Sitrep for Apr. 5-6 (as of 09:00 a.m.)
The Situation on the Frontline
Pro-Russian forces keep gradually advancing in Bakhmut. Though it is not confirmed yet, they reportedly managed to capture the industrial zone of the AZOM plant completely and the Bakhmut-1 railway station. Now, pro-Russian forces are advancing west from the town center into residential areas.
There is evidence that the AFU is still using the road that runs through Khromove, connecting Bakhmut and Chasiv Yar, despite the fact that there are RuAF positions near this road both in the north and in the south, from which this road can be hit with any weapons, including mortars. In addition, part of this road is unpaved, which also makes it difficult for Ukrainian forces to move along it, so their vehicles often come under fire.
During his trip to European countries at a press conference in Warsaw on Apr. 5, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy reported that although the most difficult situation on the frontline for the AFU remains in the Bakhmut direction, the town of Bakhmut is still under the control of Ukrainian forces. Operational decisions on the direction are made by the commander of the Ukrainian Ground Forces, General Oleksandr Syrskyi, who considers preserving the lives of Ukrainian soldiers to be his main priority and, if the situation becomes more dangerous, “the right decisions might be made” (although, in our opinion, the situation in and around Bakhmut is already a really dangerous one).
On Apr. 5, a private pilot flew a Ukrainian-made Aeroprakt A-32 two-seat ultralight plane into the territory of the Bryansk region and had to land there. He was detained by Russian security forces who arrived at the scene on a tip from local residents. The pilot stated that he allegedly was supposed to conduct aerial reconnaissance on the instructions of the AFU (for a monetary reward). This "cover story" looks extremely implausible, but we can hardly say what task such an aircraft could actually have performed.
In Russia, there is an ongoing discussion regarding electronic draft notices. Some claim that a recruit is obliged to report to a military commissariat [enlistment office] after receiving notice through the official Portal of Public Services (Gosuslugi) under the threat of criminal prosecution. In opposition, other public figures remind us that currently, the distribution of draft notices in electronic form does not comply with the letter of the law.
Last year, the State Duma [lower house of Russia's Federal Assembly] postponed the adoption of a draft law allowing conscription via registered letters. Presently there are signs that if the draft law is returned for consideration, the distribution of electronic draft notices will be added to it as well.
Defense Minister Shoigu also mentioned that "notifying citizens of conscription electronically allowed for the reduction of bureaucracy and red tape." Perhaps he was referring to cases of voluntary appearances at military commissariats after receiving a message via the Portal of Public Services.
Supplies of Western Military Equipment
In mid-March, the Armed Forces of Ukraine received Avenger short-range air defense missile systems from the United States that have a targeting range of up to 5 km and can engage enemy threats at up to 4 km. They are equipped with Stinger missile launchers and 12.7mm (0.50 cal) anti-aircraft machine guns.
According to a Pentagon spokesperson, training on Abrams tanks for Ukrainian tank crews will soon begin, but it is unclear how long it will take.
On Apr. 5, during the visit of President Zelenskyy to Warsaw, Poland, and Ukraine signed an agreement on the supply of various military vehicles and equipment. In particular, Ukraine will buy 100 Rosomak armored personnel carriers, 3 batteries (24 vehicles) of M120 Rak 120mm self-propelled mortars on the chassis of the same armored personnel carriers, Piorun MANPADS (the Ukrainian Army has already used them during the current invasion). The transfer of 14 Mikoyan MiG-29 fighter jets was also discussed.
The shipment of 6 Leopard 2 tanks pledged by Spain is delayed due to the necessity to complete the maintenance and modernization of the vehicles. They have not been in active service since the nineties. The most reasonable delivery window now is the second half of April.
Reuters reports that in preparation for the counteroffensive, Ukraine has trained 40,000 new troops (which equals 8 assault brigades). Such a significant number of servicemen can be crucial for some direction of the front, for example, on the Bakhmut-Siversk line or in the Marinka area in the Donetsk axis.
At the end of February, we reported that BTR-50 armored personnel carriers withdrawn from storage had been spotted on the trains carrying military vehicles. There is now unconfirmed information on a pro-Russian forum “LostArmour” that these vehicles were seen in service and equipped with weapons somewhere in the Donbas (we do not exclude that later T-54 / T-55 tanks may also appear on the frontline).
Mykhailo Podolyak [the adviser to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine], in his interview with Radio Liberty, claimed that Ukraine would return to Crimea within 5-7 months. We believe that Ukrainian troops will most likely end up in Crimea not as a result of a direct attack on Russian positions within the territory of the peninsula but as a consequence of their actions in other sectors of the frontline (in the Donetsk, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia regions), the entire front may start collapsing and, probably, the power in Russia will weaken (we do not expect this to happen in such a short time).