April 15

Sitrep for April 12-15, 2024 (as of 8 a.m. UTC+3)

Frontline Situation Update

Last week, we reported about the Russian Armed Forces advancing through the lowlands in the vicinity of Ivanivske and near Bohdanivka northwest of Bakhmut. It has now been confirmed that Russian forces have successfully seized full control of Bohdanivka in recent days. Despite claims by Nazar Voloshyn, spokesman of the Khortytsia operational-strategic group, asserting that the village of Bohdanivka is still under Ukrainian control, there is objective evidence suggesting otherwise. The Ukrainian DeepState project has geolocated videos showing a Russian attack on a Ukrainian infantry fighting vehicle near a road leading to the village of Kalynivka, a Ukrainian counterattack on Russian positions in the west of Bohdanivka, as well as the retreat of the Armed Forces of Ukraine from the village under artillery fire, all marked on the map. It is probable that the RuAF will next launch an attack on Kalynivka. The village of Ivanivske, located further south, remains partially under Russian control. We have marked RuAF advances over the past two months on a map, after the capture of the town of Avdiivka, as well as since the beginning of their assault in October 2023. These gains, however, appear to be relatively minor.

In previous sitreps, we reported that Russian forces went on an assault with around 25 soldiers sitting atop a tank, motorcycles and what we initially suspected to be unarmored Ural trucks. However, upon closer examination, we, along with other analysts, have concluded that the Urals were fitted with a protected cabin and an armored personnel capsule, likely making them either Zvezda-V or Federal variants of the truck. As equipment and personnel were transferred to the Ukrainian border before the start of the full-scale invasion, we repeatedly noticed these Urals with black military license plates bearing the code 15, indicating they belonged to the National Guard of Russia (Rosgvardia). It is likely that the armored capsule Ural sent to attack Robotyne was obtained from Rosgvardia troops stationed in occupied territories. This indicates, in our view, a more acute shortage of armored vehicles within Russian ranks than previously thought. Initially, it seemed to us that an offensive with an unarmored Ural truck was a temporary measure to avoid suspending combat operations while awaiting new vehicle deliveries.

This trend is further underscored by fresh video footage showing a BMP-1AM IFV carrying about 13 soldiers seated atop it. For context, a BMP-1 crew typically consists of three people, with an additional eight paratroopers in the troop compartment.

Commander-in-Chief of the AFU, General Oleksandr Syrskyi has shared information from his sources indicating that Russia is aiming to capture Chasiv Yar by May 9. However, considering Chasiv Yar’s topography, which is situated on elevated terrain and lies beyond the Severskyi Donets-Donbass Canal, we assess it as highly unlikely for Russian forces to achieve this objective in under a month. The slow pace of the Russian advance is further underscored by their failure to capture even small settlements like the village of Umanske.

It is worth noting that claims suggesting the capture of Chasiv Yar would open the road to Kramatorsk are not entirely accurate, given the considerable distance between the two settlements.

Reports from the Russian Ministry of Defense mention a new group of troops "Sever" [North] that is operating on the "Belgorod axis." This group appears to be the renamed border defense group, now tasked with attacks on the Kharkiv and Sumy regions as well.

The necessity for Russian commanding officers to consistently report on successful progress in their sectors of the frontline drives them to persistently send soldiers to assault enemy positions, even when, from a military standpoint, it would be more advantageous for the troops to reinforce fortifications, conserve ammunition, and allocate time for the repair and production of additional equipment and ammunition.

For example, according to an estimate of military equipment losses published by the independent researcher Naalsio, there was somewhat of a lull on the left bank of the Dnipro River, near the village of Krynky, between April 5 and April 12. During this time, the RuAF only reported the loss of two trucks, while the AFU lost an unidentified unit of equipment. The apparent lack of significant territorial changes since December likely led to the dismissal of the commander of the 18th Combined Arms Army. This information was reported by the pro-Kremlin LostArmour portal user Wayne Howell, with further hints at changes in command by the pro-Russian blogger Osetin.

Naalsio also provided an estimate of identified equipment lost in the Pokrovske (Avdiivka) direction: Russia reported the loss of 17 military vehicles in a week (compared to 107 vehicles lost the previous week), while Ukraine reported the loss of 7 vehicles.

A video of an unusual attack by the 59th Separate Motorized Infantry Brigade of the AFU near the town of Krasnohorivka, in the same direction, has surfaced. Under the cover of machine gun fire, soldiers approached a house occupied by Russian forces in two HMMWVs, threw explosive-filled bags into it and quickly withdrew. It is worth noting that firing from the HMMWV’s turret above the heads of their own soldiers is quite dangerous, as someone could have been injured by ricochets. One of the bombs detonated prematurely, likely causing a concussion to a machine gunner. Even if the attack was well-planned and the soldiers were aware of the number of enemy soldiers in the building and the weapons they possessed, it still posed significant risk.

Western Assistance

According to The Financial Times, the European Union has declined Ukraine's requests for air defense systems. However, the Bundeswehr has announced that Germany is preparing to send another Patriot system to Ukraine (hopefully, this refers to a battery rather than a single unit). Additionally, Volodymyr Zelenskyy has disclosed that Ukraine is in negotiations with Germany for the delivery of another air defense system, the IRIS-T.

