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Russo-Ukrainian war, day 59: no major territorial gains for Russians, 1000 civilians trapped in bomb shelters in Mariupol

Ukraine war
Article by: Hans Petter Midttun
During the offensive Russian troops managed to take control over 42 Ukrainian small settlements but have so far failed to make any major territorial gains. Heavy fighting in Mariupol continues, more than 1000 civilians are trapped in underground facilities of the Azovstal plant. The Kremlin continues to clean up the leadership of the Russian Army and Navy and arrests top military officials. France to send Caesar self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine.

Morning report day 59 – April 23

The report is based on media reports, expert analyses, and official information posted online.


According to information from the General Staff:

“The Russian Federation continues its full-scale armed aggression against Ukraine.

Russian forces are conducting offensive operations in the Eastern Operational Zone to defeat the Joint Forces, establish full control over the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, and secure a land route between these territories and the occupied Crimea.Ukraine war

The greatest activity of Russian forces is observed in Slobozhansky and Donetsk directions. Units of Russian occupiers are regrouping.

Russian forces continue to launch missile and bomb strikes on military and civilian infrastructure.

In the Volyn, Polissya, and Siversky directions, some units of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus perform tasks to strengthen the Ukrainian-Belarusian border in the Brest and Gomel oblast. To clarify the position of our troops in the Sumy direction, the enemy used UAVs from the area of ​​the settlement of Glushkovo.

  • The threat of missiles and airstrikes from these areas remains. In addition, the enemy may provoke on the Ukrainian-Russian border, accusing them of being representatives of the Defence Forces of Ukraine.
  • There is an increase in electronic reconnaissance and electronic warfare systems in the border areas of the Gomel Oblastwith Ukraine. Units of the 48th separate battalion of electronic warfare of the Western Operational Command of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Belarus have been set up in the districts of Klimovka and Dymamerky. In addition, the enemy conducted training of regular forces and air defense.
  • In the Siversky direction, the federal security service and border service units of the Russian Federation continue to carry out enhanced protection of the Ukrainian-Russian border in the Bryansk and Kursk oblasts. The regrouping of enemy troops continues.

In the Slobozhansky direction, a group of Russian troops continues to partially block Kharkiv and fire at it from barrel and rocket artillery.

  • Independent units of the 1st Tank and 20th Combined Arms Armies of the Western Military District, the 35th Combined Arms Army, and the 68th Army Corps of the Eastern Military District and Airborne Forces are conducting offensive and assault operations south of Izium. Russian forces conduct air reconnaissance of positions and measures to organize fire support for the offensive and the organization of logistical support for the group.
  • According to available information, units of the 64th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade, which took an active part in the mass killings, torture, and rape of civilians in the Ukrainian city of Bucha, are operating in the area of ​​Izium and have already suffered casualties.
  • To improve the tactical position of the units, Russian forces tried to carry out offensive operations in the directions of the settlements of Zavody and Dibrovne, but without success.

In the Donetsk direction, Russian forces are conducting offensive operations along the entire line of contact. Russian forces are concentrating their main efforts on the offensive in the Sievierodonetsk direction, exerting intense fire on our troops to displace them and create conditions for the development of the offensive on Sloviansk. The offensive in the direction of Novotoshkivsky and assault operations in the areas of Rubizhne, Popasna, and Marinka continue.

  • In the Mariupol direction, Russian forces continue to blockade our units in the area of ​​the Azovstal plant and launch airstrikes on the city, including with the use of long-range aircraft. To demine the port infrastructure of Mariupol, a Russian engineering unit arrived in the occupied city.

