April 12

Sitrep for April 10-12, 2024 (as of 8:00 a.m. UTC+3)

Ukrainian and Russian Strikes

Russia continues to attack Ukraine's power grid. On April 11, the Trypilska Thermal Power Plant, recognized as the most powerful power plant in the Kyiv region, was completely destroyed, reportedly by Kh-69 cruise missiles. As a result of this strike, Centrenergo [a major electric and thermal energy-producing company in central Ukraine and eastern Ukraine] lost all its generating capacities. The Zmiivska Thermal Power Plant had previously been destroyed and the Vuhlehirska Thermal Power Plant, also owned by the company, was captured.

It has recently been discovered that the range of the Kh-69 missile is not the previously assumed 290 km [180 mi] but about 400 km [250 mi]. The Kh-69 is a new Russian missile, developed further from the Kh-59MK2 and launched by Sukhoi Su-34 or Su-35 aircraft. This is especially important since the Ukrainian side mainly monitors the flights of Russian Tu-95 strategic bombers and MiG-31 supersonic interceptor aircraft, which launch other long-range missiles. Consequently, regions of Ukraine distant from Russia can now better prepare for potential strikes. It is worth noting that Sukhoi Su-34 and Su-35 aircraft can launch not only air-dropped gliding bombs but also cruise missiles. However, given that the Kh-69 was developed relatively recently, its supplies are likely limited, and recent launches can be viewed as a form of combat testing.

In addition to the attack on the Trypilska Thermal Power Plant, which caused a fire in the turbine shop, Russian forces hit two gas storage facilities of the Naftogaz [the largest national oil and gas company of Ukraine] on April 11.

The destruction of the Trypilska Thermal Power Plant, contrary to claims made by Bild journalist Julian Röpcke, does not indicate that Ukraine has exhausted all missiles for its Patriot and IRIS-T air defense systems. It is worth noting that Kyiv International Airport (Zhuliany), where a Patriot SAM system could be deployed, is about 40 km away from the Trypilska Thermal Power Plant. At such a distance, detecting and intercepting a low-flying cruise missile becomes highly challenging. Therefore, we do not endorse Röpcke's conclusion until Russian missiles begin to successfully strike targets near Kyiv, where the most advanced air defense systems are located.

At a meeting with Belarus's Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Putin admitted that Russia is intentionally targeting energy facilities in Ukraine. He claimed that these attacks are in retaliation for Ukrainian attacks on Russian oil refineries and are perceived as efforts to undermine the Ukrainian military industry.

On the night of April 11, a senior press officer of the Russian Ministry of Defense, Major Yevgeny Polovodov, was killed during an attack in the Serebryansky forest near the town of Kreminna. He was accompanied by a Rossiya-1 [Russia-1, government-owned federal TV channel] correspondent (suffering from shell shock) and a cameraman (wounded in the leg). The video shows that the journalists are wearing military uniforms: while the cameraman was in jeans, he was also wearing a military bulletproof vest, which is not uncommon for special forces soldiers on the frontline. Additionally, the correspondent was fully dressed in camouflage attire. Moreover, the UAZ Bukhanka van they were traveling in did not display the distinct markings of a press vehicle. Therefore, Ukrainian soldiers, who tracked their movement and coordinated the attack, had no practical means of identifying them as members of the press.

On April 10, a Russian helicopter crashed off the coast of Crimea. Ukraine stated that it was a Kamov Ka-27 helicopter and that the cause of the crash has not yet been determined. The Russian Ministry of Defense claims that it was a Mil Mi-24 attack helicopter. The pro-Russian Telegram channel Helicopterpilot reported that the official cause of the Mi-24 crash was a loss of spatial orientation, while TASS [Russian state-owned news agency], citing their sources, mentioned the possibility of a technical malfunction. Previously, there were reports suggesting that the crash might have been the result of another incident of Russian friendly fire. Additionally, it remains unclear what tasks the non-Navy helicopter was performing off the coast. The crew was reportedly killed.

Ukrainian officer Robert “Madyar” Brovdi has published a video showing the deployment of military barriers known as caltrops from drones. Many incorrectly refer to them as mini hedgehogs, alluding to anti-tank hedgehogs. However, caltrops were used as anti-cavalry barriers since the times of Alexander the Great. Typically, a сaltrop consists of several nails or pieces of rebars assembled into a tetrahedron shape, effectively puncturing the tires of passing vehicles. When scattered in the grass, it can also be used as an anti-infantry barrier.

The Federal Security Service (FSB) has unexpectedly announced the prevention of a landing by Ukrainian special forces on the Tendra Spit in the Kherson region, a matter we reported back on March 1. In contrast to the previous incident, this one is being covered as a current event by the FSB, without indicating that it actually occurred on Feb. 28.