This week, the US Congress is expected to vote on a Ukraine aid bill. Republican Mike Turner believes that the bill will pass “with overwhelming support.” According to some media, the bill in question will resemble the significant support package to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, as well as humanitarian aid to Gaza, championed by President Joe Biden. However, others believe that the bill will seek to provide funds to Ukraine as a loan, as proposed by Donald Trump.

The Russian-appointed management of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant has issued a statement indicating that the reactor of the fourth power block has been put into cold shutdown. In the past few months, it was operating in hot shutdown mode, allegedly to provide heating for Enerhodar and fulfill the station’s needs. At the moment, all power blocks are operating in this mode, ensuring safety even in the event of power supply issues to the station.

The Resurgam, Viyskovyi Vishchun [Military Diviner] and Mortis Aeterna OSINT projects have analyzed numerous satellite images of storage bases and armored vehicle plants, issuing a joint investigation on the rates of restoration and modernization of Russian tanks. At the current production rates, estimated by some indicators as the maximum possible, the Russian defense industry has the capacity to restore and modernize approximately 800 tanks per year from storage, in addition to producing about 200 T-90 tanks from scratch, at least until T-80 production resumes. In total, Russia can produce or refurbish from 1,000 to 1,100 tanks annually. The available stocks at storage bases and plants are estimated to range from 4,300 to 4,700 tanks. Considering that not all of them are suitable for restoration, it can be assumed that this will be enough for 2 to 2.5 years. Looking ahead, Russia may also consider purchasing tanks from Iran or North Korea, both of which possess many military vehicles. For instance, according to the Military Balance directory, Iran has 180 T-72S tanks, 75 T-62 tanks, hundreds of tanks from the T-54 series, as well as 210 BMP-1 IFVs and 400 BMP-2 IFVs, while North Korea has even larger quantities of tanks.

Vazhnyye Istorii [IStories, independent Russian investigative media outlet] analyzed the labor market in Russia's defense industry. They examined job postings published on the HeadHunter platform [the leading online recruitment platform in Russia] in February and March 2024, focusing on positions related to the defense industry and specifying salary ranges. HeadHunter publishes over 5,000 job postings each month, with 56% of them being filled within a month. Their analysis revealed that 58% of the vacancies require candidates with one to three years of work experience, while 18% are open to applicants without any prior experience, indicating a significant labor shortage. The most sought-after positions include mechanics, machine operators, engineers and turners, with Kalashnikov (a prominent arms manufacturer), ODK Klimov [JSC Klimov] (producer of engines for helicopters) and the Special Technology Center (manufacturer of the Orlan-10 UAV) leading in the number of vacancies. Journalists note that labor shortage is forcing defense enterprises to offer significantly higher salaries compared to the civilian sector for similar positions, resulting in a "salary race" and contributing to inflation. These observations indirectly suggest a scarcity of labor in the Russian economy and indicate that further expansions of the defense industry without converting civilian production means is impossible.

Another exchange of bodies of deceased soldiers has occurred. The remains of 99 servicemen have been returned to Ukraine: 77 who were killed on the Donetsk axis, 20 on the Zaporizhzhia axis, and two on the Kharkiv axis. The bodies of 23 deceased soldiers have been returned to Russia.

A funeral was held for Ilsur Fathutdinov in Russia's constituent Republic of Tatarstan. Fathutdinov, who had been serving as a contract soldier since 2016, participated in the full-scale invasion from its outset. According to Mediazona [an independent Russian media outlet], he spent 5 months at home in Tatarstan and in 2023, he was sentenced to 5 years of imprisonment for going AWOL. However, he somehow found himself back in the war zone, where he was ultimately killed.

Ukrainian and Russian Strikes

Russia continues to attack not only Ukraine's energy infrastructure but also other vital facilities. On April 10, during strikes on the Odesa region, a railway near Chornomorsk, crucial for access to the port, was destroyed. Then, on April 12, a span of a highway bridge near the village of Velyka Novosilka in the Donetsk region was also destroyed.

On April 13, in the Donetsk region, airstrikes in the village of Netailove resulted in the deaths of a married couple, while in the village of Ocheretyne, a woman was killed and two men sustained injuries. Artillery shelling in Kostiantynivka injured five people, and in the village of Novoselydivka, another woman was killed.

Later that evening, a strike on the village of Vesele, Kharkiv region, resulted in the deaths of two people.

On April 13, in the Chernihiv region, a man who was transporting food for residents near the border was killed in his car during an attack.

On April 14, in the Sumy region, a Russian drone-dropped munition hit a civilian dump truck, killing the driver. Video footage from the scene showed no visible signs indicating that the truck was carrying anything military-related.

Russia appointed head of the Zaporizhzhia region Yevhen Balytskyi stated that on the evening of April 12, residential areas of the town of Tokmak were shelled, resulting in the deaths of 16 people, including two children, and leaving 20 others wounded.

As a result of strikes over the past weekend, at least 29 civilians were killed on both sides, with another 104 sustaining injuries.

In Belgorod, attacks continue, and advertisements for children's bulletproof vests, including ones with hoods, have appeared on the streets.