Content Assessment: Inhibiting Prospects for Negotiations? Russo-Ukrainian War Update (July 25-30, 2023)
Information - 94%
Insight - 94%
Relevance - 95%
Objectivity - 93%
Authority - 96%
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 Russo-Ukrainian conflict, ongoing since February 22, 2022, has been the subject of intense international scrutiny, with reports outlining the continual shifting of battle lines and narratives. Amid the fog of war, a significant yet somewhat overlooked aspect is emerging: the role of electronic discovery (eDiscovery) in potential war crimes investigations tied to this conflict.
eDiscovery, a process used in legal proceedings for the identification, preservation, collection, processing, review, analysis, and production of electronic documents and data, has the potential to revolutionize the way war crimes are investigated. As information warfare continues to evolve, digital footprints often serve as crucial evidence. In a conflict like the Russo-Ukrainian one, where propaganda and misinformation often blur the lines of truth, digital forensics could be instrumental in revealing the realities of war.
Reports on the Russo-Ukrainian conflict have outlined numerous instances where digital data can serve as vital evidence. These range from milblogger reactions and Kremlin’s narrative manipulation to records of strikes on key infrastructure and discussions about conscript and reservist laws. Such information, if preserved and analyzed, can provide a comprehensive picture of the actions of the involved parties.
The role of eDiscovery becomes especially significant in light of recent developments such as the Ukrainian counteroffensive, Russian missile strikes, and civilian deportations. Digital evidence linked to these events, such as communication records, geo-location data, video footage, and social media posts, can provide invaluable insights.
Moreover, digitally stored information can reveal patterns that are often impossible to discern through traditional investigative means. For instance, discrepancies in reports, silences where there should be discussions, or an abrupt change in narrative – these can all point towards potential manipulations, cover-ups, or even direct involvement in unlawful activities.
That said, implementing eDiscovery in war crime investigations is not without challenges. Key amongst these are issues related to data privacy, sovereignty, and the technical and logistical aspects of handling massive volumes of data. However, these hurdles are not insurmountable, especially considering the potential benefits of using eDiscovery in such critical situations.
As the Russo-Ukrainian conflict progresses, it is apparent that future war crimes investigations will increasingly rely on digital evidence. Therefore, eDiscovery professionals, cybersecurity experts, and information governance professionals must be prepared to take on this immense responsibility, assisting in revealing the truth behind the smoke screens of warfare.
In this pursuit, the legal technology community will play a critical role. Firms and professionals with expertise in areas such as data extraction, analysis, and management; privacy and security; and the ethical implications of eDiscovery can contribute significantly to the objective analysis of wartime actions. As evidenced by the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, the need for these capabilities is both urgent and ongoing. Future conflict investigations, and indeed the course of international justice, may well hinge on the proficiency with which the global community can wield the tool of eDiscovery.
Background Note: Over the course of six days from July 25 to July 30, 2023, the Russian offensive campaign in Ukraine exhibited significant shifts in strategy, operations, and overall dynamics. These changes and incidents reflect an increasingly complex scenario with profound implications for international relations, cybersecurity, and legal frameworks.
Russian President Vladimir Putin continued his efforts to manage potential threats posed by the Wagner Group and its financier Yevgeny Prigozhin, as revealed during Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s extended visit to St. Petersburg on July 25. In an effort to fill the security vacuum left by the Wagner Group’s departure, Russian leadership worked on creating formal but decentralized military “enterprises” based on federal subjects (regions).
The Russian offensive witnessed a noticeable change in the narrative within its domestic information space, with ultranationalist segments portraying the Ukrainian counteroffensive as a failure, despite a noticeable escalation in the Ukrainian military activities. From July 26 to July 29, Ukrainian forces launched several counteroffensive operations across various front sectors, reportedly making advances in areas such as Bakhmut and Orikhiv.
In the backdrop of this escalated military engagement, Russia also increased its naval posturing in the Black Sea. These actions are interpreted as an attempt to impose a de facto blockade on Ukrainian ports without committing the Black Sea Fleet to enforce a naval blockade.
On the home front, Russian authorities remained concerned about public perception of the war, particularly in view of the upcoming regional elections in September 2023 and the Russian presidential election in 2024. Consequently, there was a noticeable effort to shape public discourse, including directives to Russian state media on framing the anniversary of the Baptism of Rus.
In terms of international relations, Putin used the Russia–Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum to posture Russia as an attractive ally to African partner states, even as the Ukrainian conflict continued. In the face of these complex dynamics, Ukrainian partisans reportedly sabotaged Russian military equipment in occupied Mariupol, Donetsk Oblast on July 29, while Ukrainian forces continued their offensive operations.
Despite the turmoil, Russian forces maintained offensive operations along various front lines, including the Svatove-Kremina and Avdiivka-Donetsk City lines, though with no confirmed gains in these areas. At the same time, there were allegations of Russian authorities forcibly deporting Ukrainian children to Russia under the guise of rest and rehabilitation programs.
