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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 405: Russian troops built two lines of defense in Crimea

Article by: Zarina Zabrisky

Russian troops built two lines of defense at the entrance to Crimea. Wagner Group fighters made further advances in central Bakhmut. Russian authorities blame Ukrainian government entities and Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny for assassinating Russian military blogger.

Daily overview — Summary report, April 4

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, April 4, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. April 3, 2023. Source: ISW.

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Day 405 of the full-scale russian military aggression has begun.
Over the past day, the enemy launched 3x missile and 21x air strikes, and conducted 33x MLRS attacks.
The probability of further missile and air strikes remains high across Ukraine, as Russia due to use of the terror tactics by the enemy.
The enemy focuses its main efforts on offensive actions on Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Mar’yinka axes. Thanks to the coordinated actions and heroism of each and every Ukrainian warrior, Ukrainian Defense Forces repelled 69x attacks of the occupiers during the past day. The fiercest battles go on for the settlements of Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Mar’yinka.
Kharkiv Battle Map. April 3, 2023. Source: ISW.
Volyn’, Polissya, Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: operational situation has not changed significantly, and there are no signs of the formations of enemy offensive groupings.
Certain units of the armed forces of the republic of belarus continue to perform tasks in the areas bordering Ukraine.
The russian federation will keep using airspace, territory and military infrastructure of the republic of belarus. Russia continues combat training program at various training grounds in belarus. Moreover, russia maintains military presence in the border areas of its Kursk and Belgorod oblasts.
Over the past 24 hours, the enemy shelled Volfyne, Zapsillia, and Myroiyllya (Sumy oblast); Vovchans’k, Vovchans’ki Khutory, Zybine, Volokhivka, Rublene, and Vilkhuvatka (Kharkiv oblast).
Kup’yans’k axis: the settlements of Kam’yanka, Petro-Ivanivka, Novomlyns’k, Dvorichna, Kutkivka, Zapadne, and Masyutivka (Kharkiv oblast); Krokhmalne (Luhansk oblast); and Terny and Serebryanka (Donetsk oblast) came under enemy fire.
Donetsk Battle Map. April 3, 2023. Source: ISW.
Lyman axis: during the past day, the enemy attempted unsuccessful offensives in the vicinities of Nevs’ke, Kreminna, Dibrova, and Serebryans’k forestry. Makiivka, Nevs’ke, Kreminna, Dibrova, and Beloghorivka (Luhansk oblast); Terny, Vesele, Zvanivka, Spirne, and Rozdolivka (Donetsk oblast) suffered artillery fire.
Bakhmut Battle Map. April 3, 2023. Source: ISW.
Bakhmut axis: the enemy makes further attempts to seize the town of Bakhmut. Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive actions in the vicinities of Orikhovo-Vasylivka and Ivanivs’ke. During the day, Ukrainian Defense Forces repelled 32x enemy attacks on the indicated section of the front.
Various settlements, located in the area of hostilities, suffered enemy attacks. Among them are Vasyukivka, Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Novomarkove, Bogdanivka, Bakhmut, Ivanovs’ke, Chasiv Yar, Ozaryanivka, Dachne, Oleksandro-Shulgine, Zalizne and New York (Donetsk oblast).
Avdiivka and Mar’yinka axes: the enemy attempted unsuccessful attacks in the vicinities of Novokalynove, Krasnohorivka, Avdiivka, Severna, Pervomais’ke, and Mar’yinka. Moreover, russian forces shelled Avdiivka, Vodyane, Severna, Netaylove, Pervomais’ke, Krasnohorivka, Heorhiivka, Mar’yinka, and Pobieda (Donetsk oblast).
Shakhtars’ke axis: the enemy stays on the defensive. Russian forces made active use of UAVs to adjust artillery fire. The occupiers shelled Novomykhailivka, Vuhledar, Prechistivka, Zolota Nyva, Velika Novosilka, and Vremivka (Donetsk oblast).
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. April 3, 2023. Source ISW.
Zaporizhzhia and Kherson axes: the enemy did not conduct active operations, but has increased its defense capabilities. The occupiers shelled the Olhivs’ke, Hulyaipole, Charivne, Biloghirya, Mala Tokmachka, Novodanilivka, and Kam’yans’ke (Zaporizhzhia oblast); as well as Antonivka (Kherson oblast) and the city of Kherson.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. April 3, 2023. Source: ISW.
Russian occupiers continue to put pressure on the population of the temporarily occupied territories of Kahovka district (Kherson oblast). So, since April 2nd, 2023, local residents are forbidden to leave their homes and go out. All public places, including shopping centers, shops, hospitals, etc. are closed during the day.
Moreover, local seniors (pensioners) suffer from the abuse of the occupiers. They have to stay in long lines to receive pensions (payments), not everyone has enough money and not in full. At the same time, for a certain fee, receiving social benefits becomes more accessible.
Last day, Ukrainian Air Force attacked 5x concentrations of enemy troops and military equipment. 1x enemy reconnaissance UAV was shot down.
Ukrainian missile and artillery troops attacked 1x concentration of russian troops.

