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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 373: Russia accused Ukraine of a “terrorist attack” on its territory

Article by: Zarina Zabrisky

Russia accused Ukraine of conducting a border incursion in Bryansk Oblast, Russia. Ukrainian officials denied any involvement. Russian forces continued offensive operations around Bakhmut. Russian troops pressure Ukrainian forces to withdraw from the city.

 

Daily overview — Summary report, March 3

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, March 3, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. March 2, 2023. Source: ISW.

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Day 373 of the full-scale russian military aggression has begun.
Donetsk Battle Map. March 2, 2023. Source: ISW..
Kup’yansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Shakhtars’ke axes: of the past day, our soldiers repelled more than 85x enemy attacks. The enemy continues to violate the norms of International Humanitarian Law. Thus, the occupiers carried out 31x air strikes and 3x missile strikes, in particular, on civilian infrastructure in the Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson Oblasts. There are wounded civilians, high-rise apartment buildings and private houses are damaged. In addition, 88x shellings from MLRS were recorded.
The threat of the enemy missile strikes is significant throughout the territory of Ukraine.
Kharkiv Battle Map.March 2, 2023. Source: ISW.
Volyn’, Polissya, Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: the operational situation has not changed significantly. During the past day, the enemy carried out mortar and artillery attacks on the settlements of Tymonovychy, Zarechye, Gremyach, Hrinivka of the Chernihiv Oblast; Boyaro-Lezhachi, Atynske, Iskryskivshchyna, Kindrativka, Myropilske, Popivka of Sumy Oblast and districts of 18x settlements of Kharkiv Oblast. Among them are Krasne, Hlyboke, Vesele, Vovchansk, Ohirtseve, Strilecha.
Kup’yansk and Lyman axes: the enemy carried out offensive actions in the districts of Bilogorivka, Luhansk Oblast, and Spirne, Donetsk Oblast, without success. Fired artillery near 20x settlements. These are, in particular, Dvorichna, Lyman Pershii, Petropavlivka, Kup’yansk of the Kharkiv Oblast; Makiivka and Kreminna of the Luhansk Oblast and Rozdolivka – Donetsk Oblast.
Bakhmut axis: the enemy does not stop assault the city of Bakhmut. Our defenders repelled attacks in the districts of Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Dubovo-Vasylivka, Hryhorivka, Bohdanivka and Bakhmut of the Donetsk Oblast. Vasyukivka, Zaliznyanske, Orihovo-Vasylivka, Dubovo-Vasylivka, Bakhmut, Ivanivske, Chasiv Yar, Klishchiivka, Kurdyumivka, Ozaryanivka, Diliivka, Mayorsk, and New York came under enemy fire.
Avdiivka and Shakhtars’ke axes: the enemy continues to unsuccessfully attack the positions of our troops. They carried out artillery and mortar shelling in the areas of 18x settlements. Among them are Berdychi, Avdiivka, Vodyane, Vesele, Bogoyavlenka, Velyka Novosilka and Vugledar of the Donetsk Oblast.
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. March 2 ,2023. Source: ISW.
Zaporizhzhia and Kherson axes: more than 45x settlements were affected by the fire of the occupiers. In particular, Novosilka and Vremivka of the Donetsk Oblast; Zaliznychne, Gulyaipole, Kam’ianske of the Zaporizhzhia Oblast, as well as Vesele, Beryslav, Chornobayivka, Antonivka, and Kherson.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. March 2, 2023. Source: ISW.
russian invaders continue to rob the population in the temporarily occupied territory of the Zaporizhzhia Oblast. In particular, from the beginning of February 2023, russian mercenaries began to actively take cars from residents who did not receive russian passports.
Representatives of the so-called occupation authorities exert pressure on the local population in order to appropriate land plots. The majority of residents of Boiove settlement of Kherson Oblast refused to hand over their private plots to the balance of the local occupation administration. As of March 1 of this year, about 200 people from this village were taken to an unknown destination for the so-called filtration measures, and russian mercenaries has been accommodated in their houses.
Over the past day, the Air Force of the Defense Forces has conducted 13x airstrikes on the areas of concentration of personnel and military equipment of the occupiers. Also, our defenders shot down an enemy Su-25 aircraft, a Mi-24 helicopter and 7x unmanned aerial vehicles (1 – Supercam, 2 – Orlan, and 4 – Lancet).
Units of missile and artillery troops hit 6x areas of enemy concentration and their ammunition depot.