  • As part of the formation of additional reserves, the training of a unit of the Russian private military company “Wagner” numbering up to 200 people was completed. The advanced group of the unit was transferred to the Novobakhmutivka district to reconnoiter the area and clarify the order of interaction. The information is currently being clarified.
  • During the day, Russian forces carried out assault operations in the direction of the city of Sloviansk and established themselves in the village of Lozove. In the areas of the Zelena Dolyna and Kreminna, Russian forces continue to consolidate their occupied positions, regroup and prepare for offensive operations.
  • Russian forces strengthened the grouping of troops by moving from the territory of the Russian Federation individual units of the 41st Combined Arms Army of the Central Military District. Unsuccessfully trying to gain a foothold in the village of Rubizhne.
  • In the area of ​​Popasna, Russian forces carried out assault operations in the direction of the settlement of Novotoshkivske and deep into the settlement of Popasna, without success. Established in the central part of the village Stepne.
  • In the Avdiivka and Kurakhiv areas, Russian forces tried to carry out assault operations, but without success.

In the Zaporizhzhia direction, to strengthen its group, the Russian enemy moved a battalion tactical group from the 19th Motorized Rifle Division of the 58th Combined Arms Army of the Southern Military District.

  • Russian forces carried out assault operations in the direction of the settlement of Zelene Pole, without success. The enemy strengthened the group by relocating units of the 19th Motorized Rifle Division of the 58th Combined Arms Army of the Southern Military District. At the same time, the battalion tactical group of the 127th Motorized Rifle Division of the 5th Combined Arms Army lost its combat capability and was withdrawn to the recovery area.

In the Tavriya and Pivdennyi Buh direction directions, there is a group of Russian troops, consisting of independent units of the 8th and 49th Combined Arms Armies, the 22nd Army Corps, and the coastal troops of the Black Sea Fleet of the Southern Military District and Airborne troops. Russian forces focus their main efforts on improving their tactical position and maintaining the occupied frontiers.

  • In order to create favorable conditions for advancing in the direction of the city of Mykolayiv, Russian forces are shelling the positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. To increase the air defense system near the city of Skadovsk Kherson oblast, the Russian enemy deployed an S-300VM battery.

In the Pivdennyi Buh direction, Russian forces are trying to improve their tactical position and gain a foothold on the administrative borders of the Kherson Oblast. Suffers significant losses in technics.

  • According to available information, the personnel of a separate group of Russian troops in the so-called “Transnistrian-Moldavian republic” serve daily. At the same time, the possibility of using the territory of the unrecognized republic for aggression against Ukraine remains.

In the Black Sea and Azov operational zones, Russian naval groups in the Black and Azov Seas continue to carry out tasks to isolate the combat area and conduct reconnaissance.

In the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts alone, eight Russian enemy attacks have been repulsed in the past 24 hours, nine tanks, eighteen armored units, and thirteen vehicles, a tanker, and three artillery systems have been destroyed.”

The occupiers are completing the regrouping of troops and preparing for a large-scale offensive, the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine (DIU) claims. “The enemy is finishing the regrouping of troops.

“All battalion tactical groups that have so far been concentrated in Belarus, near our northern borders, are now moving to eastern Ukraine. This is the first. And secondly, the enemy is now trying to identify the most vulnerable places of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in all directions to launch a large-scale offensive and consolidate its success, especially in the Donetsk operational area, said Vadym Skibitsky.

Regarding reports of the alleged decision of the occupiers to stop the assault on Azovstal in Mariupol, a representative of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine said that, according to military intelligence, the Russian leadership, as always, is lying.

Yes, they may refuse to carry out a large-scale assault on this facility, but, according to our data, they plan to involve the Rosguard (Russian Guard Forces), and other structures, including the FSB, which will continue to attack the Azovstal plant to destroy our resistance“. – a representative of the DIU commented.”

Sloviansk was shelled with cluster bombs, Ukrainska Pravda reports. Sloviansk was probably shelled with cluster bombs, said the head of the city’s military administration, Vadym Lyakh. There were no casualties. He asks and urges people to evacuate.

Russia had taken control of some 42 small towns and villages in recent days, The New York Times reports. But Russia has so far failed to make any major territorial gains in its renewed offensive, according to Ukrainian and Western officials.

The Russian military is threatened for refusing to fight, but the case is not initiated, Ukrainska Pravda reports citing Mediazone. According to the paper, the number of servicemen who refused to go to Ukraine is unknown, but the number is in the hundreds or even thousands. In the absence of martial law in Russia, it is difficult to sue them for non-compliance with the order, so commanders put pressure on their subordinates by persuasion, threats, and dismissals.

