The main news of the past week: Bakhmut is still under the control of Ukrainian forces, which have not left the town, despite the fact that Russian forces gradually continue to close the encirclement.
Over the past day, pro-Russian forces have advanced a little more in the north-west of Bakhmut in the area of the settlements of Yahidne and Khromove (where the 93rd Separate Mechanized Brigade of the AFU recently left the encirclement over a temporary bridge). On the northern outskirts, fighting is going on near the AZOM Metalworking Plant in Bakhmut.
In the south of Bakhmut, the RuAF have also advanced in the area of Ivanivske (southwest of the town) and on the outskirts of the town near the MiG-17 aircraft monument (destroyed as a result of a strike).
There was a video showing a huge crater next to residential buildings in Bakhmut. Based on its size, many have suggested that it was an aerial bomb strike (the first in a long time).
The youngest Hero of Ukraine Dmytro Kotsyubaylo, known under the callsign Da Vinci, was reported to have been killed near Bakhmut. He was the first volunteer fighter (one of the Right Sector commanders) awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine. President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other high-ranking officials attended the ceremony of farewell to the deceased, which took place in Kyiv.
In the Avdiivka direction, Russian forces have slightly advanced in the area of Vodiane. As for the village of Vesele, it has changed hands several times between Russian and Ukrainian forces. Attempts to storm Avdiivka continue. It is the direction where a lot of video messages have been recorded by mobilized servicemen who are used as assault infantry there.
Russian forces continue attempting offensive operations towards Vuhledar, but the Armed Forces of Ukraine manage to successfully repel them.
The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine decided to urgently erect military engineering and technical fortifications for defense needs, but it is not specified in which section of the frontline. Perhaps, the construction will begin along the line from Kostiantynivka to Sloviansk.
The pro-Kremlin media outlet URA.RU reports that a large-scale information campaign is being prepared in Russia to recruit contract soldiers into the army. Its launch is scheduled for Apr. 1. By the end of the year, it is planned to recruit 400,000 professional soldiers into the Russian Armed Forces throughout the country. Each region has its own quota to meet. Governors are carrying out preparatory work already.
We should note that according to the schedule, the spring regular biannual conscription campaign begins on Apr. 1, and it is not quite clear how these actions are supposed to be carried out simultaneously. We also remember that last year, before the announcement of "partial" mobilization, there was a campaign of "hidden mobilization," when people were summoned to military commissariats [enlistment offices] for their data check and upon arrival, they were being convinced to sign a short-term service contract citing salaries of 300-400 thousand rubles, the status of a war veteran, benefits, and mortgage as motivation. As a result of such a campaign, within a few months, the 3rd Army Corps of about 12-13 thousand people was formed.
An important point: even if the advertising campaign claims that the contract is for 3 or 6 months, according to the law, it will be indefinite and will last at least until the end of the war, but rather until the end of the life of a "volunteer fighter". Many potential contract soldiers understand it. Assuming that a new status of a "volunteer fighter" is introduced in addition to the status of a soldier, it remains unclear with whom they will sign a contract. Probably, changes in the legislation proposed in Jan. 2023 concerning the supply and arming of volunteer units at the expense of the Defense Ministry were in preparation for this campaign.
If we suppose, however, that this campaign will be successful and those 400,000 people will be conscripted in the nine months remaining until the end of the year, then a second wave of mobilization may not be necessary.
A soldier of a volunteer battalion from Tatarstan, at the end of his short-term contract, surrendered his weapons, wrote a discharge report, and went home without waiting for a response from the unit commander. Upon his return home, he was summoned to the Investigative Committee and accused of absence from his unit without leave. We should note that if, in such a case, you surrender your weapon and go not home but to the home base of your unit, it will be qualified not as going AWOL during mobilization (punishment is up to 15 years in prison), but only as disobedience of orders during mobilization (punishment is much less).
According to the first photos of MT-LB armored multi-purpose tractors with navy anti-aircraft guns, we assumed that they would be used as substitutes for BMP infantry fighting vehicles. However, later there were videos of this variant in the same trainload with 9K35 Strela-10 surface-to-air missile systems or ZSU-23-4 Shilka self-propelled anti-aircraft weapon systems, and we came to the conclusion that it was much more likely that these "tankensteins" would be used as air defense systems against small drones. We wrote an article on this topic yesterday, which we suggest you read (it is in russian at the moment).
Among Russian losses, the Oryx project recorded 13 2K22 Tunguska self-propelled anti-aircraft weapons. According to open sources, it is known that the Russian Army had more than 250 such weapons in 2021, but we see no evidence of their use. If you operated 2K22 Tunguska weapons in the 2010s and know about their technical condition, please write to our bot.
Indian media report that Pakistan is ready to transfer 44 T-80UD tanks to Ukraine in exchange for financial assistance from the West. Pakistan is experiencing serious economic problems and could indeed sell some of its tanks, but unconfirmed Indian media reports about Pakistan should be treated with utmost caution and skepticism.
Yesterday we mentioned a publication in the Financial Times reporting that Ukraine received one Patriot air defense system. Spokesman of the Air Force Command of the AFU Yuriy Ihnat stated that no Patriots had arrived in Ukraine yet. However, as soon as they do, they will start operating immediately, and it will be known from the downing of Russian aircraft or missiles.
Norway promised to hand over two additional NASAMS surface-to-air missiles to Ukraine.
The so-called Freedom of Russia Legion has published a video allegedly showing partisans from the Primorsky region setting fire to a Sukhoi Su-27 fighter aircraft of the 22nd Air Regiment of the Russian Aerospace Forces based near Vladivostok. Judging by the footage of the claimed location, there were long-decommissioned aircrafts there, and access to them was almost free.