- The Russian Ministry of Defense announced that Russian forces are conducting an operational pause to rest and reconstitute.
- Russian forces continued efforts to advance toward Slovyansk from the southeast of Izyum and may be setting conditions to advance from the southeast of Barvinkove—either toward Slovyansk or toward Kramatorsk.
- Russian forces made marginal gains to the southeast of Siversk and continued offensive operations west of the Lysychansk area.
- Russian forces continued offensive operations to the south and east of Bakhmut.
- Russian forces conducted a limited and unsuccessful attack north of Kharkiv City.
- Ukrainian partisans are likely continuing to target Russian-controlled railways around Melitopol.
- Russian oblasts are continuing to create their own ad hoc volunteer units to compensate for personnel losses in Ukraine.
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 continued offensive operations near the Kharkiv-Donetsk Oblast border toward Slovyansk on July 7. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted an unsuccessful assault on Bohorodychne, about 20 km northwest of Slovyansk. Russian forces also shelled several settlements northwest of Slovyansk, including Sulyhivka, Adamivka, Krasnopillya, Mazanivka, Dibrovne, and Dolyna. Russian forces additionally conducted limited artillery strikes to the south of Barvinkove and fired on Nikopol and Novopavlivka. These strikes may suggest that Russian forces are seeking to bypass Barvinkove to the east and either move toward the E40 Izyum-Slovyansk highway to advance southeast toward Slovyansk or move directly southeast from Barvinkove toward Kramatorsk. Russian forces may be setting conditions for an eventual assault on Kramatorsk—which would run parallel to advances toward Slovyansk. Russian forces conducted a missile strike directly on Kramatorsk on July 7.
Russian forces continued efforts to advance west toward Siversk from the Lysychansk area and made marginal gains near the Luhansk-Donetsk Oblast border on July 7. Geolocated combat footage from July 7 confirmed that forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) entered the eastern outskirts of Spirne, about 10 km southwest of Siversk. Luhansk Oblast Head Serhiy Haidai reported that Russian and Ukrainian troops continued to fight around Verkhnokamyanka, about 15 km directly east of Siversk. Russian forces also unsuccessfully attempted to advance in the direction of Hryhorivka (10 km northeast of Siversk) and Verkhnomayanske (5 km directly east of Siversk). Russian forces shelled several settlements to the south and east of Siversk to continue to set conditions for further advances west of the Luhansk Oblast border.
Russian forces continued offensive operations to the south and east of Bakhmut on July 7. The Ukrainian General Staff stated that Russian forces attempted to improve their tactical positions in Vershyna, 12 km southeast of Bakhmut. Russian Telegram channel Rybar additionally claimed that Russian troops fought in Pokrovske, directly east of Bakhmut, and prepared for attacks on Ukrainian positions in Novoluhanske and at the Vuhledar Power Plant, 20 km southeast of Bakhmut. Russian forces reportedly shelled settlements to the east and south of Bakhmut to continue to set conditions for advances toward the city.
Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks in the Avdiivka-Donetsk City area and fired on Ukrainian positions along the line of contact on July 7.
Luhansk Oblast Administration Head Serhiy Haidai stated that Russian forces are not conducting an operational pause as of July 8 and are continuing to shell settlements and deploy additional tank units to Donbas. Haidai’s statement likely reflects confusion about the meaning of the expression “operational pause” and how such a “pause” actually manifests on the ground in a war. US military doctrine considers the role of operational pauses in warfighting and campaigning in some detail. It notes that “Normally, operational pauses are planned to regenerate combat power or augment sustainment and forces for the next phase.” It observes that “The primary drawback to operational pauses is the risk of forfeiting strategic or operational initiative.” It therefore recommends that “If pauses are necessary, the [commander] can alternate pauses among components to ensure continuous pressure on the enemy or adversary through offensive actions by some components while other components pause.” Soviet military theory regarded operational pauses in a similar fashion—sometimes necessary, but always dangerous.
Recognizing the danger of allowing the Ukrainians to seize the initiative and go over to an offensive of their own, however, Russian forces continue to conduct more-limited offensive operations in this sector and elsewhere along the front line. Those operations involve smaller Russian forces than had been involved in the attacks on Severodonetsk and Lysychansk pursuing more limited and localized objectives with less determination and willingness to take casualties compared with their behavior during the fights for the two cities. When the Russian military command has determined that it has adequately prepared for a renewed major offensive operation, it will likely resume larger-scale ground offensives with more troops and a greater determination than it is currently showing. The transition out of the operational pause may be gradual and difficult to discern at once, just as the transition into it appeared gradual. Skillful campaign design aims to achieve precisely such an effect in order to persuade the enemy that no pause is contemplated or underway, or that it will be too short to be of benefit to the enemy, and thereby convince the enemy that it does not have the opportunity to seize the initiative and go over to a counter-offensive of its own. Russian campaign design, inadequate as it has generally been, is nevertheless good enough to manifest this basic principle of operational art.
Russian milbloggers are continuing to show rhetorical opposition to the Kremlin by faulting the Russian Defense Ministry for making Russian logistics vulnerable to the Ukrainian strikes via US-provided HIMARS rocket systems. Russian milbloggers are notably criticizing the Russian military command instead of expressing patriotic hatred toward Western suppliers of HIMARS as one would have expected of the ultra-nationalist, pro-war Telegram channels. Former Russian military commander Igor Girkin, an outspoken Russian nationalist who commanded militants during the Donbas war in 2014, stated that personnel of the Russian Defense Ministry’s logistics department should be tried for failing to disperse and camouflage ammunition depots. Russian milbloggers Starshe Eddy and Russian officer Aleksey Suronkin echoed similar concerns over the effectiveness of HIMARS, calling on Russian forces to adapt to new threats and strike back against Ukrainian forces. The continued trend of patriotic and pro-war Russian milbloggers blaming the Kremlin by default for setbacks and problems in the war may begin to create in effect a loyal opposition that could ultimately erode confidence in the milbloggers’ significant audience in Russia’s ability to win.