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, including 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
- July 30, 2023
- By Riley Bailey, Karolina Hird, Nicole Wolkov, Angelica Evans, and Frederick W. Kagan
- The lack of Russian milblogger reaction to a Ukrainian strike on the Chonhar bridge represents a notable inflection in Russian reporting on the war in Ukraine and may suggest that the Kremlin has directed Russian milbloggers to refrain from covering certain topics.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin disingenuously framed the ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensive as inhibiting prospects for negotiations.
- Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front and made claimed advances in some areas.
- Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Svatove-Kremina and Avdiivka-Donetsk City lines and did not make any confirmed gains in these areas.
- Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations southwest and northwest of Bakhmut and made claimed gains in this direction.
- Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in western Donetsk Oblast and western Zaporizhia Oblast and made claimed marginal advances.
- Russian sources claimed that Russian forces counterattacked and regained lost positions in western Donetsk and western Zaporizhia oblasts.
- Russian sources claimed that Russian officials plan to regulate civilian volunteers who take supplies to Russian forces in Ukraine.
- Ukrainian partisans reportedly sabotaged Russian military equipment in occupied Mariupol, Donetsk Oblast on July 29.
- July 29, 2023
- By Riley Bailey, Grace Mappes, Nicole Wolkov, Angelica Evans, and Frederick W. Kagan
- Segments of the Russian pro-war ultranationalist information space appear to be coalescing around a Kremlin narrative effort to portray the Ukrainian counteroffensive as a failure, increasingly overstating Ukrainian losses and writing less about Russia’s losses and challenges than they had been.
- Select Russian milbloggers may be shaping their depiction of the wider Ukrainian counteroffensive for fear of Kremlin punishment following the arrest of prominent pro-war critic Igor Girkin.
- The Kremlin’s ability to establish a more cohesive narrative about the war within the Russian information space remains uncertain, and subsequent Russian failures or significant Ukrainian successes could disrupt the Kremlin’s progress in this effort.
- Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front and advanced in some areas on July 29.
- Ukrainian forces likely targeted Russian military and logistics assets in occupied Crimea on July 28 and 29.
- Russian forces conducted a missile strike on Dnipro City, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast on the evening of July 28.
- Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Svatove-Kreminna line and the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line and made claimed advances along the Svatove-Kreminna line.
- Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations along the Svatove-Kreminna line, around Bakhmut, and along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line and advanced around Bakhmut.
- Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations along the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhia Oblast border area and south of Orikhiv and advanced along the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhia Oblast border area.
- Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhia Oblast border area and south of Orikhiv but did not make confirmed or claimed advances.
- A Ukrainian report indicates that Russian occupation authorities continue crypto-mobilization efforts in occupied Ukraine to replenish losses from combat casualties.
- Russian authorities continue to forcibly deport Ukrainian children in occupied Ukraine to Russia under the guise of rest and rehabilitation programs.
- July 28, 2023
- By Riley Bailey, Angelica Evans, Grace Mappes, Christina Harward, George Barros, and Mason Clark
- Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations in at least three sectors of the front and reportedly advanced near Bakhmut on July 28.
- Russian naval posturing in the Black Sea likely aims to impose a de facto blockade on Ukrainian ports without committing the Black Sea Fleet to the enforcement of a naval blockade.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin attempted to reassure African partner states that Russia will maintain its economic and security commitments during the second day of the Russia-Africa Summit in St. Petersburg.
- The Kremlin continues to display little interest in an unspecific peace plan focused on eliminating disruptions to international trade proposed by African heads of state.
- Russian authorities may be increasingly concerned about how the Russian electorate views the war ahead of regional elections in September 2023 and the Russian presidential election in 2024.
- Politico reported that the first batch of refurbished US Abrams tanks will likely arrive in Ukraine in September.
- Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, and in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area on July 28 and made advances in certain areas.
- Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on July 28 and have reportedly advanced along the Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, and along the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border.
- The Russian Federation Council approved measures allowing the Russian National Guard (Rosgvardia) to receive heavy military equipment and increasing the upper limit of the conscription age range from 27 years old to 30 years old.
- Russian authorities continue to deport Ukrainian teenagers to Russia under the guise of summer camp programs.
- July 27, 2023
- By Karolina Hird, Riley Bailey, Grace Mappes, Angelica Evans, Christina Harward, and Frederick W. Kagan
- Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on July 27 and made gains in some areas, although Ukrainian forces appear not to have continued significant mechanized assaults south of Orikhiv in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
- A US official expressed caution about assessing that the July 26 uptick in Ukrainian counteroffensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast is part of the Ukrainian main effort, tempering July 26 statements to the contrary.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin used the Russia–Africa Economic and Humanitarian Forum in St. Petersburg on July 27 to continue efforts to posture Russia as a more attractive ally to African partner states than the collective West.
- Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin was also present in St. Petersburg on July 27 and took the opportunity to informally meet with an unknown number of African leaders, suggesting that the Wagner Group intends to remain a significant player in Africa.
- Prigozhin additionally used the backdrop of the Russia-Africa summit to position Wagner as a viable anti-Western partner for post-coup Niger.
