November 29, 2023

Sitrep for Nov. 27-29, 2023 (as of 8 a.m. UTC+3)

Frontline Situation Update

While the Russian Armed Forces maintain their positions in the Avdiivka industrial zone, it is still premature to conclude that they have gained a lasting foothold in the area. Some pro-Russian Telegram channels claim that Russian soldiers are beginning to enter the outskirts of the Avdiivka residential district; however, we have not yet seen evidence confirming these reports.

It is worth noting that the current offensive in the Avdiivka direction began as an attempt to encircle the town, narrowing the Ukrainian supply corridor to about 7 km. However, this endeavor has so far proved unsuccessful, prompting Russian forces to review their tactics, as reported by Frontelligence Insight, founded by Ukrainian military analyst Tatarigami. The RuAF have now opted to attack Avdiivka head-on with small assault groups. However, thus far, these groups have struggled to overcome Ukrainian fortifications, with advances only made possible at the cost of significant losses sustained by attacking soldiers. This personnel-consuming tactical approach is reminiscent of the January 2023 offensive on Vuhledar. Despite substantial casualties, which could eventually amount to thousands of dead, it is unlikely that the RuAF will abandon their attempts to seize Avdiivka in the coming weeks.

On the Kherson axis, fighting continues on the left bank of the Dnipro River. A video filmed in the village of Krynky has been published. Ukrainian officer Robert "Madyar" Brovdi claimed the video showed the record-breaking rapid destruction of a stuck Russian BTR APC with an FPV-drone, which hit the APC one minute and 20 seconds after the vehicle had been detected. The armored personnel carrier got stuck, having partially slid to the side of the road during a careless turn in an attempt to quickly leave its firing position. The crew immediately left the vehicle and ran away before the kamikaze drone hit it.

Judging by the geolocation, the APC appeared to be firing well to the east of the known line of contact, indicating that it was either a case of friendly fire, or that the AFU managed to noticeably advance.

One of the most discussed news stories of the last 24 hours is the poisoning of people associated with the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine. First, a few days ago, the wife of the head of the Main Intelligence Directorate Marianna Budanova was reported to have been poisoned; later more reports emerged stating that several other high-ranking employees of the organization had been poisoned too. According to sources in the Main Intelligence Directorate, heavy metal poisoning was caused by the accumulation of certain metals—presumably arsenic and mercury—in the body due to exposure through food, water or other sources. First and foremost suspicion naturally falls on representatives of Russian military intelligence (formerly GRU [Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation].

A powerful storm has raged in the Black Sea over the past week, causing substantial damage to civilian infrastructure in the region. Upon comparing satellite images of the Crimean Bridge before and after the storm, researchers observed a significant change: the booms adjacent to it had nearly vanished, either washed away, submerged or prudently removed ahead of the storm.

In Yevpatoria, the coastal defense line was flooded, along with engineering structures and firing positions constructed by Russian forces in anticipation of potential Ukrainian landings in Crimea.

Certain sections of the railway in the Krasnodar region were initially submerged but then were quickly restored, suggesting that the disaster likely had minimal impact on Russian military logistics.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty studied satellite images depicting the aftermath of the fire that broke out at a military base near the village of Kotluban in the Volgograd region. Journalists discovered a destroyed hangar, suspected to have housed ammunition for small arms (the arsenal of the Main Missile and Artillery Directorate of the Russian MoD). However, no signs of secondary detonation were apparent. The fire, attributed to an alleged drone strike, occurred on Nov. 16.

The Deputy Minister of Defense of Iran has announced the procurement of Yak-130 light combat aircraft, Sukhoi Su-35 air superiority fighters and Mil Mi-28 helicopters from Russia.

The Ukrainian General Staff released a photograph of an undetonated air-dropped bomb, specifically a FAB-500ShL or FAB-500ShN, in a report on the neutralization of explosive devices. These bombs are equipped with parachutes, designed to slow their descent and enable their release at low altitudes, without jeopardizing aircraft integrity. This allows Russian aircraft to strike near the line of contact without worrying about Ukrainian air defenses.