The Kremlin continues to clean up the top leadership of the Russian Army and Navy, the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine (DIU) claims. DIU has information that after the defeat of Russian troops on land and the destruction of the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet “Moscow” began another phase of repression against the command of the Russian army and navy.

  • The commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Admiral Igor Osipov, was removed from office and arrested. Investigative actions are being carried out against the Chief of Staff – First Deputy Commander of the Black Sea Fleet Vice Admiral Serhiy Pinchuk.
  • Due to unsatisfactory preparation for hostilities and heavy losses of personnel, weapons, and military equipment, he was removed from the post of commander of the 6th Army of Lieutenant General Vladislav Yershov, 1st Tank Army of the Western Military District Lieutenant-General Serhiy Kisel, and one of the deputy commanders.
  • The Kremlin’s repression also affected the rear and security units. Due to the unsatisfactory organization of material and technical support, a group of troops of the Eastern Military District was removed from the post of commander of 103 separate brigades of material and technical support of Colonel M. Ponomarev.

“Modern” Russian cruise missiles are equipped with electronics developed in the 60s of the last century, DIU claims. The analysis of X-55 cruise missile (NATO code: AS-15 “Kent”) guidance and navigation systems, as well as their modifications X-555 and X-101 conducted by Ukrainian experts, showed that “modern” guidance units were developed in 1960-1970 and produced by the Voronezh Plant of Radio Parts. Minsk plant “Integral” and other enterprises of the Soviet Union. Additionally, the “newest” missiles use the navigation system “PGI-2M”. Developed in 1977, it was mass-installed on Su-27 or MiG-29 aircraft of the Soviet period. Most of the X-101 missiles fired through Ukraine did not hit the targets.

According to British Defence Intelligence, (last 24 hours):

  • Despite the increased activity, Russian forces have made no major gains in the last 24 hours as Ukrainian counter-attacks continue to hinder their efforts.
  • Russian air and maritime forces have not established control in either domain owing to the effectiveness of Ukraine’s air and sea defense reducing their ability to make notable progress. (This statement does by no means reflect the realities. Ukraine lacks Air Defense to stop Russia from conducting airstrikes, and missile strikes and bombing Ukrainian cities, critical military, and civilian infrastructure. Furthermore, Ukraine does not have a Navy and is unable to break the ongoing maritime blockade. The Black Sea Fleet is conducting effective Sea Denial operations and has established Sea Control over greater parts of the Northern Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The statement is, therefore, false. – HPM).
  • Despite their stated conquest of Mariupol, heavy fighting continues to take place frustrating Russian attempts to capture the city thus further slowing their desired progress in the Donbas.

As of Saturday 23.04.2022, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the war to the present day:russian losses

  • Personnel – more than 21600 people (+400),
  • Tanks – 854 units (+16),
  • Armored combat vehicles – 2205 units (+43),
  • Artillery systems – 403 (+6),
  • Multiple rocket launchers – 143 (+5)
  • Air defense means – 69 (no change),
  • Aircraft – 177 (+1),
  • Helicopters – 154 (+1),
  • Automotive technology – 1543 (+20),
  • Vessels/boats – 8 units (no change),
  • Fuel and lubricant tanks – 76 (no change),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 182 (+10)
  • Special equipment – 27 no change)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (no change)


EU: humanitarian corridors from Azovstal and other districts of Mariupol needed immediately, Ukrainian Pravda reports. The European Union is responding to the difficult situation in Mariupol by demanding the opening of humanitarian corridors from Azovstal and other parts of the city to other parts of Ukraine. This is stated in a statement by EU Foreign Minister Josep Borrelll on Friday, European Truth reports. For weeks now, the world has witnessed Russia’s brutal illegal attack on Mariupol, leading to widespread destruction of the city, including atrocities against civilians under the perverse pretext of “liberating” the city. Thousands of residents have been deported to Russia or forcibly relocated territory of Ukraine,”  Borrell said.

