ISW Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment for 13 June – TTG

Kremlin-sponsored outlet Izvestia published and quickly removed an appeal by the First Deputy Head of the Russian Presidential Administration Sergey Kirelenko for Russia to rebuild the Donbas on June 12 and blamed hackers for what they (likely falsely) claimed was a “fake publication.” Izvestia likely intended to save the article for a later date to set informational conditions for Russian annexation of Donbas. Kirelenko’s appeal stated that Russia will restore the Donbas regardless of high costs or if doing so lowers the standard of living in Russia. Izvestia blamed unknown hackers for publishing a “fake article,” but it is possible that hackers instead released an article Izvestia had prepared to publish at a later date. The Kremlin previously published and removed an article prematurely celebrating a Russian victory over Ukraine in late February and discussing the capture of Ukraine in past tense in anticipation of Ukraine’s capitulation during the first Russian-Ukrainian negotiations in Belarus. Unnamed Kremlin officials previously identified Kirelenko as the future head of a new Russian federal district, which would encompass Donbas, and occupied settlements in Kherson and Zaporizhia Oblasts.

Russia continues to deploy insufficiently prepared volunteer and reserve forces to reinforce its ongoing operations. Kremlin-sponsored outlet Izvestia released footage showing Russian artillery reservists undergoing training with old D-20 howitzers reportedly within 10 days of their deployment to Ukraine. The reservists focused on learning how to operate hand-held weapons, despite being reportedly only days away from deploying. Social media footage also showed Russian forces transporting Russian volunteer and reserve units with T-80BV tanks (a variant produced in 1985, as opposed to the modernized T-80 BVM operated by the 1st Guards Tank Army) and BMP-1 armored personnel carriers (which have largely been phased out in favor of the BMP-2) to Belgorod Oblast on June 9. Additional social media footage showed Russian forces transporting T-80BV tanks removed from storage in Moscow Oblast on June 9.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces pushed Ukrainian defenders from the center of Severodonetsk and reportedly destroyed the remaining bridge from Severodonetsk to Lysychansk on June 13, but Ukrainian officials reported that Ukrainian forces are not encircled in the city.
  • Russian forces carried out unsuccessful ground assaults in an attempt to sever Ukrainian ground lines of communications (GLOCs) near Popasna and Bakhmut.
  • Russian forces launched unsuccessful offensive operations southeast of Izyum and north of Slovyansk, and are likely setting conditions for an assault on Siversk and northwestern Ukrainian GLOCs to Lysychansk.
  • Russian forces are likely conducting a limited offensive directly northeast of Kharkiv City in a likely attempt to push Ukrainian forces out of artillery range of Russian rear areas and secured some successes.
  • Russian and Ukrainian forces are engaging in ongoing fighting for Davydiv Brid in northwestern Kherson Oblast.
  • Russian occupation authorities likely staged terrorist activity in Melitopol and Berdyansk for Russia Day on June 12.

Comment: Yesterday Walrus asked if Ukraine is losing. Judging by the current situation at Severodonetsk, they certainly aren’t winning. The Ukrainians are running low on ammunition, especially for their Soviet/Russian weapons. They now must switch over to NATO standard weapons and revamp their logistical system to accommodate those weapons in the middle of a war. I can see reason for pessimism.

However, the Russians don’t look like they’re winning either. The bulk of military might of the entire Russian Federation, sans their nuclear capability, appears to be concentrated on the minor objective of taking Severodonetsk. Once there, they must then force a river crossing under fire against a dug in opponent occupying the high ground. Why not drive north from Popasna and south from Izyum? Wouldn’t that be a wiser way to take Severodonetsk? The strategy makes little military sense. Either way, the Russians are then faced with attacking the well fortified cities of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk before they can crow about liberating the DNR and LNR.

In addition, Russian forces are certainly not winning on the Kharkiv or Kherson fronts. Nor are they faring well against the growing guerilla resistance in their rear areas. The Ukrainians are more than holding their own in these areas.

Still, the word from Kyiv is that they are outnumbered and outgunned as well as running out of ammo. While they say they face defeat in Donbas without an acceleration in the supply of Western heavy weapons and ammunition, they do not say they face defeat in the war. They are still determined to win and are confident of ultimate victory. In my opinion, much rides on the outcome of next week’s scheduled talks in Kyiv with Macron, Sholz and Draghi, the first visit to Kyiv for all three. Will they stand in solidarity with Zelenskiy and give him what he needs or will they beg him not to further humiliate Putin. Time will tell.


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37 Responses to ISW Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment for 13 June – TTG

  1. GregP says:

    Seems hard to predict. Total slugfest–not sure who will run out of steam first.

