April 19

Sitrep for April 17-19, 2024 (as of 8:30  a.m. UTC+3)

Ukrainian and Russian Strikes

Details of the Ukrainian Armed Forces attack on the Dzhankoi airfield in Crimea on April 17 have emerged. The Ukrainian side stated that they targeted a military airfield. The strike was confirmed by satellite data from NASA's Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS). The video published by the General Staff of the AFU shows the launch of missiles with solid fuel engines. Based on the distance of the strikes on Dzhankoi, we can conclude that ATACMS tactical ballistic missiles were most likely used. This was confirmed by the Polkovnyk Henshtabu [Colonel of the General Staff] Telegram channel, which analyzed a photo of a missile fragment. Ukrainian journalist Yurii Butusov also reported on the use of this type of missile.

As a result of the strike, according to Ukraine's MoD Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR), the following military equipment were critically damaged or destroyed:

  • Four S-400 air defense missile launchers;
  • Three radar vehicles;
  • An air defense control point;
  • A Fundament-M airspace surveillance system.

The geolocation of at least one fire coincides with the location of one of the S-400 air defense systems.

The Dos’ye Shpiona [Spy Dossier] Telegram channel posted a photo of destroyed S-400 missile launchers, which appears to be authentic. Sources have corroborated the destruction of three launchers and a ground surveillance radar of a S-400 system. However,  information regarding 15 wounded and 22 missing individuals has not yet been confirmed. Pro-Russian blogger and Russian Aerospace Forces pilot Aleksey Voyevoda stated that there were no losses among personnel or aircraft.

Local residents captured video footage showing helicopters being relocated from the airfield in Dzhankoi to a location further away from the frontline, reportedly to the village of Kirovske.

On April 17, Russian forces launched a missile strike on Chernihiv, reportedly hitting a densely populated area near the city center. The moment of impact was caught on a dashcam. One of the missiles nearly completely destroyed a hotel building. Pro-Russian bloggers claim that the hotel housed Ukrainian military personnel, citing a post by Ihor Mosiychuk, a former member of the Verkhovna Rada [Ukraine's parliament], as well as the presence of bunk beds, allegedly used only by military personnel. However, it is worth noting that such beds can be found in cheap hotels and hostels, not exclusively in military facilities. Additionally, given that Mosiychuk, as far as we know, has not been living in Ukraine recently and his statements are regularly published in Russian official media outlets, we cannot fully trust his expertise and the information obtained from his sources.

As a result of the strike, 18 people were killed and 77 others sustained injuries. Despite statements from the pro-Russian side, no concrete evidence has emerged to suggest that soldiers were among the casualties. In a photograph, the evacuation of a person wearing what appears to be khaki-colored clothing can be seen, though it does not resemble a standard military uniform. Additionally, the image depicts individuals whose features have been intentionally blurred—potentially military personnel who arrived at the strike site. While the presence of military personnel at the hotel cannot be entirely discounted, it is evident that the establishment was not a military barracks. Even if subsequent obituaries confirm the deaths of military personnel, the disproportionate loss of civilian lives and damage to civilian infrastructure (at least 16 buildings, including a hospital) outweigh any potential military gains from the strike.

On the morning of April 19, a Tupolev Tu-22M3 strategic bomber crashed in the Stavropol region. The pilots reportedly ejected and survived. The Russian Ministry of Defense stated that the aircraft was returning to the airfield after completing a combat mission, attributing the crash to a technical malfunction. There is speculation that this aircraft may have been involved in the strike on Dnipro, which resulted in at least 2 deaths and 15 injuries.

Pro-Russian Telegram channels have begun circulating a video purportedly showing Russian strikes targeting MiG-29 fighter aircraft stationed at Dnipro Airport, near the village of Aviatorske in the Dnipropetrovsk region, approximately 100 km [62 mi] from the frontline. Another video showed an S-300 air defense system being struck near the village of Lyubymivka, in the same region. While the extent of the damage sustained by the aircraft in the first video remains unclear, the distinct secondary detonation visible in the second video leaves little doubt that the S-300 system was hit. However, we are unable to determine whether the videos have been recorded recently or are previously unpublished archival footage.

