Ukraine Situation Report: Claims Fly Over Deadly ATACMS Missile Strike In Luhansk

There are conflicting accounts rising after a deadly attack on the Russian-held city of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine amid fighting raging in that oblast. The Russians say civilian targets were hit by U.S.-made Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) short-range ballistic missiles while Ukrainian sources say military targets were struck. There were several claims that Ukraine used the unitary warhead (single high explosive) variant of the ATACMS, which would mark one of its first such uses. Video of the strikes show unitary warheads being used. Previous ATACMS strikes have used versions loaded with cluster munitions, aside from possibly one we know about.

Video emerged on social media showing explosions erupting from a large building and people running for safety, some screaming.

Russia’s Defense Ministry on Friday accused Ukraine of using five ATACMS on residential buildings and other civilian structures in Luhansk, Reuters reported.

“The air defense forces managed to shoot down most of the shells,” Leonid Pasechnik, the Russia-installed governor of the region, said on his Telegram channel. “But, unfortunately, some of the missiles reached their target and destroyed civilian infrastructure. There were civilian casualties and damage to buildings.”

At least three people were killed in that attack and 35 wounded in the strike, said Pasechnik.

He added that 33 high-rise buildings in the eastern part of the city were damaged. “Two schools, three kindergartens and the Luhansk College of Information Technologies and Entrepreneurship were also damaged during the shelling.”

Ukrainian sources, however, say the attack was on a military installation in that city, hitting a building being used by the Russian military as a barracks.

One thing both sides agree on is that ATACMS were used. It’s not the first time they’ve been launched onto targets in the oblast. Last month, we reported that a volley of four ATACMS striking over about 95 seconds on a Russian training and coordination center near the town of Kuban. That’s located about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Ukrainian lines. 

The War Zone cannot independently verify any of the accounts about today’s strike, but as the video showed, Luhansk was once again caught in the crosshairs as it often has been since Russia first invaded in 2014.

Before we roll into the rest of the news, you can catch up on our previous reporting here.

The Latest

Russian forces are continuing to make incremental gains across the battlefield.

Their troops “recently advanced near Vovchansk (northeast of Kharkiv City) amid continued fighting in the area on June 6,” the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) stated in its latest assessment. “Geolocated footage published on June 6 indicates that Russian forces recently advanced within Starytsya (southwest of Vovchansk).”

The Russians also “recently advanced southeast of Kupyansk” in Kharkiv Oblast “amid continued ground attacks along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line on June 6,” ISW reported.

Geolocated footage published on June 6 “indicates that Russian forces recently advanced southeast of Bilohorivka in Luhansk Oblast, ISW stated. They also advanced near Chasiv Yar in Donetsk Oblast “amid continued Russian offensive operations in the area. Elsewhere in Donetsk, the Russians “made a confirmed advance northwest of Avdiivka, likely within the past week, amid continued Russian offensive operations in the area.”

Moscow’s forces were less successful in the southern portion of the battlefield, making only small gains on the east bank of the Dnipro River near Krynky. They “continued limited ground attacks in western Zaporizhia Oblast on June 6, but there were no confirmed changes to the frontline,” ISW explained.

U.S. President Joe Biden for the first time issued a public apology to Ukraine on Friday for a long congressional holdup in American military assistance that let Russia make battlefield gains.

The apology came as Biden met in Paris with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who appealed for bipartisan U.S. support going forward “like it was during World War II.”

“You haven’t bowed down, you haven’t yielded at all, you continue to fight in a way that is remarkable, and we’re not going to walk away from you,” Biden said. “I apologize for the weeks of not knowing what is going to happen in terms of funding. We had trouble getting the bill passed. Some of our conservative members were holding it up.”

Biden was referring to the six-month holdup in Congress to a $61 billion military aid package for Ukraine.

Biden announced new aid packages, including $225 million to help Ukraine rebuild its electrical grid, repeatedly hit by Russian missiles and drones.

“I can assure you, the United States will stand with you. I actually said this all through this debate and I continue to say it. The United States is standing with you. You are the bulwark against the aggression that is taking place. We have an obligation to be there, so I am looking forward to having a detailed discussion with you. But we are still in, completely and thoroughly.” 

Pressing Americans to support his country’s defense against Russia’s invasion, Zelensky also thanked U.S. lawmakers for eventually coming together to approve the weapons package, which has allowed Ukraine to stem Russian advances in recent weeks.

Biden also signed the 59th tranche of Presidential Drawdown Authority equipment that will be given to Ukraine.

