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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 409: The Ukrainian National Opera conductor killed in combat

Article by: Zarina Zabrisky

Ukraine’s intel claims leaked “classified military documents” on army plans are fake and part of a special operation. Ukraine resumes electricity exports to the EU and Moldova. The Ukrainian National Opera conductor killed at the front in Donbas.

Daily overview — Summary report, April 8

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, April 8, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situatuion in Ukraine. April 7, 2023. Source: ISW.

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Day 409 of the russian full-scale military aggression against Ukraine has begun.
During the day of April 7, the adversary launched 2x missile and 35x air strikes, more than 40x MLRS attacks.
The likelihood of further missile and air strikes across Ukraine remains high.
The adversary continues to focus its main efforts on the offensive operations on Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Mar’inka axes. During the day of April 7, the Ukrainian defenders repelled more than 60x enemy attacks on these axes.
Kharkiv Battle Map. April 7, 2023. Source: ISW.
Volyn, Polissya, Sivershchyna, and Slobozhanshchyna axes: no significant changes in the operational situation, no signs of the formation of adversary offensive groups were found. The enemy continues to maintain its military presence in the areas of russian Kursk and Belgorod oblasts bordering Ukraine. The adversary continues engineering development of terrain in the border areas of Kursk oblast.
During the day of April 7, the adversary shelled the settlements of Leonivka, Hrem’yach (Chernihiv oblast), Novovasylivka, Seredyna-Buda, Zaruts’ke (Sumy oblast), Hur’yiv Kozachok, Luk’yantsi, Verkhnya Pysarivka, Hrafske, Zybyne, Karaichne, Potykhonove, Ambarne, Bolohivka, Krasne Pershe, and Novomlyns’k (Kharkiv oblast).
Kup’yans’k axis: Topoli, Fyholivka, Dvorichna, Zapadne, Krokhmal’ne, Husynka, Kindrashivka (Kharkiv oblast), and Novoselivs’ke (Luhansk oblast) were shelled by the enemy.
Donetsk Battle Map. April 7, 2023. Source: ISW.
Lyman axis: during the day of April 7, the adversary attempted to advance in the vicinities south of Kreminna, as well as in the vicinities of Serebryanske forestry and Verkhn’okam’yans’ke, to no success. Novoselivs’ke, Makiivka, Nevs’ke, Kuz’myne, Dibrova, Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast), Tors’ke, Zarichne, Spirne, Berestove (Donetsk oblast) were shelled with artillery.
Bakhmut 7 April, 2023. Source: Maxar.
Bakhmut axis: the enemy continues its offensive operations, attempting to take full control of the city of Bakhmut. Fierce fighting continues. During the day of April 7, the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensive operations to the east of Bohdanivka and Ivanivske. The Ukrainian Defense Forces repelled about 20x enemy attacks in this area of the front line. Over 25x settlements in the combat zone suffered from enemy shelling, including: Vasyukivka, Min’kivka, Bakhmut, Bohdanivka, Ivanivske, Chasiv Yar, Novomarkove, Stupochky, Shumy, Toretsk, and New York (Donetsk oblast).
Avdiivka and Mar’inka axes: the adversary conducted offensive operations in the vicinities of Novokalynove, Sjeverne, Pervomais’ke, and Mar’inka, and Pobjeda (Donetsk oblast). None of them were successful. The fiercest fighting in this area of the front line is for Mar’inka, where more than 15x enemy attacks were repelled. At the same time, the enemy shelled Novobakhmutivka, Avdiivka, Sjeverne, Vodyane, Pervomais’ke, Karlivka, Heorhiivka, Mar’inka, Pobjeda, and Paraskoviivka (Donetsk oblast).
Shakhtars’ke axis: the enemy did not conduct any offensive operations during the day of April 7. The invaders shelled the settlements of Novomykhailivka, Vuhledar, Prechystivka, Kermenchyk, Novomaiors’ke, Zolota Nyva, Shakhtars’ke, and Velyka Novosilka (Donetsk oblast).
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. April 7, 2023. Source: ISW.
Zaporizhzhia and Kherson axes: the adversary continues to improve fortifications at its defensive lines and positions. The enemy shelled more than 40x settlements. Among them are Malynivka, Mala Tokmachka, Novodanylivka, Orikhiv, Novopavlivka (Zaporizhzhia oblast), Kachkarivka, Zmiivka, Inzhenerne, and Zelenivka (Kherson oblast), as well as Kherson.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. April 7, 2023. Source: ISW.
In the temporarily occupied territories of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblasts, russian occupiers have intensified preparations to evacuate the locals to the temporarily occupied territories of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. In particular, the enemy organised a survey among the locals in Melitopol’ and Skadovs’k regarding the possible evacuation. The survey is checking the presence of a russian passport, place of residence, and level of education.
Buses with those willing to evacuate are reported to periodically depart. The occupiers are spreading information that the forced evacuation of civilians will begin in late April.
During the day of April 7, the Ukrainian Air Force launched 9x air strikes on the concentrations of occupants’ personnel and military equipment. Moreover, Ukrainian defenders destroyed 1x russian Su-25 fighter aircraft near Mar’inka. The enemy also lost 7 UAVs, including: 3x Orlans, 3x Lancets, and 1x Merlin.
Ukrainian missile troops and artillery hit 1x command post, 2x concentrations of manpower, and destroyed 1x ammunition depot of the adversary.