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Military Updates

https://twitter.com/DefenceHQ/status/1643240999584428033

Russian troops built two lines of defense at the entrance to Crimea. Russian troops have built two lines of trenches on the narrow isthmus leading to the peninsula, according to satellite images, Skhemy reports. In November 2022, the line of trenches was already visible, and by March 2023, it was branched out. The lines are connected by trenches, equipped positions and military equipment stays between them.

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1642852696515563520

Ukraine says Russia ‘very far’ from seizing Bakhmut – Reuters. Ukraine has denied claims made by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, that his forces had raised the Russian flag over the administration building in the eastern town of Bakhmut. A spokesperson for Ukraine’s eastern military command said that fighting was ongoing around the building, and that Russian forces were “very far” from capturing the town, Reuters reports.

Ukraine is losing experienced pilots who could have trained on F-16 – The Telegraph. Russian forces are setting traps to ambush Ukrainian fighter jets using outdated Soviet aircraft, according to Major Vadym Voroshylov, one of Ukraine’s top pilots who talked with The Telegraph. He is calling for the West to send F-16 fighter jets, as Ukrainian pilots flying Soviet-era MiG-29s can only do as much as “hold the battlefield”. Ukraine has previously appealed to obtain F-16s, but the US has declined to supply them, prompting Ukraine to request RAF Typhoons.

Ukrainian fund raised $9 million to provide long-range mortars to 31 brigades of Ukraine’s territorial defense. The Ukrainian Come Back Alive fund raised $9 mn for a comprehensive project providing long-range mortars to all 31 brigades of Ukraine’s territorial defense. Each of the 31 brigades will receive a complex aid which contains:

  • 6 120-mm mortars
  • 3 Off-road vehicles
  • 14 Motorola radios
  • 9 Night vision devices
  • 3 DJI Mavic 3 quadcopters + additional batteries
  • 3 Starlink
  • 8 Tablets with “Armor” software for artillery + memory cards
  • 3 UPS (1 kV)
  • 3 Inverter generators (1.6 kV)
  • 3 Binoculars

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

  • Russia is likely seeking to sponsor and develop alternative private military companies (PMCs) to eventually replace the Wagner Group PMC in its significant combat role in Ukraine. 
  • This takes place in the context of the high-profile feud between the Russian Ministry of Defence and Wagner Group. Russia’s military leadership likely wants a replacement PMC that it has more control over. However, no other known Russian PMC currently approaches Wagner’s size or combat power.
  • Russia likely sees continued utility for PMCs in Ukraine because they are less constrained by the limited pay levels and inefficiency which hamper the effectiveness of the regular army. Russia’s leadership probably believe heavy casualties amongst PMCs will be better tolerated by Russian society compared to regular military losses.

