Update 20 July

20 juli, 2022

Russian forces have intensified long-range attacks across Ukraine on targets far from the front line, killing large numbers of civilians in the last week, according to Ukrainian authorities.

In northern Ukraine, Russian forces continued intensively bombarding Sumy Oblast, with more than 150 mines and shells during 18 July. Chernihiv Oblast continued suffering Russian artillery, mortars & missiles attacks.

In the east of Ukraine, Russian troops continued to conduct air, artillery, and missile strikes on military and civilian infrastructure in Kharkiv and the settlements around the city. On the morning of 20 July at least three people were killed after Russian shelling in northwest of Kharkiv. On 16 July, three  civilians were killed and three others were injured in a missile attack in Chuhuiv, near Kharkiv. In addition, Russian forces continued to conduct combat operations in order to prevent the advance of Ukrainian troops toward the Russian border in Kharkiv Oblast.

In the Donbas, Russian troops have made limited advances in the last week. In Donetsk Oblast, Russian forces conducted a series of ground attacks east of Siversk and south of Bakhmut. On 18 July, Russian forces carried unsuccessful ground attacks to the east of Siversk and continued to conduct air and artillery strikes to the northwest of Slovyansk. On 19 July, Russian troops continued offensive operations northwest of Slovyansk from the southeast and southwest of Izyum. On the evening of 19 June, the Russians launched a missile attack on the centre of Kramatorsk, causing a fire in a high-rise civilian building, the number of casualties is still unknown. In addition, Russia intensified efforts to advance on Avdiivka. Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) representative Eduard Basurin claimed that DNR forces have completely blocked the road from Avdiivka to Konstyantynivka (north of Avdiivka) and have surrounded the settlement in a semicircle.

In Luhansk Oblast, Russian forces fired from barrel and rocket artillery in Bilogorivka, close to the border with Donetsk Oblast. In the occupied cities, the Russian forces authorities distributed material on the ”positive aspects” of the Russian regime.

Russian forces continued to intensify attacks in southern Ukraine. On 14 July, 10 Russian missiles shelled a hotel, two educational institutions and a trolleybus depot in Mykolaiv. Oleksandr Sienkevych, mayor of Mykolaiv, claimed that the number of missiles being fired at the city on a daily basis far exceeds what its air defenses can deal with and that 230,000 residents remains in Mykolaiv. On 18 July, Russian missiles hit a military infrastructure, a bridge across Dniester river, and a residential building close to a school and a cultural center in Odesa Oblast, injuring at least Six people. In addition, Russian shelling continued to be reported in Zaporizhzhia Oblast on 17-18 July. On 19 July, Russian shelling of a residential area of Nikopol in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast killed two people and wounded nine others.

Ukrainian officials claim that a steady stream of Russian military equipment is moving from Mariupol to other parts of southern Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces are on the offensive. A convoy of up to 100 units of military equipment passed through Mariupol in the direction of Zaporizhzhia on 16 July. These troops are likely to be heading to support Russian forces on the defensive in Kherson after being attacked by Ukrainian long-range weapons.

In central Ukraine, Russian Kalibr missiles launched from submarines stationed in the Black Sea killed at least 25 people and injured 54 in the town of Vinnystia on 14 July. Vinnytsia had not been subject to Russian strikes since the war started. All of Ukraine remains under risk of Russian missile attacks, however, the risk of a Russian ground invasion of western Ukraine remains low.

In western Ukraine, there have been no significant developments, however air raid alarms continue to sound from time to time. The last time the air raid alarms went off in Lviv was last Thursday, July 14.

President Volodymyr Zelensky suspended Iryna Venediktova, General Prosecutor of Ukraine and Ivan Bakanov, the chief of Ukraine’s Security Service, questioning their leadership qualities and accusing many of their subordinates of treason and collaboration with Russia. This has highlighted the shadow war between Russia and Ukraine, trying to penetrate its rival’s security networks and obtain critical information. Ukraine has so far initiated 651 criminal proceedings against employees of law enforcement, prosecutorial and investigative bodies for ”treasonous and collaborative activities”. Since the war began, more than 800 people suspected of involvement in sabotage and reconnaissance activities for Russia have been detained and handed over to the Ukrainian Security Service, Yevhen Yenin, Ukraine’s First Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, stated last month.