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Military Updates

“I was lucky to survive in Bakhmut for sixteen days,” soldiers wounded in Bakhmut recall and name main problems. Despite the delivery of the first Western tanks to Ukraine, and statements by Ukrainian officials about a planned offensive, the Ukrainian army might not yet be fully ready, soldiers who were wounded while fighting in the Bakhmut region told us in March 2023. They want to go to the offensive as soon as possible but also speak about desperately needed ammunition for mortars, grenade launchers, and artillery. An offensive without enough ammunition would cost too many lives and might not be successful, unless stockpiles are filled through other sources, the battalion commander also said.

Another Russian Su-25 close air support aircraft downed – Ukraine’s General Staff. The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reports that Ukrainian forces have shot down another Russian Su-25 ground attack aircraft near Donetsk City’s suburb of Mariinka. “Good news. An enemy Su-25 has been destroyed near Mariinka, Donetsk Oblast,” the General Staff’s Facebook post reads.

Already 40 Georgian volunteers died in the Russo-Ukrainian war fighting for Ukraine. Georgian volunteer Arsen Ketsbay died in Ukraine, his comrades told Novosti Gruzia on 7 April 2023. In recent years, Ketsbaya lived in Ukraine and served in the ranks of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, being a native of Georgian Zugdida city. He became already the fourth Georgian volunteer killed in April 2023. In total, 40 Georgian volunteers died fighting for Ukraine since 24 February 2022, Novosti Gruzia reported. The Georgian Legion is one of the biggest international volunteer units fighting in Ukraine.

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

  • Russia’s campaign to severely degrade Ukraine’s unified energy system (UES) within the 2022-23 winter has highly likely failed. Russia has conducted long range strikes since October 2022, but large-scale attacks have become rare since early March 2023. Smaller scale strikes (with fewer than 25 munitions) continue, but are highly likely having much less impact on the UES.
  • Ukraine’s network operating companies continue to source replacement transformers and other critical components. Transporting and installing these components is a major logistical challenge, especially high voltage transformers which weigh at least 100 tonnes.
  • Ukraine’s energy situation will likely improve with the arrival of warmer weather. Planning and preparations for next winter have likely already begun.

Losses of the Russian army 

Losses of the Russian Army. Source: Euromaidan Press.

Humanitarian 

Vive le résistance: how Kherson survived 255 days of Russian occupation. Kherson survived 255 days of Russian occupation. During the initial months of the war, the city’s residents gathered in mass rallies against the invasion, which made it a symbol of fierce Ukrainian resistance.

Ukrainian military drone leads woman to safety amidst enemy fire. The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), aka as drones, has transformed modern warfare in a number of ways, namely by contributing to a greater level of situational awareness, greater precision and accuracy in targeting, and less risk to military personnel. Ukraine has been quite successful with drones, destroying Russian cruise missiles, surface-to-air missiles, and targets behind enemy lines and inside Russia’s borders. In addition, the Ukrainian military has shown flair and ingenuity by adapting and using drones in extreme rescue situations.