Losses of the Russian army 

Humanitarian 

Already 2005 Ukrainians returned from Russian captivity during POWs exchanges. On 3 April 2023, another prisoner exchange took place. Ten Ukrainian soldiers and sergeants returned from Russian captivity. They were captured in the battles near Bakhmut in the Donetsk Oblast and near Kreminna and Chervonopopivka in Luhansk Oblast. Also, two civilians, who were held hostage by Russia, were returned: from the village of Lyptsi in Kharkiv Oblast and from Mariupol.

Ukraine’s President, German Vice Chancellor and Secretary General of the Council of Europe visited Yahidne village, where Russians committed war crimes. President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, German Vice Chancellor and Minister of Economy Robert Habeck, and Secretary General of the Council of Europe Marija Pejčinović-Burić visited the village of Yahidne in Ukraine’s northern Chernihiv region on the anniversary of its liberation from Russian invaders.

Currently over 5 million Ukrainians receive temporary protection in Europe–UN. More than 5 million Ukrainians have received temporary protection in Europe, according to the United Nations. There are currently 5,008,482 Ukrainians registered with temporary protection status in European countries. The largest number of Ukrainians with temporary protection status currently resides in Poland – 1.577 million. Germany is second with 922,000 individuals, while 502,000 Ukrainians have found refuge in the Czech Republic.

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1642831987156320256

Twelve civilians killed, 32 injured in Russian shelling on April 2. Russian military shelled 92 settlements in seven oblasts of Ukraine over the past day, April 2, resulting in 12 deaths and 32 injuries, according to the Military Media Center’s Telegram account citing the Situational Center of the Ministry of Defense. This is several times more casualties in a day than usual.

Ukrainian village marks the anniversary of its liberation from Russian troops. Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal said that on 1 April, Yahidne village in Chernihiv Oblast marked the anniversary of the liberation from the Russian military. Yahidne was among Ukraine’s settlements that bore the brunt of the Russian aggression during the first months of the full-scale invasion. Today, the Ukrainian flag proudly rises in the center of the village.

Environmental

Ukrainian state company has opened another gas well, aiming to supply 100% of gas without imports in 2024. Ukrainian Ukrgazvydobuvannya company, which is part of the state-owned Naftogaz Group, drilled an exploratory well, which discovered a new oil and gas deposit in an already depleted field. Success was made possible thanks to modern approaches to processing geological information, in particular 3D seismic survey materials.

German Vice Chancellor Habeck makes surprise visit to Ukraine to discuss energy sector, reconstruction. Early on 3 April, Germany’s Vice Chancellor and Energy Minister Robert Habeck arrived in Ukraine on an unannounced visit, his first trip to the country since the outset of Russia’s all-out war. He and a small business delegation will focus on the energy sector, according to DW. At the train station in Kyiv, Habeck stressed that Ukraine could get a clear signal from his visit “that we believe that it will be victorious, that it will be rebuilt, that there is an interest from Europe not only to support in times of need, but that Ukraine will also be an economically strong partner in the future,” Spiegel wrote.

Kherson defender tortured for Russian propaganda, then hidden for over a year. It is now over a year since the Russian invaders of Kherson seized Andriy Horshkov, yet his family have no idea where he is being held. Russia could hardly deny holding him in custody since they showed him on propaganda channels, ‘confessing’ to an absurd plot, yet it was seven months before his mother had any official confirmation that the Russians were holding him.  Maria Horshkova has spoken with the Media Initiative for Human Rights [MIHR] and explains that she and her lawyer have, at least, succeeded, via the courts, in establishing her son’s status as a Ukrainian defender.  This should, in principle, make it easier to include him in an exchange of prisoners, but there remain grounds for concern given the ‘confession’ forced out of the young Ukrainian and Russia’s ongoing secrecy as to his whereabouts.

Support

The Netherlands allocated EUR 274 for the recovery of Ukraine. €180 million is allocated for humanitarian aid, agriculture, and rehabilitation work. In particular, the money will be spent on demining agricultural land, among other things as well as the purchase of seeds and equipment for Ukrainian agriculture damaged by war. €94 million will go to non-lethal support to the Ukrainian armed forces, the fight against impunity, and the preservation of cultural heritage, the Dutch ministers informed the Dutch parliament.

