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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 410: Explosion in Crimea

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 410: Explosion in Crimea
Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

Explosion in Sevastopol, Crimea. Ukrainian children returned home. Ukraine resumes electricity exports.

Daily overview — Summary report, April 9

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, April 9, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. April 8, 2023. Source: ISW.

 

Over the past day, Russian forces have launched 4 missiles and 40 air strikes, launched 58 rounds from MLRS on the positions of our troops and the civilian infrastructure of populated areas.

The probability of launching missiles and airstrikes will continue to be high throughout the territory of Ukraine; Russian forces do not stop using terror tactics.

Russian forces continue to focus their main efforts on conducting offensive actions in the Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Mariinka axes. Over the past day, thanks to the courage of each soldier, more than 50 enemy attacks were repelled in the indicated directions.

Kharkiv Battle Map. April 8, 2023. Source: ISW.
  • Volyn’, Polissya, Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: the operational situation has not changed significantly, and no signs of formations of enemy offensive groups have been detected. Russian forces continue to maintain a military presence in the Kursk and Belgorod regions bordering Ukraine. In the border areas of the Kursk region, Russian forces continue to engineer the terrain. During the past day, Russian forces shelled the settlements of Gremyach, Chernihiv Oblast; Seredyna-Buda, Baranivka, Bezsalivka, Volfine, Turya, Vysoke of the Sumy Oblast, as well as Veterinarne, Graniv, Vilkhivka, Ternova, Staritsa, Vovchansk, Karaichne and Chugunivka settlements in the Kharkiv Oblast.
  • Kupiansk axis: the settlements of Kolodyazne, Krasne Pershe, Novomlynsk, Dvorichna, Zapadne, Krokhmalne, Kindrashivka, Pischane and Berestov of the Kharkiv Oblast were hit by enemy fire.
Donetsk Map. April 9, 2023. Source ISW.
  • Lyman axis: Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive actions in the area south of Kuzmyny and Verkhnyokamyansky last day. Cherneshchyna of the Kharkiv Oblast was hit by artillery fire; Makiivka, Nevske, Dibrova, Belogorivka of the Luhansk Oblast and Kolodyazi, Yampolivka, Torske, Siversk, Spirne of the Donetsk Oblast.
Bakhmut Battle Map. Source: ISW.
  • Bakhmut axis: Russian forces continue to conduct offensive actions, and try to take full control of the city of Bakhmut, battles continue. During the day, Russian forces carried out unsuccessful offensive actions in the area of the Bohdanivka settlement. The units of the defence forces repelled about 10 enemy attacks on the indicated section of the front. More than 15 settlements were damaged by enemy shelling. Among them: Vasyukivka, Minkivka, Zaliznyanske, Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Markove, Hryhorivka, Bakhmut, Khromove, Chasiv Yar, Ivanivske, Stupochki, Bila Gora, Novodmytrivka and Druzhba of the Donetsk Oblast.
  • Avdiivka and Mariinka axes: Russian forces carried out offensive actions in the districts of Novokalynovy, Severnoy, Pervomaisky and Mariinka of the Donetsk Oblast, but had no success. The fiercest battles on the indicated part of the front continue for Mar’yinka, where more than 15 enemy attacks were repulsed. At the same time, Novokalynove, Kamianka, Stepove, Orlivka, Lastochkine, Avdiivka, Severne, Netaylove, Karlivka, Krasnohorivka, Mariinka, Pobyeda and Paraskoviivka of the Donetsk Oblast were subjected to enemy shelling.
  • Shakhtarske axis: during the day, Russian forces did not conduct offensive operations. Shelled the settlements of Novomykhailivka, Shakhtarske, Novoukrainka, Velyka Novosilka, Vugledar, Prechistivka, Zolota Niva, and Novomayorske in the Donetsk Oblast.
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. Source: ISW.
  • Zaporizhzhia and Kherson axes: Russian forces continue to build up defensive lines and positions. Fired on more than 40 settlements near the frontline. Among them are Vremivka, Novopil’ of the Donetsk Oblast; Novosilka, Olhivske, Malinivka, Chervone, Gulyaipole, Charivne, Mala Tokmachka, Novodanilivka, Stepove, Kamianske of the Zaporizhzhia Oblast; Dudchany, Kachkarivka, Beryslav, Kozatske, Mykolaivka, Ivanivka, Mykilske, Komysany, Bilozerka, Dniprovske of the Kherson Oblast, as well as Kherson.
Kherson and Mykolaiv Battle Map. Source: ISW.

The Russian occupiers continue to strengthen the counter-intelligence and police regime in the temporarily occupied territory of the Kherson Oblast. In particular, in the Hornostaiv district of the Kherson Oblast, raids are underway to check the personal phones of the local population for the presence of photo and video materials, as well as “forbidden” content. During such inspections, the occupiers record the personal data of local residents and selectively search their homes.

