July 16, 2022

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, July 16

 July 16, 6 pm ET

Click here to see ISW's interactive map of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced that the Russian operational pause has concluded on July 16, confirming ISW’s July 15 assessment.[1] Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu ordered Southern Group Commander General of the Army Sergey Surovikin and Central Group Commander Colonel General Alexander Lapin to increase offensive operations on all axes on July 16, but the tempo of the resuming Russian offensive will likely fluctuate or stutter over the coming days.[2] Russian forces conducted fewer ground assaults on all axes on July 16 than on July 15, but maintained increased artillery and missile strikes on July 16.[3]

Shoigu indicated that Surovikin and Lapin will both continue to command forces on the Eastern Axis even though a force concentration and effort of this size should only require a single, very senior overall commander. Surovikin should in principle be in overall command because he outranks Lapin. Shoigu has not even named Surovikin as the head of Russia’s Southern Military District (SMD) despite the likely ousting of SMD Commander General of the Army Alexander Dvornikov and despite Surovikin’s experience commanding the Southern Grouping in Ukraine. Lapin, in contrast, has been and remains commander of the Central Military District.[4] The Kremlin‘s failure to use the operational pause to reorganize the Russian military command structure in Ukraine and its decision to instead retain an ad-hoc command structure is very odd.  The apparent dual command of two very senior generals over operations in a very small area may hinder Russian operations going forward.

Ukrainian HIMARS strikes against Russian ammunition depots, logistics elements, and command and control are likely degrading Russian artillery campaigns. Ukrainian officials confirmed that American-supplied HIMARS arrived in Ukraine on June 23.[5] Ukrainian operators have been using the HIMARS to strike multiple Russian targets – notably ammunition depots – since June 25.[6] The destruction of these ammunition depots has likely degraded Russian forces’ ability to sustain high volumes of artillery fire along front lines. Detected heat anomalies from NASA's Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) remotely sensed data decreased significantly in Donbas starting around July 10.

[Source: NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System over Donbas, July 6 and Esri, Maxar, Earthstar Geographics, and the GIS User Community]

[Source: NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System over Donbas, July 9 and Esri, Maxar, Earthstar Geographics, and the GIS User Community]

[Source: NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System over Donbas, July 10 and Esri, Maxar, Earthstar Geographics, and the GIS User Community]

[Source: NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System over Donbas, July 12 and Esri, Maxar, Earthstar Geographics, and the GIS User Community]

[Source: NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System over Donbas, July 13 and Esri, Maxar, Earthstar Geographics, and the GIS User Community]

[Source: NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System over Donbas, July 14 and Esri, Maxar, Earthstar Geographics, and the GIS User Community]

Ukraine’s destruction of Russian ammunition depots using HIMARS is likely one of several factors that reduced the quantity of observed heat anomalies in Donbas between July 10-15. The reduced number of observed heat anomalies also corresponds in part to the assessed Russian operational pause from July 6 – July 15.[7] The number of observed heat anomalies began increasing on July 15 – the day ISW assessed that Russian forces began emerging from their operational pause.[8] The intensity of Russian artillery attacks along the Slovyansk-Bakhmut axis in the coming days may clarify the degree to which the reduction in intensity was due to the operational pause or the result of Ukrainian attacks.

[Source: NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System over Donbas, July 15 and Esri, Maxar, Earthstar Geographics, and the GIS User Community]


Key Takeaways

  • The Russian Ministry of Defense announced the cessation of the operational pause, confirming ISW’s July 15 assessment that Russian forces are likely resuming ground attacks along multiple axes of advance. The cessation of the operational pause is unlikely to lead to a massive increase in ground attacks across Ukraine but will rather likely be characterized by continued limited ground assaults focused on the Slovyansk-Siversk-Bakhmut salient.
  • The Kremlin may have ordered Russian forces to take control of the entirety of Kharkiv Oblast, despite the extraordinary low likelihood of Russian success in such an effort.
  • Russian forces conducted limited ground assaults around Siversk and Bakhmut and otherwise fired on Ukrainian military and civilian infrastructure across Eastern Ukraine.
  • Russian occupation authorities likely are responding to the perceived threat of Ukrainian partisan activities by strengthening administrative regimes in occupied areas.


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.

  • Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine (comprised of one subordinate and three supporting efforts);
  • Subordinate Main Effort—Encirclement of Ukrainian Troops in the Cauldron between Izyum and Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts
  • Supporting Effort 1—Kharkiv City
  • Supporting Effort 2—Southern Axis
  • Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts
  • Activities in Russian-occupied Areas

Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine

Subordinate Main Effort—Southern Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk Oblasts (Russian objective: Encircle Ukrainian forces in Eastern Ukraine and capture the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)

Russian forces continued to fire on settlements southeast of Izyum but did not make any confirmed ground assaults in the direction of Slovyansk on July 16.[9] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces are regrouping in order to further advance towards Slovyansk and Barvinkove.[10] Russian troops may seek to advance southeast from Barvinkove either to support operations towards Slovyansk or to open parallel lines of advance towards Kramatorsk. Russian forces additionally conducted air and artillery strikes against settlements along the Kharkiv-Donetsk Oblast border northwest of Slovyansk and hit Bohorodychne, Dibrovne, Mazanivka, Mykilske, and Novomykolaivka.[11]

Russian forces continued limited and unsuccessful ground assaults towards Siversk on July 16.[12] The Ukrainian General Staff stated that Russian troops unsuccessfully attempted to improve their tactical positions in Ivano-Darivka (around 5km southeast of Siversk) and Hryhorivka (10km northeast of Siversk).[13] Russian forces also shelled Siversk and surrounding settlements of Verkhnokamyanske and Zvanivka to continue to set conditions for operations to take control of the city.[14]

Russian forces continued ground assaults to the south of Bakhmut on July 16.[15] The Ukrainian General Staff noted that Ukrainian troops repelled Russian attempts to advance around Novoluhanske, Semyhirya, Dolomytne, Roty, and Vershyna, all within 25km south of Bakhmut.[16] Russian forces notably resumed efforts to attack the Vuhledar Power Plant in Novoluhanske.[17] The Vuhledar Power Plant lies on the northern edge of the Vuhlehirske Reservoir, a major water feature surrounded by settlements such as Svitlodarsk. Russian forces began their concerted efforts to break free of the canalized terrain in this area at the end of May.[18] Russian forces are likely focusing on advancing past the Vuhledar Power Plant in order to set conditions for a cross-country advance towards Bakhmut, as the area north and west of the power plant is relatively flatter and more open than the terrain around the Vuhlehirske Reservoir.[19] Russian forces also continued to conduct artillery strikes around Bakhmut.[20]

Russian forces continued to fire along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line of contact but did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks in this area on July 16.[21] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces are firing on Avdiivka to dislodge Ukrainian positions in the city.[22]

Supporting Effort #1—Kharkiv City (Russian objective: Defend ground lines of communication (GLOCs) to Izyum and prevent Ukrainian forces from reaching the Russian border)

Russian President Vladimir Putin may have ordered Russian forces to seize Kharkiv City and the rest of unoccupied Kharkiv Oblast despite the extreme improbability of success. ISW offers this observation as a hypothesis rather than an assessment because evidence and indicators for it are limited and circumstantial. Russian forces have been attempting to take Dementiivka to the north of Kharkiv City since June 26 even though capturing Dementiivka has limited significance for the objective of defending Russian territory against Ukrainian offensive actions.[23] Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate released an intercepted conversation on July 16 in which a Russian soldier stated that his commander cares nothing for his losses but only wants to reach Kharkiv.[24] Russian-backed occupation authorities continue to set conditions to annex Kharkiv Oblast beyond currently-held territory, as ISW has previously assessed.[25] The Russian-backed Kharkiv Oblast occupation government head Vitaly Ganchev and Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) Head Leonid Pasechnik signed a mutual cooperation and defense agreement on July 16, which indicates that Russian authorities in Kharkiv Oblast are setting conditions for long-term occupation contingencies.[26] Ganchev previously announced on July 6 that occupied Kharkiv Oblast will consist of the Kupyansk, Izyum, Vovchansk, and Kharkiv districts, which incorporates territory that Russian forces do not yet control.[27] Russian forces will likely inconsistently intensify ground assault attempts north of Kharkiv City over the coming days to reflect continued territorial ambitions in Kharkiv Oblast but are unlikely to secure significant territorial gains. Russian forces continued artillery strikes along the entire line of contact and on Kharkiv City.[28]

Supporting Effort #2—Southern Axis (Russian objective: Defend Kherson and Zaporizhia Oblasts against Ukrainian counterattacks)