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Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1631505174748594176

According to British Defence Intelligence, (last 48 hours): 

https://twitter.com/DefenceHQ/status/1631599414824321027

  • As of Sunday 10 July, Russian artillery bombardments continued in the northern Donbas sector, but probably without any major territorial advances. Ukrainian forces continued to apply localised pressure to the Russian defensive line in North East Kherson oblast, also probably without achieving territorial gain.

 

  • In late June, a Russian-language media agency based in Russia’s far eastern Lake Baikal region uploaded a video in which the wives of soldiers from the Eastern Military District’s (EMD’s) 36th Combined Arms Army directly appealed to a local politician for their husbands to be returned home from service in Ukraine. One woman claimed that personnel of EMD’s 5th Separate Guards Tank Brigade are ‘mentally and physically exhausted’, because they have been on active combat duty since the launch of the ‘special military operation’ on 24 February 2022.

 

  • The lack of scheduled breaks from intense combat conditions is highly likely one of the most damaging of the many personnel issues the Russian MoD is struggling to rectify amongst the deployed force.

Losses of the Russian army 

Losses of Russian Army. Source: Euromaidan Press.

Humanitarian 

9 injured, including a child, in a Russian drone attack on Kherson Oblast. Kherson Regional Prosecutor’s Office has said that at least nine Ukrainian civilians, including a child, were injured in a Russian drone attack on a humanitarian aid queue near a Beryslav district school. The prosecutor’s office has launched a pre-trial investigation into the violation of laws and customs of war by the Russian soldiers who shelled the de-occupied territory of the Kherson region.

Russian troops shell 11 settlements in Donetsk Oblast. On 1 March, Russian troops shelled 11 settlements in Donetsk Oblast with Grad and BM-27 Uragan rocket launchers and striked villages and cities with artillery and aircraft, the Ukrainian police reported. One civilian was killed in the shelling of Bakhmut after Russian soldiers targeted a residential building and a store.

Russia sends convicted prisoner mercenaries to fight in Ukraine and imposes up to 15-year sentences for ‘discrediting’ them. A draft bill tabled by the Speaker of the State Duma, Viacheslav Volodin and rushed through its second reading on 2 March extends the scope of draconian legislation outlawing so-called ‘fakes’ and ‘discrediting’ of Russian soldiers to cover so-called ‘volunteers’ fighting Russia’s war against Ukraine.  The threat of sentences up to 15 years’ imprisonment will impose an effective clamp on publicizing details about the considerable number of Russian convicted killers and other criminals given their freedom, and substantial payment for going to kill Ukrainians. While it remains illegal to be a mercenary in Russia, this is strictly in theory, with only those who try to help Ukraine facing mercenary charges.  Those mercenaries, including convicted criminals serving huge sentences for multiple murder and other grave crimes, who take up arms to satisfy the Kremlin’s appetite for Ukrainian territory are called ‘volunteers’ and ‘private military companies’ [‘pmc’] – ‘volunteer formations’.

Support

There are discussions with Kyiv on French planes, training Ukrainian pilots – French Defense Minister. A French senator says France could start training Ukrainian pilots on the Mirage 2000 fighter jets in Poland, while the country’s Minister of the Armed Forces acknowledges that discussions on planes and training are underway with Kyiv, BFM TV reports. February 28, during a hearing in the Senate, Sébastien Lecornu, Minister of the Armed Forces, was asked about possible supplies of fighter jets to Ukraine.

Scholz announces more Gepard, Iris-Т systems for Ukraine. Germany will send more Gepard self-propelled guns and Iris-T systems to Ukraine, Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced during his address to the Bundestag on 2 March, UkrInform reported. Russian aggression became a turning point in history for the whole of Europe and Germany, together with its partners, will continue to help the Armed Forces of Ukraine both with weapons and training, he added.

