April 18, 2023

Sitrep for Apr. 17-18 (as of 08:30 a.m.) 

On Apr. 17, Ukrainian forces hit power facilities in Belgorod. Despite the fact that there were no casualties, a strike on civilian infrastructure is a violation of international humanitarian law. Some sources report that the facilities were attacked with a kamikaze drone, but there is no confirmation of this information yet. Governor of the Belgorod region Vyacheslav Gladkov reported only about fires at civilian facilities, which had been quickly extinguished.

President Putin visited the headquarters of the Group of Troops “Dnepr” [Dnieper/Dnipro] (which we have not heard of before) and transferred from Kherson to Henichesk after the withdrawal of Russian troops. He met with the commander of the Airborne Forces, Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky, and the commander of the Group of Troops “Dnepr,” Colonel General Oleg Makarevich (in January, Makarevich was reported to have replaced Teplinsky to "the position of the head of a direction of the "special military operation"). Henichesk has located about 25 km from the administrative border of Crimea and more than 100 km from the frontline, so we consider this trip to be no more dangerous than the visit to Mariupol.

Chief of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of Ukraine Kyrylo Budanov has said that everything in the Armed Forces of Ukraine is going according to plan in general. Earlier, he hinted that Ukrainian troops would enter Crimea before the summer (it is almost impossible for us to believe this).

The Situation on the Frontline

Former separatist commander and military blogger Igor “Strelkov” Girkin has written in his Telegram channel that the situation for Russian forces in the Avdiivka direction remains rather difficult due to the use of human wave attacks or “meat assaults” (waves of infantry attacks with assault rifles against artillery and heavy armored vehicles in an open field), lack of preparatory artillery fire and lack of armored vehicles. In this regard, according to his forecast, it will not be possible to encircle Avdiivka before the start of the Ukrainian counteroffensive.

His words are confirmed by new video messages from Tatarstan [Russia’s constituent republic] from the relatives of mobilized men from the 1231st Regiment, in which they say that their loved ones are sent to assaults on Avdiivka without proper training. At the same time, their phones and military IDs are taken away from them, and they are sent into attacks with the words: “When you die, Putin will send new ones.” It is emphasized that these soldiers came under the command of the 1st Slavyanskaya Brigade (the former army of the so-called DPR).

On Apr. 5, the pro-Russian Telegram channel FighterBomber (associated with the Russian Air Force) posted a message mourning for the crew of a Russian helicopter and a photo of a Mil Mi-24. On Apr. 17, a confirmation appeared: an obituary was published for the navigator of the Mi-24 attack helicopter Ilnaz Fazylov from the city of Ufa. The helicopter was shot down on Apr. 5.

Mobilization News

Military commissar of Moscow, Maksim Loktev, announced that the distribution of draft notices through the Gosuslugi public services portal will be tested during the spring regular conscription campaign. He also clarified that they would use SMS text messages and phone calls for notifications, although such measures were not mentioned in the recently adopted law.

In addition, Moscow will be using video surveillance systems to determine the place of residence of conscripts. The effectiveness of such systems was tested during the pandemic when the authorities monitored compliance with the quarantine restrictions.

In contrast, MinTsifry [the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media of Russia] stated that there are currently no grounds for sending draft notices through the Gosuslugi portal. The adopted law on the digitalization of the military service register does not indicate that digital draft notices will be sent through this portal. The government would have to specify the notification methods of draft notices in a distinct regulation which has not yet been adopted.

Member of the State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] from Khakassia [Russia’s constituent republic] Sergey Sokol, who went to fight in Ukraine as a volunteer fighter, announced that he is returning home after the expiration of his short-term contract (it should be reminded that ordinary citizens are not able to do so due to the continuing mobilization decree).

In September, elections for the head of the republic will be held in Khakassia. Sokol has been preparing for this post since August last year. It can be expected that in all upcoming elections, many pro-government candidates will have ties to the "special military operation” (for example, they may "serve under a short-term contract" in this way).

Western Equipment Deliveries

Photos of Bradley IFVs on Ukrainian territory in camouflage paint of the Armed Forces of Ukraine have appeared, including during the painting process. Judging by the guns removed for transportation and empty smoke grenade launchers, these IFVs are located in the rear and are being prepared for future combat operations.

Jaroslav Nagy, Slovakia’s Minister of Defense, wrote on his Facebook page that all 13 Mikoyan MiG-29 fighters that Slovakia planned to transfer to Ukraine have been successfully delivered. According to him, the first aircraft were transported to Ukraine by Ukrainian pilots back in March.

Ukraine will get an Antonov An-124 Ruslan transport aircraft, which belonged to the Russian Volga-Dnepr Group airline holding and was confiscated in Canada.

New videos have appeared showing Polish PT-91 Twardy main battle tanks performing exercises at a training ground in Ukraine. More than 250 of them were previously reported to have been supplied, but there hasn’t been a single documented case of their usage at the frontlines — only photos from the training grounds.

A pro-Russian military correspondent Roman Romanov published photos on his Telegram channel showing him firing a 9M133 Kornet ATGM in the Zaporizhzhia region. Such behavior is unacceptable for a correspondent and makes him a combatant.

Vladimir Osechkin [the founder of Gulagu.net, a Russian anti-corruption, and anti-torture human rights organization and website] published a long video of a conversation with two former convicts and "ex-commanders'' of the Wagner Group. They tell, among other things, about the executions of children, the blowing up of a pit with more than 50 wounded prisoners of war and “500ths” (mercenaries who refuse to carry out orders to kill Ukrainians), and house mopping-up operations with killing all women and children inside. From the very first seconds of this video, it is obvious that Osechkin's interlocutors are under the strong influence of alcohol. In our opinion, the words of a person in such a condition must not be trusted, and this conversation can’t be used as evidence of committed war crimes.

Yevgeny Prigozhin [Russian oligarch, confidant of Vladimir Putin, and the owner of the Wagner Group] published a response video with one of the mercenaries allegedly shot by these "ex-commanders." He introduces himself, states that he enlisted in the Wagner Group from IK-9 penal colony in the Novgorod region and that he doesn’t know the person who “shot” him and is currently alive and well.

A video of Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns, allegedly driving through the territory of Ukraine, has appeared. This is actually an old video filmed in Germany (the uncut version shows a car with German numbers).

Meanwhile, another video with a large number of Ukrainian soldiers and equipment, which allegedly shows preparations for the counteroffensive, was made three years ago during military training and has nothing to do with current events.