March 1

Sitrep for Feb. 28-March 1, 2024 (as of 9:30 a.m. UTC+3)

Frontline Situation Update

In the Avdiivka direction, the situation continues to evolve between the villages of Stepove and Sieverne. According to the DeepState Ukrainian project, Russian forces are bypassing Orlivka from the south and have already taken control of the main road running in this area. It is unclear how the Armed Forces of Ukraine will operate in Tonenke, as they might find themselves in a situation close to semi-encirclement there. However, since no visual evidence of advances south of Orlivka have been seen yet, the situation could be not as critical as it might seem.

We believe that fighting on this frontline will continue until approximately the end of next week, and we agree with the analysis of Meduza [international Russian-language online media outlet] that the situation may stabilize after Russian forces reach the line of defense behind the cascade of reservoirs, as we have already mentioned. It is difficult to say whether the Russian Armed Forces will have enough strength for another offensive in this direction.

The Commander-in-Chief of the AFU, General Oleksandr Syrskyi, in his Telegram channel thanked the 3rd Separate Assault Brigade and the 25th Separate Airborne Brigade of the AFU for their assistance in the area of Orlivka. We also noted the participation of the 3rd Separate Assault Brigade in combat operations near the town of Krasnohorivka north of Marinka, where its fighters fought off a Russian attack in the ruins of the village. Thus, this brigade can be called an “emergency brigade” as it is quickly transferred to areas where the situation is most critical.

The general also noted in his post: “in the course of action, certain commanders exhibited lapses in situational awareness and in evaluating the enemy, which affected the stability of the defense in certain directions.” These comments suggest that some local commanders might have been overly optimistic in their ability to hold positions in Avdiivka. Analysts from the Frontelligence Insight team, founded by Ukrainian military analyst Tatarigami, studying the Ukrainian retreat, came to the conclusion that had it happened earlier, more Ukrainian lives could have been saved.

Adding to the above, the current war has vividly highlighted the importance of independent analysis: relying solely on reports from subordinates, leaders (both political and military) risk finding themselves in situations where their understanding of reality is significantly distorted. As an example, we can mention Vladimir Putin, whose perceptions of “Nazism” in Ukraine were even ridiculed by Tucker Carlson.

Speaking of passing embellished information to superiors, it is worth mentioning that the Russian Ministry of Defense posted an abbreviated version of the video recording on its Telegram channel, which we covered in one of our recent sitreps. While they claimed that “assault detachments of the Southern Military District gained a foothold in one of the key buildings in Robotyne," in reality, Ukrainian forces expelled them from the village, destroying two infantry fighting vehicles in the process.

Additionally, the Russian command continues to repeat another mistake: once again, an order was given to assemble soldiers within the range of AFU rocket artillery, and Ukrainian drones directed a HIMARS MLRS strike on the 155th Separate Naval Infantry Brigade in Olenivka, Donetsk region. According to the Dos’ye Shpiona [Spy Dossier] Telegram channel], 19 soldiers were killed, and 12 more were wounded, including the commander. Journalists from Vazhnyye Istorii [IStories, independent Russian investigative media outlet] managed to find one of the soldiers from this brigade, who confirmed that at least one of his fellow soldiers was killed in this strike. This is already the third similar strike in two weeks.

The special operations forces of the AFU conducted an unsuccessful operation on the Tendra Spit in the Black Sea in the southern part of the Kherson region. It is officially stated that fighters from the 73rd Naval Center of Maritime Special Operations were killed “while ensuring the withdrawal of the main forces after completing a special mission.” Photos from the scene show about six bodies of Ukrainian soldiers on a boat. According to the Russian side, repelling the attack, they managed to sink at least two more boats and capture one special forces soldier. Ukrainian sources also reported that more fighters were killed during the special operation than was initially announced.

The purpose of this operation remains unknown, and it is crucial not to link it with Kyrylo Budanov, Chief of the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine's Ministry of Defense, who had been criticized for a flag photo op in Crimea. The Special Operation Forces are not part of the Main Intelligence Directorate and report to Syrskyi, not Budanov, although they have conducted joint operations in the past, such as the one on Snake Island.

Similarly, in Russia, there are Special Operations Forces, which report directly to the General Staff, that is, to General Valery Gerasimov. It is worth noting that what are commonly referred to as the GRU special forces are actually separate special forces brigades reporting to the Main Directorate of the General Staff (formerly known as the GRU) and subordinate to Admiral Igor Kostyukov, the head of the General Staff.