  2. JK/AR says:

    “They are still determined to win and are confident of ultimate victory.”

    I seem to recall seeing that phraseology somewhere before.

    “Help the little, helpless unfortunates why won’t you?” said the Raytheon to the President &c I’m thinking I’ve likewise heard somewhere sometime before.

    “Here” now being the only foreign country our politicians can’t find on a map.

  3. leith says:

    It is a bit hard to keep from humiliating Putin. Especially after his disastrous coup attempt in Kiev – his troops spending more time looting washing machines and toilets – and his theft of Ukrainian grain and rolled steel. He may take Severodonetsk if the Ukrainians decide to finally withdraw, but he is paying dearly for it. How do you say Pyrrhic Victory in Russian?

    Strelkov compares Putin to Винни Пух (Winnie the Pooh in English).

    • Barbara Ann says:

      ..and Konashenkov to Eeyore.

      There was apparently a much loved Soviet era animation of Winnie the Pooh. In one episode, as in the book and Disney production, Pooh invites himself over to Rabbit’s house for lunch and eats all his honey. He gets stuck in the door on the way out and is eventually ejected by Rabbit.

      • TTG says:

        Barbara Ann,

        I remember the Disney animation of that story. I first saw it before some feature movie in the Watertown Theater back in grammar school. I literally rolled in the aisle laughing, embarrassing my mother. I much latter drew a facsimile of the face Rabbit drew on Pooh’s butt on my first son’s Pamper as he slept atop SWMBO. I still have a photo of it. Yes, Winnie the Pooh made that much of an impression on me.

    • Steve says:


      What coup attempt was that? I must have missed it.

  4. Fred says:

    “the word from Kyiv is that they are outnumbered and outgunned as well as running out of ammo. ”

    So Zelinsky needs another $trillion already? Surprise, surprise. Will Macron, Sholz and Draghi be giving them French, German and Italian money or just pledging ours? What about Boris and the rest of the NATO(!) members?

    • TTG says:


      Sholz has made himself famous for bending himself into a pretzel with his excuses for not sending heavy weapons to Ukraine, although he immediately shut down Nord Stream 2 in the beginning days of the war. Macron sent the excellent Caesar howitzers, but gained fame with his repeated hours long phone calls to Putin leading to nothing. Zelenskiy wants their heavy weapons and ammunition, not their money. Boris has been quite generous in supplying Ukraine with weapons and ammunition and has already strolled the streets of Kyiv with Zelenskiy.

      • Fred says:


        Nice to Zelinsky doesn’t need money. We should stop sending him ours.

        • TTG says:


          What’s he supposed to do with money right now? Bribe the “Moskals” to go home? He needs the weapons, ammunition and intelligence to keep flowing in. He’ll want the pallets of money once the war is won.

          • Fred says:


            I’m sure that since he’s arrested all his political opponents he’ll still be around to beg for it once the “war is won”. If the same crowd is in D.C. he’s sure to get it as they know Ukraine is the second most corrupt country on the European continent and a geat deal of it will get siphoned off.

          • TTG says:


            Zelenskiy will probably go the way of Churchill. It will be up to some other Ukrainian to beg for reconstruction funding. And what are the most corrupt countries in Europe? Russia and Belarus are more corrupt and not getting any better. At least Ukraine has made slow progress since the Euromaidan. Oddly it’s the young revolutionaries of the Euromaidan who are responsible for making that slow progress, even a lot of those right wingers of Pravy Sektor

          • Poul says:

            There is not much difference between the Ukraine and Russia. Belarus is a level above both.


            Transparency International ranks Belarus as no. 82 out of 180 countries with a score of 41/100, Ukraine as no.122 with 32/100 and Russia as no. 136 with 29/100.
            South Sudan takes the prize as most corrupt as no. 180 with a score of 11/100.

      • Bill Roche says:

        The “key” is Germany, a rich lackluster member of NATO. She could be a military force but why when America will pay the bill. Stupid Americans, lured into WW I w/o a dog in the fight and lured again in ’42. Germans must quietly hate America as the ultimate reason for German loss in war. Now, America wants German help to confound Russia. There is a crack in NATO (it has always been there) a mile wide which questions the German view. NATO was never for Germany, not in ’47 and not in ’22 You may see Scholz to see Germany. Does it really give a damn about Ukrainians or are German relations w/t Russians (still) the most important thing to cultivate. It’s 1939 again but this time there will be no German invasion but common ground with Russia.

        • TTG says:

          Bill Roche,

          Germany has had a crush on Moscow for decades. Remember Willie Brandt’s Ostpolitik? Germany was key to assisting the USSR evade US technology sanctions in the 80s. I was shocked when Scholz shut down Nord Stream 2 so quickly.

