Content Assessment: A Deal with the Devil? Prigozhin, Putin, and a Russo-Ukrainian War Update (June 20-24, 2023)
Information - 94%
Insight - 93%
Relevance - 94%
Objectivity - 92%
Authority - 95%
A short percentage-based assessment of the qualitative benefit of the post highlighting the recent Ukraine conflict assessments in maps from the Institute for the Study of War.
Editor’s Note: The discipline of eDiscovery, which involves the identification, preservation, and analysis of electronic data, is increasingly being used in investigations and litigation relating to war crimes. In the case of the Russo-Ukrainian War, eDiscovery tools and techniques can be used to identify and collect electronic evidence of war crimes, such as emails, social media posts, and other digital communications that may provide valuable insights into the actions of individuals and organizations involved in the conflict. This evidence can then be used in investigations and legal proceedings to hold perpetrators of war crimes accountable for their actions. Additionally, eDiscovery can help to efficiently and effectively manage the vast amount of electronic evidence that may be relevant to war crimes cases, allowing investigators and legal teams to quickly and accurately analyze the data to identify key pieces of information. This weekly update may be useful for cybersecurity, information governance, and legal discovery professionals as they consider investigations and litigation resulting from war crimes committed during the war.*
Background Note: The recent deal orchestrated by Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, which involves the Wagner Group and its financier Yevgeny Prigozhin, could significantly impact the current dynamics of the Russo-Ukrainian War. Under the agreement, Prigozhin will travel to Belarus without facing criminal charges in Russia, some Wagner Group members will sign contracts with the Russian Ministry of Defense, and no personnel will be charged for involvement in an armed rebellion. This deal is particularly crucial as it represents an attempt to resolve internal conflict within Russian ranks, possibly with the aim of reinforcing their position against Ukraine.
The Wagner Group had recently encircled the Russian Southern Military District’s headquarters and advanced close to Moscow City, indicating a high level of internal tension and potential instability within Russia. Their withdrawal to their bases and Prigozhin’s departure from Rostov-on-Don following the deal may symbolize a de-escalation of these internal conflicts.
This agreement is critical in the context of the Russo-Ukrainian War because it could influence the strategic and tactical operations of the Russian forces. Furthermore, Lukashenko’s mediation role underlines Belarus’s involvement and its potential impact on the conflict’s trajectory. Nevertheless, the details, timelines, and expected outcomes of the agreement remain uncertain. The ability of all parties to adhere to the deal could significantly impact its effectiveness and the future course of the war.
Source Note: One of the most accurate and detailed sources for ongoing updates on the Ukraine crisis is the Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment from the Institute for the Study of War. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a 501(c)(3) organization and produces strictly non-partisan, non-ideological, fact-based research. ISW seeks to promote an informed understanding of war and military affairs through comprehensive, independent, and accessible open-source research and analysis. ISW’s research is made available to the general public, military practitioners, policymakers, and media members. Providing a daily synthesis of key events related to the Russian aggression against Ukraine, ISW updates may benefit investigators and litigators as they follow the business, information technology, and legal trends and trajectories impacted by and stemming from the current Russo-Ukrainian conflict.
Assessment and Maps**
Russo-Ukrainian Conflict Assessments – An Overview in Maps
- Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Russia Team
- Critical Threats Project (CTP), American Enterprise Institute
General Assessment Background Info
- ISW systematically publishes Russian campaign assessments that include maps highlighting the assessed control of terrain in Ukraine and main Russian maneuver axes.
- These maps augment daily synthetic products that cover key events related to renewed Russian aggression against Ukraine.
The Russian Offensive Campaign Assessments
- June 24, 2023
- By Kateryna Stepanenko, Karolina Hird, Riley Bailey, Angelica Evans, and Mason Clark
- The Kremlin announced late on June 24 that Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko negotiated a deal under which Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin will travel to Belarus without facing criminal charges in Russia; some portion of Wagner Group fighters will sign contracts with the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD); and no Wagner personnel will be charged for their involvement in an armed rebellion.
- The Wagner Group encircled the Russian Southern Military District (SMD)’s headquarters in Rostov-on-Don and drove to within 330km of Moscow City prior to the announcement of the deal. Wagner forces will reportedly begin withdrawing to their bases soon, and footage reportedly depicts Prigozhin departing Rostov-on-Don.
- The Kremlin struggled to cohere an effective rapid response to Wagner’s advances, highlighting internal security weaknesses likely due to surprise and the impact of heavy losses in Ukraine.
- Putin unsurprisingly elected to back the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and its ongoing efforts to centralize control of Russian irregular forces (including Wagner) over Prigozhin.