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1631409489650876416

New Developments 

Ukraine is not engaged in alleged “saboteur attack” on Russia’s Bryansk Oblast – General Staff (updated). On 2 March, the Russian media spread contradictory narratives about a Ukrainian saboteur group’s alleged “breakthrough” in Russia’s Bryansk Oblast. Some of the media claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin was going to convene an emergency meeting of the Security Council of the Russian Federation. Yet, the Kremlin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied this information.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs says Ukraine expects new sanctions on Russian nuclear corporation Rosatom. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine has said Ukraine expects new sanctions on the Russian nuclear corporation Rosatom, responsible for seizing the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. On 24 February, the European Union announced the 10th sanctions package against Russia that did not include restrictions on IT, mining, marine logistics companies, and Rosatom involved in attacks on the largest nuclear plant in Europe, said the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oleh Nikolaienko.

Belarusian partisans conducted aerial reconnaissance for 2 weeks before drone attack that damaged Russian A-50 aircraft. On 26 February, Belarusian anti-government activists of the BYPOL Association of Security Forces of Belarus said they had blown up a Russian airborne early warning and control aircraft Beriev A-50, at the Belarusian airfield Machulishchy used by the Russian airspace forces.Later, in its intelligence update, the British Defense Ministry called the loss of aircraft “significant,” as it is critical to Russian air operations for providing an air battlespace picture.

Blast heard in Moscow region. Residents of Kolomna in the Moscow region said they heard a loud blast and saw smoke coming up from a bridge that connects Pisky station and Cherkizovo, Telegram channel Baza reported. One of the leading Russian scientific and construction centers for military equipment, where Iskander ballistic missile systems were developed, is located in Kolomna.

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  March 2, 2022:

The Kremlin accused Ukraine of conducting a border incursion in Bryansk Oblast, Russia on March 2 — a claim that Ukrainian officials denied. Bryansk Oblast Governor Alexander Bogomaz claimed that “several dozen” Ukrainian saboteurs conducted an armed incursion into the villages of Lyubenchane and Sushany on the international border.[1] The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) doubled down on Bogomaz’s accusation and claimed that the Russian National Guard (Rosgvardia) conducted an operation to “eliminate” Ukrainian saboteurs who reportedly killed one individual and took up to six individuals hostage.[2] Russian milbloggers and news aggregators offered differing information about the number of casualties and hostages, including claims that Ukrainian saboteurs fired on a school bus.[3] Russian President Vladimir Putin then responded unusually quickly to these claims, alleging that “neo-Nazis and their owners” carried out a “terrorist attack” against Bryansk Oblast.[4] Putin did not directly name Ukraine as the perpetrator of the attack in his televised statement, prompting Russian state media to later clarify that Putin meant ”Ukrainian neo-Nazis.”[5] Putin also claimed that Russia will “crush” neo-Nazis that have consistently aimed to deprive Russia of its history, killed the daughter of Russian nationalist ideolog Alexander Dugin, and ”killed people in Donbas.”[6]

Ukrainian officials denied the Kremlin’s accusations of Ukraine’s involvement in Bryansk Oblast and claimed that Russian officials might be facing problems with increasing partisan activity in Russia. Ukrainian Presidential Adviser Mykhailo Podoliak stated that Russian accusations are a deliberate “provocation” aimed at scaring the Russian people into believing that Russia needs to continue to fight in Ukraine.[7] Representative of the Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Andriy Yusov stated that the incident in Bryansk Oblast is “part of transformative processes in Russia” and pointed to inter-ethnic, inter-religious, and socio-economic conflicts among Russian citizens in Russia.[8] Yusov also noted that the March 2 public statements of the Russian Volunteer Corps’, which claimed responsibility for the incursion, further show that “Russia is beginning to wake up against Putin’s bloody dictatorship.”[9] Yusov likely referred to two videos uploaded by Russian Volunteer Corps fighters claiming that they crossed the international border into Bryansk Oblast to “liberate” fellow Russian citizens from Putin’s dictatorship without harming Russian civilians.[10] The Russian Volunteer Corps claims to be an all-Russian, Ukraine-based armed formation operating under the Ukrainian Armed Forces; however, it is unclear if the group is affiliated with the Ukrainian military. The head of Dutch open-source investigative group Bellingcat’s far-right monitoring project reported that the leader of the Russian Volunteer Corps, Denis Kapustin, is a notable far-right extremist figure.[11] Social media users geolocated one of the two videos showing two servicemen with the Russian Volunteer Corps flag to Sushany.[12] ISW cannot independently verify Russian, Ukrainian, or Russian Volunteer Corps’ claims at this time, and the two videos each showing two men in uniform holding a flag remains the only concrete evidence available that anything happened.

