April 22

Sitrep for April 19-22, 2024 (as of 8:30 a.m. UTC+3)

Frontline Situation Update

The Russian Armed Forces have made slight progress on the Donetsk axis, south of the town of Marinka, and captured the village of Novomykhailivka. A photo and a video filmed by soldiers of the 155th Guards Naval Infantry Brigade of the RuAF on the outskirts of the village have emerged.

We believe that Russian forces are going to advance towards the village of Kostiantynivka, simultaneously attacking from the side of the village of Pobieda in the north to align the frontline and further advance to the town of Vuhledar. However, this may take at least several months. Near this section of the frontline lies a railway line running from Donetsk through Volnovakha to Mariupol, where the “tsar train,” consisting of more than two thousand cars, is stationed. The line is likely to be more actively restored if progress on this axis is successful. However, Ukrainian strikes could complicate this process, as improvements in ammunition supply for the Armed Forces of Ukraine are anticipated in the near future.

In addition, the Russian Ministry of Defense has announced advances in the Bakhmut direction and the capture of the village of Bohdanivka. On April 15, we reported that despite the statements of the Ukrainian side, according to objective data, the village was captured by the RuAF. This development has been also corroborated by both Russian and some Ukrainian sources, with the Ukrainian DeepState project indicating that the Russian Airborne Forces occupied most of the village as early as April 12.

Western Assistance

The US House of Representatives has passed a bill allocating $61 billion in aid to Ukraine. While a portion of this aid will be in the form of a loan, the bill grants the president authority to potentially forgive a portion of it in the future. The bill is scheduled to be reviewed by the Senate on April 23, where its approval seems highly probable given the Democratic Party's majority. Once signed by President Biden into law, the aid will begin flowing into Ukraine. Reports indicate that some military equipment and weapons have already been dispatched to Germany to speed up deliveries. This new US package of military aid is expected to further impede the already sluggish progress of Russian forces.

This bill provides for the supply of artillery and munitions, surface-to-air missiles, as well as ATACMS tactical ballistic missiles to Ukraine. However, the range of the ATACMS missiles, either 150 or 300 km [90-180 mi], is not specified. While this aid is crucial for bolstering defense capabilities, it may not be enough for launching a new offensive. In addition, while Volodymyr Zelenskyy has not yet announced a new wave of mobilization, it is possible that he will do so in the near future.

The $11.3 billion allocated for US military operations in Europe is intended, in our estimation, to be used for training Ukrainian soldiers and supporting allied efforts, rather than deploying US troops to the continent, as implied by Russian propaganda.

Additionally, the House of Representatives has passed a bill aimed at confiscating $6 billion of Russian government assets that were frozen after the outbreak of the war. These funds will be allocated to restore the Ukrainian economy and compensate for the damages incurred during the war. Moreover, the bill also has a so-called “Trump safeguard,” stipulating that even if Trump were to assume power and attempt to revoke it, the frozen assets cannot be released until Russian troops, including those in Crimea, withdraw from Ukraine.

The size of Russian assets in the US is relatively small, and Russia may attempt to contest the constitutionality of this law in US courts. However, the seizure of these assets could sway undecided European officials to do the same. Notably, Russian state assets in Europe total approximately $300 billion.

Residents of Slovakia have expressed their disagreement with the government's decision not to allocate funds as part of the Czech initiative by launching a substantial crowdfunding campaign. Over 32,000 individuals have already participated, contributing to a total amount exceeding €2 million [$2,1 million]. These funds will be used to procure ammunition for Ukraine.

Ukrainian and Russian Strikes

On April 21, Ukrainian forces launched a missile strike on the port in Sevastopol, successfully hitting the world's oldest active naval vessel, the Kommuna rescue ship, launched in 1913. Video footage capturing the aftermath of the fire was recorded by a sailor, who later apologized, claiming the recording was intended only for his friends. Based on satellite imagery, the CyberBoroshno project speculates that the target of the strike may have been the Yamal Ropucha-class landing ship, previously attacked a month ago. Although the Kommuna was not actively involved in the war, the extent of the damage suggests it is now likely beyond repair. Nonetheless, it is unlikely to significantly impact the course of the war. According to the Astra Telegram channel, the Kommuna ship sustained damage by debris from a downed R-360 Neptune missile. Two personnel from the Russian Navy's auxiliary fleet were reported injured as a result.