This package, valued up to $225 million, includes badly needed Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) munitions for M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, artillery ammunition, howitzers, air defense systems and armored vehicles.

The capabilities in this announcement include:

  • Missiles for HAWK air defense systems;
  • Stinger anti-aircraft missiles;
  • Ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS);
  • 155mm Howitzers;
  • 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds;
  • 81mm mortar systems;
  • M113 Armored Personnel Carriers;
  • Trailers to transport heavy equipment;
  • Coastal and riverine patrol boats; 
  • Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missiles;
  • Javelin and AT-4 anti-armor systems;
  • Small arms ammunition and grenades;
  • Demolitions munitions;
  • Night vision devices; and
  • Spare parts, maintenance, and other ancillary equipment.
Kuzia, the commander of the unit, shows the rockets on a HIMARS vehicle in Eastern Ukraine on July 1, 2022. (Photo by Anastasia Vlasova for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Japan delivered more than 100 vehicles to Ukraine, including tracked HMV off-road vehicles, Mitsubishi Type 73 Kogata light trucks and PC-065B tracked engineering vehicles. They arrived in Poland on June 5 and were turned over to the Ukrainians, according to the Japanese Embassy.

Ukraine wants the U.S. to train more of its pilots on F-16 Vipers, but here are limited spots and too many customers from other nations, Politico reported on June 5, citing Ukrainian and U.S. officials. 

“Ukraine says it has 30 pilots who are eligible to start training in the U.S. immediately,” the publication reported. “Yet the Biden administration has told Kyiv it lacks the school seats in its Arizona-based program to accept more than 12 pilot trainees at a time, according to three people with direct knowledge of the request. Two other facilities in Denmark and Romania have a similar issue with available training spots.”

Russia is continuing to face drone attacks on its energy infrastructure

A suspected Ukrainian drone strike early on June 6 set Russian oil installations on fire in two regions, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported

A drone attack on an oil refinery in Novoshakhtinsk in Russia’s Rostov region early on June 6 caused a fire, prompting a temporary halt of operations, regional governor Vasily Golubev said, according to RFE/RL.

Belgorod regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov also reported that a drone attack on an oil depot in Stary Oskol, less than 100 kilometers from the Ukrainian border, started a fire, the outlet reported. 

Video emerged on social media of what appears to be a First Person-View (FPV) drone attack on an electric substation in Russia’s Kursk region. Of note is that in addition to the strike drone, another drone was hovering over the substation to capture the impact. This could have either been a cross-border attack or locally generated. We just don’t know.

A Ukrainian Air Force Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack aircraft at Dolgintsevo Air Base being was captured on video being struck by a Russian Lancet drone. Reportedly, electronic warfare measures at the base, nearly 50 miles from the border, interfered with the drone, resulting in damage, not destruction to the Frogfoot. However, as we reported Dec. 1, 2023, a Lancet strike on the base resulted in an elaborate decoy, not a Frogfoot being hit.

The amazing pinpoint accuracy of FPV drones is on display in the video below showing one slip past the cope cage of a damaged Russian T-90 tank, go into the hatch and explode in a huge ball of flames.

FPVs have been so successful for both sides in Ukraine that now they are being developed by other nations.

The German Donaustahl company introduced its Maus FPV drone earlier this week at the ILA 2024 Air Show in Berlin. The Maus has interchangeable munitions, including a 30mm VOG grenade, a 40mm NATO grenade and an 85mm Sonyashnyk, according to the company website.

After reportedly being struck by a Ukrainian FPV drone, this Russian T-90M tank rumbled down a road with fire spewing from around its right front track wheel.

Ukraine’s 46th Airmobile Brigade posted a compilation of FPV drone hits on Russian armor, including the so-called Turtle Tanks. It’s hard to say exactly what happens, because the video feed ends upon impact.

Ukraine’s 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade released video of one of its U.S. donated Bradley Fighting Vehicles destroying a Russian BTR-82A infantry fighting vehicle in an extremely close duel near Avdiivka. You can see the Brad’s Bushmaster M242 25 mm automatic cannon light up the BTR.

During a recent fight in Donetsk Oblast, the Ukrainian 425th Assault Battalion reportedly used FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank guided missiles to repel a Russian mechanized assault. Of the three Russian tanks in the column, two were hit and Russian troops can be seen running from one of them engulfed in flames.

Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence Directorate (GUR) released a video of what it says were its uncrewed surface vessels (USV) motoring past barriers in Crimea and sinking a Project 498 class Saturn tugboat. The attack took in Lake Panske, which is near the village of Chornomorske, GUR said. The drone broke through the lines of defensive barriers and hit the vessel, which can be seen in the video below. The War Zone could not independently verify the results of that engagement.

In the wake of repeated Ukrainian attacks on its base at Novorossiysk, Russia, the Russian Navy is changing how it operates in and around that Black Sea port.

The Russian Navy is “moving warships from berths in the naval base to positions in the bay. Other ships sailing to Crimea in formation,” naval researcher H. I. Sutton (@CovertShores) posted on Twitter.

A photo posted on the “warhistoryalconafter” Telegram channel June 5 showed two UMPB D-30SN glide bombs affixed to racks under the port wing of Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) Su-34 Fullback strike aircraft. You can read more about these bombs in our story about them here.

After the Biden administration approved the use of longer-range weapons on Russian soil near Kharkiv, images began to appear on social media of what appeared to be the rocket motor of an M30 Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munition (DPICM) Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) that are packed with submunitions. The motor was found in Belgorod, where Ukraine had targeted with GMLRS.

A U.S. donated M1A1 Abrams tank was recently seen being transported on a road in Ukraine by a German MAN HX81 tank transporter somewhere in the east. The tank is outfitted with Soviet-designed Kontakt-1 Explosive Reactive Armor (ERA) tiles as well as cage armor.

Another Abrams was spotted with a large amount of additional armor, and U.S.-standard M19 Abrams Reactive Armor Tiles (ARAT) and Contact-1 ERA tiles added to the turret.

The crew of a U.S.-donated M1224 MaxxPro Mine-Resistant, Ambush Protected (MRAP) armored vehicle was recently observed by a drone making a miraculous escape, surviving at least three hits as it rumbled across an open field.

Not all the MRAPS have been so lucky. Of more than 1,000 provided to Ukraine, at least 68 have been destroyed, 13 damaged, seven damaged and abandoned and two captured, according to the Oryx open source tracking group. Those figures are likely higher, because Oryx only tabulates losses for which it has visual confirmation. The video below shows a “cemetery” of dozens of MaxxPros waiting to be repaired after being dragged off the battlefield

An image of a Russian T-72B3 tank emerged on social media with the latest iteration of so-called cope cages designed to ward off drones. In addition to the screening that covers most of the tank, it is also equipped with anti-drone electronic warfare stations and an RP-Z77UVM1L Lesochek jamming station.

A Russian electronic warfare technician claimed he can spot FPV drones by looking at a spectrum analyzer, a device which monitors radio frequencies. In the case of drones, these devices can pick up the burst signal emissions between the controller and drone. The unnamed technician claims he can tell the difference between Ukrainian and Russian FPVs by the signals they emit, but would not say how.

There are claims being reported in Russian media that the 1009th Motorized Rifle Regiment withdrew from Vovchansk because it was nearly all wiped out, with a 90% casualty rate. The War Zone could not independently confirm that.

The survivor of the battle of Mariupol, who goes by the call sign “Krym” and lost an eye in the fight for that beleaguered port city, recently spoke with Yuriy Butusov, editor of the Ukrainian news outlet.

During the interview, he talked about capturing a brand new Russian T-72B3M tank. With a beaming smile, he says the tank wasn’t a “lend-lease” but was taken in battle after assaulting his position and being hit in the turret with an FPV drone. While added armor provided protection for the crew, they were unable to steer and the tank ran into a BMP. Not knowing what to do, the crew fled. Unfortunately for them, they were tracked down and killed by FPV drones, Krym said.

The tank itself was the first modern trophy of the war, he added, loaded with new Russian electronic warfare equipment that was taken away for analysis.

Two Russian soldiers were captured on drone video fleeing down a dirt road after the tractor pulling a wagon they were on was struck. They were spotted running away, one limping after being injured by the blast, being held up by his comrade. At one point, the uninjured soldier tries in vain to fire his rifle at the drone buzzing overhead. They narrowly miss getting hit by another drone-dropped munition and the video cuts out with them both running, leaving the viewer to wonder what ultimately happened to them.

In a move reminiscent of WWII German flak towers, Russia has installed a Pantsir air defense system on a platform several stories above the ground in Russia.

And finally, with tens of thousands of dead on both sides, it is not always easy or even feasible to recover the fallen. The video below shows Ukrainian soldiers risking their lives to bring back one of their own.

That’s all for now.

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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.