[The Russian invaders continue to suffer heavy losses. To replenish them, the leadership of the armed forces of the Russian Federation decided to hold early graduations from higher military educational institutions of the aggressor country in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kostroma, Penza, Omsk, Tyumen, Kazan, Novosibirsk, Volsk, and Blagoveshchensk on April 29 of this year. At the same time, graduations from High Military Education Facilities, which prepare specialists for military units of strategic missile forces, aerospace forces and naval forces of the armed forces of the Russian Federation, will be held in accordance with the previously planned schedules.]

During the day, the Ukrainian Air Force carried out 12 strikes on the areas of concentration of personnel and military equipment of the occupiers. Also, our defenders shot down 2 UAVs of the “Supercam” type, 6 UAVs of the “Orlan-10” type and 6 UAVs of the “Zala” type.

Units of missile and artillery troops hit 2 areas of concentration of manpower, weapons and military equipment, 1 ammunition depot, 1 position of anti-aircraft defence equipment and 5 radio-electronic warfare stations of Russian forces.

Military Updates

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1644844571443052544

A loud explosion was heard in Sevastopol, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Crimea.Reality. “A correspondent of the outlet reports that a loud explosion, similar to an artillery volley, was heard in Sevastopol. The occupiers report that the explosions are connected to the current military exercises.

Previously, media reported explosions in Feodosiia and presumably the volleys of air defence systems.

Ukraine strengthening defences along the border with Belarus, Russia – Joint Forces commander, Ukrinform reports, citing Lieutenant-General Serhiy Nayev, Commander of the Joint Forces of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. “The situation in the Northern operational zone is stable and controlled — Ukrainian soldiers are strengthening defensive lines and positions along the border with Belarus and Russia.

In particular, the system of engineering barriers in the regions bordering Belarus and Russia is being enhanced.  Anti-tank minefields are being created in tank-accessible areas of the territory and possible routes of Russian forces’s advance deep into our territory, including roads, forest strips, bridges, power lines, etc., Nayev said.

According to him, this week alone, engineering units have set up several dozen minefields using more than 6,000 anti-tank mines; more than 7,000 meters of anti-tank ditches and trenches have been dug.”

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

  • On 5 April 2023, Russian President Vladimir Putin chaired a full session of Russia’s Security Council, the first such event since October 2022.
  • The main report was presented by Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev, and discussed reconstruction, law enforcement and public order in the illegally annexed areas of Ukraine.
  • The choice of Kolokoltsev as the main speaker is likely an attempt by the Kremlin to portray the situation in those territories as being normalised. In reality, much of the area remains an active combat zone, subject to partisan attacks, and with extremely limited access to basic services for many citizens.
  • 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.

As of Sunday 9 April, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the invasion to the present day:

  • Personnel – about 178150 (+470)
  • Tanks – 3636 (+0)
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 7024 (+4)
  • Artillery systems – 2740 (+13)
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 533 (+0)
  • Air defence means – 282 (+0)
  • Aircraft – 307 (+0)
  • Helicopters – 292 (+0)
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 5602 (+3)
  • Vessels/boats – 18 (+0)
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 2312 (+14)
  • Special equipment – 309 (+5)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0)
  • Cruise missiles – 911 (+0)

Russia to hold early graduation from military universities due to losses in Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Ukrainian General Staff. “The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has stated that Russia plans to hold early graduation from higher military educational institutions in a number of cities to replenish losses in the war against Ukraine.

“Russian invaders continue to suffer significant losses. In order to replenish them, the leadership of the Russian Armed Forces decided to hold early graduations from the higher military educational institutions of the aggressor country in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Kostroma, Penza, Omsk, Tyumen, Kazan, Novosibirsk, Volsk and Blagoveshchensk on 29 April this year.

At the same time, graduations from higher education institutions that train specialists for military units of the Strategic Missile Forces, Air Force and Navy of the Russian Armed Forces will be held in accordance with previously planned schedules.”

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine also announced in the spring and November of 2022 that Russia plans to release cadets from higher military educational institutions early because of the war against Ukraine.”

Russia lost over 10,000 vehicles and pieces of heavy weaponry in Ukraine, Oryx says, Euromaidan Press reports. “Russia’s armed forces are visually confirmed to have lost 10,005 vehicles and pieces of heavy weaponry since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, according to Dutch open-source intelligence warfare research group Oryx.

This list compiled by Oryx only includes destroyed vehicles and equipment for which photo or video evidence is available. Therefore, the amount of equipment destroyed is significantly higher than recorded here. Loitering munitions, drones, civilian vehicles, and derelict equipment are not included in Oryx’s list.

According to Oryx, over the past 14 months of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, 6473 units of Russian military equipment were destroyed, 304 vehicles and pieces of heavy weaponry were damaged, and 394 were abandoned. Ukrainian forces captured 2834 tanks, armoured vehicles, and other pieces of heavy weaponry.

Russia is visually confirmed to have lost 1928 tanks, according to Oryx. Oryx reported that the Ukrainians destroyed 1168, damaged 100, and captured 554 Russian tanks. The Russians abandoned 106 tanks.