Ukraine will purchase 100 Remote Weapon Systems from Australia. Remote Weapon Systems (RWS) will be supplied in 2023-24, the Australian manufacturer Electro Optic Systems informed. RWS allows gunners to remain in the relative protection of the vehicle during the battle. EOS’ Defence Systems business has secured the contract with SpetsTechnoExport, a Ukrainian state-owned foreign trade enterprise, to supply up to one hundred of its heavy RWS to Ukraine.

Poland has already sent several MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine – Polish official. Several MiG-29 fighter jets have already been sent to Ukraine, and Ukraine is expected to seek further support, according to Marcin Pzydacz, the head of the Presidential Bureau of International Policy of Poland. Pzydacz highlighted positive developments in recent times between Poland and Ukraine, both socially and politically. He emphasized the urgency of sending equipment to Ukraine as Russia has thousands of tanks, and the situation requires faster and more significant assistance. He further stressed that Ukraine is defending stability for everyone.

Armsmaker Rheinmetall sets up maintenance hub in Romania for Ukraine weapons – Reuters. German armsmaker Rheinmetall is building a military maintenance and logistics hub in Satu Mare, Romania, expected to begin operation this month to service western weapons used by Ukraine, the company said on 2 April, Reuters reports. The hub, located next to the Ukrainian border, will service self-propelled howitzers, Leopard 2 and Challenger tanks, Marder infantry fighting vehicles, Fuchs armored transport vehicles, and military trucks.

Czech Republic has more military aid for Ukraine – Czech Defense Minister. The Czech Republic’s Minister of Defense, Jana Černochová, stated that some of the Czech Army’s stored military equipment could be transferred to Ukraine as military aid, as reported by European Pravda, referencing a Czech TV channel Česká televize.

New Developments

UNESCO director handed Zelenskyy certificate on the inclusion of the historic center of Odesa in the List of World Heritage. President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy held talks with UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay during a working visit to Ukraine’s Chernihiv Oblast. Audrey Azoulay handed over to Zelenskyy a certificate on the inclusion of the historic center of the city of Odesa in the List of World Heritage in Danger. UNESCO decided to include the city center of Odesa to the list in January 2023.

Russian military blogger who called to kill all Ukrainians dies in St. Petersburg cafe blast. On 2 April, Russian military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky was killed in an explosion at a cafe in St. Petersburg, CNN reported. Tatarsky, 41, was born in Ukraine’s Makiivka town in Donetsk Oblast. After the region’s occupation, he switched sides and became a soldier of the Russian Army. Later, the collaborator moved to Russia and began to call himself a “writer” and “war correspondent.”

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  April 3, 2022:

Wagner Group fighters made further advances in central Bakhmut and seized the Bakhmut City Administration Building on the night of April 2. Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin raised a Russian flag with an inscription in memory of assassinated milblogger Maksim Fomin across from the Bakhmut City Administration building the night of April 2 and claimed that Wagner “legally controls” Bakhmut, though Ukrainian troops remain in the western part of the city.[1] Russian forces made further advances on April 3, with drone footage posted on April 3 depicting Wagner Group and Russian flags planted over the rubble of the destroyed administration building.[2] Several Russian milbloggers additionally circulated an image of a Wagner fighter standing in front of the Bakhmut City Administration building before its destruction.[3] The Wagner Group likely will continue attempts to consolidate control of central Bakhmut and attempt to push westward through dense urban areas toward Khromove.

