March 20, 2023

Sitrep for Mar. 18-20 (as of 10:30 a.m.) 

The situation on the frontline

The situation in Bakhmut remains extremely dangerous for the AFU: Russian forces have partially occupied the southern outskirts of the town, where the heaviest fighting is taking place. The offensive continues in the northwestern part of the town, but Bakhmut is still holding out.

Experts of the Institute for the Study of War believe that the Russian spring offensive is close to its climax, and the RuAF has exhausted its resources during it. In their opinion, the Russian Army failed to gather enough forces to achieve a significant result. In our opinion, this is not entirely correct. We agree that the Russian offensive has slowed down, but we believe that it is premature to say that the AFU will soon be able to push back pro-Russian forces in this direction with the help of Western military vehicles.

We assume that, in addition to the muddy season, there are other reasons for this slowdown: heavy losses among personnel and the fact that the available troops are not suitable for assault attacks. The fact that even relatively small settlements such as Bakhmut and Avdiivka cannot be captured with the available forces may lead to a second wave of mobilization.

On Mar. 18, Kramatorsk was hit with BM-27 Uragan MLRS. According to preliminary information, two civilians were killed, and five more were wounded.

On Mar. 19, the town of Kostiantynivka in the Donetsk region was hit (allegedly with a BM-27 Uragan MLRS as well). One person was killed and five people were wounded as a result.

There have been no advances in other areas along the frontline. Suggestions are being voiced (still without concrete evidence) that the Russian Armed Forces are planning to restart their offensive on Vuhledar in the nearest future.

Vladimir Putin unexpectedly flew to Sevastopol and later visited Mariupol, where he chatted with members of the occupational administration as well as, allegedly, local residents. Let’s point out an unusual occurrence: as Putin was talking to the locals, a woman could be heard in the background yelling, “This is all fake; it’s only for show!” This is the first time the Russian president has visited an occupied territory (except Crimea). Many connect the visit to the recent news of the International Criminal Court ordering Putin’s arrest.

In the last two or three weeks, several explosions occurred in the port of Mariupol, meaning that the AFU has weapons able to strike targets in the city. However, in order to attack such an important target as the president of the enemy state, it would be necessary for the intelligence to find out of his arrival in advance and report it while there is still time to prepare a strike. If the opposing side takes proper security measures, it is possible to organize a visit to a dangerous area pretty quickly and unexpectedly (for example, Yevgeny Prigozhin [Russian oligarch, confidant of Vladimir Putin, and the owner of the Wagner Group] visits Bakhmut regularly). We also assume that during Putin’s visit, additional air defense systems were deployed, and the military personnel responsible for securing that zone were carrying out their duty more diligently than usual. Organizing an attack on Putin under such circumstances would be very difficult.

Putin is planning to visit South Africa in August. Vincent Magwenya, the spokesperson of the President of South Africa, stated that the government was aware of its legal obligations regarding the ICC arrest warrant.

In the Tula region (which is 500 km away from the border with Ukraine), a drone has hit the ground, but judging by the photos of its pieces, it is unclear what kind of drone it was. No ammunition attached to the drone was reported.

Information has appeared according to which Chinese mortar rounds were allegedly found at positions abandoned by Russian forces. But these were 60mm rounds, and Russia does not have mortars that use rounds of this caliber. It makes sense to assume that these rounds were not delivered to Russia from China but were delivered to Ukraine from Taiwan, then captured by Russian forces, and subsequently reclaimed by the AFU. The video later turned out to have been filmed in September.

Yevgeny Prigozhin said that the Wagner Group was going to recruit another 30,000 fighters by mid-May. We believe that the possibilities of recruiting a significant number of contract soldiers among those who are ready to go to the "special military operation" for a large amount of money have been exhausted. Last summer, the Russian Ministry of Defense was able to recruit no more than 13 thousand people into the 3rd Army Corps in a similar way. At the moment, all potential volunteer fighters most likely understand how small the chances of surviving on the frontline are.

In the town of Goryachy Klyuch, Krasnodar region, a conflict broke out between Prigozhin and the local administration. Plots in the local cemetery were allocated for the burial of Wagner Group mercenaries. After some time, the burials were held so often that the administration was not happy and began to prohibit them. A video has emerged in which Wagner Group mercenaries threaten the Goryachy Klyuch administration. There was no public reaction from law enforcement agencies or the Kremlin. Thus, we are witnessing the continued destruction of the state's monopoly on violence.

European ammunition manufacturers say that there is a shortage of some components: TNT, nitrocellulose, and gunpowder, so it is impossible to achieve the declared rate of shell production. According to their forecasts, reaching the announced production volume will take about three years.

In one of the recent sitreps, we asked those who were operating the 2K22 Tunguska SPAAG and SAM system during their service in the 2010s and could tell us about the technical condition of these vehicles to contact us. Thank you to everyone who responded. Judging by the stories, the Tunguska system was used infrequently. Anti-aircraft battalions in the motorized rifle units had only a few Tunguska systems at their disposal, there were few repair and maintenance specialists for the system, and given the lack of training of new ones, the number became fewer and fewer over time. Without maintenance, the equipment gradually failed, so now it is practically not appearing on the frontline. We also assume that some of the reservists who knew how to handle these SPAAGs were mobilized, but they are being used as assault infantry and not in their specialty.