According to UNHCR 5,133,747 refugees have been registered as of 21 April. The UN says that so far Poland has taken in 2,867,241 refugees, Romania 769,616, Russian Federation 578,255, Hungary 480,974, Republic of Moldova 430,170 Slovakia 349,286, and Belarus 23,900. Among those who fled Ukraine are also Ukrainian nationals with dual citizenship. An additional 113,000 people moved to the Russian Federation from the Donetsk and Luhansk oblast between 21 and 23 February.

The number of Ukrainians entering Ukraine since February 28 is 1,089,500 (last updated on April, 21).

OHCHR recorded 5,381 civilian casualties in Ukraine as of 21 April. 2,435 were killed (including 184 children) and 2,946 injured (including 286 children).

The evacuation effort was not executed on April 22, due to a high level of threats and lack of security along the humanitarian corridors. According to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine:

“Russians use civilians for pressure and do not release from Azovstal. Approximately 1,000 civilian people are there now. There are sometimes corridors just for captivity. Russians have opened one, but we don’t need it. Because our soldiers don’t want to surrender to the enemy. 

We need a real humanitarian corridor from Azovstal to evacuate women, children, and the elderly. Russians refuse to open it, cynically pretending not to understand the difference between the corridors. In this way, they are trying to put pressure on our military. Occupiers are afraid to storm Azovstal, but deliberately do not release civilians.

As of April 23 am, the Government of Ukraine is still working to ensure humanitarian corridors to evacuate women, children, and the elderly from Mariupol.

Et bilde som inneholder tekst Automatisk generert beskrivelse208 children were killed, and 387 children injured, the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine reports as of April 23. 1,500 educational establishments are damaged as a result of shelling and bombings, 102 of them are destroyed fully.

As of the same date, 7,999 crimes of aggression and war crimes, and 3,760 crimes against national security were registered.


Nuclear terrorism”: a Russian cruise missile flew over the nuclear power plant, Ukrainska Pravda reports. Energoatom has published evidence of a Russian cruise missile flying over the South Ukrainian nuclear power plant. “Ukraine recorded one (out of three) cruise missiles flying over a Nuclear Power Plant on 16 April. Aiming at a nuclear reactor implies huge risks and potentially catastrophic consequences. “Once again, we call on the IAEA to take all possible measures to stop Russia’s nuclear terrorism, withdraw Russian troops from the ZNPP territory, and establish demilitarized zones around Ukrainian nuclear power plants”, Energoatom says.


France to send Caesar self-propelled howitzers to Ukraine, Defence Blog reports. Emmanuel Macron on Friday said in an interview to Ouest-France that the country will send 155mm Caesar self-propelled artillery systems and Milan anti-tank missiles to Ukraine. According to some reports, Ukrainian artillerymen are already learning how to use these self-propelled artillery units to destroy the Russian occupiers.

“The Caesar is a modern truck-mounted artillery system developed by Nexter Systems. Caesar is equipped with all the systems needed for independent operation, a cabin to protect the six-man gun crew against shell fragments and small arms fire, an initial ammunition supply of 16 complete rounds, and instrumentation for navigation, aiming, and ballistic calculations and command aids. The system was specifically designed to meet the fire support requirements of rapid deployment forces.”

Canada announces artillery and other additional military aid for Ukraine, according to a government news release. Canada has delivered several M777 howitzers and associated ammunition to the Security Forces of Ukraine.

The M777 lightweight 155-mm towed howitzer is lighter and smaller, yet more powerful than any gun of its kind. The M777 provides indirect firepower capable of accurately hitting targets at a range of distances up to 30km. Additionally, Canada has provided Ukraine with a significant number of additional Carl Gustaf anti-armor ammunition …. Finally, Canada is also in the process of finalizing contracts for a number of commercial pattern armored vehicles, which will be sent to Ukraine as soon as possible, and a service contract for the maintenance and repair of specialized drone cameras that Canada has already supplied to Ukraine”.

Ukrainian soldiers training in the UK to use British armored vehicles, The Guardian reports. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has revealed that dozens of Ukrainian soldiers are training in the UK, learning how to use 120 British armored vehicles before returning with them to fight in the war against Russia.