Russian authorities are blaming Ukrainian government entities and Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny for the April 2 assassination of Russian milblogger Maksim Fomin, also known as Vladlen Tatarsky. The Russian National Anti-Terrorism Committee claimed that Ukrainian special services collaborated with the Anti-Corruption Fund, which Navalny founded in 2011, to plan the attack against Fomin.[4] Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov claimed that the Ukrainian government may be behind Fomin’s death and claimed that Ukraine has killed others since 2014, such as Daria Dugina, which Peskov spuriously used as justification for the “special military operation.”[5] The Russian Investigative Committee reclassified the case as a terrorist attack and claimed that it was planned in Ukrainian territory.[6] The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) confirmed that the sculpture handed to Fomin prior to his death contained hidden explosives.[7] The Russian Investigative Committee confirmed on April 3 that Russian authorities detained Daria Trepova in a St. Petersburg apartment on suspicion of the attack.[8] Authorities released an excerpt of their interrogation of Trepova, in which Trepova stated that authorities questioned her about giving a sculpture to Fomin, but she did not answer on camera whether she knew the sculpture contained explosives.[9] The range of various official responses is notably disjointed, with a lack of consensus among official Russian sources regarding Trepova’s involvement or association with either Ukrainian special services or Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Fund.

Official Russian responses to Fomin’s death failed to generate a single narrative in the information space and led to disjointed responses from prominent pro-war voices. Several prominent milbloggers and news aggregators fixated on the reported investigation into Daria Trepova and analyzing footage of the lead-up to and aftermath of the explosion.[10] Other milbloggers claimed that the attack was carried out by Ukrainian special services and amplified news of the investigation without offering additional commentary into the situation.[11] The Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) People’s Militia posted a simple message mourning Fomin without engaging with the Kremlin’s informational response.[12] Zaporizhzhia Oblast occupation deputy Vladimir Rogov claimed that unspecified attackers targeted Fomin because he listened to both the Russian and Ukrainian perspectives, had over 500,000 Telegram subscribers, and effectively organized donation drives for Russian forces.[13] Russian Orthodox Church head Patriarch Kirill connected Fomin’s murder to the ongoing conflict over the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, despite no obvious connection between the two incidents.[14]

As Russian officials try to galvanize an official narrative around the National Anti-Terrorism Committee’s investigation, Russian milbloggers will likely increasingly criticize the results and conclusions of the investigation, and Fomin’s death is likely to become a major point of information space neuralgia. One Russian milblogger and political analyst overtly criticized the official Russian response to Fomin’s death and noted that Russian officials have likely predetermined the final findings of the investigation.[15] The absence of a coherent narrative in the pro-Russian information space is reminiscent of responses to Ukraine’s successful Kharkiv Oblast counteroffensive in fall 2022, when the Kremlin’s propaganda machine initially failed to define a rhetorical line to respond to massive Ukrainian gains and caused an information space breakdown that manifested in disjointed responses across the entire pro-war community.[16]

Russian security services reportedly continue to confiscate the passports of senior officials and state company executives to limit flight from Russia. Financial Times reported on April 2 that the Russian security services seek to prevent senior officials, ex-officials, and state company executives from traveling abroad, indicating that the Kremlin continues to fear elites will flee Russia.[17] Current Time TV and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty-associated investigative project “Sistema” reported on March 10 that Russian security officials told government officials and employees of state-owned companies to hand over their passports on threat of forcibly revoking an individual’s passports or forced resignation.[18]

Key Takeaways

  • Wagner Group fighters made further advances in central Bakhmut and seized the Bakhmut City Administration Building on the night of April 2.
  • Russian authorities are blaming Ukrainian government entities and Russian opposition figure Alexey Navalny for the assassination of Russian milblogger Maksim Fomin (also known as Vladlen Tatarsky).
  • Official Russian responses to Fomin’s death failed to generate a single narrative in the information space and led to disjointed responses from prominent pro-war voices.
  • Russian security services reportedly continue to confiscate passports of senior officials and state company executives in an effort to limit flight from Russia.
  • Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks along the Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Russian sources reported on April 3 that Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) units received TOS-1A thermobaric artillery systems for the first time.
  • Russian forces continued ground attacks in and around Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Donetsk City, and in western Donetsk Oblast.
  • Russian officials likely remain concerned about a potential Ukrainian threat to Crimea amid continued fortification and logistical efforts.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree establishing a state fund to support military personnel who participate in the war in Ukraine and their families.
  • Likely Ukrainian partisans used an improvised explosive device (IED) to target a former Russian occupation official in Melitopol, Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
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