Russians shelled a village in Kherson Oblast; 10-year-old girl is in critical condition. Early in the morning, Russians shelled the village of Stanislav in the Kherson Oblast of Ukraine with artillery, according to a report by the head of Ukraine’s Presidential Office Andriy Yermak. Yermak stated that a shell hit a residential building, piercing through the roof and exploding inside. Three people were injured – a 30-year-old woman, a 10-year-old girl, and a 3-year-old boy. The injured were hospitalized in Kherson, with the boy and his mother in a moderate condition. The girl sustained serious injuries and is undergoing surgery, the report said.

Artist of the Kyiv opera dies in the Donbas frontline. Kostiantyn Starovytskyi, the artist of the Ukrainian National Opera in Kyiv, died while defending the country in the Donbas frontline in Kramatorsk direction, the Ministry of Culture informed. Starovytskyi was a conductor of the Academic brass orchestra, the conductor-producer of G. Donizetti’s opera “Rita” and one of the directors and authors of the Ukrainian translation of J. Rossini’s opera “The Bill of Marriage” in the Kyiv National Opera.

Environmental

Ukraine resumes electricity exports to the EU and Moldova — Ministry. The Minister of Energy of Ukraine, Herman Halushchenko, signed an executive document that allows restoring electricity exports given the available surplus of generating capacity. After its winter attempts to destroy the Ukrainian energy system, Russia went out of missiles and the scale of attacks declined. In turn, the Ukrainian energy system, which could provide electricity only during 8-16 hours by schedule in winter, has stabilized.

Russian Black Sea oil exports reached a new record in March, with tankers going to Asia. Russian crude oil exports from Black Sea ports in March 2023 set a record of 5,565,874 tons, the head of the Black Sea Monitoring Group, Andriy Klymenko reported. That’s despite the fact that March became the first month when no tankers with Russian crude oil came directly to the ports of EU countries from the Black Sea. The Russian March crude oil export is significantly higher than any previous monthly results since April 2022. The average export per month was 3,457,348 tonnes through the Black Sea ports.

Case against Ukraine’s ex-Naftogaz chief: political persecution or effective anti-corruption work? A former CEO of Ukraine’s state-owned oil and gas company Naftogaz, Andriy Koboliev, faces charges of the High Anti-Corruption Court of Ukraine concerning a case on the alleged embezzlement of around $10 million. This case has stirred heated debates among Ukraine’s political pundits, lawyers, and anti-corruption activists. Public opinion in Ukraine concerning the case against a former top-ranking official is divided. While one group of experts and activists insists that the case against the ex-Naftogaz chief has signs of political persecution, others believe that anti-corruption institutions must be allowed to get their job done without unnecessary pressure.

Support

Ukraine PM to visit Canada to seek ammunition and heavily armored vehicles. Ukraine’s Prime Minister is planning to come to Canada to seek ammunition and heavily armored vehicles as Kyiv prepares for counteroffensive against Russian forces, The Globe and Mail reports. Denys Shmyhal said in an interview that the Ukrainian government would also like the Canadian government to offer war risk insurance to Canadian companies investing in Ukraine as part of an effort to support rebuilding and foreign investment there.

New Developments

Ukraine’s intel claims leaked “classified military documents” on army plans are fake and part of a special operation. Andriy Yusov, a representative of the Main Directorate of Ukraine’s Intelligence, said on the TV air that the so-called “classified military documents” leaked online about the plans of the Armed Forces are a forgery and a special operation of the Russian special services. As the New York Times reported, classified documents detailing secret US plans regarding the military aid to Ukraine ahead of a planned offensive have appeared on Twitter and Telegram.

More parishes leave Moscow-backed Ukrainian Orthodox Church amid growing pressure, anger, and chaos. Church life continues to be a focal point of conflict in Ukraine as cases of churches changing their affiliation from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC MP) to the independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU) snowball amid what the UOC MP calls religious persecution. Here is your guide to the ongoing church tension in Ukraine.