Russian forces launched missile and rocket strikes at ground targets across the Southern Axis on July 15-16. Russian forces launched four-to-six Kh-101 cruise missiles – advanced, high-precision cruise missiles designed to evade air defense systems – at Dnipro, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast in the evening on July 15.[29] Footage shows Ukrainian air defenses successfully intercepting at least one of the missiles, and at least two missiles hit buildings in central Dnipro.[30] The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that the missiles struck the Yuzhny Machine Building Plant used to build and repair Ukrainian Tochka-Us and MLRS systems in Dnipro’s industrial district, but ISW is unable to verify the exact locations of the strikes at this time.[31] The Russian usage of Kh-101 missiles to strike a Ukrainian military factory could indicate that Russian forces are either running out of appropriate munitions for such strikes or are desperate to curtail Ukrainian strikes on Russian military infrastructure by targeting Ukrainian supplies of missile and rocket systems.

The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces continued shelling the line of contact and did not conduct ground offensives on July 16.[32]

Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts (Russian objective: Expand combat power without conducting general mobilization)

Nothing significant to report.

Activity in Russian-occupied Areas (Russian objective: consolidate administrative control of occupied areas; set conditions for potential annexation into the Russian Federation or some other future political arrangement of Moscow’s choosing)

Russian authorities in occupied areas are likely assessing that growing Ukrainian partisan activity seeks to threaten and complicate efforts to institute coherent occupational control and are strengthening administrative regimes accordingly. Ukrainian news source Ria-Melitopol reported on July 16 that Russian authorities in Melitopol have substantially increased Russian military presence in the city and established checkpoints to stop and strip-search civilians.[33] Kherson Oblast Administration similarly warned that Russian occupation authorities in the Kakhovskyi district (near Kherson City) have issued an order to strengthen the access regime for communal enterprises and other checkpoints, which will allow Russian forces to detain suspected Ukrainian “terrorists” for 72 hours for violating controls on the access regime.[34] Ukraine’s Center for Strategic Cooperation noted that Russian authorities are struggling to galvanize public support for occupation administrations in Kharkiv Oblast and in the cities of Melitopol and Mariupol.[35] These reports indicate that Russian authorities perceive a growing threat to the consolidation of occupational regimes and will likely continue efforts to crack down on pro-Ukrainian sentiments and actions in occupied areas.

[1] https://function.mil dot ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12429378@egNews; https://ria dot ru/20220716/ukraina-1802905956.html; https://tass dot ru/armiya-i-opk/15233277; https://t.me/mod_russia/17707; https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-july-15

[2] https://function.mil dot ru/news_page/country/more.htm?id=12429378@egNews; https://ria dot ru/20220716/ukraina-1802905956.html; https://tass dot ru/armiya-i-opk/15233277; https://t.me/mod_russia/17707; https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-july-15

[3] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-july-15

[4] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-june-21

[5] https://twitter.com/oleksiireznikov/status/1539931757621006336

[6] https://twitter.com/RALee85/status/1540859211814502405; https://t.me/milinfolive/85794; https://t.me/vysokygovorit/8530; https://twitter.com/rhoint_en/status/1540903108418617344; https://twitter.com/rhoint_en/status/1540939425487675394;  https://twitter.com/GeoConfirmed/status/1541035634160271362; https://t.me/informnapalm/9884  

[7] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-july-7; https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-july-6; https://understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-july-15

[8] https://understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-july-15

[9]https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02zTRAy2pA2FuxQHT2kQRq93ypAfiXhXW2Lnabm7hGjPDzCFcTqjpJDANhqjMvUmcLl; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0zdMeGhPowJSTz9V3NK6S32gWtAkqEuySJkTKKDmtEjk2sdrhEDjbtTWHYL5oMMYfl



[12]https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02zTRAy2pA2FuxQHT2kQRq93ypAfiXhXW2Lnabm7hGjPDzCFcTqjpJDANhqjMvUmcLl; https://t.me/m0sc0wcalling/8718; https://t.me/milinfolive/87110


[14]https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02zTRAy2pA2FuxQHT2kQRq93ypAfiXhXW2Lnabm7hGjPDzCFcTqjpJDANhqjMvUmcLl; https://t.me/mod_russia/17711

