dispatches
March 6

Sitrep for March 4-6, 2024 (as of 9:30 a.m. UTC+3)

Ukrainian and Russian Strikes

Unmanned surface vessels operated by Group 13 of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense attacked the Sergey Kotov Project 22160 patrol ship of the Russian Navy, which was on patrol duty in the area of the Kerch Strait. Five Magura V5 unmanned surface vessels inflicted several blows to the stern and side of the ship, despite attempts to repel the attack. Some pro-Russian sources claim there were no casualties, but several crew members were injured. According to the Main Directorate of Intelligence, there were 7 fatalities and 6 wounded. The ship sank as attempts were made to tow it back to port.

The destroyed project 22160 patrol ship was launched in the winter of 2021. In 2022, it reportedly initially carried a Tor SAM system on its deck, but subsequently, as claimed, a Ka-29 helicopter was deployed on the ship. The helicopter was also lost during the attack. The communications intercepted by Ukrainian intelligence indicate that the Sergey Kotov ship was responsible for providing air defense in the Kerch Strait. It was allegedly equipped with the most modern SIGINT and hydroacoustic reconnaissance suite, as well as electronic warfare systems.

In recent weeks, there has been an increasing number of strikes on Ukrainian air defense systems:

  • On Feb. 24, a video was released showing a strike on the command post and launcher of a S-300 SAM system, confirmed by secondary detonation;
  • On Feb. 26, a video showed a strike on a NASAMS surface-to-air missile launcher, as previously reported;
  • On Feb. 29, another video showed claimed hits on the command post and launcher of a S-300 SAM system, also with visible secondary detonation;
  • On March 5, a video showed strikes on the ground surveillance radars and launcher of the same system, with the Russian Armed Forces apparently managing to destroy several vehicles, once again confirmed by secondary detonation.

This significant loss of air defense systems may stem from the recent mass relocation of SAM systems closer to the frontline to counter Russian aircraft, which provide fire support for its ground forces. This also likely explains the numerous Ukrainian reports of downed Russian Sukhoi Su-34 fighter-bombers, though not all of these claims are supported by objective data.

Moreover, these Ukrainian losses could also be related to recent personnel changes following the appointment of the new commander-in-chief of the AFU.

Furthermore, a video has emerged showing the first recorded destruction of a HIMARS MLRS. This occurred near the village of Nikanorivka in the Donetsk region, approximately 40 km [25 mi] from the frontline. The video shows a vehicle initially standing next to the HIMARS, before a second vehicle appears. However, only one vehicle remains visible after the strike. This indicates that the MLRS remained in the same position for an extended period of time, allowing Russian forces to detect it via drone surveillance and coordinate a strike with an Iskander short-range ballistic missile system. The missile struck right next to the HIMARS, causing the system to catch fire and triggering secondary detonations. This suggests that the MLRS was in its firing position, possibly waiting for target confirmation or coordinates. As previously noted, it is crucial for such systems to fire and then quickly leave their firing position to avoid enemy counter-battery fire.

The Ukrainian side, in turn, claimed they successfully destroyed a few Russian BM-27 Uragan MLRS on the Zaporizhzhia axis. The video clearly shows a secondary detonation and the dispersion of rockets. However, based on the footage, it remains challenging to conclusively identify the specific targeted military equipment with absolute certainty.

In the previous sitrep, we mentioned the delivery of French AASM Hammer air launched cruise missiles and that strikes may have already been carried with such munitions. On the evening of March 4, Ukraine's Air Force Commander Mykola Oleshchuk published a video of an attack on a facility in the occupied Kherson region. In the video, a photograph of an AASM Hammer missile was displayed with the inscription ā€œFor the children of Odesa. With hatred and with no respect." The inscription suggests that the photo is recent, and the strike was carried out in retaliation for the Russian loitering munition attack on Odesa on the night of March 2, which lead to the death of 12 civilians, including five children, and injured nine others, including one child.

On March 5, a Ukrainian UAV attacked an oil depot in the village of Dolgoe, Belgorod region, approximately 100 km [60 mi] from the border with Ukraine. Another attack on a facility prone to catching fire as a result of a strike adds weight to the hypothesis that the drone that fell on March 2 in Saint Petersburg targeted an oil depot, rather than a UAV production plant, as suggested by some analysts. The argument that the drone could have flown past the oil depot seems unconvincing to us, as EW could have affected its flight trajectory. Moreover, unlike artillery shells, UAVs may not follow a straight trajectory and can approach their target from various directions.