Russia’s disinformation campaign flourishes in the Middle East – Politico. Russia is waging a disinformation campaign in the Middle East, spreading false news reports and using social media to warp public perception, according to Politico. The Arabic-speaking world has not received the same attention as the West in countering Russian propaganda, allowing Russia to have a significant online presence and feed pro-Kremlin propaganda directly to younger generations in the Arabic-speaking world. Russian state-funded and supported broadcasters, such as Sputnik and RT Arabic, are behind many of the false claims being spread across social media. Soft-sympathizers in the region also parrot pro-Kremlin talking points, situating Russia’s moves as bulwarks against Western designs in the region. This misguided justification is finding fertile ground in the Arabic-speaking world, where many are disillusioned by Western foreign policy.

Macron hopes that China’s Xi will negotiate with Russia on its war against Ukraine. Macron arrived on 6 April in Beijing with expectations for a possible breakthrough on working with China to find solutions to end Russia’s war on Ukraine, CNN reports. In his opening remarks at talks in Beijing on Thursday, Macron said Russia had “put an end to decades of peace in Europe” and that finding a “lasting peace” that respected internationally recognized borders was “an important issue for China, as much as it is for France and for Europe.”

Ukraine optimistic for positive EU evaluation of candidate recommendations implementation. The legislative work to implement the seven ‘candidate recommendations’ of the European Commission can be considered complete, and Ukraine expects a positive intermediate evaluation of the completed tasks from the EU, said Ukraine’s ambassador to the EU, Vasyl Chentsov, in an interview with Ukrinform.

Russian FSB has the keys to Telegram and Viber messengers and uses them for espionage — Ukrainian intelligence. Yaroslav Azhniuk is a Ukrainian entrepreneur and founder of Spend With Ukraine who has been exploring security issues related to Russian messengers of Telegram and Viber. He says he recently talked in a closed format about the risks of Telegram and Viber with the head of Ukrainian Intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, and Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov. Officials confirmed the danger of the use of these messengers.

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  April 7, 2022:

Russian milbloggers responded with speculative anxiety to reportedly leaked (and possibly altered) classified US military documents about the war in Ukraine, indicating continued fear over the prospect of future Ukrainian counteroffensives in the Russian information space. The New York Times reported on April 6 that a slate of five-week-old, classified US military documents are circulating on various social media platforms, reportedly depicting operational reports and assessments of the capabilities of the Ukrainian military.[1] Bellingcat analyst Aric Toler noted that the documents circulated online as early as March 4, and it remains unclear why these documents reached mainstream Western media over a month later.[2] Clearly doctored versions of the documents which reduce reported Russian losses and inflate Ukrainian casualty numbers are additionally circulating on Russian Telegram channels.

Regardless of the veracity of the reportedly leaked documents, which ISW will not speculate on, the response of Russian milbloggers to the New York Times story highlights the fear of prospective Ukrainian counteroffensives pervading the Russian pro-war information space. While several prominent Russian milbloggers immediately rejected the validity of the documents and suggested that they are fakes, they fixated on the possibility that the released documents are disinformation intended to confuse and mislead Russian military command.[3] One milblogger stated that the document leak could be part of a larger Ukrainian campaign to mislead Russian forces before a counteroffensive.[4] Another Russian milblogger noted that there is historical precedent for militaries disseminating false planning information prior to starting surprise offensives.[5] The milblogger urged their audience to be cautious in discussing where Ukrainian counteroffensives may take place due to document leak.[6] The New York Times story has therefore exposed a significant point of neuralgia in the Russian information space, and responses to the documents suggest that Russian milbloggers may be increasingly reconsidering the validity of their own assessments and speculations regarding any potential Ukrainian counteroffensives and their ability to forecast Ukrainian operations.