The Bryansk incident generated speculation by Russian officials and ultranationalist groups about the Kremlin’s response to the situation. Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov refused to comment on questions regarding any change of the “special military operation” status to “war” because of the incident.[13] Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin sarcastically observed that Russia had been allowing Ukraine to violate its “red lines” and used the opportunity to promote Wagner mercenaries.[14] Russian officials such as Crimean occupation head Sergey Aksyonov and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov along with milbloggers called on the Kremlin to expand security measures and conduct retaliatory operations.[15] Kadyrov, for example, called on the Kremlin to target civilians to punish the perpetrators of this incident – effectively calling for Russia to conduct war crimes. Kremlin-affiliated milbloggers and former proxy officials also called on the Kremlin to designate the Ukrainian Armed Forces, the Russian Volunteer Corps, and Ukrainian armed organizations as terrorist organizations and compared the incident to the Beslan school siege in North Ossetia in 2004.[16] A Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed that the Russian Volunteer Corps was responsible for the murder of Daria Dugina and other terrorist activity in Russia.[17] Russian milbloggers also called on the Kremlin to use this incident to form a Supreme High Command to undertake all political, military, and economic decisions to ensure that Russia wins the war.[18] Other milbloggers also linked the incident to recent Putin statements that the FSB needs to strengthen border protection and advocated for more resources for border units.[19] Some milbloggers called on Russia to form assassination squads to kill Ukrainian officials and form exclusion zones at the border.[20] These responses indicate that the ultranationalist community is largely dissatisfied with numerous aspects of the Kremlin’s inability to fully commit to its own false rhetoric that Russia is fighting an “existential war” in Ukraine. The Kremlin does not have the capacity to satisfy all of these ultranationalists’ demands and may seize this opportunity to introduce additional security provisions in Russia that would benefit Putin without committing Russia to a higher risk or domestic unrest — such as declaring war.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stated on March 2 that Germany is negotiating with allies about providing security guarantees to Ukraine but provided no further details on these proposed guarantees.[21] Scholz emphasized that the pact would only work if Ukraine prevailed in the war. Scholz mentioned the security guarantees while criticizing China for failing to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and calling on Chinese authorities to pressure Russia into withdrawing Russian forces from Ukraine. Scholz’s statements are consistent with reports of a proposed Ukraine-NATO defense pact that would provide enough arms to Ukraine to force Russia to the negotiation table, but would not offer Article V protection or obligate NATO states to deploy forces to Ukraine. ISW has recently assessed that such an agreement appears to reflect a desire to pressure Ukraine to accept a negotiated settlement on unfavorable terms, especially as Russian President Vladimir Putin is currently unlikely to compromise on his maximalist goals of demilitarization and de facto regime change in Ukraine.[22]

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken briefly spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the G20 summit in New Delhi, India on March 2 about Russia’s suspension of the New Strategic Offensive Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).[23] Blinken stated that he urged Lavrov to reverse Russia’s February 28 suspension of Russian cooperation with New START, which imposes verifiable limits on the number of Russian and US intercontinental-range nuclear weapons. Blinken expressed US readiness to collaborate with Russia on strategic nuclear arms control regardless of the status of the war in Ukraine or the US-Russia relationship.[24] Blinken separately called on Russia to stop its war in Ukraine and come to the negotiating table and to release detained American Paul Whelan.[25] Russian officials are highly unlikely to pursue meaningful discussions to restore New START, however. The Kremlin very probably is weaponizing fears of nuclear escalation and the suspension of New START in hopes of deterring Western support for Ukraine and slowing down pledged Western military aid transfers. The Kremlin remains extremely unlikely to use nuclear weapons but routinely makes low-credibility threats of nuclear escalation in an effort to intimidate the West and appeal to its ultranationalist base, as ISW has previously reported.[26]

