April 26

Sitrep for April 24-26, 2024 (as of 8:30 a.m. UTC+3)

Frontline Situation Update

The Russian Armed Forces continue advancing in the Pokrovsk direction. They have captured the village of Novobakhmutivka, entered Soloviove and intensified pressure on Novokalynove to the north, aiming to solidify their tactical gains around Ocheretyne and secure their flanks. With the imminent arrival of new Western weapons shipments to Ukraine, Russian forces now seek to preemptively expand the size of their breach to prevent the Armed Forces of Ukraine from cutting off their supply routes with reinvigorated artillery fire. Rapid progress along the road from Ocheretyne to Pokrovsk, however, carries a risk of encirclement for the advancing Russian contingent.

Given Soloviove’s small size and proximity to Novobakhmutivka, we assume that it has either already been captured or will fall into Russian hands in the very short term. The advance toward Ocheretyne was conducted along elevated terrain, facilitating further attacks on lower-lying settlements on either side of the road.

This state of affairs, however, raises the question of how did the RuAF succeed in advancing towards and then capturing Ocheretyne, which is situated on higher ground. Most Ukrainian sources concur that this tactical success has been enabled by a fortuitous set of circumstances for the RuAF. The reasons provided vary: some argue that the defenders of Ocheretyne were caught off guard during a rotation, while others believe that Ukrainian forces withdrew in response to a sudden and intense assault by the RuAF. However, the prevailing explanation implicates errors made by commanding officers from the 115th Mechanized Brigade of the AFU. They reportedly sent soldiers into attacks without proper support or adequate rest.

The 47th Mechanized Brigade of the AFU was initially deployed to improve the situation in this direction. It is worth noting that this “emergency” brigade had previously been involved in rearguard combat operations during the AFU’s withdrawal from the town of Avdiivka. Footage of a Bradley IFV belonging to this brigade, filmed in the vicinity of Ocheretyne, has been published. Additionally, units from the 100th Mechanized Brigade were reportedly dispatched to the area as well.

The transfer of "emergency" brigades from one sector of the frontline to another suggests a shortage of combat-ready units, raising questions about the rationale behind maintaining a "bridgehead" in the village of Krynky on the left bank of the Dnipro River, where AFU marine forces are located. Redirecting these brigades to the Pokrovske direction could reinforce the AFU group in that area, especially considering the lack of any identified strategic necessity for holding positions in Krynky.

Western Assistance

According to Foreign Policy, despite the aid package approved by the United States, a significant portion of the pledged artillery rounds will not reach Ukraine until 2025. This delay is attributed in part to the current production capacity of US 155mm artillery ammunition, which stands at between 30,000 and 40,000 rounds per month. By the end of the year, the production rate is planned to increase to 70,000 per month, and only by the end of 2025, the United States aims to level up artillery production to 100,000 rounds per month, resulting in an annual output of 1.2 million rounds. The same holds true for European companies. For example, Rheinmetall aims to produce 700,000 rounds in 2024, while the Czechoslovak Group plans to manufacture up to 100,000 rounds. Additionally, Nexter Systems, spanning operations in France, Belgium and Italy, is expected to produce 90,000 rounds per year.

Military analyst Franz-Stefan Gady told Foreign Policy that Ukrainians are likely to have a monthly fire rate of approximately 75,000 to 85,000 shells over the next 12 months, or about 2,400 to 2,500 rounds per day. “That doesn’t leave any room for offensive operations this year,” Gady added. The expectation is that by the beginning of 2025, increased production by American and European defense companies will enable Ukraine to regain offensive capabilities.

At the same time, according to some data, Russia will be able to produce between 1 to 1.5 million 152mm artillery shells in 2024. It is worth noting that when comparing production capacities, it makes sense to consider only the primary artillery shell caliber: 152mm for Russia and 155mm for Western countries. However, in the media, Western figures are often compared against the total volume of Russian ammunition production of all calibers, estimated at 3.5 million this year.

Prior to the final vote on the adoption of the bill allocating $61 billion in aid to Ukraine, Senate GOP offices received a memo describing the production of artillery rounds by Ukraine's allies. According to the document, production in the EU has reached half a million shells per year, surpassing production levels in the US. Furthermore, by the end of 2025, the projected total production of artillery shells of the primary caliber is expected to reach 3 million per year.

In the mentioned Foreign Policy article, it is reported that there are approximately 3 million dual-purpose improved conventional munitions, known as DPICM rounds, in US arsenals. The Biden administration has the authority to send an additional $500 million worth of these rounds to Ukraine, something likely to be approved in the near future.

