April 17

Sitrep for April 15-17, 2024 (as of 8:30 a.m. UTC+3)

Ukrainian and Russian Strikes

Ukrainian forces continue to strike targets in the Russian rear:

  • On April 13, an attack was reportedly carried out on Luhansk with SCALP-EG/Storm Shadow long range cruise missiles. According to Russian sources, either a machine-building plant or a repair base was hit, while Ukrainian sources claimed to have targeted a Group of Troops "Center" command center located within the building. Eyewitness videos show clouds of smoke and damage to the building, with satellite imagery supporting these observations;
  • On April 15, in Berdiansk, Zaporizhzhia region, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense, two Storm Shadow missiles were intercepted. However, another account suggests that one of them hit the territory of the Yuzhgidromash and Azmol plants, where a temporary deployment point was purportedly located;
  • On April 17, a strike hit Dzhankoi in Crimea, reportedly causing a fire at a military air base as observed in fresh NASA's Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) satellite images.

Reuters analyzed Russian oil refining and export statistics, revealing that Russia has been able to swiftly repair some of the key oil refineries hit by Ukrainian drones, reducing capacity idled by the attacks to about 10% from almost 14% at the end of March. This includes Rosneft-owned refineries in Ryazan, Kuibyshev and Syzran.

It is likely that Russia had the opportunity to repair at least some of the damaged oil refinery plants. Contrary to some US officials’ statements, it remains unclear how a decrease in oil refining capacity could directly result in higher oil prices, as Russia would likely be compelled to sell its surplus crude oil rather than refining it.

There have been no new strikes on Russian territory since April 2. It remains unclear whether this is due to US influence or to a shortage of missiles and drones in the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

An unusual tank has been spotted on the frontline. Following the "tsar-EW" tank and the "turtle-tank," a new hybrid has emerged, dubbed as the "tsar-slat-armor." It is covered with metal sheets on all its sides and is equipped with an electronic warfare suite. We have not been able to determine what tank model it is based on. The tank was able to enter and exit the town of Krasnohorivka in the Donetsk region unscathed.

While this tank is better protected against drone strikes, it is also more conspicuous from a distance. Similarly, due to the limited mobility of its turret, it cannot engage enemy targets with precision, while the crew also has poor visibility of its surroundings. Although this tank’s defenses could be further enhanced by a mine-clearing system, it would still remain vulnerable to anti-tank guided missiles such as the Stugna ATGM.

Pro-Russian Telegram channels have shared videos of air and artillery strikes in the Kanal neighborhood of Chasiv Yar, labeling them as preparations for a ground assault on the town. These strikes are classic preparatory actions that have been observed before assaults on other urban centers, such as Avdiivka and Bakhmut. However, we remain of the opinion that it is not possible for the RuAF to capture Chasiv Yar by May 9.

The Rostec state corporation has reported on the import substitution of several milling machines variants for aircraft-building and defense industries, aiming to produce 60 machines per year. There is speculation that production may involve assistance from China, with potentially some machines being produced almost entirely there. According to the Financial Times, China is circumventing sanctions to supply Russia with machines for its military industry, drone engines and microchips.

Previously, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order on secondary sanctions against Chinese banks cooperating with Russian businesses, leading these banks to restrict interactions with clients from Russia.

The Kyiv Independent published an article citing several soldiers who described the acute shortage of armored vehicles like the M113 APCs or IFVs in Ukraine, which greatly complicates the evacuation of wounded soldiers from the battlefield. Russian forces strike both vehicles appearing near the frontline and infantry groups attempting to evacuate the wounded with drones. Pro-Russian Telegram channels have also reported similar problems in the Russian Armed Forces.

Akhmat special forces commander Apti Alaudinov has been appointed the deputy commander of the Main Military-Political Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces. This department primarily oversees informational activities within the Army. With this new role, Alaudinov gains the ability to shape the content and presentation of information disseminated in the press, potentially emphasizing the involvement of Akhmat fighters in the war in Ukraine. While retaining command of the special forces, Alaudinov is reportedly stepping down from his position as deputy commander of the 2nd Army Corps of the RuAF.

In our sitreps, we have frequently mentioned the BARS Kaskad military unit, which has seen the deployment of various lawmakers eager to show their involvement in the "special military operation." It has come to light that Aleksey Blinovsky, the husband of the notorious fake news peddler Elena Blinovskaya, currently detained on charges of tax evasion and money laundering, signed a contract with the MoD. According to Izvestia [the News, a Russian pro-Kremlin daily broadsheet newspaper and a news channel], he has arrived at the frontline and joined the 95th Infantry Regiment along with Elman Pashayev, the former lawyer of actor Mikhail Efremov [sentenced to eight years for a head-on collision while driving under the influence of alcohol].

The Chuvash branch of the Molodaya Gvardiya [the Young Guard, the youth wing of the United Russia party] has reported that a member of the Alatyr town council Daniil Vaganov will serve in the BARS Kaskad unit. Previously, the son of State Duma member Dmitry Sablin also served in this unit after being accused of evading mobilization. Additionally, Andrey Sokolov, the head of the Chuvash division of Molodaya Gvardiya, who courageously declared his intention to deploy to the combat zone in November 2022, has already been awarded the "For Courage" medal in early February 2023.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has announced Ukraine's intention to request the convening of a NATO-Ukraine Council meeting to discuss air defense and the supply of air defense systems. During a recent statement on PBS NewsHour, he revealed that the AFU were unable to fully repel the missile strike on the Trypilska Thermal Power Plant on April 11 due to the depletion of defensive missiles at the site. "We ran out of missiles to defend Trypillia," he said. Out of the 11 missiles launched, seven were successfully intercepted, but the remaining four reached their targets. We believe that the reason for this could be a shortage of both missiles and launchers. If there were only one or two launchers in the area, they might not have had sufficient time to reload after intercepting the first salvo of missiles.

Not too long ago, Bild journalist Julian Röpcke reported that Ukraine had run out of missiles, later clarifying that the remaining stock was extremely limited.

Following Iran’s massive attack on Israel during the night of April 14, which was successfully repelled with the assistance from allied air forces, including those of the US, UK and Jordan, questions have emerged regarding why similar support cannot be provided to Ukraine.

According to John Kirby, the US National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, NATO members will not shoot down Russian missiles over Ukraine, as they did with Iranian missiles over Israel. This decision is based on the distinction between the armed conflicts, the respective airspaces, and the differing threat perceptions involved. Earlier, UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron also emphasized the importance of avoiding direct confrontations between NATO and Russian forces to prevent a dangerous escalation and a wider war in Europe. Presumably, the disparity in risk assessment between the two situations is influenced by the fact that Iran, unlike Russia, does not possess nuclear weapons.

Following the Crocus City Hall terrorist attack in the Moscow region on March 22, the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Russian Investigative Committee initially arrested individuals with any connection to the suspected perpetrators. This included the man who sold them their getaway car, along with his family, and the individual who rented out an apartment to one of the defendants. Now, a court in the city of Tver has ordered the arrest of the man who provided false registration at his address to the Islomov brothers, who sold the car to the perpetrators.