April 14, 2023

Sitrep for Apr. 13-14 (as of 08:30 a.m.) 

The Situation on the Frontline

Combat activities continue in the Bakhmut direction. The Wagner Group is mainly involved in fighting for Bakhmut. The mercenaries are trying to gain a foothold behind the railway running through the town, but so far all their attempts have failed as Ukrainian artillery strikes on them are making the assault groups retreat.

Russian propagandist and war correspondent of Komsomolskaya Pravda Aleksandr Kots showed a Russian T-90M Proryv tank participating in urban battles in his video report which, as we believe, probably was filmed in a relatively safe place in Bakhmut.

Pro-Russian war correspondent Aleksandr Sladkov reports about the tactics of the AFU, which helps to slow down the advance of the Wagner Group in urban battles. First, Ukrainian soldiers hold a building (usually a multi-storey one) for some time, and then retreat, allowing the mercenaries to enter inside and start mopping-up. After that, the previously mined building is remotely blown up so that it completely collapses, burying Wagner Group infantry under the rubble. In addition, to complicate the mopping-up process, combustible materials (tires and straw) are placed inside the building  and are set on fire during the retreat to create a smoke screen. Such details of Ukrainian tactics were reported by mercenaries to RIA Novosti [Russian state-owned news agency].

Leaked Secret Pentagon Documents

Additional details have surfaced about the source of the Pentagon leak. It turned out to be a 21-year-old Airman First Class in the Massachusetts Air National Guard.

The community he created included other far-right (racist and xenophobic) young adults and teenagers, whom he tried to impress with extracts from secret documents that he had access to at work. Since the majority of his community failed to appreciate them, he began to bring copies of secret documents to his home and photograph them in the kitchen (New York Times investigative journalist Christiaan Triebert managed to prove that the photo of one of the documents was taken on the kitchen table of this serviceman, by comparing it with a photo from his social networks). At some point, one of the members of this community posted these documents on another Discord server, where they were discovered by Bellingcat’s Aric Toler (preliminarily, it can be concluded that he was the first one to bring media attention to the leak), who was able to identify this serviceman after the scandal caused by their wide publication. Currently, the soldier is under arrest.

A screenshot from FlightRadar that shows several helicopters circling over the house of this serviceman appeared on the Internet after the arrest. According to the aircraft registration numbers, these helicopters turned out to belong to television companies, and not to special forces or police.

Publications based on data from these leaked documents continue to appear. New York Times journalists found that the FSB [Federal Security Service] accused the Russian Ministry of Defense of hiding information about Russian losses in the war. The documents cite an FSB report saying, "The finding highlights the continuing reluctance of military officials to convey bad news up the chain of command." According to the FSB report, the Russian total losses are about 110,000 people wounded and killed in action, but the date of this report is unknown. The main claim from the FSB was that the Ministry of Defense did not keep track of the losses among the Rosgvardia [National Guard of Russia], the Wagner Group, the Akhmat Battalion and some other units. In our opinion, this is a typical example of confrontation between different security, defense and law enforcement agencies caused by the system focused solely on quantitative performance assessment.

According to aforementioned documents, the US intelligence obtained information from the interception of the SVR [Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service]: it is stated that the Central Military Commission of the People's Republic of China approved the supply of weapons to Russia. It is worth considering that in the conditions of such repeated retelling, we cannot be completely sure what was approved (perhaps this is about helmets, body armor, and similar gear and equipment, and not lethal weapons). It is also unknown whether such a decision is advisory or mandatory. So far, we have not seen any evidence of arms or equipment supplies from the Chinese government (Chinese drones that the Russian side has are purchased independently through parallel imports), so this news looks unreliable to us. Finally, it cannot be ruled out that this was intentional disinformation from the SVR.

A new suspect has appeared in the case of the murder of Vladlen Tatarsky (Maksim Fomin). According to the FSB, Daria Trepova was handed over the explosive bust by Ukrainian citizen Yury Denisov through intermediaries. The FSB also reports that Denisov came to Russia in February 2023 from Kyiv through the territory of Latvia. In Moscow, he allegedly gathered information about the lifestyle and places visited by Vladlen Tatarsky and even rented an apartment near Tatarsky's place of residence. After the murder on Apr. 3, he flew out of Russia in transit through Armenia to Turkey. We cannot exclude the possibility that this person could have been an agent of Ukrainian special services.

Human Rights Watch has released a report on how Russian soldiers illegally detained and tortured people in and around Kherson during the occupation of the region between March and November 2022. According to various reports, prisoners were beaten with sticks and batons, electrocuted, and threatened with death; no timely medical assistance was provided after the tortures. As it always happens in such situations, only those cases were made public that could be established with maximum certainty — most likely, the true number is much higher.

Poland asked Berlin for permission to re-export Mikoyan MiG-29 fighter aircraft originally received by East Germany from the Soviet Union and supplied to Poland in 2002. A positive answer was given. We do not know if these fighters have been upgraded to NATO standards and are capable of carrying any US missiles.

The time has come when Ukraine shipped more tanks to the US than the US did to Ukraine. In the state of Louisiana, a Russian T-90A tank was spotted, judging by the tactical signs of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, captured during this war. We do not know whether it was brought for examination or as an exhibition item.

A T-54 or T-55 tank was spotted in the Zaporizhzhia region. Previously, these tanks removed from storage were seen on trains. Pro-Russian bloggers came up with various excuses for this (like “they are for exports”), fearing to recognize the extreme shortage of armored vehicles. Yet, these tanks are being transferred to the frontline now.

Photos of the rehearsal of the parade for May 9 from Yekaterinburg have surfaced, showing T-72B3M tanks upgraded in 2022. The situation of last year seems to happen again, when the desire to show off is more important than success on the frontline. Thus, part of military vehicles has to be withdrawn from training grounds or the frontlines for a couple of months to participate in parades.

Two years ago, Arsen Melkonyan beat a man to death in a Sberbank branch due to a quarrel in a school parent chat group and was sentenced to 11 years in a maximum security penal colony. However, he did not stay long there, since he joined the Wagner Group. After fighting for six months, he returned home and now he is having a good time with his friends in a family setting. According to a friend of Melkonyan, he has got an official pardon from President Putin.

The Wagner Group promotion campaign is ongoing in all regions of Russia, except for Saint Petersburg, where the confrontation between the Governor Alexander Beglov and Yevgeny Prigozhin [Russian oligarch, confidant of Vladimir Putin, and the owner of the Wagner Group] continues and advertising companies refuse to place adverts for the Wagner Group. In this regard, one of its leaders, Andrey Troshev, wrote an appeal to Beglov asking to sort it out and enable the Wagner Group advertising in the city.