.
- Chechen Leader Ramazan Kadyrov claimed that one of the four new battalions he has been forming deployed to Ukraine.
More than 20 people were killed, including three children, and at least 71 were hospitalized Thursday after Russian cruise missiles struck a crowded business center in the central Ukrainian city of Vinnytsia, far from the front lines, Ukrainian officials said. President Volodymyr Zelensky called the attack “an open act of terrorism” against a target with no military value.
In photos sent to The Washington Post by Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, who said they were taken at the scene, a bloodied child can be seen lying next to a severed adult foot, her legs at an unnatural angle. In another photo, charred remains, barely recognizable as human, lie splayed in the dirt.
Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine
Subordinate Main Effort—Southern Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk Oblasts (Russian objective: Encircle Ukrainian forces in Eastern Ukraine and capture the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)
Russian forces unsuccessfully attempted to improve tactical positions northwest of Slovyansk on July 14. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces launched an unsuccessful assault on Kurulka (approximately 27 km northwest of Slovyansk). Russian forces continued to shell settlements southwest and southeast of Izyum and launched an airstrike on Mayaky, approximately 10 km northeast of Slovyansk.
Russian forces continued offensive operations west of the Lysychansk area in an effort to advance to Siversk. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces launched an attack on Verkhnokamyanske (approximately 8 km east of Siversk), but Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults in the area. Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) Assistant to the Interior Minister Vitaly Kiselyov amplified Russian war correspondents’ claims that Russian forces established operational control of Siversk on July 14 after seizing Verkhnokamyanske on July 13. Pro-Russian Telegram channel Rybar claimed that Russian forces are still fighting on the outskirts of Verkhnokamyanske. ISW cannot independently verify Kiselyov or Rybar’s claims. The Ukrainian General Staff also reported that Russian forces continued to shell Siversk, Kramatorsk, and settlements in their vicinity throughout July 14.
Russian forces continued to attack settlements southeast of Bakhmut on July 14. The Ukrainian General Staff noted that Ukrainian forces repelled a Russian assault on the Vuhlehirska Thermal Power Plant, Kodema, and Vershyna within a 20 km distance southeast of Bakhmut. Donetsk Oblast Administration Head Pavlo Kyrylenko reported that Russian forces fired at Bakhmut with multiple-launch-rocket systems (MLRS) and shelled Chasiv Yar (west of Bakhmut), likely in an effort to disrupt Ukrainian logistics along the Bakhmut-Kramatorsk-Slovyansk line.
Russian forces resumed offensive operations northeast of Avdiivka, likely in an effort to bypass Ukrainian fortifications in the area. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces stopped Russian advances in Kamianka, approximately 6 km northeast of Avdiivka, after Russian forces had been partially successful in the area earlier in the day. The Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) Territorial Defense claimed that Russian forces captured Kamianka on July 14 but did not provide any evidence confirming the claim. Social media users claimed that Ukrainian forces regained control over Yehorivka, east of the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast administrative border.
Supporting Effort #1—Kharkiv City (Russian objective: Defend ground lines of communication (GLOCs) to Izyum and prevent Ukrainian forces from reaching the Russian border)
Russian forces focused on maintaining previously occupied lines and positions in the Kharkiv City direction. Russian forces continued to carry out air, artillery, and missile strikes on Kharkiv City and surrounding settlements. Pro-Russian Telegram channel Rybar claimed that Ukrainian forces launched unsuccessful offensives to reclaim Dementiivka, but other Russian war correspondents claimed that the settlement is still contested. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted aerial reconnaissance in Vasylenkove and Shevchenko, which may indicate that Russian forces have not retained control over some areas on the eastern side of the Pechenihy Reservoir, but Ukrainian forces have not liberated those settlements either.
Supporting Effort #2—Southern Axis (Russian objective: Defend Kherson and Zaporizhia Oblasts against Ukrainian counterattacks)
Russian forces continued to undertake defensive measures to prevent Ukrainian counteroffensives along the Southern Axis. The Ukrainian Main Military Directorate (GUR) reported that Russian forces established an ammunition depot at the Kherson City Drama Theater between July 11 and July 12. Russian forces are likely continuing to move ammunition depots to historic landmarks in an attempt to defend equipment and manpower from Ukrainian strikes. Satellite imagery also showed that Russian forces deployed at least six Su-25 aircraft to the Dzankoi air base in northern Crimea as of July 11, also possibly in preparation for launching airstrikes at Ukrainian units. Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov also reported that Russian forces began hiding military equipment in residential buildings and confirmed that Ukrainian forces destroyed two ammunition depots in Melitopol in two weeks. The Kherson Oblast Administration confirmed that Ukrainian forces struck two Russian command posts and one helipad in Nova Kakhovka on July 13, and social media footage showed massive explosions in the area. The GUR said it observed Russian forces transporting approximately 40 wounded servicemen to Kherson City mobile hospital but did not specify if the servicemen were wounded during Ukrainian strikes on Russian ammunition depots in the city.
Russian forces continued to shell Ukrainian positions along the Kherson-Mykolaiv and Kherson-Dnipropetrovsk Oblast borders and settlements on the Zaporizhia Oblast frontline. Russian forces also continued to launch missiles at Mykolaiv City, reportedly with S-300 air-defense systems.
SILVER SPRING—Too often, analysis presented to the public is micro instead of macro. Sometimes, looking at the big picture over time is absolutely necessary but in our ever-increasingly myopic, Twitter-cycle-driven news media, bigger picture analysis is one of the biggest casualties, as I have lamented repeatedly. The degree to which Ukraine has dominated Russia’s unprovoked, atrocity-filled, imperialist war against it since the beginning of April is one of the more important overall trends in this conflict and is yet one of the least recognized in day-to-day reporting.