According to the Financial Times, Turkey has experienced a significant surge in exports of crucial goods to Russia that are essential for Moscow's military activities. In the initial nine months of 2023, Turkey recorded exports totaling $158 million for 45 goods categorized as "high-priority" by the US, destined for Russia and five former Soviet countries. These goods include microchips, communication equipment and components for telescopic sights. This figure represents a threefold increase compared to the same period in 2022 and stands in stark contrast to the average annual export volume of $28 million observed from 2015 to 2021. The report underscores the difficulty in monitoring sanctions evasion, particularly when certain components are embedded in goods designated as "civilian."

Information has surfaced about the death of Major General Vladimir Zavadsky, Deputy Commander of the 14th Army Corps, who reportedly triggered a mine. While the fact of his death is confirmed by our sources, details remain unknown.

In the Karaganda region of Kazakhstan, a court sentenced local resident Aleksey Shompolov to six years and eight months in a penal colony for participating in the war against Ukraine. The court also ordered the confiscation of 205,590 rubles [$2320], believed to have been criminally obtained. Shompolov fought on the side of Russia as part of the Wagner Group, and admitted his guilt in court, citing financial needs as the reason for joining the war. In his appeal, Shompolov claimed he was misled when signing his contract, believing he was not violating the law, as Russia was "not conducting a war, but a "special military operation" to liberate the civilian population."

Conscription, Mobilization and Contract Military Service

BBC News Russian published a comprehensive investigation into the links between the "Redut PMC," the BARS (Special Combat Army Reserve) system, the Russian Ministry of Defense, as well as the complex hierarchical organizations managing various volunteer units that formally are not part of the Russian Army.

Vazhnyye Istorii [IStories, independent Russian investigative media outlet] has reported that the Borz Battalion and the Espanola unit, both affiliated with the "Redut PMC," actively recruit women for various combat roles. These roles extend beyond traditional positions such as medics, staff members or signalers, with women also serving as UAV operators, snipers and assault troops within these units. However, contracts signed with the "Redut PMC" are of a short-term nature, resulting in participants, akin to former members of the Wagner Group, being ineligible for the status of combat veterans, state awards and compensations. This is due to their legal classification as participants in illegal armed groups. The compensation offered is reported to be comparable to that provided to contract soldiers of the Russian Ministry of Defense.

Relatives of mobilized soldiers published an "Appeal to the People" in the Put Domoy [Way Home] Telegram channel, stating that they had been deceived. The women recalled that Putin promised not to call up reservists, but after the announcement of mobilization, he sent them to the frontline anyway. Relatives of mobilized soldiers feel punished for being law-abiding, and complain: "Our men are paying with their blood to maintain a semblance of stability for the majority, and we are paying with our health and tears." They declare that they will stop protesting only after their men are back safe at home (permanently, and not within the framework of rotation). Additionally, the wives of mobilized soldiers launched a campaign in various cities of Russia, sticking stickers on their cars with the inscription "Vерните мужа! Я Zа#балась" ["Return my hubby, I'm sick of this sh*t."]

Furthermore, relatives of mobilized soldiers published an "Appeal to the Authorities,” expressing their bewilderment at being made enemies and suggesting to replace mobilized soldiers with the actors hired to participate in videos discrediting them on Solovyov's channel.

Another Telegram channel, called Mobilizovannym Pora Domoy [It is Time for the Mobilized to Go Home] has reported on a campaign launched by women who put leaflets advertising contract-based military service in people’s mailboxes in the hope that once enough volunteer fighters are recruited, mobilized men will be allowed to come home.

Independent journalist Andrey Zakharov and the Project online media have released a documentary called "His War," a historical investigation into how Putin unleashed his war in 2014, with the preconditions for the war having been created as early as ten years earlier. Zakharov analyzed numerous open sources, such as books published by various separatists, in which they reveal details of the planning and early stages of the Russian aggression, wiretaps published by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), leaked emails of Vladislav Surkov, the former Kremlin "puppet master," and other people close to Putin. The film is intended to convince audiences that the war actually started eight years before the current full-scale invasion and was initiated by Putin himself.