March 2, 2023

Sitrep for Mar. 1-2 (as of 11:00 a.m.) 

On the night of Mar. 2, there was another strike of the RuAF on the territory of Ukraine. In the Kremenchuk district of the Poltava region, civilian and critical infrastructure facilities were hit with Russian missiles.

In the city of Zaporizhzhia, a residential building was partially destroyed; to date, three people are reported to have been killed; debris removal continues.

The situation on the frontline

The situation in Bakhmut is becoming critical for Ukrainian forces. The RuAF have advanced from the captured Berkhivka and Yahidne to the village of Khromove, where the road to Chasiv Yar passes. Thus, the last road known to us, connecting Bakhmut with the territories under Ukrainian control, turns out to be impassable.

In the southern part of Bakhmut, fighting is taking place in the area of Ivanivske. At the moment, the distance between the "pincers" is only 5.5 km — it can already be described as the operational encirclement of Bakhmut.

Let us recall that in military strategy, it is customary to distinguish operational, tactical, and complete encirclement. Operational encirclement is when the enemy grouping is trapped in a pincer movement (i.e., the circle is not closed), and the remaining area is under fire control, while the enemy can move rather safely around the surrounded territory as it is not taken under fire control, and the assault has not begun yet.

Tactical encirclement differs from operational encirclement in that the territory inside the encirclement is already under fire control; the enemy has to take up an all-around defense and take cover.

In the case of complete encirclement (or blockade), the ring is actually closed, so the enemy must break through the corridor in order to get out of it. From the standpoint of military strategy (if the objective is to capture territory), it can be more reasonable not to close the circle completely but to leave a small corridor in order to minimize your losses if the enemy tries to break out of the encirclement.

Since the town of Bakhmut is under operational encirclement, Ukrainian forces should not remain in the town, in our opinion. Furthermore, to break out of the encirclement, it is necessary to employ rearguard action (rearguard forces engage the enemy to distract them in order to allow the main forces to retreat). It is possible that, in reality, the retreat of Ukrainian forces has been underway for some time already, and information about active fighting and counterattack attempts in order to retain the town has been part of a misinformation campaign.

The New York Times published an article reporting the “biggest tank battle of the war so far,” based on the information provided by Ukrainian soldiers operating in the Vuhledar direction, with no expert analysis. In our opinion, it is incorrect to categorize fighting in the area of Vuhledar in the context of tank battles because that term implies direct fighting of tank units on both sides, which in the case of the current invasion has been exceedingly rare (for example, as a result of the inadvertent encounter with an enemy tank).

In the article referenced above, Ukrainian soldiers gave a detailed account of their tactics for mining significant swaths of territory near Vuhledar, which are used by advancing columns of Russian military vehicles. After taking losses in the minefield, the remaining vehicles are targeted using artillery (including tanks in an indirect fire role) with the support of aerial reconnaissance. In the retellings of some journalists, “130 destroyed vehicles” turned into “130 destroyed tanks”, when in reality, the number includes different types of military vehicles, both tanks and armored personnel carriers, and the source of the data is Ukraine’s military (and thus the number most likely is overstated).

Note that, judging by the incoming visual evidence, the density of mining (at least in some areas) is very high.

Information is coming in from the Russian side that the 155th Separate Naval Infantry Brigade, which has assaulted Vuhledar since the end of January, is being withdrawn to the rear for replacement of casualties and reorganization in order to be committed to attacking again later. So far, the 136th Motorized Rifle Brigade from Buynaksk, Dagestan [Russia’s constituent republic], will take positions instead of them.

Satellite images of the Yeysk Airport, Krasnodar region, have appeared, showing individual traces of a fire, but no damage is spotted.

Belarusian media showed the Russian Beriev A-50 airborne early warning and control aircraft at the Machulishchy airfield near Minsk, allegedly after the UAV attack on Feb. 26. It is quite probable that the aircraft is only visually intact (the video was filmed after the arrival of a repair unit), it is impossible to judge the condition of the equipment from the video.

A bill on liability for discrediting the participants of the war in Ukraine has been introduced before the State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia]. Now one will be made liable for discrediting not only the Russian Army but also all volunteer units, namely the Wagner Group (please keep in mind that the Akhmat, Alga, and other battalions are official parts of the military forces of Russia).

The father of a sixth-grade student, Masha, who drew an anti-war picture at an art lesson in Apr. 2022, was placed in a pre-trial detention center; the girl may end up in an orphanage. Last spring, a man was charged with a misdemeanor for discrediting the Russian Armed Forces because of a comment against the war on the Odnoklassniki social network. In December, after new comments posted by the man on social networks, the Federal Security Service (FSB) came to the family for a search, and a criminal case was opened against the girl’s father for repeatedly discrediting the Russian Army.

We believe that protest actions in Russia carry too great risks: setting fire to military commissariats [enlistment offices] and going to protest actions are rather a demonstration of a personal position of a protester. These actions don’t lead to any changes but create a sense of unity among those who oppose the war and show the world that not all Russians support an aggressive policy of the Kremlin. In our opinion, the only way to counter Russian aggression is to help Ukraine with arms supplies.

In the Lipetsk region, the pregnant wife of a mobilized man turned to a military commissariat with a request to return him home as she had a due date and no one to leave her four-year-old son with. In response, local officials suggested that she give the child to an orphanage for a while.

The Telegram channel of Lyubov Sobol [Russian anticorruption activist and opposition politician] published a video sent by a student of Moscow school No. 183. A mercenary of the Wagner Group, a former convict, speaks to 10th-grade students about career prospects in the Wagner Group and hands out “Young Fighter Questionnaires.” We find the distribution of such questionnaires suspicious and not very similar to Yevgeny Prigozhin’s [Russian oligarch, confidant of Vladimir Putin, and the owner of the Wagner Group] methods of work: we assume that this is either the initiative of an individual mercenary, or a staged video to denigrate the Wagner Group.

In one of the previous sitreps, we talked about rockets for the BM-21 Grad MLRS made in Serbia, which were purchased by a Canadian company and imported to Ukraine through Turkey and Slovakia. Serbian Defense Minister Milos Vucevic confirmed that Serbia indirectly sold 3.500 rockets to Ukraine.
It is known that Serbian rockets are already being used by the Ukrainian Army. They can be distinguished from shells made in other countries by the shape of the tail fin (smooth rectangular plates without slope).

Slovakia is considering providing Ukraine with 10 out of 11 decommissioned MiG-29 fighter jets. We encourage further efforts for the integration of Western long-range precision weapons (such as guided bombs or cruise missiles) into these aircraft.

Yesterday was the first day to check the forecast made by the Chief of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, Kyrylo Budanov, on Dec. 30. He had predicted that "there are missiles left for two massive attacks, Russia needs to work 1.5-2 months for one such attack, by March a critical situation with weapons will have developed in Russia." Contrary to the statements of Yevgeny Prigozhin, based on the words of military correspondents reporting from the Vuhledar direction, there is no severe and widespread ammo shortage in Russian forces, although there is still a “shell hunger” to some extent (it should be noted that we do not see Russian artillery in this direction — tanks and infantry fighting vehicles are mainly being used). The rate of use of missiles and loitering munitions remains about the same as it was last year. So, in our opinion, the forecast was not entirely accurate.