NBC News has confirmed that Ukraine will receive ATACMS with a range of up to 300 km [187 mi], and the first batch has already been delivered to Ukraine. According to Politico, this decision is linked to Russia crossing "red lines.'' The Biden administration warned Russia that attacking Ukraine’s energy grid and using North Korean-provided missiles would lead the US to reconsider sending long-range ATACMS to Ukraine. Approximately 100 ATACMS tactical ballistic missiles are slated for delivery to Ukraine, which is sufficient to strike Russian airfields in Crimea, but insufficient to destroy the Crimean Bridge, unless supported by maritime surface drones. NBC News reports that these missiles have already been used twice: once in Dzankoi (165 km [102 mi] from the frontline) and once in the city of Berdiansk, where it was claimed that Storm Shadow missiles had been intercepted. It has also been clarified that the US-provided ATACMS come equipped with both cluster munition and unitary blast fragmentation warheads.

Furthermore, the aforementioned memo indicates that Iran had sold hundreds of ballistic missiles to Russia. It is possible that their use may also trigger a response from the US.

Associated Press sources have reported that the AFU have pulled the US-provided M1A1 Abrams battle tanks from the frontline because they are particularly vulnerable to Russian FPV drones. However, it is possible that journalists may have misinterpreted officials' statements, as there seems to be little fundamental difference between these tanks and others in terms of vulnerability to drones.

At the 2024 Global Security Forum, US Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Bill LaPlante admitted that weapons originally designed for aerial launch and repurposed for ground use proved ineffective due to Russian electronic warfare, leading the AFU to largely refrain from using them. Apparently, this refers to the GLSDB munitions supplied to Ukraine.

It is worth noting that Russia has begun producing and using its own version of GLSDB munitions, known as the Universal Inter-Branch Gliding Munition (UMPB) D-30SN. However, it is premature to draw conclusions about their effectiveness.

It has been revealed that the aid package from the United Kingdom, announced on April 22, will include Paveway IV high-precision air-dropped bombs, which are analogous to JDAM and AASM Hammer air-launched cruise missiles. Their advantage lies in their use of an additional GPS laser guidance system, however, their maximum range of 30 km [18 mi] could greatly complicate their use in the current war, as the Russian side has many air defense systems along the frontline.

Another modified tank, designed to offer better protection against UAVs, has been spotted on the frontline. This modified tank is fully covered with sheets of metal on all sides and features a rear hatch, enabling the crew to exit the vehicle from the rear. Despite its enhanced protection, this tank modification still has a vulnerability: it can be approached unnoticed from the side. However, tanks equipped with EW systems significantly increase the crew's survival chances by providing more time to disembark and withdraw from the vehicle.

Conscription, Mobilization and Contract Military Service

On April 24, in the Kherson region, two Russian servicemen, Aleksandr Osipov and Aleksandr Kaygorodtsev, were detained on suspicion of murdering seven individuals (according to some reports, five). Notably, Kaygorodtsev has a prior criminal record involving charges of murder, theft and drug offenses. On April 23, in the village of Podo-Kalynivka in the Kherson region, they shot Valentina Starchenko, an elderly resident, set fire to her house and fled the scene. After that, in the village of Abrykosivka, they killed the appointed village "head", Lyubov Tymchak, and Russian serviceman Aleksey Glinin by striking them on the head, then set fire to the house where they were located. Later, Osipov and Kaygorodtsev confessed to the murder of two more people in Abrykosivka: local resident Sergey Shuvaev and a RuAF serviceman named Maksim, whose charred remains were found in a tree line.

Ex-convicts from the Tyumen region, who served in the Wagner Group and Storm-Z units, have recorded a video address to Putin complaining that some of them are being drafted for regular biannual conscription. They also mentioned the lack of combat veteran certificates, rewards for state awards and compensations for serious injuries.

In this regard, it is worth noting that individuals with outstanding or un-expunged convictions are typically exempt from regular conscription. However, ex-convicts who served in the Wagner Group or Storm-Z units have been granted pardons. Therefore, individuals under the age of 30 remain indeed subject to regular conscription by law.

An 18-year-old resident of the village of Taseyevo in the Krasnoyarsk region, who did not serve in the army, has signed a contract with the Russian Ministry of Defense, explaining his decision by the lack of employment opportunities in his native village. Konstantin Dizendorf, the head of the Taseyevsky district, expressed regret over this and promised the young man's family and teachers to talk to commanding officers so that he would not be sent directly to the forward positions. However, it is reasonable to view such expectations with skepticism, as it is unlikely that such a conversation would have any significant impact.