British forces are also training Ukrainian counterparts in Poland on how to use anti-aircraft missiles, the prime minister said. Johnson’s official spokesperson insisted that training Ukrainians in the UK was not escalatory. What is escalatory is the actions of Putin and his regime in Ukraine. We are simply working together with our allies to give Ukraine the best tools to defend themselves, he said”.

White House appoints Ukraine security aid coordinator, Defence News reports. The White House announced Thursday it has appointed a retired three-star general to manage the steadily increasing influx of military assistance for Ukraine.

A National Security Council spokesperson confirmed that retired Army Lt. Gen. Terry Wolff will help coordinate the security assistance the US and our partners are providing to Ukraine, which they are using every day to defend their country.”

Pentagon seeks new ideas to arm Ukraine, Defence News reports.

In its effort to quickly arm Ukraine against Russia, the Pentagon has announced the equivalent of an open casting call for companies to offer weapons and commercial systems that can be rushed to the fight. The Defence Department on Friday posted a broad request for information (RFI) from the industry on the federal contracting website

The move is part of a stepped-up dialogue between the Pentagon and industry, and a sign of the challenge of boosting arms production in response to the ongoing conflict. The RFI, on behalf of the new undersecretary of defense for acquisitions and sustainment, Bill LaPlante, is seeking input “from across industry” about air defense, anti-armor, anti-personnel, coastal defense, counter-battery, unmanned aerial systems, and communications equipment, such as secure radios and satellite internet gear.”

Why isn’t ​Germany supplying Ukraine with heavy weapons, the DW asks? The criticism against German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has been unrelenting. He’s been accused of stalling and breaking his promises over sending heavy weapons to Ukraine. In the article, DW looks at some of the main official arguments and refutes most of them. “Our Eastern European partners are running out of old Soviet weaponry. And the Soviet tanks sent by Poland, Slovakia, or Slovenia are going to be destroyed during this war … Ukraine will run out of these weapons too. At a certain point, the question will come back: whether to train Ukrainians and deliver modern Western weapon systems.”

New developments

  1. Russia has officially acknowledged that it wants to control both the east and the south of Ukraine. Control over the Donbas will make it possible to create a land corridor to Crimea and influence the vital objects of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Control over the south of Ukraine will give the Russian Armed Forces one more outlet to Transnistria, where there are facts of oppression of the Russian-speaking population, said the deputy commander of the Central Military District, TASS reports.
  2. Ukraine and Russia held a round of talks, Lavrov says they are “stuck”, Ukrainska Pravda reports citing Interfax.
    1. The leaders of the Ukrainian negotiation group between Ukraine and Russia held online talks on April 21 and 22, David Arahamiya, said in a comment to Ukrainska Pravda.
    2. At the same time, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the talks had allegedly stopped.
    3. A Ukrainian high-ranking official said on condition of anonymity that Ukraine had issued an ultimatum to Russian negotiators that holding a so-called “referendum” by the Russian occupiers in the Kherson Oblast would put an end to the talks.
    4. When asked by a journalist about Zelenskyy’s statement that the destruction of Mariupol’s defenders by the Russian military would put an end to the talks, Lavrov said that “Russia will not tolerate ultimatums.”
  3. Putin to receive UN Secretary-General in Moscow on April 26, TASS reports. Russian President Vladimir Putin will receive UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who will arrive in Moscow on April 26 for talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said. “On Tuesday, April 26 UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will arrive in Moscow for talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. He will be received by President Vladimir Putin, Peskov said. On April 19 Guterres sent messages to the permanent missions of Russia and Ukraine at the United Nations with a request addressed to the presidents of the two countries, Vladimir Putin and Vladimir Zelenskyy, for receiving him in their capitals.”
  4. Scholz says his top priority is avoiding NATO confrontation with Russia, Reuters reports. NATO must avoid a direct military confrontation with Russia that could lead to a third world war, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an interview with Der Spiegel when asked about Germany’s failure to deliver heavy weapons to Ukraine. “Scholz is facing growing criticism at home and abroad for his government’s apparent reluctance to deliver heavy battlefield weapons, such as tanks and howitzers, to Ukraine to help it fend off Russian attacks, even as other Western allies step up shipments. Asked in an extensive interview published on Friday why he thought delivering tanks could lead to nuclear war, he said no rule book stated when Germany could be considered a party to the war in Ukraine. That’s why it is all the more important that we consider each step very carefully and coordinate closely with one another, he was quoted as saying. To avoid an escalation towards NATO is a top priority for me.”
Author’s note:

