April 21, 2023

Sitrep for Apr. 20-21 (as of 08:30 a.m.) 

The Situation on the Frontline

In the operational summary that the DeepState Ukrainian Telegram channel publishes daily, a statement on the situation in the Bakhmut direction appeared: Allegedly, Russian forces have already come close to the road running through Khromove and occupied the nearest treeline trying to gain a foothold there. If it is true, the situation for Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut has become even more dangerous. However, a number of experts drew attention to the fact that this statement is not supported by any evidence.

Such a scenario is quite feasible since it is the only road connecting Bakhmut and Chasiv Yar under the control of the AFU. It has been under active fire of the RuAF before, and they regularly tried to break through there (just in our yesterday's sitrep, an example of such an attempt was given).

OSINT analyst Def Mon posted a map showing a slightly safer alternative route that Ukrainian forces can use. The route proposed by the analyst zigzags through the fields, and thus dirt roads constitute a significant part of it. Taking into account the fact that the distance between the northern and southern faces of the Bakhmut flanch (“pincers”) is about 5 km, the distance from Russian positions to the road proposed by Def Mon does not exceed 2.5 km (that is, it is within the range of fire of any Russian artillery gun), so such a route is still a very dangerous one for the AFU.

The Ukrainian Hromadske TV channel published a report from the village of Fedorivka, Bakhmut district, which is located approximately one kilometer away from the frontline (north of Bakhmut). Currently, about 26 people are living there who refuse to leave the danger zone. Locals say that aircraft and tank shells constantly fly over the village, and small munitions have recently scattered around, one of which was shown by a resident holding it in his hand. This was a SHOAB-0.5 submunition, which is usually part of cluster bombs such as RBK-500. These air-dropped bombs are launched from an aircraft; they open up in the air and scatter many small explosive submunitions — bomblets — over a large area. Many of the submunitions do not detonate and turn the surrounding area into a minefield. They can lie for quite a long time and explode at any moment. This is why submunitions must never be picked up. Because of this feature, the Convention on Cluster Munitions was adopted, but neither Russia nor Ukraine signed it. However, in this case, since a cluster bomb exploded directly over a populated area, we can talk about the indiscriminate use of weapons, which is a war crime.

Despite the clear evidence, the Russian Defense Ministry regularly denies the use of cluster munitions by the Russian Aerospace Forces. The previous case of the use of air-dropped cluster bombs was recorded in the spring of 2022.

On the evening of Apr. 20, the pro-Russian Telegram channel Zapiski Veterana [Notes of a Veteran] announced strikes on Ukrainian territory with FAB-1500 large air-dropped bombs.

20 minutes later, the first videos from Belgorod appeared, in which the whistle of a flying plane can be heard, followed by an explosion a few seconds later. Photos of the aftermath show a large crater; several apartments were destroyed and one of the cars was thrown onto the roof of a Pyaterochka store by the shock wave. No deaths occurred, but two women were injured: one of them is in hospital, and the second one refused hospitalization.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense reported that an “accidental release of air ordnance” occurred during a Sukhoi Su-34 fighter flight above Belgorod. Residential buildings were damaged, but there were no casualties.

In yesterday's sitrep, we talked about a hypothetical Russian "JDAM analog.” Perhaps a similar device was planned to be used against Kharkiv yesterday, but something went wrong.

On the night of Apr. 21, an air raid alert was announced in a number of regions of Ukraine. By the time of recording this sitrep, the Ukrainian Air Force has reported that Kyiv was attacked by loitering munitions for the first time after a 25-day break. Eight out of ten launched drones were shot down; there has been no information about anyone killed or injured so far.

Head of the Poltava Regional Military Administration, Dmytro Lunin, said that a civilian infrastructure facility was damaged in the Poltava region.

Explosions were reported in the Khmelnytskyi and Kharkiv regions, but there has been no confirmation yet.

The pro-Russian Telegram channel FighterBomber (associated with the Russian Air Force) posted a message expressing sorrow for a Mil Mi-24 or Mi-35M Russian helicopter crew. According to eyewitnesses, two helicopters circled over the sea in the area of the Golden Shore recreation facility in the village of Kyrylivka, Melitopol district of the Zaporizhzhia region. In foggy weather, the pilot lost control, and the helicopter crashed into the water. After circling briefly over the crash site, the second helicopter flew off towards Crimea. The body of the pilot of the crashed helicopter was later washed up onto the shore.

Сhief military commissar [head of the enlistment office] of Saint Petersburg Sergey Kachkovsky announced that digital draft notices have already started to be sent in the city through the Gosuslugi public services portal as part of the spring conscription campaign. Notifications using SMS text messages are also in the works.

Today is the day of another Ramstein-format meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.

Denmark and the Netherlands are working to buy 14 Leopard 2 tanks from a third country and transfer them to Ukraine in 2024.