Likewise, Russia has already lost 2284 infantry fighting vehicles: 1476 vehicles were destroyed, 69 were damaged, 127 were abandoned, and Ukrainian troops captured 610, Oryx reported based on the photo and video evidence available in open sources. According to Oryx, Russia lost 79 aircraft and 81 helicopters in Ukraine within the last 14 months.

According to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Russia lost 3636 tanks, 7020 armored fighting vehicles, 307 aircraft, and 292 helicopters in Ukraine since 24 February 2023.”

Humanitarian 

Sixty per cent of children have left their homes because of war in Ukraine – volunteers, Ukrinform reports. “According to my calculations, 60 percent of children have been forced to move from their homes since the beginning of the full-scale aggression, that is more than half of the children have been forced to flee the war,” Mykola Kuleba, Executive Director of Save Ukraine charitable fund, Presidential Commissioner for Children’s Rights (2014-2021), said during a press conference at the Media Center Ukraine – Ukrinform.

He also noted that his foundation was making every effort to return Ukrainian children illegally deported by Russia. According to Kuleba, Save Ukraine independently organizes and conducts such rescue missions.

We do not cooperate with the Russian authorities. Earlier, we began to cooperate with the Ombudsman’s Office headed by Dmytro Lubinets who has relevant negotiations with that party. But we are ready to take on only the issues of logistics, preparation of relevant documents, transportation, delivery, further placement of children, etc., Kuleba said.

Yevhenia Kapalkina, a lawyer of the NGO “Ukrainian Legal Advisory Group”, said that international humanitarian law, in particular the Geneva Conventions, categorically prohibits the occupying power from moving children within the occupied territory or to its own state.

There are clearly regulated provisions that require the occupying power to comply with them. However, as we can see from the situation in Ukraine, Russia does not adhere to these principles and tries to deport children to the territory of the Russian Federation under the pretext of evacuation. And there it exerts influence both on their consciousness and on their identity and deprives them of the opportunity to communicate with relatives, etc.,” the lawyer added.

‘It was heart-breaking’: Ukraine children back home after alleged deportation, Reuters reports. “More than 30 children were reunited with their families in Ukraine this weekend after a long operation to bring them back home from Russia or Russian-occupied Crimea, where they had been taken from areas occupied by Russian forces during the war. Mothers hugged sons and daughters as they crossed the border from Belarus into Ukraine on Friday after a complex rescue mission involving travel across four countries.

Dasha Rakk, a 13-year-old girl, said she and her twin sister had agreed to leave the Russian-occupied city of Kherson last year because of the war and go to a holiday camp in Crimea for a few weeks. But once in Crimea, Russian officials said the children would be staying for longer. They said we will be adopted, that we will get guardians, she said. When they first told us we will stay longer we all started crying.

Dasha’s mother Natalia said she had travelled from Ukraine to Crimea via Poland, Belarus and Moscow to get her daughters. Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula has been occupied by Russia since 2014. […] It was heartbreaking to look at children left behind who were crying behind the fence, she said.

Kyiv estimates nearly 19,500 children have been taken to Russia or Russian-occupied Crimea since Moscow invaded in February last year, in what it condemns as illegal deportations. […]

Now the fifth rescue mission is nearing its completion. It was special regarding the number of children we managed to return and also because of its complexity, said Mykola Kuleba, the founder of the Save Ukraine humanitarian organisation that helped arrange the rescue mission. Kuleba told a Kyiv briefing on Saturday that all 31 children brought home said no one in Russia was trying to find their parents.

There were kids who changed their locations five times in five months, some children say that they were living with rats and cockroaches, he said. The children were taken to what Russians called stays in summer camps from occupied parts of Ukraine’s Kharkiv and Kherson regions, Kuleba said. The Russian Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Three children – two boys and a girl – were present at the media briefing in Kyiv. Save Ukraine said they came home on a previous mission last month that returned 18 children in total. The three said they had been separated from their parents who were pressured by Russian authorities to send their children to Russian summer camps for what was billed as two weeks, from occupied parts of Kherson and Kharkiv regions. The children at the briefing said they were forced to remain at the summer camps for four to six months and were moved from one place to another during their stay. […] They were told their parents no longer wanted them. […]

Kateryna Rashevska, a lawyer from a Ukrainian NGO called Regional Centre for Human Rights, told the briefing they were collecting evidence to build a case that Russian officials deliberately prevented return of the Ukrainian children. In every story there is a whole range of international violations and it cannot go unpunished, she said.”

