April 25, 2023

Sitrep for Apr. 24-25 (as of 09:00 a.m.)  

The Situation on the Frontline

The General Staff of the AFU noted a number of recent trends regarding the frontline in its regular report. Over the past week, Russian troops pursued attack attempts in the Kupiansk and Lyman directions, but now their efforts are concentrated in the Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Marinka directions.

The 92nd Separate Mechanized Brigade of the AFU posted a video showing their drones dropping grenades on Russian forces. Analysts managed to geolocate it by one of the frames. The fighting turned out to be already going south of the road connecting Bakhmut and Chasiv Yar. If Russian forces manage to gain a foothold not only to the north, but also to the south of it, it will mean that the route is actually cut.

However, at the moment, this territory remains contested, since the situation may change several times a day as Commander of the 93rd Separate Mechanized Brigade of the AFU Colonel Pavlo Palisa said in an interview with The Washington Post.

In our opinion, a map posted by the pro-Russian Telegram channel Bryusselsky svyaznoy [Brussels Communication Agent] reflects the situation in Bakhmut quite accurately. Pro-Russian forces continue to advance in the northern part of Bakhmut and west of the railway.

Now the main combat activities are taking place on the territory of a military base (a former reserve base, where armored vehicles used to be stored). This base is notable for the fact that back in the summer of 2014, separatists pursued four unsuccessful assault attempts trying to capture it. In 2015, the AFU removed all modern military equipment from there, leaving only old weapons: Thompson and PPSh-41 submachine guns, Nagant revolvers, Mauser pistols, M1891 Mosin-Nagant rifles, captured German MG34 and MG42 machine guns, and PM M1910 Maxim machine guns.

Igor Konashenkov [Chief spokesperson for the Russian Defense Ministry] reported that on Apr. 21, Russian forces used a 9K720 Iskander ballistic missile system to hit a facility in Kostiantynivka and allegedly killed 60 Georgian Legion [military unit formed by mostly ethnic Georgian volunteers fighting on the side of Ukraine] fighters as a result. We have not yet seen any visual evidence of the use of Iskanders. Recall that, according to pro-Russian war correspondents, missiles for these systems were spent quite wastefully in the first months of the full-scale invasion and therefore were soon in short supply. During the following months, we did not see their use.

The Wall Street Journal (citing some "Middle Eastern officials" and documents that these officials showed to journalists) published an article about Iran supplying weapons to Russia via the Caspian Sea. The article points out that in the last six months, Iran has supplied Russia with 300,000 artillery shells (which is a lot) and one million rounds of ammunition (not many at all). It is stated that (according to one of the contracts between Rosoboronexport [Russian state-owned arms trade company] and Iran) Russia bought 74,000 artillery shells for $1.7 million. Thus, about $23 per shell was paid, which is a ridiculously low price for tube artillery shells. For comparison, an approximate cost of a new 152mm artillery round for Russia (before the full-scale invasion) was 1-2 thousand dollars, and the cost of a 155mm round in Europe was 2-3 thousand dollars. However, we admit that it could be not about 152mm shells but, for example, rounds for a BMP-2 IFV 30mm cannon.
If a large number of Iranian munitions appeared on the frontline, we would already have visual evidence of their use. At the moment, we are skeptical about the information in this article.

The article also tells about a secret visit to Turkmenistan by the Commander of the US Fifth Fleet Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, who is responsible for the interception of weapons and drug shipments from Iran to the Persian Gulf. During the visit, the issues of maritime security and expansion of cooperation and interaction were allegedly discussed. It remains unknown whether the issue of disrupting the supply of weapons from Iran to Russia across the Caspian Sea was raised. The visit was confirmed by the US Navy spokesman, but he didn't say if the issue was discussed at the meeting.

RIA Novosti [Russian state-owned news agency], quoting an “informed source”, reports that Russia has begun using its newest T-14 Armata battle tanks to hit Ukrainian positions, but they have not yet participated in direct assault operations. Visual evidence is yet to appear. We believe that a pilot item could have been indeed brought either for testing or for filming a report for the May 9th celebration in order to demonstrate the participation of the newest weapons in combat activities.

Poland resumed the transit of Ukrainian agricultural products to Europe on Apr. 21. Local companies bought cheap Ukrainian grain intended for transit, bringing down the local grain prices and causing strong discontent among Polish farmers. Now the trucks with Ukrainian grain will be audited electronically, and Polish customs officers will accompany the goods through Poland for a week. In addition, local farmers will receive a support aid package worth $2.4 billion.

On Apr. 24, the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that the surface naval drones that attacked Sevastopol had been launched from the port of Odesa and deployed in the area of ​​the humanitarian corridor, so the future of the Black Sea Grain Initiative is in doubt.

A video was published of a Russian soldier who was captured by the AFU on Apr. 21 in the area of Hryhorivka, Donetsk region. During the interrogation, he said that he used to work as a senior security guard at Gazprom [Russian majority state-owned energy corporation] before signing a contract with the so-called Redut PMC and joining the war in Ukraine. We have heard about Redut even before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in connection with their activity in Syria, and we know that it is a small organization —- much smaller than the Wagner Group. According to the captive, Gazprom has formed three battalions: Potok (Stream), Plamya (Flame) and Fakel (Torch). The last two battalions were transferred under the command of the Russian Ministry of Defense, and the first one was transferred to the so-called Redut PMC. (In September, we wrote that in many Russian state corporations employees are encouraged to sign short-term contracts with the Ministry of Defense).

A lot of media outlets, commenting on such news, write that Gazprom has formed its own “private military company.” However, judging by the available information, Gazprom rather acts as a “caretaker” over individual units: it forms them from its employees, provides them with uniforms, and pays the costs.

Vladimir Osechkin [founder of the Gulagu.net human rights project] reported that Azamat Uldarov (one of the mercenaries and former convicts, an interview with whom Osechkin published a week ago) was detained in the Saratov region. After the detention, Azamat was taken to the Investigative Committee, where men who identified themselves as mercenaries of the Wagner Group hit him several times in the face and threatened to kill him. The Gulagu.net project provided a lawyer to Uldarov.