April 12, 2023

Sitrep for Apr. 11-12 (as of 08:00 a.m.) 

The Situation on the Frontline

Commenting on the video showing the beheading of a Ukrainian prisoner of war, as of now, we can say the following: firstly, it is clearly a war crime, and secondly, the video could have been filmed quite a long time ago, but posted on the network recently (for example, when one of the people involved in the events returned from the war zone).

The situation in the Bakhmut direction is becoming more and more dangerous for the AFU. The positions of pro-Russian forces are quite close to both roads leading from Bakhmut through Kostiantynivka and Khromove, which can still be used by Ukrainian forces.

Yevgeny Prigozhin [Russian oligarch, the confidant of Vladimir Putin and owner of the Wagner Group] reported that the Russian Ministry of Defense had become responsible for protecting the flanks — settlements north and south of Bakhmut — using regular troops, including airborne units. Due to this, the Wagner Group was able to transfer part of its mercenaries from the above-mentioned positions to attack the areas of Bakhmut held by Ukrainian forces. He has particularly emphasized that from that moment on, all administrative buildings, plants, and factories in Bakhmut are under the control of pro-Russian forces, as well as 80% of the town's territory.

It is unclear whether this transfer of responsibility is a response to Yevgeny Prigozhin's request to take action on holding Bakhmut's flanks.

Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal stated that the counteroffensive of the Ukrainian Army could begin this summer in an interview with The Hill in advance of his visit to Washington.

The Washington Post published a new piece based on the allegedly classified leaked documents circulating online. Some of them, dated February and March, state that, judging by the current state of the Ukrainian Army, major success is not to be expected from the Ukrainian counteroffensive, and even question the likelihood of cutting "the land bridge to Crimea” in the occupied territories of Ukraine. Among the reasons for the possible limited success of the counteroffensive, the documents cite problems with vehicles and ammunition, as well as fortifications built by Russia, which may slow down the advancing forces.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin believes that Ukraine now has a sufficient capacity for a successful counteroffensive due to the United States has supplied a large number of weapons, conducted various exercises, and planned tactical operations, the details of which are known only to the President and his inner circle.

Mobilization News

The State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] adopted, in record time, amendments to the legislation introducing digital draft notices. From the first public announcement of intent to its adoption, less than a day passed — 20 hours and 40 minutes. In order to enter into force, it must be approved by the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation (the hearing will be held on Apr. 12) and signed by the President. The members of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation were even outraged that no time had been given to study and discuss the amendments, to which State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin responded by accusing them of sabotage and making them withdraw the demands.

Statements are being made that the amendments will affect only the next (fall) regular biannual conscription campaign and only regular biannual conscription in general. This is hard to believe, as according to the text, they will come into force immediately after signing. Moreover, the problem of a shortage of conscripts does not seem to be the most acute for the Russian Armed Forces, but a new draft for mobilization, whenever it starts, may require such measures. It is important to note that the restrictions being introduced will also affect those citizens of Russia who left the country last fall.

Andrey Kartapolov, chairman of the State Duma Committee on Defense, has made an absurd statement that he advises those subject to military service who have left and work abroad to take a vacation for a year, return to Russia, do military service, and then return to their overseas work.

The State Duma has also passed laws that shorten the term necessary for the recognition of "special military operation" combatants as missing or killed in action. Now, to recognize a soldier as killed in action, it will be enough to have a statement from a commander who witnessed their death. If there is no witness to the death, the person will be recognized as missing no later than six months after their presumed death. Immediately after receiving this status, family members will be able to obtain recognition of the soldier’s death through the court. Previously, this required waiting for two years after the end of hostilities.

The Astra Telegram channel reports that 500 draftees from different regions of Russia (mainly from the Moscow, Voronezh, and Tver regions) were sent by cargo aircraft from Kursk to Rostov-on-Don on Apr. 5. The servicemen were told they would have field training and be assigned to a local military unit. However, at night they were transported by trucks across the border to the Luhansk region to the Stakhanov Railway Car Building Plant in Kadiivka and their military IDs were seized. According to the draftees, the Wagner Group officers arrived and tried to force them into signing contracts under duress. "Volunteers" were supposed to form the Wolves group of mercenaries and be deployed to Bakhmut. After the servicemen refused to sign the contracts, the "ex-president" of so-called South Ossetia, Lieutenant General Anatoly Bibilov, arrived to break the draftees' skepticism. According to the servicemen, he hit a lieutenant colonel in the face for daring to stand up for them and saying that "the draftees should not be here."

The relatives of the servicemen filed a complaint with the Military Prosecutor's Office because their relatives were virtually abducted (or "purchased," as the draftees put it) by an illegal armed group and threatened with murder if they refuse to sign contracts. According to the relatives, the Military Prosecutor's Office of the Rostov garrison states that they have no information about 500 draftees arriving at Rostov-on Don. According to the draftees, 57 out of 170 men agreed to sign contracts, after which they were taken to an unknown destination.

Governor of the Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, while replying to a question from residents, stated that the checkpoints being built on the region's border with other regions of Russia are a way to ensure the security of the region and the soldiers stationed there.

Journalists continue to find mass graves of people who could have fought on the territory of Ukraine as part of the Wagner Group. Currently, BBC News Russian is aware of seven such cemeteries, with at least 925 people buried there. From open sources, BBC News Russian, Mediazona [an independent Russian media outlet], and volunteers identified 2,901 Russian convicts who were killed in the war in Ukraine (the actual numbers are probably much higher).

As stated, we were sent a video showing attempts by Ukrainian special forces to storm the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The footage is geolocated on the Dnipro River, not far from the plant, and we see the Ukrainian soldiers sailing on a boat.