March 8

Sitrep for March 6-8, 2024 (as of 9 a.m. UTC+3)

Frontline Situation Update

The progress of the Russian Armed Forces in the Avdiivka direction has been relatively slow. It is reported that Ukrainian forces have regained full control over the village of Tonenke. According to the DeepState Ukrainian project, the Armed Forces of Ukraine have expelled Russian forces from the houses they occupied, suggesting that the village may have been a contested area before.

We believe that these successes may be attributed to the arrival of the 3rd Separate Assault and the 47th Mechanized Brigades of the AFU in this direction. However, Ukrainian forces are still grappling with a shortage of ammunition.

Western Assistance

Norway has joined the fundraising efforts for the purchase of the 800 thousand projectiles secured by the Czech Republic and has allocated €140 million for this purpose. Thus, according to Bloomberg, allies have now almost fully collected the necessary amount, and the projectiles could be delivered to Ukraine in the coming weeks. Initially, Czech President Petr Pavel stated that with Norway's assistance, the entire required sum had now been raised. However, Czech National Security Advisor Tomáš Pojar later clarified that the funds collected would only be sufficient to cover the payment for the first batch of projectiles.

Discussing the significant change in the role of tanks in the current war, where they are often used for indirect fire due to a lack of artillery, it is crucial to highlight the variety of calibers employed (125mm, 120mm or 105mm for AFU tanks). This diversity becomes especially important in the context of ammunition shortages, notably for popular artillery calibers like 155mm. Besides, Ukrainian forces also use 105mm howitzers, like in this archive video from January 2023 showing AFU artillerymen firing an M101 howitzer; significant quantities of this caliber's ammunition have been transferred to Ukraine.

Ukrainian servicemen also discussed intercepted negotiations between Russian soldiers, noting that they called the howitzer crew "Polish mortar men." At the same time, foreign mercenaries are more often found in the Russian Army than in the AFU: it was previously reported that Nepalese citizens were fighting for the RuAF. A recent scandal involving the recruitment of Indian citizens has emerged; they were allegedly offered support roles in the army when signing contracts. One of them has already been reported killed on the frontline.

Photos have surfaced showing the first batch of BTR-60 APCs being sent from Bulgaria to Ukraine. Bulgaria is also removing from storage 2S1 Gvozdika 122mm self-propelled howitzers and BRDM-2 amphibious armored scout cars, presumably preparing those for shipment to Ukraine. It is worth noting that the purchase of about 300 thousand 122mm shells is planned as part of the "Czech initiative." Recently, about a dozen Russian BRDM-2 vehicles have been spotted in the Kherson region. Although these vehicles had previously been removed from service with the RuAF, they still found their way to the frontline after being upgraded to the BRDM-2MS standard.

According to The Telegraph, British companies facing difficulties in producing parts for old Soviet military equipment in Ukraine have sought assistance from the Tank Museum in Bovington. Museum staff provided them with available drawings and other documentation, presumably related to the repair and operation of military vehicles. Although the museum is unlikely to have production specifications detailing the technological nuances of manufacturing specific parts, even the little information they could provide has reportedly significantly helped manufacturing companies.

This is not the first instance where valuable information for current combat operations has been discovered in museums. In 2017, we assisted Bellingcat in investigating a chemical attack in the Syrian town of Khan Shaykhun: it was necessary to identify the type of air-dropped bomb from the debris. According to one version, it was a Soviet-made KhAB-250 chemical air-dropped bomb, the specifications of which were not available in open sources at the time. Head of CIT Ruslan Leviev visited the Central Armed Forces Museum in Moscow, where he photographed and measured a model of this bomb—after comparing the two, it was discovered that a different bomb had been used in Khan Shaykhun.

The UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron has announced that the country is prepared to loan all frozen Russian Central Bank assets in the UK to Ukraine on the basis that the loan will be recouped after Russia pays reparations.

Former Commander-in-Chief of the AFU, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi has accepted the position of Ukraine’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to sign the respective decree in the near future.

Sweden has officially become NATO’s 32nd member country. Although Sweden does not share a land border with Russia, the two countries have a maritime border in the Baltic Sea, along which lies the Kaliningrad region. Sweden's NATO membership now effectively makes the Baltic Sea internal waters of the alliance.

Ukrainian and Russian Strikes

On the morning of March 6, a Ukrainian UAV struck the Mikhailovsky mining and processing plant in Zheleznogorsk, Kursk region. The strike hit a fuel tank at the petroleum products warehouse, leading to a fire. An hour later, a second UAV strike occurred, with no reported casualties.

On March 7, a UAV attacked the Severstal plant in Cherepovets, Vologda region. Reports suggested that one of the plant's blast furnaces was disabled. However, according to the acting governor Georgy Filimonov, the furnace's operation was not disrupted, and the plant is functioning normally, with one unit "undergoing previously planned maintenance."

This attack marks one of the farthest-reaching by Ukrainian UAVs. The Vyorstka media outlet calculated that the potential strike zone of Ukrainian UAVs has expanded by 45,000 square kilometers [17,400 sq. mi].

In the summer of 2023, bills and amendments were adopted allowing convicts to sign contracts with the Ministry of Defense and receive parole. The State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] emphasized that all changes related to criminal punishment should be specified in the Criminal Code. On March 7, bills were introduced in the State Duma proposing amendments to the Criminal and Criminal Procedure Codes, which allow for the possibility of probation for criminal responsibility and punishment for unresolved criminal cases of minor and medium severity in exchange for participation in combat. Unlike parole, there is no requirement for serving a minimum sentence for probationary release. If a serviceman covered by the law receives a state award, the criminal case will be closed, and the convict will be fully released from serving the sentence with the extinguishment of the conviction. Full exemption from liability is also possible due to reaching the maximum age of military service, "unfit for duty" health status and the end of mobilization.

According to lawyers, the introduction of probationary release undermines the principle of inevitability of punishment for proven crimes in court and makes the institution of parole meaningless. Also, in the case of a serious crime, the court may consider signing a contract with the MoD as a special circumstance and requalify the crime as one of medium severity.

On a global scale, Russia’s tactic of systematically sending soldiers to storm positions where previous waves have already perished has remained unchanged over more than two years of war. Initially, entire columns of vehicles were involved in assaults. However, the widespread use of drones has now made it impossible to discreetly amass significant forces in one place. Therefore, storming maneuvers have now been devolved to small assault groups of around 10 soldiers.

Ukrainian military expert Serhii "Flash" Beskrestnov recently published photos of a Russian FPV drone equipped with a 10 km-long [6 mi] spool of fiber optic cable. According to some reports, up to 70% of drones crash soon after takeoff due to friendly electronic warfare suppression, resulting from a lack of coordination between EW systems and drone operators. Additionally, countermeasures deployed by the opposing side further complicate drone operations. To address this, manufacturers attempted to utilize a principle also used in anti-tank missile guidance, creating a drone tethered to its control console. The efficacy of this solution is uncertain, as drone propellers can easily become entangled in the lightweight fiber cable, especially in windy conditions.

A more promising solution appears to be the use of a variant of the Russian Comet antenna, recently discovered in the wreckage of a Universal Gliding and Correction Module (UMPK). Specialists have described the device as having a digital phased array antenna. Such a modification should allow a drone’s navigation system to operate much more effectively within areas of EW interference.