April 29

Sitrep for April 26-29, 2024 (as of 8:30 a.m. UTC+3) 

Frontline Situation Update

After the capture of Novobakhmutivka on April 25, the village of Berdychi in the Pokrovsk direction found itself close to being semi-encircled. Consequently, as explained by the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, General Oleksandr Syrskyi, the Ukrainian command decided to withdraw its troops to positions west of Berdychi, as well as from the town of Semenivka and the village of Novomykhailivka. At the moment, as noted by the Ukrainian project DeepState, Berdychi is completely under Russian control.

After the capture of the town of Avdiivka in early April, we expected that Russian forces would soon move to capture the village of Umanske, followed by the villages of Yasnobrodivka and Netailove. Earlier, they destroyed a dam, cutting off the road from Umanske to Netailove, and seized the village of Pervomaiske. However, the Russian Armed Forces have so far failed to occupy the entire area east of the water barrier, with reports of fighting in Netailove only appearing on April 28.

The next probable move for Russian forces involves advancing along the cascade of reservoirs from Novobakhmutivka to Novoprokopske and Novoselivka Persha, and further south to Yasnobrodivka. This advancement is likely to take quite some time, possibly several weeks. Its duration will largely depend on the defense strategy of the AFU in this sector of the frontline.

In the Kupiansk direction, Russian forces have managed to advance in Kyslivka. While this change in the frontline may seem insignificant, some sources have referred to it as a breakthrough of the defense in the Kharkiv region, citing a post by DeepState. It is worth noting that characterizing an advance in one small village as a breakthrough in the defense of the entire region is misleading. A breakthrough of defenses typically implies the creation of a gap in prepared defensive lines. In cases where such prepared lines are absent, as in the case of Netailove, using the term “breakthrough” to describe an advance is incorrect.

It is important to differentiate between the two terms. In the case of an advance, the defending force retreats in an organized fashion under pressure from the enemy, whereas in a breakthrough, the attacking party breaches defensive lines, consolidates its progress and may conduct further strikes on the rear of military units in other sectors of the lines that have been breached. A frontline breakthrough, however, entails breaching all defensive lines, enabling the attacking side to move freely in the operational rear of the defending side.

Thus, we assert that while in Kyslivka, the RuAF has simply advanced, in Ocheretyne, Russian forces managed a local breach of the Ukrainian defensive line, as opposed to a breakthrough of the frontline. Indeed, the only instance of a frontline breakthrough during the current war occurred in the Kharkiv region in September 2022.

It is worth noting that we are using simplified military terminology here; military science typically employs a broader swath of concepts, including breakthroughs of tactical, operational or strategic significance, depending on the depth of the defensive line. If considering that a breakthrough of defenses implies the ability to maneuver in the opposing side’s operational rear, then it would still be an incorrect characterization of the breach in Ocheretyne.

With the RuAF still having substantial reserves, its forces could potentially have attempted to exploit their local success in Ocheretyne and penetrate rear positions of Ukrainian units. However, this did not happen. Similarly, the protracted fighting in the Umanske-Netailove sector indicates the absence of significant reserves in that direction too. Frontelligence Insight, a team founded by Ukrainian military analyst Tatarigami, has stated in a recent analysis that the RuAF currently have the equivalent of two army corps, comprising about 20 to 30 thousand soldiers, available as reserve units. However, we presume that these are small reserve units, likely distributed across different sectors of the frontline, rather than concentrated in any one area.

Ukrainian and Russian Strikes

On the night of April 27, Ukrainian drones attacked a military airfield in the village of Kushchevskaya in the Krasnodar region, effectively destroying a hangar housing  Universal Gliding and Correction Modules (UMPK), as evidenced by debris visible in video footage from the scene. One aircraft may have also sustained damage, with satellite images indicating three distinct impacts. Pro-Russian sources, discussing the aftermath of this strike, have compared the inflicted damage to the cost of building protective structures and the expenses incurred for the “Total Dictation”—an all-Russian educational initiative aimed at promoting literacy, including among military personnel.

On April 27, Russian forces launched 9K720Iskander missiles at the Kamyanka airfield in Dnipro. Assessing the extent of the damage based on available data is difficult due to the absence of visible traces of secondary detonations. However, footage captured by a Russian reconnaissance drone reveals the presence of a drone resembling either a Bayraktar or a Chinese-made Mujin in a hangar near the impact site.

On the night of April 28, Ukrainian forces struck the Tarkhankut Peninsula in western Crimea, presumably hitting air defense units stationed there. The proximity of the Tarkhankut Peninsula to the city of Kherson, only 130 km [80 mi] away, suggests that missiles with a range of up to 165 km [102 mi] could have been used in the attack. However, specific details regarding this strike are currently undisclosed.

