Ukraine Situation Report: Besieged Russian Troops Holding Out In Bombed-Out Factory

For the past two weeks, a small group of Russian soldiers has been holed up in a large factory located in the bombed-out city of Vovchansk. For them, it is a last refuge in this Kharkiv Oblast city destroyed by the urban warfare they wrought.

As street fighting continues to rage, those troops have been cut off, surrounded by Ukrainian forces in a building that has somehow managed to withstand repeated bombardment. One Ukrainian unit taking part in that fight offers an ironic take. It is a situation, they say, akin to the desperate battle for Mariupol when Ukrainian forces were surrounded in an old steel plant and pounded for months in early 2023.

“This is revenge for Azovstal plant,” the Khorne Group said on a video of the bombardment. “Grinding the remains of the elite 83rd orc Airborne Brigade at the Vovchansk factory with beautiful Wagner music in the background.”

The siege of Vovchansk, some 25 miles northeast of Kharkiv, is one of the last salients in Russia’s failed offensive toward Ukraine’s second-largest city that began in May.

“Several dozen occupiers have been blocked at one of the industrial enterprises in the city of Vovchansk,” Oleh Syniehubov, head of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration, said on Telegram. “The Russians are trying to break through, but are constantly suffering losses in this direction.”

The constant house-to-house fighting and bombardment has ripped apart what was once a thriving factory town.

One Russian soldier described what’s left of his nation’s ongoing offensive.

“We strike at enemy positions in the area of ​​high-rise buildings in the square of the streets: Lenin, Gogo, Korolenko and Olesya Dosvitniy,” a Russian paratrooper said on Telegram. “The enemy continues to build up forces on the banks of the Volchaya and crosses the river at every opportunity, at the same time our artillery and FPV drone operators strike at those crossing, so about 50 Nazis were destroyed in a day.”

Ukrainian milblogger Nikolaev Vanek suggested on Telegram that the Russians are conducting a large withdrawal from the city.

“Three weeks have passed,” Vanek explained. “The entire 83rd Assault Brigade is being urgently withdrawn from forward positions to restore combat capability to the rear. There are too many losses, they can’t carry out battles.”

The destroyed city of Vovchansk is one of the last salients of Russia’s failed Kharkiv offensive. Google Earth image

Given the proverbial fog of war, it is hard to know exactly what is happening in Vovchansk, but one thing is certain.

The city is a smoldering ruins.

Before diving into more developments from the conflict in Ukraine, The War Zone readers can review our previous coverage here.

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There were also few changes elsewhere along the battlefield

In Luhansk Oblast, Russian forces continued ground attacks along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line on June 26, but there were no confirmed changes to the frontline, the Institute for the Study of War said in its latest assessment.

Russian forces did advance near Siversk, as well as near Avdiivka and southwest of Donetsk City in Donetsk Oblast, ISW stated. Russians also continued pushing toward Chasiv Yar, and Toretsk, but there were no confirmed territorial changes in that part of Donetsk Oblast.

Further south, Russian forces continued ground attacks in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast near Robotyne and Mala Tokmachka and northeast of Verbove, but there were no confirmed changes to the frontline, according to ISW. Nor where there any in Kherson Oblast, where fighting continues along the east bank of the Dnipro River.

The Russian Defense Ministry (MoD) on Friday issued an ominous yet unspecified warning to the U.S. and NATO about what it claims is the increasing frequency of drone flights over the Black Sea. Those flights are being used to help Ukrainians hit Russian targets, the MoD claimed.

Russian Defense Minister Andrei Belousov “instructed the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces to make proposals on measures for rapid response to provocations,” the MoD said on Telegram Friday.

The statement did not specify those responses.


The drones are “conducting reconnaissance and targeting high-precision weapons supplied to the Armed Forces of Ukraine by Western states to launch strikes at Russian facilities,” the Russian MoD continued. “This demonstrates the increasing involvement of the United States and NATO countries in the Ukrainian conflict on the side of the Kyiv regime.”

No particular incident was specified, however, earlier this week, we wrote about a deadly attack on Sevastopol for which Russia held the U.S. responsible.

Local authorities said four people were killed, including two children, and more than 150 were injured after a U.S.-made Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) short-range ballistic missiles.

Subsequent information emerged that a Russian air defense interceptor possibly either knocked the ATACMS off course over a crowded beach or itself exploded.

Regardless, Russia blamed the U.S. after that attack.

U.S. “specialists input all flight tasks in the U.S.-made ATACMS operational-tactical missiles on the basis of data of the U.S. satellite reconnaissance,” the MoD complained at the time. “That is why Washington is mostly responsible for the deliberate missile strike at peaceful residents of Sevastopol by delivering this weaponry to Ukraine, as well as the Kyiv regime, from the territory of which the strike was launched.”

The official Russian RIA Novosti news agency posted data from the flight tracking FlightRadar24 website showing a high-flying RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned spy plane flying over the Black Sea shortly before that attack.

Such flights “increase the possibility of air incidents involving the Russian Aerospace Forces’ aircraft, increasing the risk of a direct confrontation between the alliance and the Russian Federation,” the MoD claimed in its Friday statement. “The NATO countries will be responsible for this.”

The Pentagon on Friday brushed off those concerns.

“I’ve seen some of that reporting in those comments,” spokesperson Sabrina Singh told reporters. “I don’t really have a comment to offer for you on that. You know, we continue to fly, sail and operate in international waters and international spaces, where the laws allow.”

The Russian MoD also claimed that on Thursday, a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone made a dangerous approach toward one of its Su-35 Flanker-E multi-role fighters on a scheduled flight over Syria. We reached out to U.S. Central Command for comment.