Lubinets: Efforts to find mechanisms to return civilians from captivity ongoing, Ukrinform reports. The authorities are searching for mechanisms to return Ukrainian civilians from Russian captivity. As Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Dmytro Lubinets posted on Telegram, the Ombudsman’s Office held a meeting with the relatives of Ukrainian civilians held captive by Russia. […]

According to Lubinets, the issue of returning civilian hostages from Russian captivity is the most problematic now since according to the Geneva Conventions, the civilian population cannot be taken captive. The Russian Federation violates all norms of international humanitarian law and the Geneva Conventions and refuses to return Ukrainian citizens, but the authorities are working to find such mechanisms, about which relatives and relatives of civilian hostages have been informed, the Ombudsman emphasized.

He noted that everyone has their own pain, their own story, but we do not give up. We make efforts to bring our people back and we succeed. Both military and civilians return. The problem of the return of children starts to be solved. Maybe it happens not as fast as we would like, but we are fighting for everyone. We are fighting against Russian forces who violates all possible norms and cynically changes the conditions of return. The work is ongoing and we believe in the result: to return everyone, the Ombudsman said.

As reported, Russia did not accept any of Ukraine’s proposals regarding the return of civilian prisoners which were put forward during the negotiations between Ukrainian and Russian human rights commissioners in Türkiye.”

Ukraine resumes electricity exports, Ukrainska Pravda reports. Press service of the Ministry of Energy.The Minister of Energy of Ukraine, Herman Halushchenko, signed an executive document that allows the process of restoring electricity exports in conditions of surplus generating capacity to begin. The Ukrainian energy system has been working for almost two months without consumer restrictions, with a reserve of power. We achieved this result thanks to the colossal work of energy workers, and our international partners, who helped restore the system. The most challenging winter has passed. The next step is the opening of electricity export, which will attract additional financial resources for the reconstruction of the destroyed and damaged energy infrastructure,” Halushchenko said.

It is noted that the capacity for export allowed by the European network of transmission system operators ENTSO-E is 400 MW. However, the ministry explained that export volumes might fluctuate depending on the time of day and market conditions. The supply of electricity to our consumers is an absolute priority. Therefore, the export of electricity will work on the condition that Ukrainian consumers are supplied with electricity and may be stopped in case of a change in the situation, the minister added.

According to him, the increase in generation and the opening of exports is the response of Ukrainian energy companies to Russian shelling and attempts to destroy the energy system. The Ministry of Energy reminded that Ukraine exported electricity to Moldova and EU countries from June to 11 October last year – during this period, 2.6 billion kilowatt-hours were sold. After the start of Russian missile attacks on the energy infrastructure, exports were stopped.”

Environmental

Pollution caused directly by hostilities, as reported by EcoZagroza. “According to the International Coordination Center for Humanitarian Demining of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, from February 24, 2022, to March 29, 2023, 337,727 explosive objects, including 2,200 aircraft bombs, were neutralized in Ukraine. An area of 813.8 square kilometers was surveyed for explosives. There are still 174,000 square kilometers of potentially dangerous areas remaining, which is 30% of the country’s total area.

Ukraine is the most mine-contaminated country in the world. The Russian invasion turned the country into a vast minefield the size of the United Kingdom or Romania, or South Korea and North Korea combined. Almost every day, tragedies occur when Ukrainians are killed or injured by mines. As of the end of 2022, the State Emergency Service of Ukraine reported 185 deaths and 404 injuries caused by mine explosions since the full-scale invasion began.

Demining is divided into three types: combat demining, which takes place directly on the front lines and involves the work of military sappers; operational demining, which involves emergency clearance of critical infrastructure objects and neutralization of detected explosive items, and may also involve the work of experts of the State Emergency Service or the National Guard; and humanitarian demining, which is carried out by deminers who report dangerous items to sappers without removing them. This is the final stage of inspection and cleaning of the territory, which guarantees 100% safety. Clearing the entire mine-contaminated territory of Ukraine will cost billions of hryvnias.

Mines are sometimes compared to radiation – in both cases, people have to leave contaminated areas. So, it is possible that new exclusion zones will be created in Ukraine, where only desperate stalkers will go, and nature will recover without human intervention.

No one knows how long the fighting will continue, but each day increases the time and budget required for future demining. This is the danger that will remain for generations. Even after the victory, the echoes of the war will be heard for decades in the forests of the Chernihiv region or in the fields of the Kharkiv region. More details about the problem of mine clearance in Ukraine can be found in the article of the Ukrainian Pravda.”

Russian occupiers continue the so-called “forced passportization”, the Ukrainian General Staff reports. Russian occupiers continue the so-called “forced passportization” on the temporarily occupied territories of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson Oblasts, exerting psychological and physical pressure on people. In particular, Russian military restrict movement of Ukrainian citizens without Russian passport through previously established checkpoints. The occupiers purposefully and intentionally search vehicles, take records of all personal data of those citizens who do not have Russian documents, and threaten them to restrict entry into the city.

Moreover, the occupiers force local postmen to distribute registrations forms to the local population that require to specify data on the presence of Russian passport. Citizens who do not have Russian passport are subjects to constant searches, intimidation and coercion to obtain this document. The occupiers threaten forced eviction from their own homes and confiscation of private property if they refuse to receive a Russian passport.