Russian strikes on Ukraine's energy infrastructure continue, using a range of sea-based cruise missiles such as the 3M-54 Kalibr cruise missiles or missiles launched by Tu-95MS strategic bombers, as well as Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic missiles. On the night of April 27, four thermal power stations located in the Dnipropetrovsk, Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv regions were attacked, resulting in one reported casualty.

In response, Ukrainian drones attacked a power substation near Bryansk on the night of April 28. Nighttime videos captured the sounds of drone flights and explosions, with eyewitnesses confirming that the drones targeted the substation.

New data has emerged about the attack on the city of Luhansk on April 13, where, according to some sources, a machine-building plant likely housing a Russian command post was hit. An obituary has been published for the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Central Military District, Lieutenant Colonel Yevgeny Rytchenko, killed on April 13 in Luhansk, confirming the strike indeed hit a command post.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has reported that recent satellite images showed that containers for oil products in the village of Razdorovo, Smolensk region, burned as a result of the Ukrainian attack on an oil depot on April 24.

Ukrainian sources have published a photo of a tank for petroleum products, allegedly protected from UAV attacks by a metal grating similar to slat armor on armored vehicles. This photo has also been posted by Mark Krutov, editor of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty news service in a thread. The image is claimed to show an oil refinery in Slavyansk-on-Kuban. The exact geolocation of the photo and a satellite image of the structures were later posted in the comments.
The effectiveness of these gratings depends on their distance from the tank they are protecting: if it is large enough, the effect of the explosion of a UAV hitting the grating can likely be reduced.

On April 27, in the Shebekinsky district of the Belgorod region, two FPV kamikaze drones hit a civilian KamAZ truck. According to the driver, after the first strike, he drove about another half a kilometer, when a second drone attacked the vehicle.

On April 28, also in the Belgorod region, a UAZ SUV and a Ural truck of Rosgvardia [the Russian National Guard] were attacked by drones.

It is worth noting that attacks on civilian vehicles are not allowed if there is no reliable data on their use by the military. In the first case, the KamAZ was obviously used for construction purposes by civilians, and not soldiers.

OSINT researcher Jompy has estimated the number of BRDM-2 amphibious armored scout cars remaining in storage depots in Russia. According to satellite images, there were 1300 units in 2021. Currently, there are still 1188, including 251 damaged vehicles. We have already seen them being used on the frontline. The Oryx project visually confirmed the loss of 11 BRDMs. Several videos had been published showing the modernization and arming of these vehicles. It remains unclear why, with such large numbers in storage, so few are used on the frontline, while less capable unarmored DesertCross all-terrain vehicles are deployed. It is possible that corruption has something to do with this situation.

Russian factories have increased the production of Chekan (Shchuka MRAP) armored vehicles, built on Ural-4320 truck chassis. This MRAP was initially developed at the request of the Wagner Group. It is also reported that they have been additionally equipped with mine-clearing rollers with regular truck wheels, however, we seriously doubt that such devices can protect vehicles even from anti-personnel mines.

Western Assistance

During the latest Ramstein format meeting, new statements from Ukraine’s allies regarding military aid have been made. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has announced that Belgium will deliver F-16 fighter aircrafts earlier than planned—by the end of 2024 instead of 2025. He also noted that the purchase of these fighters will be financed by the profits from frozen Russian assets, and not by Belgian taxpayers. It is worth noting that the first F-16s from the Netherlands are scheduled to arrive in Ukraine in the summer of 2024, along with the first trained Ukrainian pilots.

Additionally, Belgium has pledged to supply anti-aircraft missiles from its own stockpiles and allocate €200 million [$214 million] to contribute to the German initiative to supply air defense systems. The target collection amount for this initiative is set at €320 million [$343 million].

Spain has committed to sending missiles for the Patriot SAM system to Ukraine, as well as infantry fighting vehicles, machine guns, artillery and ammunition.

Canada has promised to allocate 3 million Canadian dollars [$2.2 million] for the production of drones and 13 million Canadian dollars [$10 million] to support the Czech initiative aimed at purchasing ammunition for Ukraine from third countries.

According to Shashank Joshi, The Economist defense editor, citing a Western official, the initial delivery of ammunition under the Czech initiative is not expected to reach Ukraine until July or possibly even August.

Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal has announced that Australia is finalizing a support package for Ukraine worth $100 million. This package is set to include MANPADS, air-to-ground missiles and drones as part of the Drone Coalition.

Norway will allocate $13.7 million for the maintenance of Ukrainian Leopard tanks in Poland.

Sweden is likely to transfer RBS 70 [Robotsystem 70] MANPADS to Ukraine, although the specific quantity has not been disclosed at this time.

