April 29

Sitrep for April 5-8, 2024 (as of 9:00 a.m.) UTC+3

Frontline Situation Update

The fighting continues in the areas where it was most active last week, with no significant advances observed. However, the current situation suggests how the Russian Armed Forces will act in the near future in the Pokrovske (Avdiivka) direction. Presently, they are advancing from Tonenke towards Umanske. After capturing Umanske, they are likely to turn south towards Netailove to challenge the position of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Pervomaiske area, where fighting has been persistent. This strategy is supported by the fact that Russian forces conducted an airstrike on the dam across the Durnaya River near Umanske to disrupt the supply routes of Ukrainian forces in the Netailove area bounded by water barriers.

The fighting continues in the Kupiansk (Lyman) direction near the village of Terny. It is precisely there that an attacking column of Russian armored vehicles, led by a tank equipped with a large number of electronic warfare systems (each operating on its own frequency), batteries for them, and even a small generator, was captured on video. This setup on the tank has been informally dubbed the “Tsar-EW.” Reports indicate that the EW systems mounted on the tank effectively neutralized all Ukrainian UAV attempts to target it. Only a new drone equipped with an automatic target acquisition system managed to strike it. After colliding with an infantry fighting vehicle and becoming immobilized, the tank was left in a contested zone. Ukrainian forces made several attempts to repair it and eventually managed to evacuate it to the rear under its own power.

Ukrainian officer Robert "Madyar" Brovdi published a video analyzing a captured Russian drone equipped with a similar automatic target acquisition system. The drone was seized because its self-destruct system was not activated. Generally speaking, its operating principle allows the operator to mark a target in the viewfinder, prompting the drone to maneuver to keep the target within the designated "field of view" square. Although not yet fully automated, this system can still be highly effective and cost-efficient. The drone was found to contain an Orange Pi 5 single-board microcomputer (a budget-friendly alternative to the Raspberry Pi 4) with relatively modest computing power. We believe it is premature to discuss specific technologies for combating such drones at this time.

It is worth noting that regularly appearing videos of strikes on Russian tanks or infantry fighting vehicles equipped with EW systems are often misinterpreted. EW systems are most likely deactivated on abandoned or disabled armored vehicles, thus posing no obstacles for drones.

Ukrainian and Russian Strikes

On the night of April 5, Ukrainian drones carried out a mass attack on Russian territory. The Russian Ministry of Defense reported that 44 UAVs were shot down in the Rostov region alone, with one each in the Saratov, Kursk and Belgorod regions, and six more over the territory of the Krasnodar region. It is claimed that the targets of these attacks were military air bases in Morozovsk, Yeysk and Engels.

Reports on the aftermath vary. RBC-Ukraine, citing its sources, claimed that three Tupolev Tu-95MS strategic bombers were damaged during the attack on the Engels-2 air base, and two more Sukhoi Su-25 attack aircraft burned out at the Yeysk air base. According to sources of the BBC News Ukrainian within Ukrainian security forces, the strike allegedly destroyed at least six aircraft and damaged eight others. Governor of the Rostov region Vasily Golubev reported that eight law enforcement officers who approached a downed UAV were injured as a result of the detonation of an explosive device attached to it. However, the pro-Russian Telegram channel Fighterbomber [associated with the Russian Air and Space Force] notes that this is at least the third such case, denying any losses in equipment.

The satellite images do not show any significant damage at the Morozovsk air base, aside from one spot resembling a fire trail. However, recent images of other airfields have yet to be published. While it is possible that Russian forces towed away burned-out and damaged aircraft, it is unlikely that they would wash the fumes from the concrete surface.

Recently, Roscosmos [Russia’s space agency] released the first image from the Resurs-P No.4 remote sensing satellite launched on March 31. However, the quality of the image is notably low. This could potentially explain Russian attempts to deceive Western intelligence with drawings of aircraft at airfields. Images from Russian satellites are unlikely to distinguish between drawings and actual aircraft. In contrast, even commercially available satellite images, such as those from Maxar, are often of higher resolution, allowing for more detailed analysis and the ability to notice such differences.

On April 5, Russian forces launched a missile attack on the city of Zaporizhzhia. This time, the so-called double tap strike was captured by journalists who arrived at the site of the first strike along with first responders and medics. Four people were reported dead and more than 20 injured. The second strike, carried out by two missiles, resulted in several journalists sustaining shrapnel wounds.

On the night of April 6, during one of the strikes on the city of Kharkiv, two BM-27 Uragan MLRS vehicles were destroyed. It is presumed that one of the vehicles was a launcher and the other was a transloader located in the parking lot of an unfinished shopping mall on the northern outskirts of the city near the ring road. We believe they briefly stopped there during transit. The range of the BM-27 Uragan MLRS, as well as the RM-70 Vampire multiple rocket launcher, which the MoD usually talks about, is not sufficient to hit Belgorod from Kharkiv. Therefore, it is likely that the attacks are being launched from somewhere along the border of Russia and Ukraine.

Crocus City Hall Terrorist Attack

Footage of the Federal Security Service (FSB) interrogating suspects in the Crocus City Hall terrorist attack was broadcasted on federal television. A suspect, who initially communicated through an interpreter in court, appeared to have learned Russian within two weeks at the Lefortovo prison and now responds to FSB questions fluently. The other suspect corrects word endings, indicating that the testimony is being read from a script. It is unclear why the testimony mentions a promised one million rubles [$10,800] upon arrival in Kyiv, rather than an equivalent amount in any other currency.

Additionally, photographs found on the terrorists' phones allegedly point to a connection with Ukraine: one image is sourced from a stock photo website and is among the top results for "Ukrainian Army" on Google; another photo of a Russian tank captured by Ukrainian special forces was published in the media in late 2022.

The FSB unexpectedly aired a report detailing the thwarting of an attempt to smuggle a large quantity of explosives into Russia through EU countries disguised as church items. According to the labels, the shipment purportedly originated from the Ukrainian city of Chernivtsi. The suspect in this case was arrested on Feb. 1, but the report was released two weeks after the Crocus City Hall  terrorist attack as another attempt to link it to Ukraine. This raises concerns about the FSB's focus on combating terrorism and identifying the true organizers, indicating the possibility of future terrorist attacks.

The authorities of Chechnya [Russia’s constituent republic] claim that Alexander "Ratibor" Kuznetsov, former commander of the Wagner Group’s 1st Reconnaissance and Assault Company, along with over three thousand former mercenaries, have joined the Akhmat special unit. Pro-Russian Telegram channels express confusion and even outrage about the news, speculating that no more than two or three hundred men will actually join the Kadyrovtsy, National Guard and Police units reporting to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Such a discrepancy in numbers can be compared to what happened to the group commanded by Anton "Lotus" Yelizarov, which was supposed to join Rosgvardia [the Russian National Guard], when in fact very few people volunteered to do so, and a few months later the project was abandoned.

It remains unclear how "Ratibor’s" neo-Nazi views would be compatible with his transfer to the Akhmat unit.

To mark NATO’s 75th anniversary, UK Defense Secretary Grant Shapps released an infographic comparing the armed forces of the NATO member countries and those of Russia.