At the same time, Russian forces threatens to restrict issuance of basic education certificates to the parents of senior school students. Also, the invaders are forcing to change the marriage certificates and the certificate of registration of technical means from Ukrainian to Russian samples.”

Support

Ukraine’s Air Force warns of new threat from Russia and asks for F-16s for Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Mykola Oleshchuk, Commander of the Air Force of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. “The Air Force of Ukraine warned of a new threat from Russia and explained why modern multipurpose jet fighters can be an effective countermeasure against Russian aircraft. Ihnat reminded that recently the Russians have been actively using FAB-500 high-explosive aerial bombs [500 kg – ed.], which are being converted into cruise bombs to be used with impunity, from a distance that is unreachable for Ukrainian air defence. Moreover, the day before, information appeared in Russian media space that Sergei Shoigu, Minister of Defence of the Russian Federation, was inspecting the plant where a production line for the creation of such bombs has been launched.

It indicates the date – 2023, and that Russians plan to manufacture one-and-a-half-ton bombs. According to Ihnat, obviously, they will also be equipped with wings and GPS navigation. According to representatives of the Air Force, modern fighter jets such as the F-16 can become a powerful means of countermeasures [keeping Russian aircraft at a distance that does not allow the use of such aerial bombs – ed].

Lieutenant General Oleschuk gives other arguments in favour of these aircraft.

Increasingly, Russia is using guided aerial bombs weighing 500 kg along the entire front line. There are signs of preparation for the mass use of 1,500 kg KABs [Russian precision guided weapon – ed.]! The aircraft of the Russians do not enter the zone of damage of our air defence, striking remotely at the front line and near-frontline cities. Civilians in the northern, southern, and eastern oblasts are suffering.

The F-16 is armed with air-to-air missiles with a range of up to 180 km. This will make it possible to drive enemy aircraft away from our borders and the line of combat, which will minimise the likelihood of using guided aerial bombs and other air-based weapons.

On average, our [Ukraine’s] air defence destroys about 75% of cruise missiles and attack drones. But 25% still reach their targets! Civilians die, and infrastructure is destroyed. F-16s can effectively destroy these air threats even at the borders, preventing missiles and drones from reaching our cities.

Russian aircraft outnumber Ukrainian by many times, and most importantly, the occupiers have a technological advantage. The Air Force does not have enough forces and assets, both ground and air, to effectively protect airspace, troops on the front lines and civilians in the front-line zone from the daily terror of enemy attack aircraft and helicopters. F-16 will allow gaining air supremacy, significantly weakening Russian forces, and saving many lives every day.

The wide range of modern high-precision weapons of the F-16 will allow for high-precision strikes on Russian troops during counter-offensive actions. It is necessary to stop the offensive actions of Russian forces, to gain superiority in the air, and to destroy the means of supply of equipment, ammunition, and manpower of Russian forces. F-16 will be able to perform these tasks!

The Black Sea is still under the control of the Russian fleet. F-16s are armed with powerful anti-ship missiles that can easily drive the entire enemy fleet either to ports or to the bottom of the sea. Ukraine needs to ensure freedom of navigation and protection of grain corridors.

The available equipment and armament of Soviet aircraft turned all the missions of our pilots into mortally dangerous ones, which caused irreparable losses of the best sons of Ukraine. Only modern technologies will make their work effective and safe. Our pilots are trained and motivated to learn. And they are enough to fight and study at the same time. Our pilots dream of F-16s, they deserve to fly on the best planes!

Ukraine uses 40-year-old aircraft. Some planes are twice as old as their pilots! It becomes more and more difficult to maintain their serviceability every day. Own stocks of spare parts are running low, and allies do not have those either. Many issues are closed through the so-called “cannibalization”, but this cannot last forever. You can’t wait until all aircraft stop completely. Thanks to the transfer of aircraft from Slovakia and Poland, it will be possible to restore the MiG-29 aircraft fleet of several air brigades to a certain extent and strengthen the capabilities of fighter aircraft to perform current combat missions. However, to achieve superiority in the air, to win, we need modern aircraft!

Stocks of even outdated and ineffective Soviet ammunition for the existing aircraft fleet are steadily decreasing. Even with a sufficient number of serviceable planes and trained pilots, at a certain point, our Air Forces will be left without weapons. Switching to the F-16 or another Western platform with a wide range of modern weapons is the only way out!”

Ukraine concludes agreement with Poland to buy 200 Rosomak armoured personnel carriers – Zelenskyy, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Ukraine has entered into an agreement with Poland to purchase 200 Rosomak armoured personnel carriers, of which 100 will be delivered now and 100 later.”

Ukraine uses 3D printers to create munitions amid critical ammo shortage – The Washington Post, Euromaidan Press reports. “Ukraine faces a critical ammunition shortage and scrambles for ways to conserve the supply of artillery shells until Western allies can produce or procure more, according to the Washington Post. Ammunition has become a precious resource in the artillery war with Russia. Conserving shells and rearming faster could give an advantage on the battlefield. Ukrainian volunteers and soldiers have to resort to creative conservation tactics. To keep up with Russia and still be able to conserve ammunition, the Ukrainian artillery has to carefully select targets and prioritize military equipment over small groups of infantry.

