The Russian Defense Ministry (MoD) continues to see unrest among its commanders as its war in Ukraine drags on with increasing casualties and equipment losses.
In what may be the latest challenge to Russia's top military leadership, Maj. Gen. Ivan Popov, former commander of Russia's 58th Army, announced that he's been fired for criticizing the course of the war. In a recording published late Wednesday on the Telegram channel of Russian legislator Andrei Gurulev, Popov said he was fired a day after calling out Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu's handling of the so-called special military operation. Popov was the commander of troops in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, where Ukrainian forces have been making slow advances during their counteroffensive.
"As many regiment and division commanders have said today, the Ukrainian Armed Forces failed to breach us on the frontline, but instead we have been struck from the rear by our own senior commander (Shoigu) treacherously and despicably," according to a translation by the Winds of Change Research Group. "Defanging the army at the most difficult and tense moment."
Popov complained about "the absence of counter-battery warfare, absence of artillery reconnaissance stations, and massive sheep's death of our brethren from the enemy's artillery."
Perhaps even more ominous for Moscow, Popov added that he remains in touch with "all soldiers, sergeants and officers of the Army."
The criticisms leveled by Popov echo Wagner Private Military Company boss Yevegeny Prigozhin's constant rants against Shoigu and Army Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov that ultimately led him on his aborted mutiny last month.
Speaking of Prigozhin, the Pentagon said Thursday Wagner's forces are not playing any significant role in Ukraine.
“Broadly speaking, at this stage, we do not see Wagner forces participating in any significant capacity in support of combat operations in Ukraine,” the Pentagon’s top spokesman told reporters, including from The War Zone, Thursday. “The majority of those forces, we assess, are still in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, but really effectively are no longer contributing as a significant combat capability. Obviously, something we'll continue to keep our eyes on. But that's kind of where things stand right now.”
Of course, given that Wagner turned in thousands of weapons and more than 2,500 tons of ammunition to the Russian Defense Ministry as we reported yesterday, it's unclear what level of major independent combat power Wagner has left. You can read more about that in our story here.
While his status remains unclear, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that he was one of "at least 13 senior officers were detained for questioning, with some later released, and around 15 suspended from duty or fired" in the wake of Prigozhin's putative putsch.
How this military leadership shakeup affects Russia's war efforts, and what actions Popov takes in the future remain to be seen. But they are issues that we will be keeping a close watch on. We will provide more details when they emerge.
Before we head into the latest updates from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage here.
Overnight Thursday, Russia attacked Ukraine with 20 Iranian-made Shahed-136/131 attack drones from Kursk in the northeast and Primorsko-Akhtarsk in the southeastern, the Ukrainian Air Force reported Thursday on its Telegram channel.
All 20 drones were shot down, mostly in the Kyiv region, the Ukrainian Air Force claimed.
Russia also fired two Kalibr sea-launched cruise missiles from the Black Sea, which were destroyed, and one Iskander-M ballistic missile from the Dzhankoy air base in occupied Crimea, the Ukrainian Air Force added.
The battle damage assessment from the Iskander missile was still being determined.
The Russian Defense Ministry claimed it "launched a long-range sea-based high-precision weapons strike against AFU ammunition depots. The goal of the attack has been reached. All the assigned targets have been neutralized."
On Tuesday, we told you that the deputy commander of the Southern Military District, Lieutenant General Oleg Tsokov, was killed, reportedly by a Storm Shadow cruise missile strike in Berdiansk, according to a Russian Telegram channel.
Today, Ukrainian media, citing military officials, is reporting that the bodies of Russian soldiers were taken out by trucks from the destroyed Duna Hotel last night.
"As a result of the strike on Duna Hotel in the temporarily occupied Berdiansk, the active removal of bodies of Russian servicemen by trucks to the local morgue was observed during the night," Andrii Kovalov, spokesperson for the General Staff of the Armed Forces, claimed during the national joint 24/7 newscast, according to Ukrainian Pravda.
Less than a week after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Snake Island to commemorate the 500th day of Russia's all-out war, the Russians are said to have bombed the small Black Sea rock.
