April 17, 2023

Sitrep for Apr. 15-17 (as of 08:00 a.m.) 

Strikes on the Territory of Ukraine

The death toll increased to 15 people, and 24 more were reported injured as a result of Russian strikes on Sloviansk on Apr. 14.

On Apr. 14, the AFU hit temporarily occupied Yasynuvata, as a result of which four civilians were killed and ten more were injured.

On the same day, Russian forces dropped an air bomb weighing about 1,500 kg on the town of Orikhiv, Zaporizhzhia region. As a result, a sports school and some neighboring houses were completely destroyed, and a crater with a diameter of 19 meters and a depth of 7 meters was formed on the ground. No casualties have been reported yet.

On Apr. 15, Russian forces also dropped an air bomb on a psycho-neurological boarding school in the Sumy region. One woman was injured, and the building became uninhabitable.

On the same day, a Russian military facility was reportedly hit with HIMARS MLRS in the temporarily occupied Rubizhne, Luhansk region. A low-quality video is the only confirmation of that fact so far.

On the night of Apr.16, there were strikes on the Zaporizhzhia region (where a church and nearby buildings were damaged, according to preliminary data there were no victims) and the Mykolaiv region (where two teenagers were killed, and residential buildings, an educational institution and a private enterprise were damaged).

At the same time, Ukrainian forces hit Donetsk. Rockets hit near the Holy Transfiguration Cathedral. As a result, one woman was killed, and seven more people were injured.

A video has appeared of Russian forces using the Uragan MLRS in the Zaporizhzhia direction (in one of our previous sitreps, we reported that we had not seen the use of these systems from October to the end of March). Apparently, rockets for them have appeared again.

On Apr. 16, an Easter prisoner exchange took place. 130 Ukrainian prisoners of war have been released and returned home, including those taken prisoner in the Bakhmut, Soledar, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson directions. The Russian Ministry of Defense did not report on this, but Yevgeny Prigozhin [Russian oligarch, confidant of Vladimir Putin, and the owner of the Wagner Group] recorded a video with an order to “release prisoners of war to the Ukrainian side.” It was not clear how many people returned to Russia, but servicemen from the Ukrainian International Legion posted a photo of the exchange, which showed several dozen fighters before being transferred to the Russian side.

Mobilization Update

An appeal from the mobilized men from the 673rd Artillery Regiment appeared. The servicemen complain that they were trained as artillerymen for five months, but after arriving in the Luhansk region and being transferred to the command of the 76th Airborne Assault Division, the new command told them that, in fact, the division needed assault infantry, so the mobilized men would have to perform in this capacity.

In response to the video message that Russian mobilized soldiers were handed over (according to one of the sources they were “sold”) to the Wagner Group, a representative of the Wagner Group has published a video in which he said that units of mobilized soldiers of the RuAF began to come (“voluntarily arrive”) under their command. At that moment, the instructors of the Wagner Group were "training mobilized servicemen with a total of up to three motorized rifle brigades."

Lyubov Sobol [Russian anti-corruption activist and opposition politician] has published a photo in her Telegram channel showing brochures which are handed out in Moscow mosques during prayer. In these brochures, the invasion of Ukraine is compared with a preventive war, which was unleashed by the Prophet Muhammad in 630. In passing, the authors acknowledge that the hostilities in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions were incited by the Russian authorities, and were not at all civil disturbances.

Deliveries of Western Military Equipment

Italy handed over dozens of M109L self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine; some are already used at the front. The La Repubblica newspaper reports that, according to them, 30 units have already been delivered (or are in the process of being transferred) to Kyiv, and a total of 60 units are going to be transferred.

Two videos that have appeared this weekend, filmed in different regions of Italy, in which these M109L self-propelled howitzers travel by rail, are probably related to this transfer.

At the end of February, we showed videos and photos of a Black Hawk helicopter with Ukrainian Air Force markings and wondered how many would be delivered. A video of the Main Intelligence Directorate of Special Operations Forces training using this helicopter has been published. Based on that, the Black Hawk is at the disposal of the elite Ukrainian special forces, and it is unlikely that there will be more than one machine in Ukraine.

A photo has appeared of a heavy infantry fighting vehicle based on the T-64 tank with the turret removed near Bakhmut. Such reuse of damaged tanks or tanks removed from storage  seems to us to be a rather good idea. In the 2000s and 2010s, experimental infantry fighting vehicles based on the T-64 tanks were already made in Ukraine.

The Tagesspiegel and other German media claim that allegedly Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov and Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev planned to sabotage the war and even overthrow Vladimir Putin when he was going to have his chemotherapy scheduled for March 5, 2022. This information is taken from the Pentagon's leaked secret documents, which in turn cite a statement from a Verkhovna Rada [the Ukrainian Parliament] member Yelyzaveta Bohutska that is based on information from an anonymous Russian source in the Kremlin. However, this statement is not credible and looks highly doubtful.

Ukraine’s Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov reported that Ukraine's military casualties number is drastically lower than Russia’s one, and is lower than the number of people killed in the earthquake in Turkey. Perhaps such a strange comparison was given in response to an unknown statement in the media.

We do not conduct our own calculations of Ukrainian losses, but we consider the estimate of 16-17.5 thousand killed, given in the Pentagon documents, to be plausible.

In the occupied Melitopol, a video screen was shown on Easter, in which pro-Russian propagandist Vladlen Tatarsky, who was killed recently in a terror attack, told about the resurrection of Christ, the Good News and predicted the imminent resurrection of Russian field commanders: Motorola, Clooney, Vokha, and Batya.

Some Russian military correspondents and Telegram channels claim that the Ukrainian counteroffensive may involve invading and occupying the Kursk, Belgorod and Bryansk regions. This seems absolutely far-fetched to us: it would require many times more troops, military vehicles, and shells; the strategic significance would be extremely doubtful, and most importantly, it would endanger further Western support of Ukraine.

It is impossible to predict the successfulness and speed of the Ukrainian counteroffensive. As the Financial Times points out, there are still a number of unresolved logistics, weapon supply and personnel training issues, combined with the lack of air defense missiles and the absence of a political decision to provide Ukraine with any type of Western aircraft. All these problems will reduce the effectiveness of the counteroffensive. In addition, the Russian side is also preparing for it by digging trenches and building fortifications, which will definitely slow down the operation. Therefore, most likely, we will not see a lightning-fast advance, as it happened in the Kharkiv region, where the front collapsed in just a few days.