The Washington Center for Strategic and International Studies has published a new report based on the analysis of data from various open sources and hundreds of satellite images. According to their findings, as of the present date, the DPRK has supplied approximately 2.5 million artillery shells and other ammunition to Russia. Ongoing ship traffic between the North Korean port of Najin and Russian Far Eastern ports has been observed, with an increase in shipping activity. Since August 2023, there have been at least 25 loading calls to the port of Najin. The report also highlights the identification of a new field depot where North Korean ammunition is stored. This facility is located at the former Egorlykskaya military airfield in the Rostov region, approximately 300 kilometers from the frontline.

Western Assistance

Belgium has announced the allocation of €200 million for the purchase of ammunition for Ukraine as part of an initiative proposed by the Czech Republic. Canada had previously made a similar announcement.

According to CNN, the Pentagon has a $4 billion fund available under the President's authority to provide rapid military assistance, which can be used for military aid to Ukraine. However, military officials are exercising caution before spending it, as they are unsure whether these expenditures will be reimbursed from the $60 billion tranche currently under discussion in Congress. This cautious approach might seem peculiar, as it raises questions about the possibility of Ukraine aid being counted twice in the American budget.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has justified his refusal to send Taurus KEPD cruise missiles by citing Germany’s inability to dispatch soldiers to Ukraine to oversee their deployment. Many have interpreted this as a tacit acknowledgment that the United Kingdom and France do indeed send military personnel to assist with programming SCALP-EG/Stormshadow long-range cruise missiles—a step that would require Bundestag approval in Germany, which Scholz believes to be unattainable. The need for foreign specialists in Ukraine likely stems from assisting AFU airmen with selecting targets and addressing technical challenges, such as launching Western missiles from Soviet-era aircraft. However, Scholz’s assertion that Taurus missiles could reach the Kremlin contradicts this latter point.

According to the German political analyst Alex Yusupov, Scholz faced such intense pressure over the issue of supplying missiles to Ukraine that he chose to overlook potential damage to allied relations and disclose sensitive information about the presence of British and French specialists in Ukraine, simply to alleviate the situation. Former UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace later criticized Scholz for both manipulating facts and relying on incorrect information, arguing that this demonstrates Scholz’s unsuitability for addressing Europe’s security concerns.

Yurii Ihnat, spokesman of the Air Force Command of the AFU, has reported that following the recent downing of a Beriev A-50 AEW&C, Russia had ceased using this type of aircraft over the Azov Sea for the last four days.

Sergey Chemezov, the head of the Rostec corporation, has announced plans to restore the production of A-50 aircraft. He emphasized that these aircraft are heeded not only for the Russian Army but also have strong export potential. Before the full-scale invasion, the modernization of an A-50 to A-50U typically required two years. It is assumed that this refers not to building from scratch but rather to the restoration of old non-working A-50 aircraft or the conversion of existing Il-76 aircraft.

In Russia's constituent republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Viktor Savvinov, a previously convicted individual, returned from the war in Ukraine to his native village and committed a double murder. Initially, he killed his drinking companion and then entered a neighboring house, where he killed a 64-year-old teacher "due to old grievances." He attempted to set fire to her house and flee but was apprehended by local police. Since 2010, Savvinov had been convicted several times, and in 2020, he received an 11-year sentence for the murder of his drinking companion, but enlisted for the war.

Ex-mercenary of the Wagner Group Sergey Shakhmatov, a former convict, who was detained in May in Novosibirsk on suspicion of raping two schoolgirls, has been found guilty and sentenced to 17 years in a maximum security penal colony.

In the city of Irkutsk, a former fighter of the Wagner Group is abusing his wife and attempting to evict her from their apartment. According to the woman, he consistently subjects her and their children to physical violence. Despite her complaints, the police have refused to intervene, citing her husband's status as a combat veteran and suggesting that he will not face any consequences. They also hint at filing criminal charges against her for discrediting the armed forces. In Russia, there are no rehabilitation programs for veterans dealing with PTSD, and the problem of domestic violence, which existed before the war, will only worsen.

Tatyana Moskalkova, the Commissioner for Human Rights, has announced that Russia is ready to transfer the bodies of prisoners of war who died in the Il-76 Aircraft crash in the Belgorod region on Jan. 24 to Ukraine. According to her statement, Russia possesses DNA samples and all the documents necessary to identify the deceased.