November 6, 2023

Sitrep for Nov. 3-6, 2023 (as of 7:30 a.m.)

Frontline Situation Update

On Nov. 3, a suspected incident of Russian friendly fire occurred on the left bank of the Dnipro River. A video captured by a Ukrainian drone shows Russian soldiers caught in close-range gunfire on a road in the village of Krynky. Approximately 10 soldiers, part of a group of 15 to 20, are seen being hit by fire coming from what appears to be a machine gun. Ukrainian soldiers heard commenting on the footage suggest that the Russian soldiers could have been targeted by Ukrainian snipers. However, we consider this scenario highly improbable.

Some pro-Russian Telegram channels, such as Colonel Shuvalov, have concluded that the group of soldiers fell victim to friendly fire. According to Wagner Group’s Grey Zone Telegram channel, the nearby tree line was exclusively populated by Russian positions, and the soldiers were likely attempting to escape gunfire coming from the trees. Furthermore, the situation was likely exacerbated by a lack of communication between units, as the group of soldiers was moving from Ukrainian positions in Krynky. Meanwhile, the pro-Russian military correspondent Romanov asserts that there was no friendly fire; instead, the soldiers had actually been surrounded and were retreating into the tree lines when they were caught in crossfire from machine guns.

A video has emerged showing a Russian UAZ minibus stuck in a deep puddle in the Donetsk region, indicating that heavy rains are now hindering vehicle movement in some frontline areas.

Strikes on Ukrainian Territory

On Nov. 4, Ukrainian forces launched a missile strike targeting the area of the Zaliv shipyard in Kerch. Eyewitness videos show Ukrainian missiles targeted by Russian air defense in the sky, as well as smoke rising on the horizon; the sound of flying missiles and multiple explosions can also be heard. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, 13 of the 15 missiles were intercepted, while one missile damaged a Russian ship moored at the pier.

The Skhemy [Schemes] project (part of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) looked into the site of the strike and the damaged Russian Navy's Askold Karakurt-Class Corvette, capable of launching 3M-54 Kalibr cruise missiles, on Planet Labs satellite images. This new ship, completed and launched in 2021, was undergoing testing. Skhemy’s interlocutor, captain 1st rank of the reserve of the Ukrainian Navy Andrii Ryzhenko, claimed that he could see on the satellite image that the ship had been damaged. However, until photos taken at a closer range on the ground appear, we cannot be completely sure that this ship actually received significant damage or estimate its extent.

On the night of Nov. 6, in the village of Siedove, east of the city of Mariupol, an ammunition storage facility of the Russian Armed Forces exploded (sounds of secondary detonation can be heard in the video). The above mentioned milblogger Romanov claimed that the facility was not hit, but caught fire as a result of a short circuit. According to him, there were only 10 anti-tank guided missiles, a set of BM-21 Grad MLRS rockets and a “small” number of mines. Since the video seems to show quite a powerful explosion, Romanov must have downplayed the scale of the incident, but it will become clearer only after satellite images emerge.

Some researchers speculate that a new object resembling an ammunition storage facility appeared in satellite images of the village as early as September.

Furthermore, on the night of Nov. 6, an attack was carried out on the city of Odesa. A dashcam captured a strike on a city street, leaving a large crater. The pro-Russian Telegram channel Voyenny Osvedomitel [Military Informant] suggested that this might be the result of a defective Ukrainian air defense missile (the videos they published cannot be geolocated). In our opinion, the size of the crater is too large for such a missile; it is more characteristic of an air-dropped bomb or a missile with a similarly powerful warhead, such as the 9K720 Iskander ballistic missile.

As a result of the attack eight people were injured and the Odesa National Art Museum was damaged.

The commander of the Ukrainian Ground Forces, General Oleksandr Syrsky, released a video message in honor of the Day of Missile Forces and Artillery of Ukraine, in front of a Swedish Archer self-propelled howitzer, which is one of the most modern artillery systems in the world. Its arrival in Ukraine has been anticipated for a long time. The Archer is fully automated and has a high rate of fire; it can expand its full load (21 rounds) in 2.5 minutes in its fastest mode, making it less vulnerable to counter-battery fire compared to other SPHs. Depending on the projectile used, the Archer's firing range can vary from 30 to 50 km, and possibly even farther with Excalibur artillery shells. The Swedish government confirmed the delivery of eight out of the promised 12 units. One of the main challenges for Ukrainian artillerymen, as we believe, will be the preparation of firing tables for this new weapon since the AFU have received a large quantity of various 155mm caliber ammunition.

Additionally, as part of the celebration, the latest version of the Ukrainian 22S2 Bohdana 155mm wheeled self-propelled howitzer was once again showcased.

However, this year’s celebration of Ukraine Missile Forces and Artillery Day was marred by a real tragedy. On Nov. 3, in honor of the holiday, a Ukrainian commander ordered a lineup of the AFU 128th Mountain Assault Brigade in the village of Zarichne, Zaporizhzhia region, about 20 km from the front line. As a result, Russia reportedly launched a strike on around a hundred servicemen with an Kh-59 cruise missile or Iskander ballistic missile, with the strike captured by a Russian drone. According to Oleksiy Kucherenko, a Ukrainian MP representing the Batkivshchyna party, 28 men were killed and another 53 wounded. Later the brigade command confirmed the death of 19 military personnel. The incident was further confirmed by Rustem Umerov, Ukraine’s Defense Minister, who pledged to conduct a thorough investigation, while President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has also affirmed that a criminal inquiry is already in progress.

