March 18, 2023

Sitrep for Mar. 17-18 (as of 02:30 p.m.) 

The situation on the front line

Over the past week, everything was relatively quiet at the front without significant advances. OSINT analyst Def Mon, relying in his analysis on the reports of the General Staff of the AFU, notes the absence of changes on the frontline.

Over the past day, the RuAF launched another massive attack with loitering munitions on the territory of Ukraine.

A fire broke out in the town of Novomoskovsk in the Dnipropetrovsk region as a result of a strike with an Iranian kamikaze drone; the sounds of the secondary detonation of small arms ammunition (or firing of small arms) can be heard in the video showing the fire. Pro-Russian sources report that a fuel depot of the AFU was attacked.

In the Zaporizhzhia region, shells and kamikaze drones hit the territory of a residential complex, and several buildings were damaged. Fortunately, no one was injured.

In the Lviv region, 3 out of 6 drones were shot down.

Loitering munitions were also seen in Slavutych, Kyiv region.

According to the Air Forces of the AFU, 11 out of 16 loitering munitions launched from the Bryansk region and from the eastern coast of the Sea of Azov were shot down during the latest attack.

Some pro-Russian sources note that, apparently, Ukraine is withdrawing part of its troops from the Kyiv axis and transferring them to more important ones, for example, to the Bakhmut direction. This also indicates that the possibility of the participation of the Belarusian Army in the war or a second Russian offensive from Belarus seems more and more doubtful to the Ukrainian side.

Journalists of the RFE/RL's Belarusian service determined using satellite images of the Obuz-Lesnovsky combat training range that Russia had withdrawn some of its forces from there because about half of the tents were covered with snow, i.e., they were not heated. The same situation was observed at the military vehicles' training ranges — some of them had been emptied.

The Belarusian Hajun monitoring group says that there is a rotation, presumably of mobilized and volunteer fighters, which has involved about 1,000 people (one tent fits about 30 people).

Sergei Shoigu [Russian Defense Minister] awarded Sukhoi Su-27 pilots who intercepted a US drone over the Black Sea state awards. It seems to be a kind of recognition that the drone did not fall by itself.

Slovakia, following Poland, announced the transfer of 13 Mikoyan MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague issued arrest warrants for Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, the Russian presidential commissioner for children's rights.

An arrest warrant in such cases means that the court needs the defendants to be brought in for proceedings. Recall that the International Criminal Court cannot try Putin for starting a war with Ukraine; he can only be charged with individual war crimes. Despite the fact that 123 countries that have ratified the Rome Statute are obliged to execute this arrest warrant if possible, there is no punishment for failure to do so.

Vladimir Putin became the fourth national leader indicted in the ICC in the history of the court. His predecessors were: Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, head of state of Sudan (he was accused of genocide in 2009 over the conflict in Darfur but kept his post until he was ousted in 2019 and is still not extradited to The Hauge), Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi, de facto leader of Libya (he was indicted in 2011 due to the crimes against humanity committed during the mass protests suppression operations; Gaddafi was killed by the revolters before he made it to the court); Koudou Laurent Gbagbo, President of Côte d'Ivoire (he lost the elections in 2011, was arrested and was brought to The Hauge due to alleged crimes against humanity, but he was acquitted on all charges by an ICC panel).

It is claimed that a Russian Su-25 ground attack aircraft was shot down or damaged over Berestove, Donetsk region, by a Ukrainian air defense unit. It is hard to tell what exactly happened due to the poor quality of the video. Apparently, the aircraft was indeed hit, but the flight crew survived and managed to reach an airport. To our knowledge, Su-25 is capable of reaching the closest airport and landing with only one engine operating.

In 2021 and 2022, our team took advantage of open informational services to track movements by Russian troops. Such services used to be available to anyone and allowed, given a railroad car ID, to look up details on the cargo being carried, its sender, recipient, origin, and destination. Unfortunately, we can no longer access these services after new usage restrictions were introduced the last year. If you have the ability to help by looking up info on freight cars for us, please let us know.

No significant changes to the frontlines occurred during the last week. Ukrainian forces keep holding Bakhmut, where dirt roads are the only remaining means of communication. Traveling on such roads is dangerous, and Ukrainian videos show numerous destroyed military vehicles alongside them. Most likely, the muddy season affects the Russian side as well; therefore, we are witnessing an overall slowdown in combat activities.

Governors and draft boards in several Russian regions have started preparations for the [regular] spring conscription campaign due to start on Apr. 1. We still don’t have a clear idea of the reasons for the recently started mass distribution of draft notices to “check-up military service register data” or to participate in “military training meets.” Possibly, those who come for a “data check-up” will be pressured into voluntarily signing a contract with the military.

A story by a Russian artilleryman of a 2A65 Msta-B howitzer was published. According to him, some time ago, a new rule was introduced, according to which they had to report on the expended ammunition every day. After a while, their commander told them to shoot less but report the same amount of ammunition as before. It turned out that the commander was selling the written-off but unshot shells to the Wagner Group. If this story is to be believed (and it seems plausible to us), the rivalry between the Ministry of Defense and Wagner caused by ammunition shortage is leading to even more corruption in the Russian Army.