According to the Washington Post, Ukrainian soldiers recycle unexploded ordinances in underground workshops across eastern Ukraine to create alternative munitions. In some cases, Ukrainian crews bring unexploded ordinances originally fired by the Russians to secret labs in eastern Ukraine. The elements of unexploded ordinances are carefully stripped away to create a new munition.

The Ukrainians use 3D printers to fashion small, inexpensive munitions that can be dropped from drones. Bullets are deconstructed to create alternative munitions. The ball bearings from Claymore mines are removed and used to create different anti-personnel or antitank mines, the Washington Post reported. Alas, homemade munitions cannot help repelling a Russian assault. Such munitions can only replace artillery shells to bomb an immobile tank or infantry fighting vehicle.

Even amid a critical shortage of ammunition, Ukraine’s Armed Forces still fire around 7,700 shells per day or roughly one every six seconds, an unnamed Ukrainian military official told the Washington Post. Russia, which may also be running low on shells, is firing three times as much of that amount.

152-mm artillery shells for Ukraine’s Soviet-era howitzers comprise most of Ukraine’s arsenal and have long been in short supply. The critical shortage of Soviet-era artillery rounds forced Ukraine’s Armed Forces to rely heavily on the artillery provided by Western allies. As a result, Ukraine’s artillery started using 155-mm caliber shells more.

Currently, Ukraine has more 155-mm shells but far fewer guns that can fire them and significantly more Soviet-era howitzers that run low on 152-mm shells. At the current pace Ukraine is firing, the stocks of 155-mm shells could soon run out too, while Ukraine’s Western allies struggle to ramp up the ammunition production to help Ukraine repel Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Current rate of Ukraine’s ammunition expenditure is many times higher than our current rate of production,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned in February 2023.

The countries with stocks of Soviet-era 152-mm and 122-mm artillery rounds are largely former Soviet Republics, which are hesitant to sell ammunition to Ukraine because of their close ties with Russia, the Washington Post claimed. Some African and Middle Eastern countries, which have received weapons and ammunition from Russia over the years, also have stocks of Soviet-era shells that Ukraine urgently needs to defend itself.

However, it is unknown whether any of the African or Asian countries have delivered ammunition to Ukraine. According to the Washington Post, a few former Warsaw Pact countries in eastern Europe can manufacture the 152-mm and 122-mm shells but not at the scale and speed Ukraine needs on the battlefield.

According to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry spox Yuriy Sak, Bulgaria, Poland, and Slovakia have already agreed to produce the shells Ukrainian Soviet-era guns lack. It is not clear yet how long it will take for the needed shells to be produced and reach the battlefield in Ukraine. […]

Ukraine has to hold back ammunition for a planned counteroffensive. Ukrainian soldiers on the battlefield told the Washington Post what they have now is enough to repel daily Russian assaults but not enough to counterattack.”