On the night of April 20, Ukrainian drones attacked several substations located in border areas of Russia. Sources from the UNIAN Ukrainian news portal report that this attack was a coordinated operation involving the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), the Main Directorate of Intelligence (GUR) and Special Operations Forces, targeting energy infrastructure supplying Russian military facilities. We are unaware of any defense facilities in these areas, and, therefore, we believe that such strikes hold no military significance.

The Russian MoD has reported that Russian soldiers successfully intercepted and downed 50 Ukrainian drones across eight regions of Russia. In the Bryansk region, a fire broke out at an "energy infrastructure facility" as a result of a strike, while damage to energy infrastructure was also reported in the Kaluga region.

On the same night, Ukrainian drones attacked an oil transfer terminal in the village of Kardymovo, Smolensk region. Local residents shared photos and videos of the fire. This oil terminal holds significance as it serves as a crucial hub for transporting oil to Belarus and returning transformed petroleum products. According to Reuters, in March, Russia significantly increased its gasoline imports from Belarus, which is evidently produced from Russian oil. An attack on a transit point of such importance could disrupt this process.

In our previous sitrep, we presented a video allegedly showing cluster munition strikes on AFU aircraft stationed at Dnipro Airport, near the village of Aviatorske in the Dnipropetrovsk region. However, the quality of the footage did not allow for a clear assessment of the effectiveness of the strikes or to determine whether the aircraft on the tarmac were real jets or elaborate mock-ups. On April 20, the Russian MoD released new footage of strikes on a MiG-29 fighter jet and S-300 SAM system vehicles at the same airport, this time by means of either fragmentation or high-explosive munitions. Fires and secondary detonations can clearly be seen in this new video. Satellite imagery from NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System also confirms that strikes occurred at Dnipro Airport that day. It remains unclear why the AFU did not relocate the aircraft to a safer area after the initial strikes a few days earlier.

There is now tangible evidence suggesting that the RuAF is deploying newly enlisted recruits directly to some of the most dangerous areas of the frontline. Oleg Roor, a 23-year-old from the Altai region, signed a contract with the Russian MoD on Feb. 23, 2024, and was already in Ukraine storming the village of Terny just two days later, having undergone minimal training. On March 3, his unit left the village, leaving him behind, with his fate currently unknown.

We suspect that Roor’s ordeal is not an isolated incident and reflects a wider trend of sending newly enlisted soldiers to storm enemy positions. Mobilized soldiers and volunteer fighters who have long been on the frontline understand, unlike newcomers, the poor odds of surviving such assaults. Hence, they either choose not to follow orders or act like career soldiers did in the summer of 2022—occupying designated forest lines and staying put without attacking Ukrainian positions. Consequently, they are likely to coerce fresh recruits into storming enemy lines, knowing full well that, otherwise, they would have to do it themselves.

US citizen Russell Bentley arrived in the Donbas in 2014, joined pro-Russian separatists and conducted propaganda against Ukraine. Subsequently, he married a local woman and obtained Russian citizenship. On April 8, Bentley went to the site of a strike on a military unit, intending, according to some sources, to film a story, and according to others, to assist the injured. There, he was detained by soldiers from the 5th Tank Brigade of the RuAF, and a few days later, news of his death emerged. It is assumed that he was killed by Russian soldiers who may have mistaken him for a spy.

Some publications, such as the Vyorstka media outlet, have reported on a purported new wave of mobilization in Russia anticipated for this summer, with plans to recruit 300,000 soldiers. President Zelenskyy also mentioned this in discussions concerning the urgent need to finalize the US aid package. Despite these reports, we still believe that significant changes on the frontline are not expected in the near future, as the RuAF lack manpower and equipment for a large-scale offensive, and the resolution of the AFU’s ammunition shortages could impede any further Russian advances. However, considering that Ukrainian forces are also confronted with manpower shortages, we anticipate no major breakthroughs in the Russian defense in the near future.