[15]https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02zTRAy2pA2FuxQHT2kQRq93ypAfiXhXW2Lnabm7hGjPDzCFcTqjpJDANhqjMvUmcLl; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0zdMeGhPowJSTz9V3NK6S32gWtAkqEuySJkTKKDmtEjk2sdrhEDjbtTWHYL5oMMYfl

[16]https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02zTRAy2pA2FuxQHT2kQRq93ypAfiXhXW2Lnabm7hGjPDzCFcTqjpJDANhqjMvUmcLl; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0zdMeGhPowJSTz9V3NK6S32gWtAkqEuySJkTKKDmtEjk2sdrhEDjbtTWHYL5oMMYfl

[17]https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0zdMeGhPowJSTz9V3NK6S32gWtAkqEuySJkTKKDmtEjk2sdrhEDjbtTWHYL5oMMYfl; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02zTRAy2pA2FuxQHT2kQRq93ypAfiXhXW2Lnabm7hGjPDzCFcTqjpJDANhqjMvUmcLl

[18] https://t.me/nm_dnr/8078 ; https://t.me/nm_dnr/8081; https://t.me/millnr/8646; https://twitter.com/RALee85/status/1529235651094360064; https://t.me/ok_spn/19222; https://t.me/ok_spn/19221; https://t.me/ok_spn/19215; https://twitter.com/GuinieZoo_Intel/status/1528625456001556480; https://twitter.com/GeoConfirmed/status/1529104615219798017; https://twitter.com/GeoConfirmed/status/1529103582531883009; https://twitter.com/JulianRoepcke/status/1529045890694057985  

[19] https://t.me/rybar/35657

[20]https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02zTRAy2pA2FuxQHT2kQRq93ypAfiXhXW2Lnabm7hGjPDzCFcTqjpJDANhqjMvUmcLl; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0zdMeGhPowJSTz9V3NK6S32gWtAkqEuySJkTKKDmtEjk2sdrhEDjbtTWHYL5oMMYfl

[21]https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02zTRAy2pA2FuxQHT2kQRq93ypAfiXhXW2Lnabm7hGjPDzCFcTqjpJDANhqjMvUmcLl; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0zdMeGhPowJSTz9V3NK6S32gWtAkqEuySJkTKKDmtEjk2sdrhEDjbtTWHYL5oMMYfl; https://t.me/stranaua/52810


[23] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-june-26; https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-june-29; https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-june-30; https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-july-2; https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-july-5; https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-july-8; https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-july-9; https://understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-update-july-11; https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-july-12; https://understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russia-offensive-campaign-assessment-july-13; https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-july-14

[24] https://gur.gov dot ua/content/rashyst-rozpovidaie-mami-pro-nastroi-v-yoho-pidrozdili.html; https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=EdlRqgiDBsg&feature=emb_title

[25] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-july-9

[26] https://t.me/readovkanews/38741; https://t.me/miroshnik_r/7974; https://ria dot ru/20220716/lnr-1802932455.html

[27] https://t.me/stranaua/50845; https://tass dot ru/mezhdunarodnaya-panorama/15136215

[28]https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02zTRAy2pA2FuxQHT2kQRq93ypAfiXhXW2Lnabm7hGjPDzCFcTqjpJDANhqjMvUmcLl; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02zTRAy2pA2FuxQHT2kQRq93ypAfiXhXW2Lnabm7hGjPDzCFcTqjpJDANhqjMvUmcLl

[29] https://missilethreat.csis.org/missile/kh-101-kh-102/

[30] https://twitter.com/ukr_insider/status/1548036405019889665; https://twitter.com/Militarylandnet/status/1548007239507578880; https://twitter.com/IntelCrab/status/1548031848906797056; https://twitter.com/TpyxaNews/status/1548020809393848323; https://twitter.com/TpyxaNews/status/1548022750152863759

[31] https://t.me/mod_russia/17711; https://t.me/readovkanews/38711; https://t.me/readovkanews/38710

[32]https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0zdMeGhPowJSTz9V3NK6S32gWtAkqEuySJkTKKDmtEjk2sdrhEDjbtTWHYL5oMMYfl; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02zTRAy2pA2FuxQHT2kQRq93ypAfiXhXW2Lnabm7hGjPDzCFcTqjpJDANhqjMvUmcLl

[33] https://t.me/riamelitopol/61748


[35] https://t.me/spravdi/13352

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