May 1

Sitrep for April 29-May 1, 2024 (as of 8:30 UTC+3 a.m.)

Frontline Situation Update

After Russian forces advanced in Kyslivka, in the Kupiansk direction, Ukrainian forces stationed in the neighboring village of Kotlyarivka have found themselves semi-encircled. As a result, it is anticipated that they will withdraw from this village in the near future.

In the Pokrovsk/Avdiivka direction, near the village of Ocheretyne, where a breach in the defense of the Armed Forces of Ukraine occurred, Russian forces continue to expand the salient they have gained. They have captured the villages of Novokalynove and Keramik, and have made slight advances to the north of Ocheretyne.

In the Bakhmut direction, soldiers from the 18th Sloviansk Brigade of the Ukrainian National Guard captured footage on April 29 showing a drone dropping munitions onto Russian positions (the positions themselves are not visible in the footage). The video is geolocated in an area where the Siverskyi Donets-Donbas Canal transitions into underground pipes, which is one of the few locations where it can be readily crossed. However, the presence of Russian forces in this area does not necessarily indicate that they have been able to gain a foothold there.

Ukrainian military observer Kostiantyn Mashovets shared his views about the further development of the situation along the entire Donetsk axis. At the moment, two salients have formed there: near the village of Ocheretyne and around the captured villages of Kurdiumivka and Andriivka in the Bakhmut direction, where the frontline between them, from the village of Niu-York and up to the town of Toretsk, has remained static for many years. Based on the movements of Russian troops, Mashovets suggested that, after the capture of the village of Kalynivka, the Russian Armed Forces will advance northeast towards the highway connecting the towns of Pokrovsk and Kostiantynivka, and then move north towards Kostiantynivka. Similar to the situation with the capture of Ocheretyne, advancing along the road, thus forming a narrow salient, would be unreasonable as the AFU could encircle part of the advancing enemy forces by attacking the salient. To successfully advance, it is necessary to expand the salient by capturing neighboring settlements one by one. In this regard, the implementation of this plan can be expected to take a considerable amount of time. In addition, the distance separating newly conquered lands around Ocheretyne and the Pokrovsk- Kostiantynivka highway is approximately 12 km [7.5 mi]

In addition to the offensive from Ocheretyne, according to Mashovets, the RuAF might attack the AFU around Toretsk coming from Horlivka to the south-east, occupied in 2014. Although the distance between the towns in a straight line is only about three kilometers [2 mi], this area is likely to be mined, which will greatly complicate an attack with armored vehicles.

According to topographic maps, Toretsk is located in a low-lying area, unlike Ocheretyne and Chasiv Yar. It can be assumed that in the event of a successful advance on higher ground and capture of Chasiv Yar, it will be relatively easy for Russian forces to "level" the frontline by occupying the lowland between these elevated positions.

Also, in the Bakhmut direction, during an attack on Chasiv Yar, a column of Russian armored vehicles, covered on all sides with metal sheets, was observed. Out of five "turtle-tanks," only two were successfully hit by the AFU: a tank and an armored personnel carrier. The effectiveness of such armored vehicles is also increased by the jamming devices they are equipped with. It is possible that a Russian military factory may begin mass producing them in the future, given their evident popularity on the frontline.

A video filmed by Russian servicemen in forest lines near the village of Stepove located on the Pokrovsk direction is being circulated on Telegram channels. The footage shows a large number of bodies of Russian soldiers, but the condition of some of them indicates that they have been lying there for quite some time—likely several months.

Ukrainian and Russian Strikes

There is no new information regarding the strike on the Tarkhankut Peninsula yet. The information from sources quoted by the Dva Mayora [Two Majors] Telegram channel, indicating that about 15 ATACMS tactical ballistic missiles had been used during this attack, does not seem trustworthy to us. It appears unlikely that 15 HIMARS and M270 MLRS were used to strike a single target.

The ASTRA Telegram channel reported a new Ukrainian missile strike using ATACMS tactical ballistic missiles on the airfield in Dzhankoi, previously attacked on April 17, on the night of April 30. According to ASTRA’s sources, five soldiers were injured as a result of the strike. Nighttime videos show glow coming from a fire, however, it remains unclear whether there was indeed a strike that night—ASTRA also reports explosions in other parts of Crimea, although they could have been the result of air defense operations; Dva Mayora also mentioned the launch of ATACMS missiles towards Crimea.

