April 20, 2023

Sitrep for April 19-20 (as of 08:30 a.m.) 

The Situation on the Frontline

The situation remains stable along the entire frontline, despite ongoing active hostilities in some areas.

A video surfaced depicting fighting between pro-Russian forces and the Gonor [Pride] company of the 1st Separate Mechanized Battalion Vovky Da Vinchi [Da Vinci’s Wolves] of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (the commander of this battalion with the callsign “Da Vinci” was recently killed in fighting for Bakhmut) next to the road near Khromove, which is used for supplying the town and moving out the wounded. The video begins with artillery strikes on Ukrainian positions, in which the troops wait out in a dugout, after which they are informed about the start of a Russian assault via radio. Even pro-Russian military correspondents note the competent actions of a Ukrainian commander, who was the first to engage in close combat with Russian attackers. Guided by timely intelligence from drone operators, he manages to coordinate the defense of positions, saving as many Ukrainian soldiers as possible. Holding these positions cost the life of at least one Ukrainian soldier. Several killed Russian fighters can also be seen in the video. Such combat activities take place almost every day because by cutting this road, pro-Russian forces will be able to practically finish the encirclement of Bakhmut.

Financial Times reports that on Apr. 21, at a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group (also known as the Ramstein group), Ukraine will request urgent supplies of anti-aircraft missiles from the West. This news indirectly confirms the data from the classified documents of the Pentagon, which stated that by the end of April, Ukraine would run out of missiles for the S-300 and Buk SAM systems.

As Western supplies fail to keep up with the pace of the war, more and more evidence indicates that Ukrainian air defenses are becoming less effective, and the Russian Air Force has been able to act much more boldly along the frontlines. Now aircraft fly into areas that were previously avoided for fear of air defense.

This was confirmed by the bombing of Vuhledar on Apr. 19. As a result of an air bomb drop on a high-rise building; the building was partially destroyed. The author of the video, which captured the consequences of the strike, reports that both servicemen and civilians got trapped under the rubble. In light of this, pro-Russian Telegram channels claim that an AFU base was hit.

Pro-Russian sources also continue to discuss a Russian "JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) analog." War correspondent Aleksandr Sladkov fantasizes about the use of "winged air-dropped bombs" (as he calls glide air-dropped bombs) weighing 3 and 5 tons. In our opinion, no one will try to turn such heavy bombs into gliders because the wingspan of such a device would be impractically large.

Mobilization Update

The Russian Defense Ministry released a video promoting contract service. It shows a security guard in a grocery store, a fitness trainer, and a taxi driver who would actually like to be soldiers. To us, it looks more like a video about post-traumatic stress disorder, illustrating what happens if you put soldiers back into civilian jobs without proper rehabilitation. Ex-soldiers may experience nightmares and outbursts of aggression, which, among other things, will lead to an increase in domestic violence.

It became known about another fact of transferring a batch of mobilized people to a new "PMC." Six Yakut soldiers of the 64th Brigade were included in a Veteran PMC unit without their consent, and one of their fellow soldiers was sent under the command of the Wagner Group. The mobilized themselves say that a new, previously unmentioned "PMC" is created on the basis of the 3rd Army Corps. The same was reported when mobilized servicemen were transferred from Kadiivka to the ranks of the Wagner Group.

Chairman of the Defense Committee of the State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] Andrey Kartapolov commented on this situation, saying that this could not be true. Recall that he previously claimed that the introduction of digital draft notices had also not been planned and later stated that digital draft notices would have no legal force, although the test mode was not prescribed in the law.

Yevgeny Prigozhin [Russian oligarch, confidant of Vladimir Putin, and the owner of the Wagner Group] stated the following, "in the Wagner private military company, we do not accept active-duty military personnel — it is simply impossible," although earlier he claimed that he was not against the acceptance of mobilized soldiers who had submitted an appeal requesting to be transferred to the Wagner Group (this was prevented by military police).

State Duma member Alexander Khinstein has submitted a bill to the State Duma allowing mobilization from the reserve of the Russian Armed Forces to the internal affairs agencies, such as the police and the National Guard. It will also be impossible to resign from these agencies during mobilization.

Following the "head of the LPR," a decree on the conscription of citizens born in 1996-2005 was signed by the "head of the DPR," Denys Pushylin. Earlier, Andrey Kartapolov promised that conscription would not take place in the occupied regions of Ukraine. It is not known where conscripts from these areas will serve.

Deliveries of Western Military Equipment

Sweden has transferred low-altitude radar stations — RS 70 Giraffe radars to Ukraine. Due to the location of its radar on a 13-meter mast, it can detect targets at a distance of up to 40 km and at an altitude of up to 10 km. Such radars are effective at detecting low-flying UAVs [such as Shahed] and can quickly transmit the coordinates of a target to anti-aircraft guns or MANPADS.

The 49th Artillery Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine published photos of a Turkish TRLG-230 MLRS, captioned "ready for a counteroffensive." In November 2022, the news broke that Turkey had supplied these launchers to Ukraine along with guided missiles, but there hadn't been any mention of their combat use since. Their absence at the frontlines (like the absence of Polish PT-91 Twardy tanks) may probably be explained by their assignment to new, still assembling units that haven’t yet been in combat.

Ukraine received 2 out of 4 pledged IRIS-T air defense systems and 16 missiles for them.

On the evening of Apr. 20, a bright flash was seen in the sky over Kyiv. At first, there was talk of the work of air defense, followed by jokes about aliens. Later, a more plausible version of a retired NASA satellite was proposed. A few days ago, the agency issued a warning that in the coming days, it would enter the Earth's atmosphere, and a part of it might not have time to burn up in the atmosphere and fall to Earth. However, as the Alpha Centauri [Ukrainian non-profit educational project about space] explains, this satellite has not entered the atmosphere yet, and in any case, the trajectory of its fall is far from Ukraine, and the flash was caused by a meteor. A NASA spokesman also denied speculation that the flash was associated with this satellite.

As for our skepticism about the interviews of former Wagner Group mercenaries with Vladimir Osechkin [founder of the Gulagu.net human rights project], let us recall that the task of our team is to investigate war crimes and not just criticize and accuse Russian military men. We want all perpetrators of war crimes to face real consequences. Any accusations must be backed up by evidence, and the more serious the accusations are, the more serious evidence must be provided. At the moment, we do not see any evidence that there were orders to kill every civilian indiscriminately during mopping-up operations. The statements of former convicts made in the interview with Osechkin have not been supported by any evidence at the moment. Accordingly, no charges can be brought on their basis.