- The Lukashenko-brokered agreement will very likely eliminate Wagner Group as a Prigozhin-led independent actor in its current form, although elements of the organization may endure under existing and new capacities.
- Prigozhin likely gambled that his only avenue to retain Wagner Group as an independent force was to march against the Russian MoD, likely intending to secure defections in the Russian military but overestimating his own prospects.
- The optics of Belarusian President Lukashenko playing a direct role in halting a military advance on Moscow are humiliating to Putin and may have secured Lukashenko other benefits.
- The Kremlin now faces a deeply unstable equilibrium. The Lukashenko-negotiated deal is a short-term fix, not a long-term solution, and Prigozhin’s rebellion exposed severe weaknesses in the Kremlin and Russian MoD.
- Russian forces launched their largest series of missile strikes against Ukraine in recent months on June 24, despite the armed rebellion within Russia.
- Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations on at least two sectors of the front and reportedly made advances on June 24, and regular fighting continued on other sectors of the line.
- June 23, 2023
- By Karolina Hird, Riley Bailey, Grace Mappes, Angelica Evans, and Mason Clark
- Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin appears to have launched an armed rebellion on June 23 to force a leadership change within the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) which is unlikely to succeed.
- Early reports following Prigozhin’s statements suggest that Russian internal security forces are activating in response to Prigozhin’s statements and possible Wagner moves, primarily in Moscow and Rostov, and the Kremlin appears opposed to Prigozhin’s actions.
- Prigozhin set informational conditions for this effort earlier in the day by accusing the Russian MoD and unnamed oligarchs of deceiving Putin and the Russian public in order to launch the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.
- Prigozhin likely intends to truly conduct an armed rebellion against the Russian MoD, rather than expecting Kremlin support to compel MoD leadership changes or only escalating rhetorically.
- It is therefore most likely that Prigozhin fully intends for Wagner to move against MoD leadership and forcibly remove them from power, more likely against the Southern Military District command in Rostov-on-Don but possibly also against Moscow.
- An armed Wagner attack against the Russian military leadership in Rostov-on-Don would have significant impacts on Russia’s war effort in Ukraine.
- Prigozhin’s apparent start of an armed rebellion is the culmination of his campaign to retain control over his military forces, and he likely views the rebellion as an existential survival effort.
- Prigozhin’s likely intention was to gain the allegiance of senior Russian officers and military personnel, but he is unlikely to secure sufficient military support considering that Wagner-affiliated Army General Sergei Surovikin denounced Prigozhin’s call for armed rebellion.
- Even if the Wagner Group can credibly threaten the MoD, Putin is incredibly unlikely to acquiesce to a successful effort by Prigozhin to topple the MoD.
- Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations on at least two sectors of the front on June 23.
- Russian forces conducted another series of missile and drone strikes against Ukraine on June 23, primarily targeting a Ukrainian airfield in Khmelnytskyi Oblast.
- Russian forces continued to conduct limited ground attacks in the Kupyansk area, and Russian and Ukrainian forces continued to skirmish south of Kreminna.
- Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks in the Bakhmut area.
- Russian and Ukrainian forces continued limited offensive operations along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City front.
- Russian and Ukrainian forces continued ground attacks in the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhia Oblast border area.
- Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
- Russian federal subjects and the Wagner Group continue efforts to conceal the true scale of Russian and Wagner losses in Ukraine.
- Ukrainian officials reported that Russian and occupation administrations continue to disregard the lives of Ukrainian civilians in occupied territories.
- June 22, 2023
- By Kateryna Stepanenko, Riley Bailey, Grace Mappes, Nicole Wolkov, Angelica Evans, and Mason Clark
- Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in at least three sectors of the front and reportedly made gains on June 22.
- Senior Kremlin officials continue to publicly address the Ukrainian counteroffensive in a cohesive manner and acknowledge Ukrainian forces will conduct further operations, while continuing to inflate Russian successes.
- Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) will form a “reserve army” by the end of June, form a new army corps, and reinforce key Western Military District (WMD) formations as part of intended force restructuring.
- The Russian MoD is unlikely to fully formalize Russian volunteer formations by its stated July 1 deadline.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that Ukrainian intelligence indicates that Russian forces are preparing to conduct a possible sabotage attack at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP). A Russian-created radiological incident at the ZNPP remains unlikely but not impossible.
- Ukrainian forces may be intensifying efforts to strike Russian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) in southern Ukraine.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged that Western partners have different expectations for Ukraine’s counteroffensive and stated that Ukrainian forces will perform operations as Ukraine sees fit independent of pressure from another country.
- Russian and Ukrainian forces continued ground attacks near the Kupyansk-Svatove line.
- Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations near Kreminna.
- Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks near Bakhmut.
- Russian and Ukrainian forces conducted limited ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
- Ukrainian and Russian forces continued offensive operations on the administrative border between Donetsk and Zaporizhia oblasts.
- Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
- Ukrainian officials reported that Russian forces are transferring GRU Spetsnaz units to Kursk and Bryansk oblasts to fight Russian partisans.
- Russian sources claimed that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested a group of saboteurs in occupied Melitopol that allegedly planned the assassination of unnamed Zaporizhia Oblast occupation officials and sabotage against railroads.
- June 21, 2023
- By Riley Bailey, Karolina Hird, Kateryna Stepanenko, Nicole Wolkov, Angelica Evans, and Mason Clark
- Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on June 21.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged that the progress of Ukrainian counteroffensives has been slower than expected, likely due to effective Russian defenses.
- The overall slower than expected pace of Ukrainian counteroffensive operations is not emblematic of Ukraine’s wider offensive potential, and Ukrainian forces are likely successfully setting conditions for a future main effort despite initial setbacks.
- Ukrainian defense industry conglomerate “Ukroboronprom” announced on June 20 that Ukraine built and successfully tested a 1,000km-range drone, indicating Ukraine’s intent and ability to target Russian military infrastructure in Russian-occupied territories and Russia with Ukrainian-made drones.
- Russian occupation authorities continue to codify legal mechanisms for forcible deportations from occupied areas of Ukraine.
- Russan and Ukrainian forces continued to engage in positional battles along the Kupyansk-Svatove line.
- Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations near Kreminna.
- Russian and Ukrainian forces continued limited ground attacks in the Bakhmut area and along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
- Ukrainian forces conducted limited ground attacks along the administrative border between western Donetsk and eastern Zaporizhia oblasts.
- Russian and Ukrainian forces conducted limited ground attacks in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
- The Russian military command is reportedly forming a new Azov Naval District as part of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.
- The Russian State Duma passed a law in the third reading raising age limits for Russian contract personnel and officer, likely to keep personnel currently due to retire in the force.
- Russian occupation authorities continue to deport children from occupied Luhansk Oblast to Russia under the guise of medical necessity.
- June 20, 2023
- By Riley Bailey, Karolina Hird, Nicole Wolkov, Angelica Evans, and Mason Clark
- Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations in at least two sectors of the front on June 20.
- The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) continues to respond to Ukrainian counteroffensive operations with a relatively high degree of rhetorical coherence, suggesting that the MoD has learned from its past mishandling of the information space during previous Ukrainian counteroffensives.
- Russian forces conducted a missile and drone strike on Ukraine on June 20.
- Russian forces continued a slightly intensified pace of ground attacks near Kreminna.
- Russian and Ukrainian forces continued ground attacks near Bakhmut.
- Russian forces continued ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
- Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on the administrative border between Zaporizhia and Donetsk oblasts.
- Ukrainian forces continued limited ground attacks in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
- The Kremlin continues to lower the requirements for Russian military service in an effort to increase recruitment.
- Russia aims to use the annual International Military-Technical Forum “Army-2023” to diversify and expand its defense industrial base (DIB).
We do not report in detail on Russian war crimes because those activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We will continue to evaluate and report on the effects of these criminal activities on the Ukrainian military and population and specifically on combat in Ukrainian urban areas. We utterly condemn these Russian violations of the laws of armed conflict, Geneva Conventions, and humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.
Chronology of Maps from June 20 – 24, 2023 – Mouseover to ScrollUkraine Conflict Maps – 062023 – 062423
* Shared with direct express permission from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
About the Institute for the Study of War Research Methodology
ISW’s research methodology relies on both primary and secondary sources, enabling researchers to develop a comprehensive understanding of the situation on the ground. In order to analyze military and political developments in any given area, ISW’s research analysts must wholly understand the systems of enemy and friendly forces. They must also understand the population demographics, physical terrain, politics, and history of that area. This lays the analytical foundation for understanding the reasons for particular developments and fulfilling their assigned research objectives. ISW analysts also spend time in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in order to gain a better understanding of the security and political situation and to evaluate the implementation of current strategies and policies. Our researchers compile data and analyze trends, producing a granular analysis of developments in areas of research, producing an accurate, high-resolution, timely, and thorough picture of the situation. ISW’s research methodology guarantees its success and commitment to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations, achieve strategic objectives, and respond to emerging problems that may require the use of American military power.
About the Institute for the Study of War
The Institute for the Study of War advances an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education. We are committed to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve U.S. strategic objectives. ISW is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization.
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