Often, a picture is worth a thousand words or more. Thus, here I present a collage I created, titled, and captioned of three telling maps produced by the Institute for the Study of War in partnership with Critical Threats: one from March 31, one from April 7, and the latest, from July 13. Placed side-by-side as I have arranged them, they tell the most important shifts in the balance of the war since the beginning: how much territory Russia had taken five weeks into the war, how much of that newly taken territory Russia lost one week later, and—most remarkably—how incredibly little the Russian military has accomplished relative to the first five weeks of the war in the nearly-100 days since Russia’s forces collapsed on three major fronts at Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy during the sixth week. Ukraine, in fact, took more territory in that one week in April than Russia has in the last three months and then some. This means that Ukraine has been for months and is currently more on the offensive than Russia is, never a good sign when you are the supposed invader, as Russia is.
Ukraine is winning handily—though not without tragic cost—and Russia is losing resoundingly when this larger picture is considered, its mighty army incapable of doing more than killing defenseless civilians or picking away small bits and pieces of Ukrainian territory over the course of more than three months at very high cost (adding to its horrendous, historic casualties from earlier in the war) and hardly any guarantee it can hold such territory over time, even as a massive Ukrainian counteroffensive now looms in the south (one that could lead to Ukraine retaking Kherson and even open the path to retaking Crimea, as I noted back in April).
In a 2020 lecture, Canada’s former ambassador to Ukraine said that after Euromaidan the country had become a laboratory for ideal-world experimentation. In other words, the economic liberalization unacceptable at home could instead be tried out in Ukraine.
But how is this “experiment” dealing with conditions of total war? And if such a situation generally pushes states toward economic interventionism, is Ukraine following suit?
Ukraine’s Financial Needs
First is the problem of Ukraine’s rising debts. According to the Ukrainian Finance Ministry, from January to June the state budget recorded $35 billion in expenditures and $21.8 billion in revenues. This situation has been worsening. June’s $1.5 billion in revenues, down from $2.5 billion in May, only covered 19.4 percent of expenditures.
Over January to June 2022, $19 billion of the total revenues came from various forms of credit and foreign aid. Over half, $11.8 billion, owed to state bonds, while $7.6 billion (35 percent) was simply money printed by the national bank and given to the Finance Ministry. The remaining $7.2 billion came from various foreign credits and grants.
Finance minister Serhii Marchenko has repeatedly stated that without an immense increase in aid, Ukraine will be forced to further cut nonmilitary spending within months. The strain has already made itself felt on state employees. Workers at the state railway company, who have been playing an important and dangerous role in saving the lives of millions of civilians, receive their wages with delays of seven to ten days, and when they do receive them, they are cut by a third, leaving about $150 a month. Many teachers and university professors haven’t received wages for months. At ports, workers who used to earn $260 a month now earn a little over $50 and that with delays.
When Ukrainian legislators tried to pass a bill in 2020 ensuring localization of state purchases, the anti-corruption bureaus (as well as the EU and the United States) frantically tore it down, citing the “possibilities for the corrupt use” of this patently ordinary measure. The law was eventually passed — but amended, so that localization restrictions were only applied to non–EU or North American nations. In short, Ukraine’s vast anti-corruption ecosystem is a control mechanism that keeps its economy perpetually open to decimation by foreign exporters who often enjoy preferential treatment from their own governments. The idea that “corruption” is the greatest barrier to development is a fiction used to justify trade liberalization in which the stronger Western capitalists inevitably win, to the detriment of the Ukrainian economy.
Largely a result of this valiant “anti-corruption” struggle, Ukraine has dramatically deindustrialized over the past eight years. From 2013 to 2019, exports of aerospace production declined by 4.8 times, of train wagons by 7.5 times, of metallurgical products by 1.7 times, and of chemical products by 2.1 times. The situation was particularly bad in the military-industrial complex, with Soviet Ukraine’s once-great shipbuilding and rocket complexes essentially disappearing. Not a budget passed by without grandiose — and costly — purchases of Western military equipment. Over 2018 to 2021, $1 billion was even spent to buy 110 French helicopters for the Ukrainian police, despite Ukraine possessing an excellent Soviet helicopter factory, albeit one falling into disuse due to the preference for foreign purchasers. This immense deindustrialization, even if in the service of such admirable ideals as “European civilization,” haven’t served Ukraine well in a war decided by the size of each army’s rocket and heavy-artillery stocks.
The various scandalous personalities of the anti-corruption courts have, since the beginning of the war, remained under the radar in relatively peaceful Lviv, or simply left for Paris. Several famous such figures, such as Artem Sytnyk, have even been convicted in court of corruption but are not removed from their posts due to the direct demands of the United States and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Sytnyk was revealed to have received $30,000 in severance pay from one anti-corruption organ in the early months of the war, before being given a new post at a different one. Receiving the highest wages of all state employees, $83 million of the 2021 Ukrainian budget was dedicated to the three biggest anti-corruption organs, though they are often criticized for failing to make any large-scale arrests for corruption. While ordinary state workers have seen their wages decrease to absurd levels, Ukraine’s overstrained budget finds space for such “essential workers.”
“I think Putin’s aim is 1) to render Ukraine non-viable — crippled, uninvestable, in political social and economic torment, and 2) to show that the West doesn’t have the willpower to resist him,” says Edward Lucas, of the Center for European Policy Analysis. He and I had just pulsed Baltic opinion at Estonia’s Lennart Meri security conference, where most attendees seem to believe Estonia and its neighbor Lithuania would be next on the menu, if Putin isn’t stopped in Ukraine. “We have/had a choice of confronting Putin with a functioning 40-million-strong country on our side or waiting until Ukraine is defeated and doing it later in the Baltic,” Lucas says.