The Kremlin continues to indicate that it is not interested in legitimate negotiations and places the onus for any negotiations on the West. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated at a press conference in Ankara, Türkiye on April 7 that Russia does not refuse to negotiate but that negotiations can only be based on Russia’s claimed “legitimate” interests and concerns.[7] Lavrov claimed the West has arrogantly ignored Russia’s interests ”with disdain.”[8] The Kremlin retains Putin’s original maximalist goals for the war in Ukraine and maintains that Russia’s ”legitimate” interests include international recognition of Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory, regime change in Kyiv under Russia‘s calls for ”denazification,” and the ”demilitarization” of Ukraine.[9] Concerns about losing more occupied territory in Ukraine during an expected upcoming Ukrainian counteroffensive may be prompting the Kremlin to intensify an ongoing information operation intended to pressure the West to offer preemptive concessions and coerce Ukraine into negotiations on conditions more favorable to Russia.[10]

A Ukrainian official reported that Russian aviation units are changing tactics, possibly due to aviation losses and depleted stocks of high-precision weapons. Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Yuri Ihnat reported on April 7 that Russian aviation units are reducing their operations in the immediate vicinity of Ukrainian positions and are increasingly relying on more remote aviation strikes with guided aerial bombs.[11] Ihnat stated that Russian Su-35 aircraft can use these munitions from more than 50km away from the line of contact and that Ukrainian forces are unable to drive Russian aviation units away from Ukraine’s borders at this range.[12] These modified aerial bombs are likely less precise than other munitions that Russian aviation units have previously used in Ukraine. Russian forces may be changing aviation tactics to mitigate the risk of further aviation losses by operating out of the range of most Ukrainian anti-aircraft and air defense systems, at the cost of the ability to conduct close air support.

Former Russian proxy commander and prominent critical milblogger Igor Girkin revealed on April 7 that a volunteer battalion that he previously actively promoted is essentially a sham. Girkin posted an angry rant to Telegram on April 7 claiming that the “Nevsky” volunteer battalion that he advertised throughout 2022 has deployed as a “brigade” consisting of three battalions and 1,186 total personnel.[13] A single Russian battalion typically consists of around 800-900 personnel, so Girkin’s remark suggests that ”Nevsky’s” leadership sought to erroneously portray the volunteer battalion as a larger formation by designating it as a brigade. Girkin noted that ”’Nevsky” deployed to the frontline near Avdiivka with the forces of a ”reinforced company” without promised equipment or training and quickly found itself conducting costly assaults.[14] Girkin accused ”Nevsky’s” commander of being more interested in ”political and commercial machinations” and suggested that ”Nevsky” was created for the sole purpose of generating profit.[15] Girkin’s tirade against a formation that he once ardently supported suggests that even volunteer formations held in high regard face corruption and training issues that are endemic to the Russian force generation apparatus.

High-ranking Russian officials including ministers and department heads can reportedly only leave Russia with permission from Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. Independent Russian news outlet The Bell reported on April 7 that Mishustin restricted international travel by his subordinates to official business and with his permission.[16] The Bell reported that employees of the presidential administration are not subject to the same travel restrictions. ISW previously reported that Russian security services are reportedly confiscating the passports of Russian officials, ex-officials, and state company executives to prevent flight from Russia.[17]

Key Takeaways

  • Russian milbloggers responded with speculative anxiety to reportedly leaked (and possibly altered) classified US military documents about the war in Ukraine, indicating continued fear over the prospect of future Ukrainian counteroffensives in the Russian information space.
  • The Kremlin continues to indicate that it is not interested in legitimate negotiations while placing the onus for negotiations on the West.
  • A Ukrainian official reported that Russian aviation units are changing tactics, possibly as a result of aviation losses and depleted stocks of high-precision weapons.
  • High-ranking Russian officials reportedly can only leave Russia with permission from Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.
  • Former Russian officer and prominent critical milblogger Igor Girkin revealed on April 7 that a volunteer battalion that he previously promoted is essentially a sham.
  • Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks along the Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Russian forces continued advancing in and around Bakhmut and continued ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City frontline.
  • Russian forces continue to build defenses in occupied Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblasts.
  • Russian officials continue measures to support Russia’s ongoing spring conscription cycle amid continued crypto-mobilization efforts.
  • Russian occupation officials are accelerating passportization efforts in occupied Ukraine.
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