Ukraine at D+467: Battlespace shaping and sabotage.
N2K logoJun 6, 2023

Opinions differ as to whether Ukraine's offensive has begun, but the evidence seems to point toward preliminary battlespace shaping as opposed to a full offensive campaign.

Ukraine at D+467: Battlespace shaping and sabotage.

Fighting along the line of contact in Ukraine has led to speculation in the US and elsewhere that Ukraine's counteroffensive has begun. Ukraine denies this, saying that the fighting represents preliminary shaping of the battlespace, and that the offensive proper has yet to begin. Russia has preemptively declared not only that Ukraine's offensive is in full progress, but that the long-anticipated offensive has already decisively failed. Ukrainian authorities dismiss that as disinformation, and disinformation designed to deflect attention from Russian setbacks at Bakhmut, Al Jazeera reports.

Sabotage on the Dneipr River.

The Nova Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant's dam on the Dneipr River has been blown up. Ukrainian authorities blame occupying Russian forces for the sabotage, Radio Free Europe | Radio Liberty reports. The Russians say they had nothing to do with it, and that Ukrainian troops were responsible. NATO agrees with Ukraine. Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted, "The destruction of the Kakhovka dam today puts thousands of civilians at risk and causes severe environmental damage. This is an outrageous act, which demonstrates once again the brutality of #Russia’s war in #Ukraine." News reports, apart from those in Russian official media (which, as TASS does here, retail the story that the sabotage represented a Ukrainian effort to deprive Crimea of water) agree that Russian forces breached the dam.

Thousands of people have been evacuated from flooding downstream of the dam, which creates a reservoir roughly the size of Utah's Great Salt Lake. Kherson is the major city in the path of the flooding. The North Kakhovka reservoir also provides water to cooling systems at the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant.

Wagner Group publishes video of regular officer confessing to an attack on Wagnerites.

In a further escalation of tension between the Wagner Group and the Russian Army, the Wagner Group has published a video of a Russian Army officer (identified as "Colonel" or "Lieutenant Colonel," sources differ "Roman Venevitin," said to command the Russian Army's 72nd Motorized Rifle Brigade) confessing to having ordered an attack on Wagnerites. Radio Free Europe | Radio LIberty reports that the officer, who appears to be in Wagner Group custody, explained that his motive was "personal enmity," and that he was both "drunk" and "guilty." The video seems authentic, at least insofar as it's clear the Wagner Group distributed it, but it's interesting principally as a remarkable example of how bad relations between the Wagner Group and the regulars have grown. That Mr. Prigozhin's public affairs crew would feel sufficiently emboldened to post such content is, to say the least, surprising, and suggests that the Wagner Group has, or at least believes itself to have, sufficient top-cover to post a video of an officer in its custody defaming the Russian Army. Task & Purpose reviews both the fraught relationship between the Army and the Wagnerites and the value of the Wagner Group to President Putin. It's a counterweight to the political influence of the Ministry of Defense and it serves as a hedge against the necessity of general mobilization.

The UK's Ministry of Defence in this morning's situation report calls the feud between mercenaries and regulars "unprecedented." It comes at a difficult time for Russia, which is experiencing a shortage of readily deployable reserve forces. "Over the last 48 hours there has been a substantial increase in fighting along numerous sectors of the front, including those which have been relatively quiet for several months. Concurrently, the feud between Wagner Group and the Russian MoD has reached an unprecedented level. For the first time, Wagner owner Yevgeny Prigozhin has claimed that the army has employed deliberate, lethal force against Wagner units. Following an altercation, Wagner has likely detained a Russian army brigade commander. Most of Wagner’s forces have now been withdrawn from Bakhmut. With Russia short of reserve units, the degree to which Wagner remains responsive to the MoD will be a key factor in the conflict over the coming weeks."

Deepfaked martial law announcement airs on Russian provincial radio stations.

A bogus radio address misrepresenting itself as coming directly from President Putin aired Monday over some Russian radio stations near the border with Ukraine. In the broadcast the faux Putin said that Ukrainian forces had crossed the Russian border in large numbers, that Russia had declared both martial law and a general mobilization, and that citizens in border regions should evacuate deeper into Russia. The bogus message was heard in the Rostov, Belgorod and Voronezh regions, Reuters reports. Official Russian media were quick to debunk the story. "All of these messages are an utter fake," Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Semaphor quotes Mr. Peskov as adding, “There was a hack in some regions. In particular, I know that there was a hack on Mir radio and in some networks,” Russian authorities in Voronezh attributed the broadcast to hacking, and said that in response to the incident law enforcement and other local authorities had taken control of the local radio stations.

Results of US-Ukrainian cybersecurity talks.

The US State Department has published a summary of talks held last week in Tallinn, Estonia, on cyber cooperation between the US and Ukraine. In addition to both sides agreeing to continue cooperative sharing of intelligence and lessons learned, the US agreed to provide Ukraine with an additional $37 million in cybersecurity aid, bringing the total of such assistance to $82 million since the Russian invasion last year.