Russian authorities appear to be concerned over a growing loss of leverage in Serbia, which Russia has worked to integrate into the Russian sphere of influence for many years. Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Spokesperson Maria Zakharova stated on March 2 that reports of Serbian authorities secretly transferring multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS) ammunition to Ukraine are a matter of “deepest concern.”[27] Russian state-affiliated news aggregator Mash claimed on February 27 that Serbian defense company Krusik supplied over 3,500 Grad MLRS rockets to Ukraine but claimed that it is not clear that Krusik knew that Ukraine was the final buyer of the rockets.[28] Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin responded to Serbian President Alexander Vucic’s prior complaint that Wagner Group is recruiting in Serbia, claiming that no Serbian personnel have served in Wagner Group in 2023 and characterizing Vucic as having “thrown a tantrum in vain.”[29] Vucic’s complaints about Wagner Group recruitment efforts in Serbia are one factor in Vucic’s possible reconsideration of Serbia’s close ties with Russia, as ISW has recently reported.[30]

Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin and several Russian milbloggers continue to debate the appropriateness of criticism of Russian war efforts as they react to a proposed amendment to Russia’s Criminal Code which would increase punishments for “discrediting” the war in Ukraine. Prigozhin on March 1 defended his statements made earlier that day defending criticism of the war effort. Prigozhin claimed that Russians should have the right to criticize Russian commanders and strategists, including himself, but not to criticize or “discredit” ordinary soldiers.[31] Russian milblogger Yuri Kotyenok defended restrictions on “discreditation attempts,” arguing that criticism of Russian soldiers of all levels — from soldier to supreme commander — is like shooting them in the back. Kotyenok conceded that some criticism is necessary but said that it must be made carefully and in a limited way. Kotyenok added that Wagner Group representatives have earned the right to their “special opinion” due to their efficient fighting near Bakhmut.[32] Former Russian officer (and avid critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin) Igor Girkin feigned repentance on March 2 and mockingly instructed his users “not” to make statements calling Russian leadership “illiterate, irresponsible mediocrities” and telling them to refer to major failures as victories, offering as an example the “alternative successes” in Vuhledar.[33]

Key Takeaways

  • The Kremlin accused Ukraine of conducting a border incursion in Bryansk Oblast, Russia, on March 2 — a claim that Ukrainian officials denied.
  • The alleged Bryansk incident generated speculations from Russian officials and ultranationalist groups about the Kremlin’s response to the situation.
  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stated on March 2 that Germany is negotiating with allies about providing security guarantees to Ukraine but provided no further details on these proposed guarantees.
  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken briefly spoke with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the G20 summit in New Delhi, India on March 2 about Russia’s suspension of the New Strategic Offensive Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). The Kremlin very probably is weaponizing New START and fears of nuclear escalation in hopes of deterring Western support for Ukraine.
  • Russian authorities appear to be concerned over a growing loss of leverage in Serbia, which Russia has worked to integrate into the Russian sphere of influence for many years.
  • Russian ultranationalists continue to debate the appropriateness of criticism of Russian war efforts and to react to proposed increased punishments for “discrediting” the war in Ukraine.
  • Russian forces continued limited ground attacks northeast of Kupiansk and offensive operations around Kreminna.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations around Bakhmut, along the western outskirts of Donetsk City, and in western Donetsk Oblast.
  • Russian forces appear to have temporarily scaled back efforts to encircle Bakhmut from the southwest as well as from the northeast and may instead be focusing on pressuring Ukrainian forces to withdraw from the city by concentrating on the northeastern offensive.
  • Russian sources claimed that Russian forces downed two Ukrainian UAVs in Crimea.
  • Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin announced that the Wagner Group has launched recruiting efforts through Russian sports clubs.
  • Russian occupation officials denied reports of the deportation of Ukrainian children to Russian territories.

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