During the OSCE meeting on April 25, the issue of Russia's continued perpetration of war crimes was raised. The US Special Envoy reported that since the start of the full-scale invasion, more than 90 Ukrainian firefighters, first responders and ambulance workers have been killed, with an additional 350 sustaining injuries. These casualties have occurred due to Russia's frequently used tactic of double tap strikes.

UK Minister of State for the Armed Forces Leo Docherty has stated that approximately 450,000 Russian soldiers have been either killed or wounded in the war with Ukraine. This assessment aligns with the data provided by BBC News Russian and Mediazona, which have compiled a list of over 51,000 confirmed deaths. Taking into account this figure, an estimate of 90,000 killed and 360,000 wounded appears plausible.

Docherty has also reported that tens of thousands of Russian soldiers had deserted. It is currently known that over 7,000 criminal cases have been initiated for going AWOL since the beginning of mobilization. Additionally, a significant number of contract soldiers went AWOL even before mobilization began, during the spring and summer of 2022. When considering Russians who fled to other countries, the total number of deserters could indeed reach tens of thousands.

On April 27, Konstantin Gabov, a Reuters producer, was arrested in Moscow. He is accused of involvement in an extremist group, allegedly participating in the "preparation of content for the Navalny Live YouTube channel."

On the same day, journalist Sergey Karelin, who collaborated with the Associated Press and Deutsche Welle, was arrested in the Murmansk region. He is also accused of participating in Alexei Navalny's team activities.

Mediazona reports that in 2024, the Ministry of Internal Affairs has significantly increased the number of protocols issued for interactions with "undesirable" organizations. Such interactions include reposting, linking to or quoting media that have been declared "undesirable" in Russia, regardless of when they were shared, as this is considered an ongoing offense. This year, the highest number of protocols have been issued for reposting materials from Meduza [international Russian-language online media outlet]. It is worth noting that Conflict Intelligence Team has also been declared an "undesirable" organization. Therefore, if you reside in Russia or plan to visit, we advise you to delete links to our content from your social networks.

On the evening of April 28, Telegram blocked a number of Ukrainian bots, including official bots used for transmitting data to the Ukrainian Defense Forces. Among those affected were the Yevorog bot of the Ukrainian Ministry of Digital Transformation, official bots of the Main Intelligence Directorate and the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), a coordinator bot from the south of Ukraine and an anti-aircraft defense bot for tracking UAVs. It is unknown how the incoming data was processed, but undoubtedly, it was a valuable source of information. Later it became known that on the afternoon of April 29, the bots resumed their work.

Conscription, Mobilization and Contract Military Service

Alexey Zhuravlyov, First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee, has raised the issue of rotation for mobilized soldiers. According to him, this could potentially be achieved without the need for a new wave of mobilization by replacing mobilized soldiers with volunteer fighters or convicts. Zhuravlyov argues for the possibility of pardoning convicts guilty of minor and financial crimes, but excludes serial killers or rapists from such pardons, as these crimes have no statute of limitations, and those who committed them are not eligible for pardon. It is worth noting that among those who have signed contracts with the Wagner Group or the Russian MoD, a significant number have a history of murder or rape. Thus, Zhuravlyov’s words show that he does not read the laws he votes for.

However, Chairman of the Defense Committee of the State Duma Andrey Kartapolov has criticized Zhuravlyov's proposal, emphasizing that decisions regarding military recruitment are the responsibility of the General Staff. He too emphasized that a new wave of mobilization is presently unnecessary.

Viktor Sobolev, another member of the State Duma Committee on Defense, echoed Kartapolov's sentiments. According to him, a decisive moment is approaching on the frontline, and there is no need to replace experienced combat personnel with green recruits.

On April 28, the Russian government published a resolution on the Unified Military Register [the register of Russians subject to military service], slated to take effect on Nov. 1. Some news agencies misinterpreted this decree, erroneously reporting that beginning Nov. 1, all individuals subject to military service would be prohibited from leaving the country. This interpretation is inaccurate. The restriction will only be introduced for those that received a draft notice. Typically, the fall regular conscription campaign begins on Oct. 1, and if all progresses as scheduled, the new restriction will only be enforced the following month.

Moreover, the resolution introduces the presumption that the information submitted by citizens is incorrect. The Voyennye Advokaty [Military Lawyers] Telegram channel warns that draft offices will conduct additional checks each time they discover discrepancies between the information in the register and that submitted by citizens. However, until this inquiry is concluded, the information in the register will be deemed correct. For example, if the register indicates that a conscript’s service fitness category is “A” (fully fit for military service), then even if the conscript presents documents confirming an updated category "B" (fit for military service with minor restrictions), he will be considered fully fit for military service until the end of the verification process, which can take an unknown amount of time.

We share the view that the establishment of the Unified Military Register does not necessarily signify the onset of a new wave of mobilization. Instead, we see it as an investment for the future, as digitizing all the data held by draft offices will undoubtedly require significant time and resources.