          • Bill Roche says:

            Re Nordstream 2 I was also surprised but there may be more there then meets the eye. Yes, Germany’s romance for all things Russian goes back to Prussia and extends from 1750 until 1914. Unsurprisingly early Prussians spoke a Baltic language. People ask whether Russia is European or Asian and some wonder whether Germany is east or western European. Answer; both are both! Germans are not Slavs, they are Celts, BUT, they are not of the “romantic” sort. You spent time in West Germany? So did I. The Germans believe they are a cut above the rest. Maybe they are.

        • Fred says:


          Germany declared war on the US on December 11, 1941. No ‘luring’ involved.

  5. Whitewall says:

    This idea of “don’t humiliate Putin” must be from deep in the bowels of current French philosophy. A war can be fought with your enemy’s psychological well being in mind?

  6. Jovan P says:

    Some 4-5 days ago at the city of Severodonetsk, Russian troops observed some 80 Ukrainian troops swimming across the river. None of the Russian soldiers shot at them, the only shots that were taken were by phone cameras.

    Although war is a butchery, it’s nice to see soldiers trying to stick to their humanity.

  7. Balint Somkuti, PhD says:

    As someone keeping a close eye on it from the neighborhood, most of useful informations come from verified RUMINT, as ALL official sources included neocon founded ones like ISW, or even allegedly neutral ones like Tom Cooper are clearly biased (“naturally” towards Ukraine).

    So here is my take:

    1. There is a growing tension between UKR political and military leadership, as the former did not allow the retreat of regular units from the well fortified defensive lines opposing the 2 “people’s republic”.
    2. Above units suffered horrific losses due to the russian steamroller artillery tactics carried over from the cold war and probably WWII. UKR losses amount to more than 200 KIA, some 7-800 WIA, and unknown numbers of MIA PER DAY since 15-20 days now.
    3. The wings of the “Kessel” have held, so “volunteers” from the above 2 states and chechens were sent into head-on attacks against the trenches with heavy artillery, EW and air support, achieving a somewhat hard to believe breakthru and encircling Severodoneck.
    4. Western heavy equipment is slow in coming and insufficient in number and is also under continous attacks from the moment they cross the border.
    5. Fuel situation is nearing critical.

    To sum the above up the RUS armed forces are done within maximum 2 months there, UKR counterattacks stalled at Izyum, Kharkov and Kherson. Even if they succeed they cannot enter or attack Russian territory. As this war is as crazy as it seems, e.g. russian oil, and gas coming thru Ukraine in the middle of a war etc. it is hard to make predictions, but I expect a tipping point before the end of the summer especially if this level of losses is constant among the best UKR troops.

    Noone is wishing a RUS victory in ex-communist countries like mine, but we ain’t accepting victory propaganda from western MSM either. If the NATO took defending UKR seriously it should have given to her security guarantees long ago. Our poor neighbours don’t really get it, but they are sacrificed to make the Russians weak(er). Which may, but much rather may not be the case.

  8. cobo says:

    From the outset the sites and authors that support the Russians in this war have insisted on two consistent themes:
    1. By day three they were already saying the war was done and the Russian was brilliant in all ways. (not so much)
    2. The Russian was using its ‘B’ team and holding back its best men and equipment. (I wouldn’t blame them, since I think more is to come. But I’d like to get an idea of what the remaining capabilities are and where they’re located. Any idea where I could get as realistic an appraisal as possible?)

  9. James says:

    Ukrainian Presidential adviser Podolyak: “In the cities, it is possible to find cover”. Where cover is spelled “civilians”.

    • leith says:

      James –

      Ukraine has been evacuating civilians out of Severodonetsk as fast as they can. They’ve evacuated thousands already. That may be one of the reasons they are holding out so long there – to save the residents from the Khadyrovtsy rapists and torturers to prevent another Bucha – or to save them from Putin’s neoKGB ‘filtration’ camps. Putin is trying to shut down the evacuation of residents by taking out the bridges. And shelling refugees on the T-1302 highway.

  10. Klapper says:

    “The Ukrainians are more than holding their own in these areas.” (TTG)

    The Ukrainians are only holding their own where the Russians are in defense mode. Where Russians are in offense mode, they are winning, albeit slowly. I think the intensified shelling of Donetsk this week is being done by the Ukrainians and I think the reason they are doing it is they want to change Russian strategic priority away from closing the Popasna/Slavyansk cauldron. They know that although their claim that the rebels are shelling their own towns is preposterous, the western MSM will either not report the shelling at all, or report the claim uncritically.

    • cobo says:

      “The Ukrainians are only holding their own where the Russians are in defense…” Hmmm, how about that. The overwhelming invaders are winning everywhere, except where they are not.

