Russian momentum has been blunted momentarily as the combat tempo warms up. HIMARS systems have demonstrated their accuracy.
- The Russian Ministry of Defense announced the cessation of the operational pause, confirming ISW’s July 15 assessment that Russian forces are likely resuming ground attacks along multiple axes of advance. The cessation of the operational pause is unlikely to lead to a massive increase in ground attacks across Ukraine but will rather likely be characterized by continued limited ground assaults focused on the Slovyansk-Siversk-Bakhmut salient.
- The Kremlin may have ordered Russian forces to take control of the entirety of Kharkiv Oblast, despite the extraordinary low likelihood of Russian success in such an effort.
- Russian forces conducted limited ground assaults around Siversk and Bakhmut and otherwise fired on Ukrainian military and civilian infrastructure across Eastern Ukraine.
- Russian occupation authorities likely are responding to the perceived threat of Ukrainian partisan activities by strengthening administrative regimes in occupied areas.
Russian President Vladimir Putin may have ordered Russian forces to seize Kharkiv City and the rest of unoccupied Kharkiv Oblast despite the extreme improbability of success. ISW offers this observation as a hypothesis rather than an assessment because evidence and indicators for it are limited and circumstantial. Russian forces have been attempting to take Dementiivka to the north of Kharkiv City since June 26 even though capturing Dementiivka has limited significance for the objective of defending Russian territory against Ukrainian offensive actions. Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate released an intercepted conversation on July 16 in which a Russian soldier stated that his commander cares nothing for his losses but only wants to reach Kharkiv. Russian-backed occupation authorities continue to set conditions to annex Kharkiv Oblast beyond currently-held territory, as ISW has previously assessed. The Russian-backed Kharkiv Oblast occupation government head Vitaly Ganchev and Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) Head Leonid Pasechnik signed a mutual cooperation and defense agreement on July 16, which indicates that Russian authorities in Kharkiv Oblast are setting conditions for long-term occupation contingencies. Ganchev previously announced on July 6 that occupied Kharkiv Oblast will consist of the Kupyansk, Izyum, Vovchansk, and Kharkiv districts, which incorporates territory that Russian forces do not yet control. Russian forces will likely inconsistently intensify ground assault attempts north of Kharkiv City over the coming days to reflect continued territorial ambitions in Kharkiv Oblast but are unlikely to secure significant territorial gains. Russian forces continued artillery strikes along the entire line of contact and on Kharkiv City.
Russian forces continued to fire on settlements southeast of Izyum but did not make any confirmed ground assaults in the direction of Slovyansk on July 16. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces are regrouping in order to further advance towards Slovyansk and Barvinkove. Russian troops may seek to advance southeast from Barvinkove either to support operations towards Slovyansk or to open parallel lines of advance towards Kramatorsk. Russian forces additionally conducted air and artillery strikes against settlements along the Kharkiv-Donetsk Oblast border northwest of Slovyansk and hit Bohorodychne, Dibrovne, Mazanivka, Mykilske, and Novomykolaivka.
Russian forces continued limited and unsuccessful ground assaults towards Siversk on July 16. The Ukrainian General Staff stated that Russian troops unsuccessfully attempted to improve their tactical positions in Ivano-Darivka (around 5km southeast of Siversk) and Hryhorivka (10km northeast of Siversk). Russian forces also shelled Siversk and surrounding settlements of Verkhnokamyanske and Zvanivka to continue to set conditions for operations to take control of the city.
Russian forces continued ground assaults to the south of Bakhmut on July 16. The Ukrainian General Staff noted that Ukrainian troops repelled Russian attempts to advance around Novoluhanske, Semyhirya, Dolomytne, Roty, and Vershyna, all within 25km south of Bakhmut. Russian forces notably resumed efforts to attack the Vuhledar Power Plant in Novoluhanske. The Vuhledar Power Plant lies on the northern edge of the Vuhlehirske Reservoir, a major water feature surrounded by settlements such as Svitlodarsk. Russian forces began their concerted efforts to break free of the canalized terrain in this area at the end of May. Russian forces are likely focusing on advancing past the Vuhledar Power Plant in order to set conditions for a cross-country advance towards Bakhmut, as the area north and west of the power plant is relatively flatter and more open than the terrain around the Vuhlehirske Reservoir. Russian forces also continued to conduct artillery strikes around Bakhmut.
Russian forces continued to fire along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line of contact but did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks in this area on July 16. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces are firing on Avdiivka to dislodge Ukrainian positions in the city.
Russian forces launched missile and rocket strikes at ground targets across the Southern Axis on July 15-16. Russian forces launched four-to-six Kh-101 cruise missiles – advanced, high-precision cruise missiles designed to evade air defense systems – at Dnipro, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast in the evening on July 15. Footage shows Ukrainian air defenses successfully intercepting at least one of the missiles, and at least two missiles hit buildings in central Dnipro. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that the missiles struck the Yuzhny Machine Building Plant used to build and repair Ukrainian Tochka-Us and MLRS systems in Dnipro’s industrial district, but ISW is unable to verify the exact locations of the strikes at this time. The Russian usage of Kh-101 missiles to strike a Ukrainian military factory could indicate that Russian forces are either running out of appropriate munitions for such strikes or are desperate to curtail Ukrainian strikes on Russian military infrastructure by targeting Ukrainian supplies of missile and rocket systems.
The perception of Russia among Chinese citizens has markedly improved over the past three years, despite Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Russia is now the country Chinese feel most positively about, according to our “Chinese views of the world at the time of the Russia-Ukraine war” survey report.
“This is a unique survey which gives broad and detailed insights into Chinese people’s attitudes at a crucial time in international relations, just after the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” said Dr Richard Q. Turcsányi, Key Researcher at Palacky University Olomouc and Program Director at CEIAS, who has led the team. “Our findings show that the Chinese public was not disturbed by the Russian moves and actually seems to support Russia in the war,” Turcsányi added.
An international group of researchers led by Palacky University Olomouc, Czech Republic, conducted an online survey of more than 3 000 Chinese respondents in March 2022. Published in cooperation with the Central European Institute of Asian Studies (CEIAS), the report presents the results, especially in relation to Chinese attitudes towards Russia, the US, and international affairs. The findings show that the Chinese public largely supports Russia in its war in Ukraine, while views about the US have significantly worsened.
Of the 25 countries respondents were asked about, Russia was the most positively perceived country, while the US was the most negatively perceived. The United States was commonly thought of as an advanced and powerful state, yet hostile to China, untrustworthy, and having a tendency to interfere in other countries’ affairs. In contrast, Russia is clearly viewed as a friendly country, but without deep social roots and driven by a pragmatic recognition of the exigencies of state-to-state relations, along with the persona of the current Russian leader, who is regarded positively as a strong ruler.
Other very positively perceived countries among Chinese respondents were Pakistan, Singapore, North Korea, and Germany. In turn, other very negatively perceived countries included India, Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, and Ukraine.
“Bilateral relationships are an important factor driving the attitudes of the Chinese toward foreign countries. Chinese domestic propaganda seems to be working,” Turcsányi said.
In particular, Chinese people’s attitudes towards Russia and the US are spilling over from matters of government policy into broader societal issues and expectations. Chinese respondents consider Russia to be the sole great power standing with China, while the foreign policies of the US, European Union, Japan, and India are seen negatively.