New Developments

  1. Russian Defence Ministry announces preparation of chemical attack, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Russian Ministry of Defence. “The Russian Defence Ministry has announced the trial of a chemical attack, planning to accuse the Armed Forces of Ukraine of this attack. The Russian authority writes that Ukraine allegedly plans to deliver “the bodies and remains of dead servicemen equipped with “toxic substances” to Sumy Oblast. Then, allegedly, Ukraine will invite experts from Western countries and post intercepted phone calls with Russians talking about a chemical attack. Russia has repeatedly used this tactic: it “foresaw” terrorist attacks or attacks and then carried them out by itself. Last year, the UK feared that the Russian Federation might fabricate a pretextfor using chemical weapons in the war with Ukraine, as the plan to occupy the country and capture Kyiv in a few days ultimately failed. Russian occupiers used against the Armed Forces banned chemical weapons, namely the K-51 aerosol grenades.”
  2. Zelensky: Only with Ukraine on board can NATO guarantee security to Europe, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing President Zelensky’s evening address. “I thank the Lithuanian people, all Lithuanian politicians for understanding the current security situation in Europe. Only together with Ukraine will the Alliance guarantee real protection for Europe against any encroachment on the lives of peoples, [as well as – ed.] on the existing borders and international order based on rules. But it is difficult to imagine [such – ed.] strength without Ukraine.”
  3. It will disappear as no one cares about it – Deputy Secretary of Russian Security Council “predicting” future of Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing TASS. “Dmitry Medvedev, Deputy Secretary of the Russian Security Council, has said that Ukraine will disappear because no one cares about it. […] After that, he “argues” that Russia does not need Ukraine, while the former has been waging a full-scale war for over a year and is trying to occupy the latter’s territory. Medvedev goes on to say that Europe, the US, Africa and Latin America, Asia and Russia do not need Ukraine, either. In the end, Medvedev says that “Ukrainians do not need Ukraine”, as they have defended themselves against the Russian army for over 400 days. Medvedev also referred to the “offspring of the USSR” [One of the core lies of the Russian propaganda is that the Soviet Union created Ukraine and it never existed before that] and great Russia“.
  4. With lavish treatment of Macron, China’s Xi woos France to “counter” US, ReutersChina’s Xi Jinping has given French President Emmanuel Macron an unusually lavish welcome on a state visit, which some analysts see as a sign of Beijing’s growing offensive to woo key allies within the European Union to counter the United States. […] All Chinese foreign policy offensives have the US-China relationship in the background…so to work with any country, especially mid or big powers, like France, is something they’ll try to do to counter the US said Zhao Suisheng, a professor of China studies and foreign policy at the University of Denver. Noah Barkin, an analyst with the Rhodium Group, said China’s chief objective was to prevent Europe from aligning more closely with the United States. In this sense, Macron is perhaps Beijing’s most important partner in Europe, he said. Macron is often considered by diplomats to be an important driver of key policies within the EU.”
  5. Russia warns West: we may work around the Black Sea grain deal, ReutersRussia warned the West on Friday that unless obstacles to its exports of grain and fertilisers were removed, then Ukraine would have to export grain over land and Moscow would work outside the UN-brokered landmark grain export deal. […] While the West has not placed sanctions on Russia’s food and fertiliser exports, Moscow says they are compromised by obstacles – such as insurance and payment hindrances – that it says must be removed.”
  6. Russian lawmakers propose tougher sentences for terrorism, treason -agencies, ReutersRussian legislators on Friday proposed tougher sentences for those convicted of terrorism, high treason and sabotage, domestic news agencies reported, a move officials have been cited as saying was prompted by the war in Ukraine. The maximum sentence for carrying out “a terrorist act” – defined as a deed which endangered lives and was aimed at destabilizing Russia – would be raised to 20 years, from 15 years at present. Those found guilty of sabotage could also go to jail for 20 years, up from 15, while people convicted of “international terrorism” could be sentenced to life, up from 12 years.”
  7. Russia loses election to three UN bodies over Ukraine, APRussia lost elections to three United Nations bodies this week, a sign that opposition to its invasion of Ukraineover a year ago remains strong. […] In the ECOSOC votes, Russia was overwhelmingly defeated by Romania for a seat on the Commission on the Status of Women. It lost to Estonia to be a member of the executive board of the UN children’s agency UNICEF. And it was defeated by Armenia and the Czech Republic in secret ballot votes for membership on the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.”

Assessment 

https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-april-8-2023*

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  April 8, 2022:

Russian forces continue to fortify Russian border regions. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces continue to construct fortifications in areas of Kursk Oblast that border Ukraine and maintain a presence in border areas of Kursk and Belgorod oblasts. ISW previously assessed that Russian forces may be constructing fortifications in Russian oblasts bordering Ukraine to support the information operation to frame the war as an existential threat to Russia, as well to disperse Ukrainian forces by pinning them to border areas away from the frontline.

Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks along the Svatove-Kreminna line on April 8. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Kreminna itself, Kuzmyne (3km southwest of Kreminna), the Serebrianska forest area (10km south of Kreminna), and Verkhnokamianske (18km south of Kreminna). A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces conducted ground attacks near Terny (17km northwest of Kreminna) and Nevske (20km northwest of Kreminna). Another Russian milblogger claimed that a newly-formed artillery battalion of the 2nd Luhansk People‘s Republic (LNR) Army Corps comprised of volunteers operate on the Kreminna-Bilohorivka line.

Russian forces have continued to make gains in Bakhmut as of April 8. Geolocated footage published on April 7 indicates that Russian forces likely advanced close to the T0504 highway in southwestern Bakhmut. Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces advanced in southern and central Bakhmut. A Russian source claimed on the night of April 7 that […] Ukrainian forces retreated from the central part of Bakhmut to the western parts of the city. ISW has not seen visual confirmation of Russian claims that Wagner forces control all of central Bakhmut, and the relatively decreased rate of Wagner’s advance in the center of the city indicates that Ukrainian forces are still actively defending their positions in that part of the city. Other Russian milbloggers claimed that Wagner fighters are attempting to advance from the south and east towards Bakhmut city center to pressure Ukrainian forces to withdraw from the area.