Even today, when Russia calls the international sanctions an act of aggression and believes we are waging a total (hybrid war), economic, information, and cultural war against Russia, and see us as both the cause for and active participants of the war, some politicians cling to the misleading “mantra” that NATO must avoid a confrontation with Russia. The fact is that Ukraine was never Russia’s enemy. NATO has always been its foe. The sad fact is that while there is a war in Ukraine, the war is, first of all, a part of Russia’s confrontation with the West and an object to secure its Great Power status. The statement is, therefore, in my humble opinion, an attempt to divert attention from German failure to take a stand and an attempt to avoid costs. Sadly, his statement is reflected in several NATO capitals, including Norway, who all fail to officially acknowledge that we are involved in a (hybrid) war with the Russian Federation.


On the War

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of Friday 22 April:

A briefing by the Russian Deputy Commander of the Central Military District on April 22 reiterated standing Russian objectives in eastern and southern Ukraine and did not announce any new operations. Deputy Commander of the Central Military District Rustam Minnekaev gave a speech to the annual meeting of the Union of Defence Industries on April 22 that has been misinterpreted as the announcement of a new Russian campaign. Minnekaev said Russian forces began a new phase of the war two days ago, an unsurprising confirmation of the new phase of the Russian offensive announced by both Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ukrainian officials on April 19. He stated the primary objective of Russian forces is to capture the entirety of the Donbas region and southern Ukraine to provide a land bridge to Crimea; as ISW has previously assessed, Russian forces seek to capture the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts and retain control of the Kherson Oblast.

Minnekaev stated that Russian control of southern Ukraine provides Russia a future capability to conduct an offensive toward Transnistria, rather than announcing an imminent Russian offensive toward Moldova. Minnekaev said Russian control of southern Ukraine will provide “another way out to Transnistria,” the illegally Russian-occupied strip of territory in Moldova, where he falsely claimed,” there are also facts of oppression of the Russian-speaking population.” We do not read this as a statement of intent to conduct a major offensive operation toward Moldova. An offensive toward Moldova would likely have been phrased around securing a “land corridor” сухопутный коридор to Moldova, much like the Russian land corridor to Crimea. Even if Russian forces did seek to resume major offensive operations toward Mykolaiv and on to Odesa, they are highly unlikely to have the capability to do so.

Russian forces continued to bombard the Azovstal Steel Plant and besiege the remaining Ukrainian defenders. Several Ukrainian government sources reported on April 22 that Russian forces have abandoned direct attacks on Azovstal but continue to shell the facility and have repeatedly refused Ukrainian requests to open humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians. Russian … forces continued to consolidate their control of key buildings in Mariupol and are likely setting conditions to set up an occupation government. Several videos circulated on social media of unspecified Russian forces departing Mariupol, but ISW cannot confirm at this time which Russian forces have departed the city or their likely destination. Russian forces seek to starve out the remaining defenders and civilians in Azovstal and are unlikely to allow trapped civilians to leave. The Russian Ministry of Defence stated on April 22 that it will only begin a humanitarian pause in Mariupol when Ukrainian forces “raise white flags” and surrendered and claimed that they will run out of food and supplies within two weeks.

Russian forces continued local attacks along the line of contact in eastern Ukraine (continuing to focus on Rubizhne, Popasna, and Marinka) on April 22 and made minor gains around Sloviansk, capturing the town of Lozova. Russian forces additionally consolidated their recently captured positions to prepare for further assaults. The military situation did not substantially change in the last 24 hours, and Russian forces are continuing to conduct localized attacks while feeding in additional reinforcements instead of pausing to prepare for a wider offensive.