      • Klapper says:


        Are you claiming the Russians are on offense everywhere along the line of contact? I don’t think so. Maybe opportunistically but their effort right now is really only in one place: the Slavyansk/Bakhmut pocket. You would likely agree that closing the pocket is by far the best strategy right now for the Russians.

        • cobo says:

          It looks to me like their restricted focus is the only choice they have, due to the pressure the Ukrainian fighters have been putting on them.

    • Steve says:


      “They know that although their claim that the rebels are shelling their own towns is preposterous”

      Well, they were shelling them for eight years before February, why stop now?

      There’s plenty of video and images from the area including a maternity hospital that really is full of mothers and babies rather than Azov, ironically enough.

  11. VietnamVet says:


    So far, the Ukraine Russia proxy world war resembles WWI more than WWII. Yet, neither side has initiated a full mobilization except for Ukraine itself. In WWII with Russia advancing in the East, the Allies after the June invasion of Normandy liberated Paris in August 1944. The “known unknown” is if Russia can seize Odessa and the Black Sea Coast and make Ukraine a rump state without utilizing all the manpower, armament and resources available to the Russian Federation? Likewise, can the USA and the EU survive the shortages and inflation through next winter without rationing of energy, goods and services?

    Also, the industrial base needs to be rebuilt if the West is intent on fighting a forever world war especially if the conflict escalates to include China after they invade Taiwan. The “invisible hand” does not work in wars of national survival or after a nuclear holocaust.

    If the current Western, corporate controlled, laissez-faire, economic-political system is to survive, it needs an armistice and a Minsk III agreement establishing a DMZ between Ukraine and Russia, right now.

    • Pretty insightful VV.

      Got out of the army in the early 70s as inflation started to rage. Volcker halted the rampant inflation, but never stopped it completely.

      My dad bought a house for peanuts in a pleasant suburb in the 50s. I, supposedly a professional, had to do some fancy footwork to have a house in the exurbs. My kids? Can’t all inherit our house?

      The factories here in Swamp Yankee Massachusetts are dead.

      Yet we need to save the Ukes and defend an Island we recognize as belonging to another country.

      Maybe everything eventually reduces to its absurd.

      • cobo says:

        “If the current Western, corporate controlled, laissez-faire, economic-political system is to survive, it needs an armistice and a Minsk III agreement establishing a DMZ between Ukraine and Russia…” Perhaps it isn’t best for the current, corporate controlled system to survive. The USA might be best off if it has to rethink and rebuild for the sake of America and the American people.

  12. leith says:

    Klapper –

    Severodonetsk and Lysychansk are not rebel towns. Although they did hold them for two or three months in 2014 and terrorized the residents under a reign of terror with extortion and violence. They left town in a huge convoy of stolen cars.

    And now those two towns are suffering massed rolling bombardments of artillery, MLRS, and air strikes. The majority of that is from the Russians. Putin is using the rebel conscripts as cannon fodder, not as cannoneers.

    • Klapper says:


      I’m reading “85 Days in Slavyansk”. The event that hardened the Donbass against Ukraine was the Odessa massacre in early May 2014. I can’t speak to the citizen attitudes city by city, but initially in the conflict there was ambivalance within the Ukraine military to their assigned task of routing the rebels. The exception to that would be the Right Sector militia. That ambivalance changed as the conflict evolved and soldiers died.

      However the history has shaped current attitudes in the Donbass, I think you would agree that in an ideal world we would let people in eastern Ukraine vote whether they wanted to stay with Ukraine or join Russia.

      I think your claims are wrong but in the end our opinions are, or should be, irrelevant. The people who live there should be the deciders.

    • leith says:

      Klapper –

      Your last sentence is golden. I agree. Tell that to Putin.

      And also tell it to Alexander Zhuchkovsky, the author of your ’85 Days in Slavyansk’ book. He is not Ukrainian and not from the Donbas. He is a Russian national and does not believe as you do that people who live there should be the deciders. Zhuchkovsky is a fundraiser and recruiter for a Russian neoNAZI group, the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM), and is on record as saying “Ukraine and Ukrainians need to be destroyed”.

      They riots, shootings, hand grenades, beatings, and the fire in Odessa in 2014 are a tragedy. Much of it was instigated by outsiders – Right Sector on the Ukrainian side – Sergey Glazyev and other senior Russian politicians on the Russian side – and many Russians from nearby Transnistria also. BTW as I recall that fire, both sides inside and outside the building were throwing molotov cocktails. And there were some pro-Maidan people in the crowd who got ladders to help rescue anti-Maidanistas trapped on upper floors.

  13. mcohen says:

    Kherson and khariv still relevant and where the attacks against Russia will for the first time count.

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