Another wounded person has died as a result of the Russian attack on the Nova Poshta terminal in the village of Korotych in the Kharkiv region on the night of Oct. 22. This brings the death toll to eight, with seven more individuals remaining hospitalized.

On Nov. 3, the settlement of Chaplynka in the occupied part of the Kherson region was subjected to an AFU attack. Occupation authorities have reported nine dead and nine wounded. The identities of three killed civilians were disclosed: local resident Aleksey Morzhakov and two Russian women, Elena Kuzmina and Larisa Ivanova, who were employees of the Social Fund of Russia and were on a business trip to the area.

The Joint Center for Control and Coordination of the "DPR" (JCCC DPR) published photographs showing the damaged roof of a multi-story residential building in Donetsk, trying to present this as evidence of a Ukrainian war crime. However, a few days ago, a video was published of a Ukrainian UAV dropping explosives on the roof of this building in an attempt to destroy a Pole-21 electronic warfare system. Thus, it was the RuAF that committed a war crime by placing military equipment on the roof of a residential building.

US and European officials have begun quietly talking to the Ukrainian government about what possible peace negotiations with Russia might entail to end the war. NBC News reported this, citing two senior US officials: one currently serving and one former. We find two problems with this news story. First, it is unclear if the negotiations involve genuinely high-ranking American officials and Ukrainian military representatives or whether they are informal discussions among lower-level State Department representatives. Second, it is unclear why this information has been published now, even though these discussions allegedly took place during a contact group meeting on aid to Ukraine held on Oct. 12 and 13. We suspect that the topic may not have been deemed interesting or important by the editors at that time, however now, following the publication of General Valerii Zaluzhnyi's essay, this information is likely to attract more attention.

In our previous sitrep, we covered an article from The Wall Street Journal that claimed the Wagner Group planned to transfer a Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery system to the Hezbollah terrorist group. CNN corrected this news, clarifying that it is the government of Bashar al-Assad, not the Wagner Group, that intends to transfer a Pantsir-S1 system to Hezbollah. The Syrian Army indeed possesses Pantsir-S1 systems, which were supplied by Russia during the Syrian operation. Reports suggest that representatives of Assad requested the Wagner Group's assistance in transporting this system and transferring it to Hezbollah. This version appears to be more plausible to us.

Footage of a burned Ukrainian Mikoyan MiG-29 aircraft at the Kulbakino airfield in the Mykolaiv region has been released. This marks another aircraft destroyed in the attack that occurred at the end of September. Currently, it is known that two MiG-29s were destroyed in the same attack.

Video footage of a train carrying Russian peacekeepers’ military equipment in Nagorno-Karabakh has surfaced. On two flatcars, obscured by rather low-quality plywood fences, BMP-1 or BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles can be observed, adorned in the camouflage of the Defense Army of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. Russian peacekeepers have never deployed infantry fighting vehicles in the region. Our belief is that Russia may have acquired these vehicles from Azerbaijan, possibly as captured equipment.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has introduced draft amendments to the Instruction on the Organization of Sending Servicemen for Medical Evaluation. It is proposed to exempt wounded paratroopers serving under contract military service from medical evaluation boards after receiving treatment. Soldiers serving in the Russian Airborne Troops have stricter health requirements compared to other branches of the armed forces, and until last year, certain illnesses could lead to dismissal from the army. Since transferring from the Airborne Troops to other units requires the serviceman's consent, it is possible that the identification of such illnesses allowed for an exit from service, even during mobilization, while members of other units could only be discharged as “unfit for military service” (service fitness category “D”).

The Russian government started the "special military registration" of convicts serving sentences in correctional facilities. The Ministry of Defense had proposed the corresponding amendments to the regulation on military registration. Draft offices near penal colonies and pre-trial detention centers will now handle the convicts’ military registration. The "special military registration" requires neither a personal visit to a draft office, nor medical or psychological examinations when adding or removing convicts from military rolls.

Western Assistance

Kajsa Ollongren, the Minister of Defense of the Netherlands, announced during her visit to Kyiv a new military aid package valued at €500 million, including ammunition, scheduled to be delivered by mid-2024.

Ukraine has received two mine-clearing vehicles. The first is an armored excavator equipped with a mine flail from Germany, and the other one is an unmanned mine-clearing vehicle, also featuring a mine flail, likely from the Netherlands. These vehicles are expected to be deployed in the rear areas of the frontline.

Historian Bernard Kast from Austria has published a comprehensive video featuring various mine-clearing machines. According to a sapper who served as a consultant for this video, mine flails are considered to be of lower quality when it comes to mine-clearing. They generate loud noises and raise large clouds of dust when they operate, making it difficult for the driver to see anything ahead of the vehicle while making it highly visible from a long distance. Therefore, in practice, such vehicles can only be used deep in the rear, far from the frontline. Moreover, after the use of a mine flail, some of the mines are not destroyed but damaged, practically turning them from anti-tank to anti-personnel as a damaged fuse can be triggered by an infantryman. Therefore, after using such a machine, sappers on foot are still necessary to manually check and clear remaining mines in the area.