- The Kremlin reportedly distributed a manual to Russian state media on framing the anniversary of the Baptism of Rus on July 28, likely as part of continued information operations and propaganda narratives to advance Russian military objectives.
- Russia conducted another strike on Ukrainian port infrastructure in Odesa Oblast and rear areas of Ukraine overnight on July 26–27.
- Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, in Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, and in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area on July 27 and did not make any confirmed advances.
- Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on July 27 and have advanced south of Bakhmut, in the Zaporizhia-Donetsk Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
- The Russian State Duma approved measures on July 27 aimed at clarifying confusion surrounding the recently updated laws regarding conscripts and reservists.
- Russian authorities are discriminating against Ukrainian refugees in Belgorod Oblast, Russia.
- July 26, 2023
- By Karolina Hird, Nicole Wolkov, Angelica Evans, Christina Harward, George Barros, and Frederick W. Kagan
- Ukrainian forces launched a significant mechanized counteroffensive operation in western Zaporizhia Oblast on July 26 and appear to have broken through certain pre-prepared Russian defensive positions south of Orikhiv.
- Russian sources provided a wide range of diverging claims as to the scale of both the attack and resulting Ukrainian losses, indicating that the actual results and Ukrainian losses remain unclear.
- The battlefield geometry around Robotyne, as well as the force composition of the Russian elements defending there, offer important color to speculation surrounding the Ukrainian attack and gains.
- Western and Ukrainian officials suggested that the attacks towards Robotyne mark an inflection in Ukraine’s counteroffensive effort. Today’s actions around Robotyne are likely the start of any “main thrust” Ukrainian forces might be launching, if US officials are correct, rather than the sum of such a thrust.
- Russian forces conducted a large-scale missile strike largely aimed at rear areas in Ukraine on the night of July 26.
- The Russian Black Sea Fleet is increasing military posturing in the Black Sea, likely in an attempt to set conditions to forcibly stop and search civilian vessels and exert increased control in the area.
- The US Department of Defense (DoD) announced on July 26 that it authorized another presidential drawdown to provide an additional $400 million of security assistance to Ukraine.
- Russia continues to find ways to remind Armenia and Azerbaijan that Moscow’s military and diplomatic presence in the South Caucasus is necessary. The Russian government may have intended for the Russia-Armenia-Azerbaijan trilateral meeting to reduce possible Iranian efforts to supplant Russian influence with Armenia by providing Shahed drones to Yerevan.
- A prominent Kremlin-linked milblogger expressed his incredulity that the US has not provided Ukraine F-16 fighters yet and did not assess Russian deterrence or escalation cycle dynamics to be a factor.
- Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, in Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, in western Donetsk Oblast, and in western Zaporzhia Oblast on July 26 and have made advances in certain areas.
- Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations along at least three sectors of the front on July 26 and have advanced in certain areas.
- Ukrainian military sources reported that Russian forces have begun using Russian-produced Shahed drones against Ukraine.
- Russian occupation authorities continue to pursue infrastructure projects in occupied
- July 25, 2023
- By Nicole Wolkov, Angelica Evans, Riley Bailey, Karolina Hird, Christina Harward, and Frederick W. Kagan
- Russian President Vladimir Putin continued to manifest concern over potential threats that the Wagner Group and its financier Yevgeny Prigozhin may pose during an impromptu two-day extension of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s visit to St. Petersburg. Lukashenko likely seeks to leverage his power over the Wagner Group to gain concessions from Putin.
- Russian leadership is attempting to mitigate the security vacuum left by the Wagner Group’s departure by creating formalized but decentralized military “enterprises” on the basis of federal subjects (regions).
- Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front and advanced on July 25.
- Russian forces conducted another series of Shahed drone strikes on rear areas of Ukraine overnight on July 24-25.
- The Angry Patriots Club continues efforts to cast former Russian officer and ardent nationalist Igor Girkin (Strelkov) as an opposition figure and may be attempting to appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin through rhetoric about the illegality of Girkin’s arrest.
- Putin and the Kremlin reportedly failed to respond promptly to the Wagner Group’s June 24 rebellion, leaving local Russian officials to make decisions concerning the group’s drive on Moscow.
- Russian forces conducted offensive operations near Svatove, Kreminna, the Bakhmut area, the Avdiivka-Donetsk City area, and the Zaporizhia-Donetsk Oblast border area and made claimed advances near Svatove, Kreminna, and Bakhmut.
- Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations near Kreminna, the Bakhmut area, the Avdiivka-Donetsk City area, along the administrative border between Zaporizhia and Donetsk oblasts, and western Zaporizhia Oblast and advanced in the Bakhmut area, in some areas along the administrative border between Zaporizhia and Donetsk oblasts, and west of Orikhiv.
- US intelligence officials warned on July 25 that Russia’s drone supply will dramatically increase as a result of continued bilateral Russo-Iranian cooperation.
- Russian officials continue efforts to deconflict legal discrepancies as part of the incorporation of occupied territories.
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 July 25-30, 2023 – Mouseover to ScrollUkraine Conflict Maps – 072523 – 073023 – Update
* Shared with direct express permission from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
About the Institute for the Study of War Research Methodology
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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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