Developments in Russia

On 18 July, the Russian Telegram channel Rybar published a report on the Novaya Tuva movement, an anti-war organisation formed by activists from the Tuva ethnic minority enclave. Rybar accused the Novaya Tuva movement of spreading anti-war propaganda and encouraging ethnic discord within the Russian Federation. There have been reports of a recent increase in the formation of regionally based volunteer battalions across Russia, many of which straddle distinct ethnic lines. Rybar’s article, as well as earlier reports of an anti-war group Free Buryatia, highlighted the risk that Putin’s desire for non-Russians to play a major role in this phase of the war could create internal tensions in these regions.

International Developments

The flow of Russian gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline is likely to resume on time on 21 July after the completed scheduled annual maintenance, but at a level below its full capacity. The pipeline is expected to provide the same levels of gas as before 11 July, when it was stopped for the annual maintenance. Russian government-controlled Gazprom on 14 June reduced gas exports through Nord Stream 1 to 40 percent of capacity, claiming delays in the return of a turbine that Siemens Energy was inspecting in Canada. Several sources have reported that Canada shipped the turbine needed for Nord Stream 1 to Germany by plane on 17 July. On 18 July, the German Ministry of Economics said it could not give details on the turbine’s location; however, a ministry spokesman said the turbine was a spare part that was to be used only from September. This could indicate that its absence might not be the real reason for the drop-in gas flows before maintenance.

On 20 July, the European Union has published plans for the 27-member states to reduce the use of gas by 15 percent until March 2023, amid concerns of a full Russian gas halt, that remains likely. This measure will be voluntary from this summer; however, could become mandatory if the crisis worsens rising risks of gas shortages across Europe. As part of its contingency plan, the European Commission will invite people to reduce energy consumption in buildings and households, such as by lowering thermostats by one degree or using less hot water, and will suggest governments to provide economic support to industries in a supply emergency.

On 19 July, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Iran on his first international trip beyond the borders of the former Soviet Union since launching his latest invasion of Ukraine. Putin met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. During the visit to Iran, Putin also met with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to discuss a deal to resume Ukrainian grain exports to the Black Sea, now blocked by Russia. Putin is willing to facilitate Ukrainian grain exports through the Black Sea, but also wants the remaining restrictions on Russian grain exports removed. Likewise, on 19 July, Iran’s national oil company signed a $40 billion deal with Russia’s state-owned gas company Gazprom. The deal includes the exploitation of Iranian gas fields and the construction of new export pipelines.

On 18 July, Turkish President Erdogan again threatened to freeze the NATO membership applications of Sweden and Finland unless the countries fulfill their promises on counter-terrorism by extraditing a number of people connected to Kurdish organisations that are branded terrorist in Turkey. Erdogan also added that he believes that Sweden ”not showing a good image” so far.

On 13 July, North Korea issued a statement officially recognising the ”so-called” independence of the Russian-occupied Ukrainian regions of Luhansk and Donetsk. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry strongly condemned North Korea’s decision to recognise on 14 July. Russia, Syria and North Korea are the only countries to recognise the two breakaway territories.


In the near future, Russian troops are likely to prioritize attempting to seize Siversk and Bakhmut rather than seizing Slovyansk, that remains a priority and a close objective. Recent Russian troop movements in Izyum indicate that Russia is planning to advance on Slovyansk from positions around Izyum and Barvinkove or to open a new advance towards Kramatorsk. However, Russian forces are unlikely to successfully advance on Kramatorsk from Barvinkove due to the complicated cross-country ground in this territory.

US intelligence reports claimed that Russia is already planning how to annex Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and the entire Donbas (Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts). The timeframe remains uncertain as it is likely that Russia will delay the annexation until full conquest of the Donbas. However, this seems unlikely to occur before 11 September (unified voting day for local and gubernatorial elections in Russia), the most likely date for the annexation referendum to take place in the occupied territories. Multiple sources also claimed it is likely that the Kremlin will postpone these Russian regional and local elections.

Following the annexation of the occupied territories, Putin is likely to apply the Russian doctrine allowing the use of nuclear weapons to defend Russian territory in the annexed areas. Such action would threaten Ukraine and its Western allies with nuclear attack if Ukrainian counter-offensives to liberate Russian-occupied territory continue. This would expose a narrowing window of opportunity to support a Ukrainian counteroffensive in the occupied Ukrainian territories before the Kremlin annexes these areas.

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