March 8, 2023

Sitrep for Mar. 6-7 (as of 2:00 p.m.) 

The situation on the frontline

Judging by the incoming information, our assumptions about the retreat of the AFU from Bakhmut did not come true, and the western part of the town located across the Bakhmutka River is still controlled by the Ukrainian Army.

Pro-Russian forces are still near the village of Khromove, where the road to Chasiv Yar passes. Bakhmut is in an operational encirclement, and the situation for Ukrainian forces in the town remains critical.

CIT relies on maps by OSINT analyst Def Mon based on geolocated video recordings to assess the situation in this area.

Our assumptions about the withdrawal of the AFU from Bakhmut were based, among other things, on the fact that dirt roads can hardly be used for supply (and retreat). However, Ukrainian forces are known to evacuate their WIAs first along the road leading to Ivanivske and then along a dirt road that runs through the fields (bypassing the Siverskyi Donets — Donbas Canal). Vehicles get stuck in the viscous mud, which makes moving along this route longer and more dangerous (stuck vehicles are a convenient target for Russian artillery). In addition, such a delay can adversely affect the condition of WIAs.

The decision to continue holding Bakhmut is justified by a desire to eliminate as many enemy soldiers as possible, to wear down pro-Russian forces, and make them spend as much ammunition as possible.

At present, we see no opportunity for the Ukrainian side to organize a breakthrough to relieve Bakhmut from the encirclement. Such an opportunity may appear only after the arrival of new Western military vehicles, along with trained crews. In this situation, waiting is fraught with a complete encirclement of the town, as a result of which Ukrainian forces there will either have to fight to the death or surrender. The RuAF can use aerial bombs to suppress the firing points inside Bakhmut and practically raze the town to the ground. Despite the low motivation of both Wagner Group assault units and mobilized soldiers (who regularly complain of being used as assault infantry), the advantage remains with the Russian side in the Bakhmut direction.

The muddy season affects combat activity in the Kreminna direction. The medical staff of the AFU’s 67th Mechanized Вrigade stated that in the last two days, they had lost four cars and after that was given an armored multi-purpose tractor in bad condition (it constantly skidded to the right and as a result, it almost veered off the road twice). Due to this, a crowdfunding campaign for purchasing a new car was launched.

Controversial information regarding the Bakhmut situation has appeared in the media. Namely, Bild, citing their sources, stated that General Valerii Zaluzhnyi [Commander-in-Chief of the AFU] suggested President Zelenskyy to consider leaving Bakhmut, but Zelenskyy insisted on defending it.

Later, a statement from the Presidential Office appeared, informing that Zelenskyy had held a session of the Headquarters of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief in which the course of military operations was discussed, and generals Zaluzhnyi and Syrskyi spoke in favor of continuing the defense operation and further strengthening the positions of the AFU in Bakhmut.

In the Avdiivka direction, Russian forces have made small advancements north-west from Vodiane. A lot of videos showing the use of guided bombs on Avdiivka, Tonenke, and Lastochkyne have appeared.

James B. Hecker, commander of United States Air Forces in Europe, stated in an interview that around three weeks ago, the U.S. delivered a small amount of JDAM kits which supposedly will be delivered with Ukrainian Mikoyan MiG-29s. Several videos showing the claimed use of JDAM kits have already appeared, but at the moment, it is impossible to reliably ascertain it.

We do not rule out that the increase in activity of the Russian Aerospace Forces is related to this news.

On Mar. 6, the White House confirmed that the supply of F-16 fighters is not under consideration yet. Thus, the AFU pilots who arrived in the U.S. are there only for a theoretical assessment of the time required for retraining for another type of aircraft. Nevertheless, it can be considered "testing the waters."

The Financial Times quoted Western officials saying that Russia does not buy ballistic missiles from Iran out of fear of retaliatory measures — deliveries of ATACMS long-range missiles to Ukraine. We cannot confirm or deny this statement.

The shooting of a Ukrainian soldier

At the time of recording the sitrep, it became known that the video shows a soldier of the 30th Separate Mechanized Brigade of the AFU, Timofey Mykolaivich Shadura. He had been missing since Feb. 3, 2023.

In the video, we see Shadura looking at the cameraman, and, at that moment, someone behind the camera says, "Film him." After which, Timofey says, "Glory to Ukraine!" and someone from either the Wagner Group mercenaries or Russian soldiers (not yet known) starts shooting at him.

Undoubtedly, shooting a prisoner of war is a war crime. From the legal point of view, the Ukrainian soldier is not in combat but at the enemy's mercy and, according to the Geneva Convention, is clearly a prisoner of war.

Judging by Timofey's surroundings (a shovel, an ammunition box, and a small hole in which he was standing), it can be concluded that he was captured at a combat position and shot on the spot.

It should be emphasized that there are many such videos, but not all of them become widely known.

Although cases of shootings of POWs have also occurred on the Ukrainian side, pro-Russian forces are known to carry out such severe massacres more frequently.

In yesterday's sitrep, we highlighted the report by Human Rights Watch, but we did not fully formulate our point. According to the organization's report, there is no solid evidence that the shelling was not carried out by Russian forces, and we agree with HRW's judgment, but we suppose that direct evidence would be needed to disprove a Russian propaganda version in court (which does not yet exist).

The New York Times writes, citing the Ukrainian military, that the Russian command is sending soldiers to assault in “waves” to identify the positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine outside Marinka. According to the article, this explains the huge losses and the large number of video complaints from mobilized servicemen. The task of the units of the first wave is to reveal the firing positions of the AFU. Currently, not only the Wagner Group but also the Russian command is sending troops, now composed mostly of mobilized soldiers, on suicidal attacks.

It is reported that a neurologist from Vladimir, Russia, was killed in the war. The Candidate of Medical Sciences with more than 20 years of experience as a neurologist was mobilized for the war as a military doctor, despite the fact that he had three children, one of whom was disabled. It is unclear what the neurologist was doing on the frontline. At the same time, the Governor of the Vladimir region has recently complained about a shortage of medical personnel: the region lacks more than 900 highly qualified specialists and more than 1500 mid-level medical workers.

In one of our recent sitreps, we talked about an attack on an oil depot in Tuapse, allegedly with a Strizh reconnaissance drone, which resulted in a small fire. Several days later, a video appeared showing a Pantsir-S1 air-defense system in the port of Tuapse. It is unknown whether it was deployed before or after the attack, but we believe that it was deployed very recently for the sake of accountability. Placing an air defense system in the middle of the port with cranes is not logical and raises questions.

We do not rule out that the recent drone attacks on targets within the territory of Russia were aimed at pulling back the Russian air defenses further into the rear so that the defense on the frontline would be weaker and unable to withstand the Ukrainian Air Force.