A video showing a strike on a RuAF ammunition storage facility in Popasna has been published. The strike occurred no later than March 3, and the footage capturing its aftermath reveals a sight consistent with the destruction of an arms depot.

A video captured by a thermal camera on a Ukrainian drone depicts a Russian infantry fighting vehicle running over a Russian UAZ Bukhanka van. Accidents of this nature involving military vehicles are relatively common near the frontline. In this specific incident, factors such as the use of blackout headlight covers during nighttime operations and the absence of night vision devices for the drivers might have contributed to the accident. The frequent occurrence of such accidents is a compelling reason why many commanders advocate for a ban on the operation of vehicles not officially assigned to military units, as well as prohibiting soldiers without the required qualification from operating military vehicles.

Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal announced that 20 billion hryvnias had been allocated from the Reserve fund of the state budget for the construction of fortifications. This includes 4 billion for the Kharkiv region, 1.8 billion for the Sumy region, 1.5 billion for the Volyn region, 1.5 billion for the Odesa region, 1.3 billion for the Zaporizhzhia region, 1.3 billion for the Kherson region, 1.2 billion for the Donetsk region and 1.1 billion for the Kyiv region. The reason why significantly less resources appear to have been allocated to the Donetsk region, where the most intense fighting is taking place, compared to the Kharkiv region, where there are no noticeable advances by Russian forces, is unknown to us. Shmyhal also noted that an additional 11 billion hryvnias from other sources have been allocated to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense for the fortification and construction of defensive barriers on the frontline.

Ukrainian forces have managed to recapture some positions in the previously seized village of Tabaivka in the Kupiansk direction. However, this is a minor change that does not provide any answers to the previously raised question.

Western Assistance

European Union countries, including Germany and France, are set to support the Czech Republic's proposal to purchase 800,000 artillery shells (500,000 of 155mm caliber and 300,000 of 122mm caliber) for Ukraine. Bloomberg, citing sources, reports that French President Emmanuel Macron, who is scheduled to visit Prague for negotiations on March 5, may announce this decision by the end of the week. It is worth noting that Canada and Belgium have previously announced financial support for this initiative.

It is also reported that the United States will be awarding a contract for the supply of Soviet-caliber artillery ammunition to Ukraine in the amount of $133.9 million. This contract is independent of the $60 billion aid package being discussed in Congress, as these funds were allocated in 2023 under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.

Former convicts continue to commit crimes in Russia. In 2010, Ilya Kanakhin from the city of Volsk killed a man by stabbing him multiple times with a knife and other objects. He was sentenced to nine years and six months in a penal colony but was released on parole. In 2020, he murdered a woman by stabbing her 79 times and was sentenced to 16 years of imprisonment. However, two years later, he joined the Wagner Group and went to the frontline. After six months, he returned to Volsk and beat a 26-year-old woman to death during a drunken quarrel, then dumped her body in a cellar, and attempted to decapitate and dismember it. Last week, he was arrested in the Ulyanovsk region.

An obituary has been published for the Russian neo-Nazi Vyacheslav Subbotin, with the call sign Vykhodnoy, who served as the chief intelligence officer in the EspaƱola brigade. The text claims that "the hero died while performing a combat mission with a weapon in his hands," although he actually died in a car accident. Such glorification of war participants in obituaries is a typical phenomenon in the Russian Army, including in elite units.

The EspaƱola unit, formed by soccer fans, is associated with the Redut PMC and is actively involved in combat. According to Vazhnyye Istorii [IStories, independent Russian investigative media outlet] citing three separate sources, it has been revealed that Viktor Shendrik, the head of the security service of Russian Railways [a fully state-owned railway company] and a protegƩ of the Rotenberg brothers [Russian oligarchs with close ties to Vladimir Putin], is currently sponsoring this armed group. Shendrik, who previously served in the Vympel FSB special unit, is sponsoring the EspaƱola formation. Before its association with Redut PMC, EspaƱola was part of the "DPR" Vostok battalion. EspaƱola includes reconnaissance units, assault troops, artillery, EW units, UAV and sniper units. Leading the EspaƱola unit is Stanislav "Spaniard" Orlov, a CSKA [a Russian soccer club] soccer fan, who has actively participated in hostilities in Ukraine since 2014.