In the Bakhmut direction, Russian forces managed to make significant progress. The most significant changes occurred north of Bakhmut. At the end of last week, we noted that after the capture of Berkhivka and Yahidne, they began to advance towards Bohdanivka. Now it has become clear that over the past few days, Russian forces have managed to reach Bohdanivka, begin to advance towards Hryhorivka, and attack Orekhovo-Vasylivka (northeast of Berkhivka). They have also approached the road near Khromove even closer (let us recall that the bridge over a small river connecting 8th Pond and Pivnichnyi Pond was blown up, in our opinion, by the AFU).
The fact that the Commander of the Ground Forces of the AFU, General Oleksandr Syrskyi, was stated to have visited Bakhmut does not affect the way we view the situation: a few more days after the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from Bakhmut, the official position of Ukraine may remain the same (“Bakhmut is holding on”). Meanwhile, a group of special forces engaged in mining individual objects might be the only unit that remains in the town.
If the AFU have not actually retreated from Bakhmut, then at the moment, they are in an extremely difficult situation. Let us recall that the three main supply routes (that can be used to bring ammunition and additional forces to Bakhmut or retreat from the town) were cut off: the roads to Siversk (after the capture of Krasna Hora and Blahodatne) and to Sloviansk (due to the capture of Berkhivka and Yahidne) are under complete control of Russian forces, and the road to Kostiantynivka was actually cut off as the bridge to the west of Ivanivske was blown up. There was one small road passing through Khromove and connecting Bakhmut and Chasiv Yar, but the bridge was recently blown up on it (besides, the RuAF have already taken it under fire control). Thus, now there are no roads that can be used to leave Bakhmut, and troops can hardly leave through the fields as the muddy season has already begun.
A video of a Su-34 strike aircraft being shot down near Yenakiieve has appeared; it shows that the pilots were able to eject. Photos of the aircraft wreckage have also been published.
The United States has announced a new $400 million military aid package to Ukraine that will include the following:
- additional ammunition for the HIMARS MLRS, howitzers, and Bradley IFVs;
- demolitions munitions and equipment;
- armored vehicle-launched Bridges.
The first 24 Spartan armored personnel carriers purchased with the funds raised by the Serhiy Prytula Charity Foundation have already arrived in Ukraine. 101 pieces of equipment are purchased in total, including:
- Spartan armored personnel carriers;
- FV434 armored repair vehicles;
- Sultan command and control vehicles;
- demilitarized chassis for Stormer air defense vehicles;
- FV432 Bulldog armored personnel carriers;
- Samson armored recovery vehicles.
Journalists from the Belarusian Zerkalo media outlet called the 325th Aviation Repair Plant in Taganrog and received confirmation that the “tail number 43” (a Beriev A-50 AEW&C aircraft attacked by drones in Machulishchy) had arrived for repairs. Therefore, the plant confirmed the fact of the attack and the fact that the aircraft was damaged to some extent.
A court in the Kharkiv region has sentenced a Russian pilot to 12 years in prison, finding him guilty of violating the laws and customs of war. According to the prosecution, while understanding that he had received an illegal order, he nonetheless obliged it and dropped several FAB-500 air-dropped bombs on a radio and TV broadcasting station. It is worth noting that in accordance with international conventions, the Ukrainian court believes that crossing a border carrying weapons does not automatically make the soldier a war criminal, and he must be charged with a specific war crime.
90 Stryker armored fighting vehicles that the U.S. earlier promised to Ukraine have arrived in Germany. Alongside the base version of the M1126 Infantry Carrier Vehicle (ICV), equipped with a Browning large-caliber machine gun, M1127 Reconnaissance Vehicles (RV) will also be provided, including Long Range Advanced Scout Surveillance Systems Sub-Assemblies (LRAS3) and M1133 Medical Evacuation Vehicles (MEV).
According to Bloomberg, some tensions between Poland and Germany have risen, stalling the Leopard A24 shipments for a long time. Those tanks require repairs, Poland does not possess the necessary parts, and Germany does not produce them in useful amounts because this Leopard modification is obsolete.
On Feb. 24, some missile pieces were found near Donetsk and were later recognized as pieces of a Vilkha-M missile for the BM-30 Smerch MRLS. Its range is 110 km, and its warhead weight is 220 kg. Apparently, Ukraine has managed to produce a certain amount of such missiles since 2018.
NBC writes that two Ukrainian pilots are in the U.S. undergoing an assessment to determine how long it could take to train them to fly attack aircraft, including F-16 fighter jets. It is reported that U.S. authorities have approved bringing up to 10 more Ukrainian pilots to the U.S. for further assessment of U.S. attack aircraft.
Russia’s State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] member Vitaly Milonov returned to St. Petersburg after his contract termination. In an interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda [Russian pro-Kremlin tabloid newspaper], he told how he fought as an artillery gunner and said that he was going to sign a new contract and again go to the "special military operation" zone. We do not know how his contract could have ended if, under mobilization, all contracts became indefinite.
Vladimir Solovyov [Russian propagandist] went to the front, where he came under a Ukrainian attack. From the fact of the attack, we can realize that it was not near Vuhledar, as he says, but in Volnovakha, where the Russian 155th Separate Naval Infantry Brigade withdrawn from near Vuhledar for reinstatement is now stationed. It was Volnovakha that was struck yesterday on the anniversary of the death of the well-known separatist Vladimir Zhoga.
Human Rights Watch has published an investigation into the strike at the Kramatorsk railway station. Based on surveys of the injured, doctors and witnesses, X-rays of injuries, shrapnel, and the location of the places where the submunitions hit, the organization confirmed that the strike was carried out by a missile with a cluster warhead from the Tochka missile system. However, direct evidence that would allow proving the guilt of the Russian side has not yet been found. The article notes that (according to satellite images) several days after the strike on Kramatorsk, Tochka-U missile containers appeared in the village of Kunie in the Izium district, which remained there even after the withdrawal of Russian forces and were photographed in October last year. Kramatorsk is within reach of the Tochka-U system when fired from Kunie. However, since they were not there on the day of the strike on Kramatorsk, and it was not possible to find the Tochka launch vehicles in the images, it has not been possible to fully refute the version of Russian propaganda.
Russian state media are circulating a video in which Ukrainian columns are said to be trying to leave Bakhmut (Artyomovsk) but are being destroyed by Russian artillery. The record is geolocated to the northwest of the town near the village of Berkhivka. Though some experts believe that those are indeed Ukrainian forces, the quality of the video is too poor to unambiguously determine the vehicles’ affiliation.
The Institute for the Study of War writes that the Armed Forces of Ukraine are carrying out a systematic withdrawal from Bakhmut, and this is for their advantage — retreating, they may inflict heavy losses on the enemy. Such a conclusion doesn’t seem reasonable since while leaving a settlement, rearguard fighting takes a lot of effort, and those withdrawing are still in danger.