On the evening of April 29, Russian forces attacked the city of Odesa, reportedly using a 9K720 Iskander ballistic missile equipped with a cluster munition warhead. The strike resulted in the deaths of five people and left 31 others injured. The attack also damaged the building of the National University "Odesa Law Academy," where a large fire broke out. Pro-Russian Telegram channels claim that the missile had been aimed at another target and was intercepted by Ukrainian air defenses, causing it to land where it did. The Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office released footage of the strike, showing the dispersal and explosion of submunitions across the square next to the university building. Typically, when a missile carrying cluster munitions is intercepted, the warhead fails to detonate upon reaching the ground and the bomblets never deploy. In rare instances, submunitions separate from the missile upon interception and detonate on impact. There were no military targets visible in the vicinity of the law academy, and, in any event, the use of indiscriminate weapons, such as cluster munitions warheads, in urban areas constitutes a war crime.

Additionally, we do not possess reference photographs of Iskander missile submunitions and prefabricated fragments, and thus cannot confirm that this specific type of missile was used in this instance.

Several media outlets are once again reporting on the construction of a military airfield in the Belgorod region, located 70 km [43 mi] from the Russia-Ukraine border. At the beginning of February 2024, we had already mentioned that this airfield was being constructed by the agricultural holding company Efko for its business jets and had been planned before the onset of the war. In addition to the airfield, Efko has already built an innovation center near the village of Belaya Vezha. Since July 2023, no significant construction has taken place on the site other than a runway. Although the Russian MoD may start using the airfield once the construction is complete, it is currently a civilian facility and is not considered a legitimate military target.

The Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine has stated that on the night of April 26, at the Ostafyevo airportin Moscow, a "multipurpose" Kamov Ka-32 (Helix-C) attack helicopter, purportedly used "to support operations of the Russian occupation army," was destroyed. Vazhnyye Istorii [IStories, independent Russian investigative media outlet] identified the aircraft as a firefighting helicopter belonging to Moscow Aviation Center first responders. The destruction of the helicopter has no military significance.

On April 30, Moscow’s Dorogomilovsky District Court arrested five suspects in the helicopter arson case, with a charge of terrorist attack committed by an organized group, which carries a possible sentence of 12 to 20 years of imprisonment.

In our previous sitrep, we cited Alexey Zhuravlyov, First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee, who was unaware that it was possible to sign a contract with the MoD and deploy to the front, so to avoid imprisonment even after committing serious crimes like murder or rape.

According to the Chita.ru online media outlet, Dmitry Vedernikov, the leader of the Metsenatovskie criminal group [active in the Zabaykalsky region until 2010], who was convicted in 2017 for over 20 years for 11 murders, robbery, brigandage, fraud and numerous instances of extorting money for stolen cars, has been released from a maximum security penal colony and has gone to the war in Ukraine. In the fall of 2023, Vedernikov already requested to be sent to the frontline, but was refused due to his age, as he is over 50.

Western Assistance

Germany has released data on military aid transferred over the past three weeks:

  • 10 Marder infantry fighting vehicles;
  • ammunition for Leopard 2 MBTs;
  • 1 Skynex wheeled self-propelled anti-aircraft gun;
  • 29,638 35mm APDS-T rounds for Gepard SPAAGs;
  • IRIS-T missiles;
  • a TRML-4D air surveillance radar;
  • 7,500 rounds of 155mm ammunition;
  • 6 M1070 Oshkosh tank transporter tractors;
  • 1 Biber (Beaver) armored bridge-laying vehicle;
  • 1 Dachs (Badger) armored engineer vehicle;
  • 9 mine plows;
  • 18,000 rounds of 40mm ammunition for grenade launchers;
  • 3,000 RGW 90 MATADOR;
  • 120mm mortar ammunition;
  • AMPS self-protection systems for helicopters;
  • 60 outboard motors;
  • 600 faLKE light systems;
  • 1,980 camouflage nets;
  • 2,000 camouflage ponchos;
  • 100,000 first aid kits.

In addition, Germany has announced the delivery of a Patriot air defense system.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed during a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that US aid has begun to arrive in Ukraine, albeit in small amounts for now.

Since Ukraine currently lacks the ability to conduct large-scale counter-offensives, we expect that the AFU will primarily focus on long-range attacks targeting various objectives located behind Russian lines in the coming months.

Rochan Consulting analyst Konrad Muzyka shared his assessment of the frontline situation, suggesting that the AFU are currently in their worst position since March 2022. However, it is worth noting that Muzyka's analyses have been criticized in the past for being overly pessimistic and alarmist. For example, last year he persistently warned about an impending invasion from Belarus, which did not take place. While we agree that the AFU are facing significant difficulties at present, it is important to consider that the RuAF also encounter challenges, including a lack of equipment and resources. As such, while the situation is indeed challenging, local breakthroughs may not necessarily lead to significant advances given the constraints faced by both sides.