Snapshot

Increased Ukrainian offensive activity including mechanized infantry and a possible partial breakthrough reported at Robotyne in the western Zaporizhzhia region, but experts sound a big gong of caution.

Analysis

General Developments

Western sources suggested that new Ukrainian attacks involving mechanized infantry and equipment towards Robotyne mark an inflection in Ukraine’s counteroffensive effort, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and the New York Times. Citing two anonymous Pentagon officials, NYT said that the “main thrust” of the Ukrainian counteroffensive has now begun in earnest in southern Ukraine. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated in his nightly address that Ukrainian forces “had very good results today.”

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A leading pro-Russian milblogger wrote: The enemy is preparing for a new phase of attack on our positions. Perhaps more reserves and equipment will be used. In order to gain an advantage during offensive battles, the enemy clicks off one by one our warehouses with ammunition. In addition, several competent senior officers have died in recent months. The ammunition and senior officers must be better protected. In the coming weeks, wait for the resumption of powerful enemy assault operations... At the same time, the situation at the front remains stable but difficult. The enemy continues to put pressure on the Russian defensive lines in Klishchiivka [west of Bakhmut]; the settlement is partially under the control of the enemy.”

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Fighters from Ukraine’s Third Assault Brigade hit a mortar system capable of destroying the most fortified defenses and entire buildings with an FPV drone.

Russia undertook 49 missile attacks, 37 airstrikes and 63 MLRS rocket attacks against Ukrainian settlements and positions; Ukraine undertook 11 airstrikes, according to the morning report of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

Russia shelled 115 Ukrainian settlements using artillery and mortars in the Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson regions along the 1,000-kilometer-long front.

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A Ukrainian milblogger claimed that the commander of Russian Space Forces, Vitaly Tabachnikov, was liquidated in Ukraine, UNIAN reported. As noted by aviation blogger Vitaly Trubnikov, the senior military officer was on board a Ka-52 ‘Alligator’ helicopter, which was shot down by Ukrainian forces on July 25. 

Operational Aspects on the Southern Front

Ukrainian forces launched a significant mechanized counteroffensive operation in the western Zaporizhzhia region on July 26 and appear to have broken through certain pre-prepared Russian defensive positions south of Orikhiv, ISW reported

ISW wrote: “Russian sources, including the Russian Ministry of Defense and several prominent milbloggers, claimed that Ukrainian forces launched an intense frontal assault towards Robotyne (10 kilometers south of Orikhiv) and broke through Russian defensive positions northeast of the settlement. Geolocated footage indicates that Ukrainian forces likely advanced to within 2.5 kilometers directly east of Robotyne during the attack before Russian forces employed standard doctrinal elastic defense tactics and pushed Ukrainian troops back somewhat, although not all the way back to their starting positions.

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ISW further provided this assessment: “This kind of penetration battle will be one of the most difficult things for Ukrainian forces to accomplish in pursuit of deeper penetrations. The defensive lines that run further south of Robotyne are likely less well-manned than these forward-most positions, considering that Russian forces have likely had to commit a significant portion of available forces to man the first line of defensive positions that are north and east of Robotyne.”

"On the morning of July 26, the enemy resumed intensive offensive operations" near Orikhiv, Russia's defense ministry said in a statement. It added that Ukraine "conducted a massive attack by the forces of three battalions reinforced by tanks". 

A pro-Russian milblogger cited an on-the-ground Russian source: “The enemy from early morning led attacks in the direction of the settlement. Robotyne, using a large number of armored vehicles. He tried to swoop into the combat formations of our units defending Robotyne.”

In the border region between Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk, a pro-Russian milblogger reported: “The enemy made attacks during the day in the direction of Staromaiorske and Urozhayne [along the Mokri Yaly River and in the direction of Mariupol]. The fighting continues in the lands near the outskirts of the villages. The enemy also remained active in the Pryyutne area.”

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Operational Aspects in Bakhmut

Ukrainian forces executed a large-scale “bait and switch” ambush of Russian troops, as reported in detail by Kyiv Post.

Both pro-Russian milbloggers and Ukrainian official spokespeople said Ukraine made gains particularly around Klishchiivka to the west of Bakhmut.

Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said that “in the Bakhmut direction, our troops continue to successfully conduct offensive actions on the southern flank around the city of Bakhmut. Fierce fighting continues in the area of ​​the settlements of Klishchiivka, Kurdyumivka, and Andriivka.”

A pro-Russian milblogger wrote: “At a distance of up to 3 kilometers from Klishchiivka itself, there are two pontoon crossings across the Seversky Donets - Donbas canal. Through these crossings, since last Thursday, an active transfer of reserves of equipment and personnel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has been carried out. Just after the transfer of reserves, the intensification of the offensive operations of the enemy began.”

Of the major ambush, an on-the-ground Russian participant wrote: “There are tough fights every day. How did it happen that the guys got into a fire ambush? Most often this is due to a lack of intelligence and intelligence facilities. The enemy is so good with reconnaissance equipment and freedom of movement that he managed to record the entire battle without interference.”

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Operational Aspects on Northern Front

The Russian defense ministry said its forces progressed in the direction of Lyman in the eastern Donetsk region and claimed an advance of up to two kilometers. There were some unsubstantiated reports of Russian forces taking three villages, which Ukraine denied.

A pro-Russian milblogger wrote: “In the Luhansk direction, Russian troops established control over Serhiivka and Nadia and expanded the breakthrough... If they manage to take Kopani which is two kilometers away, then they will gain control over all the dominant heights… In the event of the loss of Kopani, the Armed Forces of Ukraine will be in an extremely disadvantageous position.”

"We do not confirm this [Russian claim of capturing villages]. The tactical line there has not changed much," said Serhiy Cherevaty, the spokesperson of the Eastern Group of Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, in a comment to CNN.

Malyar said, “The defense forces of Ukraine continue to hold back the advance of Russian troops in the Kupyansk and Lyman areas.”

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