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Ukraine Situation Report | 22 July 2022

22 July 2022

Fighting in the Donetsk region continues as Russian forces advance eastwards; however, Russia’s progress has stalled somewhat in recent days, following failed offensives east of Bakhmut and Sloviansk in the Donetsk region. Ukrainian forces have seen some success in repelling assaults, although Russian strikes have increasingly begun to target key infrastructure, including power supply in the city of Kramatorsk, and the country’s second-biggest power plant north-east of Donetsk. Russian artillery assaults remain concentrated on Kramatorsk and Siversk. Meanwhile, international developments have seen details of another EU sanctions package on Russia announced, while a deal has been reached on Ukrainian grain exports via the Black Sea.

On the ground 

Russian shelling of front-line settlements in Donetsk continues to target residential and industrial areas, while Ukrainian forces recently repelled a Russian attempt to control the Bakhmut-Lysychansk highway in the Bogorodychny area. The highway is of key logistical value, providing a critical lifeline for Ukrainian forces receiving supplies and reinforcements. Fighting has also been reported in the outskirts of Donetsk city, while Russian attempts to advance on Siversk and Bakhmut have been mostly limited or unsuccessful. Parts of the Sumy and Kharkiv regions have continued to see frequent shelling, with Russian forces firing on settlements south-east of Izyum in Sumy within the last week. Russian ground assaults south-east of Izyum and towards Slovyansk and the frontline towns of Siversk, Bakhmut, and Avdiivka have been launched simultaneously. Russian forces have also launched air and artillery attacks north-east of Kharkiv city, with one of the city’s most densely populated areas shelled on Thursday, killing three people and injuring 23 others. Russia continues to deny targeting civilians.

There has been a significant increase in aerial bombardment by Russian forces in the Dnipropetrovsk region, with eastern areas facing heavy shelling. Regional officials claim a Russian missile destroyed a school in the Synelnyk area, while the regional capital, Dnipro city, is also said to have been targeted by Russian missiles, fired from aircraft flying over the Caspian Sea. Russia has also been launching missiles from the Black Sea, with six Kalibr missiles targeting the Odesa region on Tuesday. The Mykolaiv and Zaporizhzhia regions have also come under increasingly heavy fire, with multiple strikes resulting in casualties reported over the course of the last week. A Russian military attack was allegedly repulsed by Ukrainian forces in Grigorivka – situated between Zaporizhzhia and the frontline in Donetsk.

The overall picture has seen restrained attempts to advance by Russia’s ground troops, while aerial bombardment appears to have been designed to maintain pressure on areas further away from the immediate conflict of the frontline. International intelligence agencies suspect Russia’s military is likely to start an operational pause in the coming weeks. Russian reinforcements are thought to be brought in during this period, with Kyiv anticipating that Moscow plans to launch a major offensive to capture the rest of the Donetsk region. Should this be accomplished, Moscow has recently implied Russia’s focus amid the war in Ukraine has broadened, suggesting Russian troops may seek to capture more Ukrainian territory east of the Donbas, under the excuse of establishing a larger buffer zone between Ukraine and separatist-held areas. The Ukrainian National Resistance Centre has also recently reported that Russian forces are believed to be using civilian rail and water routes to disguise and protect ammunition being transported to Russian troops.

International political developments

Several key international agreements have been reached in the past week which may have varying impact on the war in Ukraine. Firstly, the EU has confirmed a decision to allow sanctioned foods to cross territory in Lithuania via rail, from Russia to its exclave of Kaliningrad. The development follows a major diplomatic dispute which broke out earlier this year, when EU member Lithuania banned the transit of sanctioned goods through its territory in line with EU sanctions. Lithuanian officials in Vilnius have expressed their disapproval of the EU’s move but have promised not to contest it. Alongside the decision to allow the transit of sanctioned Russian goods to and from Kaliningrad, the EU has also announced the first details of its seventh round of sanctions against Russia. Moscow has lambasted the latest sanctions package as illegitimate and warned they would have “devastating consequences” for security and sectors of the global economy. Belarusian President and close ally to Moscow, Alexander Lukashenko, has seemingly issued an indirect nuclear threat in reference to Russia’s nuclear capability, as he called for Ukraine and its allies to agree to halt the war with Russia in Ukraine in the interest of avoiding the “abyss of nuclear war”.

Meanwhile, a deal to resume Ukraine’s Black Sea grain exports has been agreed, with Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres signing an agreement in Istanbul on Friday. The deal is seen as being of vital importance to global food security. The UN-backed deal aims to free up grain exports from Ukraine’s besieged ports in the Black Sea, where a Russian blockade on exports has seen food prices soar rocket-high in Ukraine, putting millions at risk of starvation. As Ukraine is a major global wheat supplier, the blockade has also risked worsening a growing global food crisis. In order to avoid devastating worldwide impact, Ukraine must be able to export the estimated 22 million tonnes of grain stockpiles which have become stuck in southern Ukrainian port cities. The deal would see a joint coordination centre for shipping exports established in Istanbul. Major hurdles include the de-mining of Black Sea areas near Odesa for safe export corridors to be established, as well as Russian-requested inspections of vessels to prevent military equipment reaching Ukraine.