April 26, 2023

Sitrep for Apr. 25-26 (as of 09:00 a.m.)  

On the morning of Apr. 25, Russian forces hit Kupiansk with S-300 air defense system missiles. As a result of the strike, the building of a local museum was half destroyed, two museum employees were killed and several people were under the rubble.

There was a video claimed to show "the results of the work of the 77th Airmobile Brigade of the AFU and tactical air forces" reportedly hitting a Russian ammunition depot in the northwest of Bakhmut. The coordinates of the target were determined using UAVs.

The Ukraine Weapons Tracker project analysts suggested that, given the reported use of tactical aircraft, geolocation and the "explosion pattern," JDAM-ER precision guided bombs are most likely to have been used.

We do not agree with this conclusion, since the wings [a (body) strake kit] typical for the JDAM-ER cannot be distinguished on the freeze frames from the video. We are inclined to believe that the strike could have been carried out with rockets, for example, by a HIMARS MLRS.

Commander of the Special Operations Forces of Ukraine Viktor Khorenko visited Bakhmut. Apparently, he visited the town itself, that is, in the immediate vicinity of the frontline.

Thanks to an obituary found on the Internet, another case of mass death of Russian mobilized soldiers became known. It occurred on Oct. 24, 2022 in Chervonopopivka, Luhansk region, where mobilized servicemen were accommodated in a local community center, which was then hit by HIMARS MLRS. As a result of the strike, the concrete panel building was destroyed, and many soldiers died under the rubble (because of subsequent strikes, the survivors could not be rescued for some time), but even the approximate number of killed soldiers is unknown. As we stated in our analytical material about the incident with the strike on the location of Russian mobilized soldiers in Makiivka on the night of Jan. 1, 2023, such incidents are far from being unique but rather common. The Russian side often suspects local residents of passing information to the AFU (as it is reported in the above-mentioned obituary), but in the current war situation, one can detect such accumulations of manpower in relative proximity to the contact line with the help of any drone. We also note that the very fact of the compact deployment of personnel within the range of tube artillery is an unreasonable risk that the Russian command systematically takes.

The Russian-appointed governor of the Zaporizhzhia region Volodymyr Rohov has stated that on Apr. 25, the Armed Forces of Ukraine hit Tokmak town with six HIMARS MLRS rockets. As a result of the strike, one person was killed and four were injured; a gas station, two single-family houses, a gas pipeline, and power grid facilities were damaged.

The Vyorstka media outlet has published a big article on how Putin has made the decision to start the war with Ukraine. It is based on conversations with former and current officials from both the Ukrainian and Russian sides, looks plausible in general, and coincides with many historical facts.

Putin's main motives were personal resentment and a desire for revenge. He decided to launch a full-scale invasion in Feb.-Mar. 2021, shortly before we discovered Russian troops concentrating near the Russia-Ukraine border for the first time.

Putin's attitude towards Ukraine has deteriorated along with relations between Russia and the West. As an example of his personal resentment, the story of joining the WTO is given. According to a source of the media outlet, Russia was more prepared for this step, but Ukraine was accepted first.

After the 2012 protests, Putin began to read more books of a certain kind (the White Army ideologue Ivan Ilyin, the religious philosopher of the early 20th century Vasily Rozanov, and other imperial-minded authors, including contemporary ones). A special working group  in the presidential administration, which selected materials on a topic of interest to Putin, was created.

According to three sources of the Vyorstka media outlet, in January 2014, Putin was not yet going to annex Crimea. When the Viktor Yanukovych regime collapsed and Yanukovych himself fled, the first task was to split Ukraine through a congress of pro-Yanukovych politicians, which he was supposed to attend. But at the last moment, Kharkiv's regional governor Mikhaylo Dobkin and Kharkiv’s Mayor Hennadiy Kernes realized that this was about breaking up the country and refused to "play this game." It was after this that Putin decided to annex Crimea on the night of Feb. 22-23.

In 2014, there were no plans or preparations for a full-scale war. The Kremlin hoped to outsmart the Ukrainian government, and Putin personally participated in writing the Minsk agreements and formulating provisions related to political settlement, hoping that the autonomous "DPR/LPR" within Ukraine would destabilize the entire country and allow him to control its foreign policy.

The last straw for Vladimir Putin was the closure of Ukrainian TV channels owned by Viktor Medvedchuk [pro-Kremlin Ukrainian politician, oligarch and a personal friend of Putin] in Feb. 2021. In Mar. 2021, Medvedchuk and his wife were included into the list of the SBU [Security Service of Ukraine] investigation into financing of terrorism. This was perceived by Putin as a personal attack and an attack on people close to him, and prompted the decision to conduct a full-scale war in order to change the political regime in Ukraine.

Medvedchuk convinced Putin that pro-Russian sentiment prevailed throughout Ukraine and it would be easy to change the regime. Meanwhile Putin’s close friend Yury Kovalchuk [Russian billionaire businessman and financier] convinced him that the West was weak and would not provide real aid to Ukraine, so Putin could take advantage of the moment and conduct a “special operation”.

In April 2021, the first “military exercise” took place, and Russian troops began to accumulate on the border with Ukraine. On July 12, Putin's article "On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians" was published. According to Vyorstka, the text was changed many times, and in one of the versions there was a direct threat to start a military operation. After that, part of the troops were withdrawn. At the end of October, we again began to notice suspicious movements of troops, and on Nov. 2, we published an investigation about the suspicious activity of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border.

Both Sergei Shoigu and Vladimir Putin expected that it would be an easy and effective forced march, but not a protracted full-scale war.

Deliveries of Western Military Equipment

Photos of the Challenger 2 tanks at a training ground in Ukraine, as well as Bradley IFVs and Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft guns in Ukrainian camouflage, have appeared.

The UK Ministry of Defense stated that the UK has already sent ammunition for Challenger 2 tanks, including thousands of armor-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium, to Ukraine. To recap, depleted uranium is radiation safe, but this doesn’t prevent Russian officials from calling such ammunition a “dirty bomb.” During a press conference in New York, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed that although depleted uranium was not included in the IAEA lists, people were allegedly known to have suffered from it in the former Yugoslavia. After the NATO operation in 1999, there were indeed publications about an increase in the incidence of cancer in Serbia, but a proven connection between the use of these munitions and the growth of oncological diseases hasn’t been made.

A video from the Kharkiv region was published with a makeshift remote-controlled mine clearing machine on the base of an agricultural vehicle. We believe that such vehicles can trigger anti-personnel landmines, but more ground pressure is needed to detonate anti-tank mines. Therefore, the mined area cannot be considered completely safe even after such a machine passes.

Unfortunately, mine clearing after wars usually takes decades and requires a huge amount of resources.