Russian forces conducted localized attacks and reconnoitered Ukrainian positions south of Izium on April 22 and did not make any advances. Ukraine’s Special Operations Command claimed it destroyed a bridge being used by Russian forces at an unspecified location near Izium on April 22.

Key Takeaways

  • A briefing by the Deputy Commander of the Central Military District restated the standing Russian objectives in the current phase of the war: capturing the entirety of the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts and defending Russian positions in southern Ukraine against Ukrainian counterattacks.
  • Ongoing purges of Russian general officers for failures in Ukraine will likely further degrade Russian command and control.
  • Russian forces seek to starve out the remaining defenders and civilians in Mariupol’s Azovstal Steel Plant and are unlikely to allow trapped civilians to leave.
  • Russian forces conducted localized attacks and reconnoitered Ukrainian positions south of Izium and did not make any advances.
  • Russian forces secured minor gains in continuing daily attacks on the line of contact in eastern Ukraine.
  • The Kremlin is setting conditions to create proxy republics in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblasts to cement Russian control over these regions and conscript Ukrainian manpower.

Consequences and what to do?

The Kremlin doesn’t understand how to end the war through negotiations — and without collapsing Putin’s ratings, sources tell Meduza.

In the internal political bloc of the presidential administration of Russia (AP), they concluded that now there are no “good PR scenarios for getting out” of the war that would not lead to a drop in the rating of power. This was reported to Meduza by three sources close to the Presidential Administration.

Such “scenarios” in the domestic political bloc began to work out a few weeks ago. “We looked, twisted – no clear scenario is visible. Therefore, they decided not to prepare public opinion for a possible negotiation and conclusion of peace; they let everything take its course,” explains one of Meduza’s interlocutors.

Meduza’s sources say the Kremlin is confident that most Russians take the war seriously as “a fight against the Nazis and Nazism.” In support of this, they refer to the results of closed sociological surveys (the Russian authorities have been using them for many years). …

At the same time, no reliable independent data are confirming the hypothesis of a “militant majority” of Russians. Various sociological polls are published on the attitude of Russians to the war, many of which show that most residents allegedly support the “special operation”. However, many scientists emphasize that in the conditions of propaganda, censorship, and repression, such studies are unlikely to reflect reality.

Nevertheless, the Presidential Administration continues to rely on its data, which, according to Meduza’s sources, testifies to the militant mood of the Russian population. According to the Kremlin, one of the most serious obstacles to the “exit of society from the war” could be “the position of many representatives of the middle class”, which allegedly supports the “special operation.” Referring to the same closed polls, Meduza’s interlocutors claim that these “representatives of the middle class” are sure: “In a war, you need to go to victory, if it has already begun — to Kyiv or even to Lviv. You can’t retreat.”

“So far, such people have a cushion of savings. Right now, most of them do not need to update their equipment. Income makes it possible to almost ignore the rise in food prices. But they feel that they are standing up for their country, for justice,” explains one of the sources.

Indirectly, these words can confirm the results of a survey of a thousand residents of Moscow, conducted by the Russian Field company on the order of the opposition politician Roman Yuneman. Among the group of people whose income allows them to buy “practically everything”, 62% were in favor of continuing the “special operation”, and 29% were in favor of peaceful negotiations. In the group of people with incomes that allow them to buy household appliances, support for the continuation of the war is 54%, negotiations – 37%. At the same time, among citizens whose incomes are not even enough for food, only 40% are in favor of the war, and 43% are in favor of peace negotiations.

However, sociologist Grigory Yudin, in a conversation with Meduza, emphasized that such results can be explained by the fact that “a significant part of the Russian middle class is security officials and middle-level officials”: ​​“That is, they are direct beneficiaries of the regime. Or those who know when to show loyalty.”

Meduza’s sources say that against this backdrop, the Kremlin is “fearing possible dissatisfaction” with the retreat of troops and negotiations. According to the authorities, it allegedly could even result in street protests.