There have been other situations involving U.S. and Russian crewed and uncrewed aircraft.

We wrote about one that took place last year. The U.S. Air Force said at the time that one of its Reapers crashed into the Black Sea after a collision with a Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter jet. The incident was the end result of a “reckless” and “unprofessional” intercept of the uncrewed aircraft by a pair of Russian Su-27s in international airspace, according to the service. The Air Force released a video of that encounter, which you can see below.

NATO would welcome “any major support” from South Korea to help Ukraine in the fight against Russia, the organization’s Secretary General told the South Korean Yonhap News Agency on Thursday.

Jens Stoltenberg’s remarks came amid growing indications that Seoul might change its policy prohibiting arms shipments to Kyiv in reaction to a security pact between Moscow and Pyongyang.

The potential South Korean military support to Ukraine differs from North Korea’s suspected delivery of munitions to Russia, Stoltenberg argued.

“We should not have some kind of moral equivalence between North Korea’s support to Russia, and potential support from South Korea to Ukraine, because this is war aggression,” Stoltenberg said in an interview with the publication while in Brussels.

“Russia has violated law, attacked a neighbor, so support to Russia’s illegal war is illegal. Support to Ukraine defending themselves is legal. It is enshrined in the U.N. Charter,” Stoltenberg said. “Any attempt to equalize support to Russia with support for Ukraine is completely wrong.”


The SpaceX company owned by Elon Musk “has cooperated extensively with the US military to stop Russia’s illicit use” of its commercial Starlink space-based communications “terminals in Ukraine,” Bloomberg News reported, citing a letter it obtained from a Pentagon official to a member of Congress.

SpaceX “has been forward-leaning in providing information to support investigations and denying service” since Russia’s use of the terminals “became known several months ago,” Amanda Dory, acting undersecretary for policy, wrote Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren this month in a letter obtained by the publication.

Dory added that about 1% of Starlink terminals in Ukraine were identified as illegitimate. In response, the U.S. successfully disabled the service of several hundred unauthorized terminals, according to Bloomberg

The Ukrainian National Guard (NSU) said its troops used an Igla man-portable air defense system (MANPADS) to shoot down a Russian Su-25 Frogfoot close-air support jet in Donetsk Oblast.

“Guardsman discovered” the jet “making a combat sortie,” NSU said Friday on its Telegram channel. “The combined calculation of Igla of the 31st brigade of the National Guard of Ukraine acted promptly and professionally. Su-25 attack aircraft was shot down by a well-aimed shot.” 

A shaky video posted by the NSU appeared to show the Frogfoot in the upper lefthand corner of the frame. A loud crack, apparently from the Igla is then heard, and seconds later a puff of black smoke in the sky was seen. After that, cheers erupted, apparently from the troops who fired the MANPADS.

To day, Russia has seen at least 42 of its Frogfoot variants destroyed and four damaged, according to the Oryx open-source tracking group. That number could be higher because Oryx only tabulates losses for which it has visual confirmation. The aircraft in the video below has yet to be added to the Oryx list.

As a Ukrainian assault group motored down a road inear Novobakhmutiva in Donetsk Oblast, it was lead by a U.S.-donated Bradley Fighting Vehicle. You can get a sense of why Ukrainians value them so much by watching it fire scores of rounds in 70 seconds from its Bushmaster M242 25 mm automatic cannon.

One of Ukraine’s donated Sea King helicopters was recently spotted flying over a river in this video below.

The United Kingdom sent three WS-61 Sea King helicopters, plus 10,000 artillery rounds to Ukraine in November 2022. Germany donated six 50-year-old Sea King Mk41 helicopters to Ukraine in January. They have been used for search and rescue missions as well as reconnaissance operations over the Black Sea.

Ukraine has introduced a new First-Person View drone that can reportedly carry a TM-62 mine weighing nearly 21 pounds for a distance of about three miles.

It appears that Russian troops do not have a leave-no-soldier-behind doctrine. In this video below, three Russian soldiers are seen walking around by a drone. An FPV drone then comes into view, chasing one of the soldiers while his comrades scatter. It then strikes the soldier, badly wounding him. For a moment, one of his fellow troops comes over to apply a tourniquet, but then scurries away, leaving the injured soldier on the ground, covered in blood and unable to swat the flies buzzing around his bleeding wounds.

These Russian troops milling about an armored vehicle had a break interrupted by Ukrainian FPV drones that hit the truck and some of the men.

And finally, the body of a U.S. Army veteran killed last fall near Bakhmut has at long last been returned home, our colleagues at Task & Purpose write.

“The former U.S soldier was killed, his family was told, by a Russian drone strike amid fierce fighting around Bakhmut,” the publication reported. “Casualties were so high and the combat so intense, his family said, that initial efforts by his Ukrainian comrades to reach the body of the American and others from his unit ended in more casualties.”

As a U.S. soldier, “the American held an Army Military Occupational Speciality with significant and regular training in weapons and combat tactics,” Task noted. It did not name the veteran because so many families of those killed in the fighting there have been harassed.

More than 50 Americans have been killed in Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of the country, most of which were U.S. military veterans,” according to a list compiled by Task & Purpose from open sources.

That’s it for now.

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Howard Altman Avatar

Howard Altman

Senior Staff Writer

Howard is a Senior Staff Writer for The War Zone, and a former Senior Managing Editor for Military Times. Prior to this, he covered military affairs for the Tampa Bay Times as a Senior Writer. Howard’s work has appeared in various publications including Yahoo News, RealClearDefense, and Air Force Times.