Western Assistance

The European Parliament has refused to approve an audit of the European Council and Council of Ministers' 2022 budget in an attempt to pressure EU leaders to support Ukraine with seven additional Patriot air defense systems. This refusal may indeed be perceived as a strategic move aimed at raising awareness about the challenges faced by Ukrainian air defense.

The US has announced Foreign Military Sale to Ukraine of MIM-23 HAWK missile system sustainment, which are currently being effectively used by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, for an estimated cost of $138 million. Separate Congressional approval is not required for this sale, with funding already allocated from the State Department’s 2024 budget approved by Congress.

Conscription, Mobilization and Contract Military Service

Three weeks ago, unverified reports surfaced suggesting that Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) employees were being recruited for military service to manage convicts. It raised doubts whether FSIN employees, lacking combat experience, could effectively lead a military unit. However, on April 10, a new bill was introduced into the State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia], imposing a number of conditions and limitations on FSIN employees during wartime. These include secondments to other locations, assignment of additional responsibilities, and transfers to other units. Such broadly-worded provisions could potentially lead to their deployment to the frontline.

Novaya Gazeta Europe [European edition of the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta] has reported that more than 2,500 military personnel who returned from the war have been convicted on various criminal charges, including violent crimes, illegal trafficking of weapons and explosives, and evasion of military service.

Abdul Zakavov from Surgut was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison for brigandage in 2019. Subsequently, he was recruited into the Wagner Group as a mercenary. After completing his contract, he returned to Surgut and committed a contract murder by fatally shooting a local businessman in the presence of his family members. Zakavov was arrested, but on April 10, he announced that he intended to return to the war zone.

Vitaly Bezugly, a soldier from the Zabaykalsky region, became involved in a fatal altercation with his drinking companion when the latter refused to provide him with money for alcohol. Subsequently, Bezugly assaulted and fatally stabbed his companion with a knife. The Chita Garrison Military Court found him guilty of inflicting grievous bodily harm with a weapon and sentenced him to three and a half years in a penal colony. While participation in the war is not formally recognized as a mitigating factor, in 57% of cases, involvement in the "special military operation" has led courts to mitigate penalties.

The Kemerovo Regional Court has sentenced a 16-year-old teenager from Kemerovo to five and a half years in a correctional colony for setting fire to a relay cabinet. According to the court’s findings, the teenager communicated with an unidentified individual on a messaging platform who encouraged him to set fire to a relay cabinet in exchange for a reward. During the hearings, the young man attempted to convince investigators and judges that he had not considered the consequences and did not intend to undermine Russia’s economic security and defense capability.

Miroslava Reginskaya, the wife of Igor “Strelkov” Girkin [a former Russian separatist commander and military blogger], has stated that her husband has been appointed as a platoon commander in the "DPR." This is unusual because people convicted of "extremism" are typically not allowed to serve under contract. Reginskaya published a letter of recommendation from a military unit commander regarding the acceptance of a citizen for military service under contract. This is a standard practice allowing influence on the allocation of servicemen after they sign a contract with the Ministry of Defense. However, such a document does not guarantee the ability of entering into a contract. Aleksandr Molokhov, Girkin's lawyer, believes that his client may be enlisted only if he is acquitted or pardoned by Putin.

As noted in the previous sitrep, the situation varies across different sections of the frontline. Some Russian units are well-equipped, while others are not. There are instances where soldiers are ordered to assault without the necessary equipment, for instance, mounted on Ural trucks protected with slat armor (as seen in this video from Robotyne). This usually occurs when armored vehicles have not yet arrived, but an attack is required immediately. A serious shortage of vehicles has also been noted by many pro-Russian bloggers. We doubt the possibility of a large-scale Russian offensive precisely because we do not see the accumulation of necessary military equipment.

We do not believe that Russian forces are using improper equipment in preparation for a "real" offensive to deplete the ammunition reserves of the AFU. Shelling Ukrainian positions to trigger counter battery fire would be much more effective.

It appears that the overarching plan of the Russian Armed Forces has remained consistent for over a year, focusing on reaching the administrative borders of the Donetsk region. Commanders are tasked with continuously advancing or reporting progress, leading to soldiers being sent into attacks regardless of heavy losses. However, the pace of Russian advancement has likely slowed due to military equipment shortages and intensified counterattacks by the AFU, possibly stemming from resolved ammunition shortages. At the current pace, it may take the RuAF approximately five years to fully capture the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Despite ineffective sanctions and Russia's continued high revenues from hydrocarbon sales, the country is experiencing gradual social degradation and economic downturn due to the ongoing war. While Ukraine lacks sufficient strength to significantly alter the situation in its favor, we believe that Russia does not currently hold a significantly advantageous position.