Meduza’s interlocutors explain this hypothesis by the fact that Russian propaganda “overdid it with the topic of Nazism” in Ukraine: “These are too strong triggers, this is the revival of the memory of the Great Patriotic War when we fought against the Nazis. This memory has been cherished for far too long.”

At the same time, members of the Presidential Administration publicly support this rhetoric, since they believe that it is “too late” to argue with public opinion, and you still have to fight until some result can be declared “victory”.

At the same time, two political technologists (one of them previously collaborated with the Presidential Administration, the other is still collaborating with the Kremlin) in a conversation with Meduza questioned the adequacy of such fears. “To rely on some kind of sociology is now strange. People are rather passive, they may not be against war, but not for it either. In Moscow, on middle-class cars, the letters Z are somehow imperceptible. Respondents speak out of inertia – even, perhaps, they do not prevaricate. But this is not militant support. These people are not ready to fight themselves,” one of them comments.

Both interlocutors are sure that in the case of “muting propaganda” no protests from supporters of the war can be expected. According to one of them, “citizens will stop thinking and talking about the Nazis, completely switch to their personal problems.”

Supports these arguments and sociologist Grigory Yudin. He is sure that the fears of the authorities about the possible protests of supporters of the “party of war” are explained by the Kremlin’s illusions. The expert also recalled an article by Meduza, published a month before the start of the war, in which one of the sources close to the Presidential Administration argued that, according to the Kremlin, “any hipster” in Russia is “an imperial at heart.” “This, of course, is a sick fantasy,” says Yudin. I don’t know of any evidence for this. These people in the Kremlin have invented an audience for themselves and are forcing everyone to live up to their inventions. But not without success.”

Assessment by Hans Petter Midttun

The Russian acknowledgment that it wants to control both the east and the south of Ukraine, is hardly a surprise. The Russian Federation has after all controlled a greater part of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson oblast since the beginning of April. While their initial axis of assault failed dramatically in the north, they have made steady, slow progress in the south and the east.

The presently occupied areas correspond with the “Novorossiya” project launched already in 2014 (but seemingly temporarily abounded in 2015).

Russia does not have to occupy all of Ukraine to defeat Ukraine. It is sufficient to cut the country from the sea. That latter can be achieved through both occupying the complete coastline along the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea, or as is the present situation, through occupying parts of Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson oblast in combination with a maritime blockade of the northern part of the Black Sea. Both scenarios will cause the Ukrainian economy to collapse.

Russia does not need to occupy Mykolaiv and Odesa oblast to achieve its aim for the ongoing military campaign.

In the Center for Defence Strategies report “Ukrainian storm warning“ from 2020 we stressed that “Ukraine is extremely vulnerable to maritime threats and might face grave consequences as a result of Russian actions at sea”. The report pointed out that “Almost two-thirds of the Ukrainian exports go through seaports, revenues from port services alone reach 2% of Ukrainian GDP. If Russia cuts Ukraine off from the sea …, it would have a devastating effect on the Ukrainian economy ….”

President Zelenskyy’s statement that Ukraine needs up to $ 7 billion in financial support each month as a consequence of the ongoing war is, therefore, directly linked to the ongoing maritime embargo.

Helping Ukraine survive and defeat Russia requires, therefore, a broader international approach than what’s presently being provided. While weapons to fight Russia on the ground and in the air are crucial, ignoring the maritime domain will lead to a strategic failure.

It will take 5-10 years to rebuild the Ukrainian Navy. In the lack of any feasible quick fix, NATO needs to establish a Black Sea strategy and dramatically increase its presence on and above the Black Sea. Russian Sea Control and its extensive Anti-Access and Anti-Denial (A2/AD) capability must be challenged, and the Alliance is the only one capable of doing that.

A starting point would be to ensure that the Russian Federation is evicted from the Crimean Peninsula. For that to happen, Russia must be defeated in Ukraine and forced to withdraw from Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson oblast.

A “Minsk Agreement version 3.0” allowing Russia to remain in the four oblasts and on Crimea will result in the loss of Ukrainian sovereignty and independence.

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