It is worth noting that, due to an early and warm spring, the muddy season has passed relatively quickly this year, resulting in a more muted impact on combat operations compared to previous years.

In recent weeks, the Russian MoD has reported multiple interceptions of small-sized air balloons carrying munitions allegedly launched by the Ukrainian side. Some of the balloons were equipped with corner reflectors, rendering them detectable by air defense radar systems. We, along with Ukrainian military expert Serhii "Flash" Beskrestnov, are unsure of the rationale and utility of launching air balloons in this manner, as it is virtually impossible to predict the flight path of unpowered balloons.

Western Assistance

On April 17, House Speaker Mike Johnson finally presented three separate foreign aid bills to support Israel, Ukraine and American allies in the Indo-Pacific region. The proposed $61 billion aid package for Ukraine, mostly in the form of a loan, is set to come into force within 45 days following the bill's passage. Approximately one third of the allocated funds will be directed towards replenishing US Armed Forces stockpiles. As expected, the voting on these bills is scheduled to take place on April 20.

In addition, a group of US senators has initiated an extension of the Lend-Lease for Ukraine Act which expired on Oct. 1, 2023. If this bill is enacted into law, Ukraine will once again have a contingency plan, ensuring continued support in the event of any future disruptions in US aid.

Director of the CIA William Burns, speaking before members of Congress, stated that if they do not approve assistance to Ukraine now, Kyiv could lose on the battlefield by the end of 2024, or at the very least, Putin could be in a position where he could essentially dictate the terms of a political settlement. What Burns meant exactly by "lose" remains unclear, as we do not see the conditions for a transfer of power in Ukraine to pro-Russian politicians, nor do we see opportunities for significant breakthroughs by the Russian Armed Forces. We believe that such wording was employed as a means to encourage Congress members to vote for the aid package to Ukraine.

Kyrylo Budanov, Chief of the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine's Ministry of Defense, has unveiled plans for new cross-border attacks by Russian volunteer units, namely the "Russian Volunteer Corps," the "Freedom of Russia Legion" and the "Siberia Battalion," that will be carried out with support from the agency.

Images demonstrating the process of repairing and modernizing the BTR-60PB armoured personnel carriers that arrived in Ukraine from Bulgaria have emerged. Worn-out engines are replaced, cameras and thermal sights are installed, more convenient doors are cut into the sides and benches are rearranged.

Two men who fought in Ukraine on the Russian side from 2014 to 2016 have been arrested In Germany. At least one of them holds dual Russo-German citizenship. German police have stated that they were acting on behalf of a certain Russian secret service. According to the police, they had been preparing attacks on US bases in Germany since October 2023, where Ukrainian military personnel also train.

BBC News Russian has published an analysis of convicts' life expectancies on the frontline. In a joint study conducted by BBC and Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet], based on open data, convicts represent the largest category of soldiers with known branches of service. Out of 9,327 convicts killed, 1,910 fought as part of the Storm units, and 7,417 as part of the Wagner Group. Among them, a subgroup of 1,040 fighters had both their contract start dates and dates of death recorded: 540 Wagner Group mercenaries and 500 Storm unit fighters. The data suggests that the Russian MoD employs convicts in a manner even more exploitative than the Wagner Group: half of the convicts from the Storm units were killed within two months, while those from the Wagner Group were killed within three months of signing contracts. Additionally, among convicts recruited by the MoD, over a dozen were killed within the first two weeks after leaving penal colonies, during the supposed training period at military training grounds.

The Voyennye Advokaty [Military Lawyers] Telegram channel has analyzed the statistics provided by the Judicial Department of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation. Their findings reveal that in 2023, no sentences resulting in actual imprisonment were imposed for criminal cases of evading regular conscription. Out of 901 cases considered, 894 ended with fines, three conscripts received suspended sentences, three others were acquitted and the remaining cases were terminated for other reasons.