Key Takeaways

  • The arrest of former Russian officer and ardent ultranationalist Igor Girkin (Strelkov) on July 21 may be the public manifestation of a shifting balance of power among Kremlin factions, possibly to the detriment of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), in which Girkin had served.
  • Russian insider sources claimed that Girkin’s arrest is part of the Russian Presidential Administration’s efforts to crack down on select high-profile Russian ultranationalists following Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s armed rebellion on June 24.
  • Girkin’s arrest follows other criminal charges against ultranationalists with past ties to Russian security services and indicates that unknown Russian officials may be targeting prominent ultranationalists who routinely reveal insider information about the Kremlin.
  • Wagner’s rebellion likely shifted the balance of power in the Kremlin, potentially depriving some patrons – including Girkin’s patron – of Putin’s favor and, therefore, of some of their power.
  • Russian forces conducted missile and drone strikes against southern Ukraine for a fourth night on July 21 following Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
  • The Kremlin appears to be attempting to soften the Russian Ministry of Defense's July 19 announcement about viewing civilian ships in the Black Sea as legitimate military targets.
  • Russia is maneuvering to retain the option of modifying the current agreement rather than negotiating an entirely new one as it seeks to extract extensive concessions from the West.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin continued efforts to sow intra-NATO and Ukrainian-NATO divisions likely aimed at supporting the Kremlin’s Black Sea Grain Initiative effort and undermining long-term Western support for Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on July 21 and made gains in some areas.
  • Pro-Wagner Group sources continue to express loyalty to Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin as the future of the Wagner Group and Prigozhin’s role in the organization remains unclear.
  • French Presidential Foreign Policy Advisor Emmanuel Bonne was likely referring to dual-use technology and non-lethal aid when speaking about Chinese supplied equipment to Russia on July 21.
  • A Russian milblogger affiliated with the Russian Airborne Forces claimed that recent speculations about the dismissal of 7th Guards Mountain VDV Division Commander Major General Alexander Kornev are false.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations in the Kupyansk, Kreminna, Bakhmut areas, and along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line and reportedly advanced in the Kupyansk and Kreminna areas.
  • Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations in the Bakhmut area, and along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna and Avdiivka Donetsk City lines, and advanced in the Bakhmut area.
  • Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks in western Donetsk Oblast, the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhia Oblast area, and south of Orikhiv, and reportedly advanced south of Orikhiv.
  • Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations in the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhia Oblast area and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and made gains in the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhia Oblast area.
  • Russian officials announced that they will amend a Russian State Duma bill originally aimed at incrementally raising the conscription age so that there is an immediate increase of the upper age limit for the spring 2024 conscription cycle.
  • Russian occupation authorities continue to relocate Ukrainian children in occupied Ukraine to Russia.
  • A Wagner-linked source reported that Wagner temporarily relocated its headquarters from Molkino, Krasnodar Krai, to Belarus and that Wagner’s work to transfer combat experience to the Belarusian military is in full swing.

Authors: Kateryna Stepanenko, Riley Bailey, Grace Mappes, Nicole Wolkov, George Barros, Angelica Evans, Christina Harward, and Frederick W. Kagan.

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