"At dawn, the enemy attacked [Snake Island] with a high-explosive bomb, using tactical aircraft," Ukraine's Operational Command South reported Thursday on its Facebook page.
With no permanent Ukrainian military presence on the island, it is unclear why Russia bombed it.
We have examined low resolution satellite imagery from July 13th as well as checked FIRMS for infrared events on the island in the last 24 hours and could not see anything unusual, although that does not definately mean a strike did not occur.
You can read more about the history and significance of the island in our story here.
It’s expected that the U.K. Defense Ministry next week will lay out what the military will look like in the future “in a new review aimed at reshaping the armed forces,” Defense News reported Thursday. The war in Ukraine and the United Kingdom's support of Kyiv's cause are going to factor heavily into review.
Among other things, the review will include looking at ways to tackle weapon stockpile shortages, according to James Heappey, minister of the armed forces, the publication reported.
“Stockpiles are to get you through the first phase of a war. Nobody has made any secret of the fact the stockpiles we hold are insufficient. Maybe there is an announcement about stockpiles in in the [Command] paper next week,” Heappey told the audience at the Global Air & Space Chiefs conference in London on July 13.
London’s support of Ukraine with substantial supplies of missiles, ammunition and other weapons since the war started last year has exposed shortages.
“The U.K. sent 100,000 unspecified artillery rounds to Ukraine in 2022, plus more than 300,000 so far this year.”
The German military has increased its order with Rheinmetall for 120mm tank ammunition - the type used by Leopard 2 tanks - to €4 billion ($4.48 billion), the German arms maker announced Thursday.
That could result in "hundreds of thousands" of such rounds being procured, the company said in a release. “The order underscores Rheinmetall's role as a major supplier of 120mm tank ammunition to the German armed forces,” according to Rheinmetall. “It also reflects the German military’s commitment to rebuilding its capabilities and increasing its ammunition stocks due to the new security situation. The framework agreement also encompasses a significant amount of tank ammunition for the Ukrainian armed forces.”
More video has emerged of a Caesar 155mm self-propelled howitzer in action on the frontline. In he case of this video, it was one provided by Denmark.
Sometimes in war, you have to trade protection for mobility and speed. Such is the case with this battle uiggy in use with the Azov Brigade.
The war in Ukraine continues to be a military memorabilia lover's dream come true. Mobilized troops have been supplied by the Russian Defense Ministry with a host of weapons that would make most collectors smile, like these PPS submachine guns, PPSh-41s, SKS Karabins and other guns that debuted during WWII.
In Russia, the problems associated with the mobilization of troops is seemingly ongoing.
A mass fight among contract soldiers broke out in a military camp near Moscow, which you can see in this video below.
In an effort in part to help Ukrainian veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament, has approved the draft law on legalizing medical cannabis, the Kyiv Independent reported Thursday, citing lawmaker Iryna Herashchenko.
The draft law “proposes to license the economic activity of cultivating hemp for medical, industrial, and scientific purposes. It aims to help Ukrainian war veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, people with cancer, and other serious diseases to get pain relief and reduce other symptoms,” the publication reported.
According to the bill, cannabis circulation would be under strict control of the state, and only people with a doctor's prescription could buy cannabis-based drugs.
To become law, it has to be adopted in the second reading (possibly after undergoing some changes) and then signed by President Volodymyr Zelensky.
One of Europe’s most iconic statues is about to get a big-time makeover.
The State Inspectorate of Architecture and Urban Planning of Ukraine announced on its Facebook page that it issued a permit Thursday to “repair the shield of the ‘Motherland-Mother’ monument in Kyiv.”
The repair work will consist of replacing the existing Soviet coat of arms with the Ukrainian trident on the monument’s shield.
Work on the monument, constructed in 1981, is expected to start “in the near future,” the directorate said.
And finally, sometimes soldiering is harder than it should be. As you can see in this video, a Russian soldier had a problem trying to figure out which way to put a mortar round in the tube.
That's it for now. We'll update this story when there's more news to report about Ukraine.
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