Russian forces continued offensive operations around Bakhmut on April 8. A Russian milblogger claimed that Wagner fighters conducted assaults near Orikhovo-Vasylivka (11km northwest of Bakhmut), Bohdanivka (6km northwest of Bakhmut), and Bila Hora (14km southwest of Bakhmut). Another Russian milblogger claimed on April 7 that Russian forces continued offensive operations west of Klishchiivka (6km southwest of Bakhmut) and Kurdyumivka (13km southwest of Bakhmut) and that Russian and Ukrainian forces are both unable to advance near Ivanivske (6km west of Bakhmut) and along sections of the T0504 highway southwest of Bakhmut. Russian sources widely claimed that Wagner forces have started to heavily interdict or completely cut off all Ukrainian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) into Bakhmut. A Russian milblogger added that muddy road conditions are constraining Ukrainian abilities to supply their grouping in Bakhmut. Previous Russian claims about the ability of Russian forces to interdict Ukrainian GLOCs in the Bakhmut area have been exaggerated, and Ukrainian forces likely do not need to move heavy equipment into Bakhmut itself to conduct the current urban combat operations occurring in the city. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Bohdanivka and Ivanivske.

Tensions between the Wagner Group and conventional Russian forces over responsibility for tactical gains in Bakhmut appear to be intensifying. Wagner financier Yevgeny Prigozhin responded to advisor to the head of Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) Yan Gain’s claims about that Russian forces captured the Bakhmut-1 railway station and stated that he is little aware of Russian forces’ actions in Bakhmut since he did not see conventional Russian forces there. Prigozhin claimed on April 7 that Wagner fighters are still engaged in fierce fighting near the railway station, likely in an effort to portray himself as a reliable and pragmatic source for tactical information in Bakhmut in comparison to other overly optimistic Russian sources. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) previously faced intense backlash over claims that Russian forces captured Soledar (12km northeast of Bakhmut) after Wagner forces captured the settlement on January 11. Tensions over responsibility for tactical success in Bakhmut will likely continue to feed into the conflict between Prigozhin and the Russian MoD. 

The tempo of Russian offensive operations along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City frontline has reportedly decreased. The Ukrainian General Staff reported on April 8 that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Novokalynove (13km north of Avdiivka) and within 32km southwest of Avdiivka near Sieverne, Pervomaiske, Marinka, and Pobieda. The Ukrainian Head of the Council of Reservists of Ground Forces, Ivan Tymochko, reported that Russian advances on Avdiivka have stalled but that Russian forces are maintaining their operational tempo near Marinka (27km southwest of Avdiivka). The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted roughly a quarter of all their assaults in Ukraine in the Marinka area on April 8. A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces attempted to advance through forest areas north and south of Marinka. Another Russian milblogger claimed on April 8 that the tempo of Russian operations along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City frontline has noticeably decreased over the past day.

Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks in western Donetsk Oblast on April 8.

Ukrainian and Russian sources discussed the decreased rate of Russian offensive operations along the entire frontline on April 8, supporting ISW’s assessment that the overall Russian offensive is approaching culmination. Council of Reservists of the Ukrainian Ground Forces Head Ivan Tymochko reported on April 8 that Russian forces are fighting along the entire frontline, but that Russian offensive potential continues to decline and that current Russian attacks are focused on distracting and dispersing Ukrainian troops in anticipation of counteroffensive operations. Tymochko stated that Russian forces are not making serious advances anywhere on the frontline, noting that the pace of attacks in and around Bakhmut has slightly decreased in some areas and stagnated entirely in others. Tymochko also assessed that the Russian offensive on Avdiivka has “choked” and reported that Russian forces still do not control Marinka despite having reduced the city to rubble. A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that the pace of Russian offensive operations along the entire Avdiivka-Donetsk City frontline has decreased over the past day and emphasized that Russian forces are struggling to advance anywhere in Ukraine. Several Russian commentators are emphasizing Russian preparations for an anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive, suggesting that the overall focus of the Russian information space is shifting away from discussing Russian offensive capabilities and towards assessing Ukraine’s potential to regain significant ground.

The dynamics of battlefield artillery usage in Ukraine reflect the fact that Russian forces are using artillery to offset their degraded offensive capabilities. Former Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) Security Minister and current Vostok Battalion commander Alexander Khodakovsky reported that the Russian command has decided to stop the daily issue of ammunition to areas of the front where there are no active offensive operations almost entirely. Khodakovsky noted that the artillery shortage on the frontline results in part from preparations for a Ukrainian counteroffensive. Khodakovsky’s statement indicates that the Russian command must prioritize artillery ammunition supplies rigorously due to shortages. High demand for shells indicates that Russian forces are still heavily relying on artillery to offset key shortcomings in combat capability, including poor Russian targeting skills, insufficient ground assault capabilities, and inadequate availability of airpower in Ukraine. Russian forces use heavy artillery barrages to flatten settlements before seizing them with ground attacks, offsetting the need to conduct effective infantry attacks or to conduct an airstrike using scarce precision munitions and putting airframes and pilots at risk of Ukrainian air defenses. Continuing Russian shortages in artillery ammunition will undermine the Russian military’s ability to continue offsetting its other weaknesses and limitations. The Washington Post reported on April 8 that by contrast, Ukrainian forces are using one-third as many shells as Russian forces and that Ukrainian forces are conserving shells by carefully prioritizing targets. Ukrainian forces are more accurate in their targeting, but also likely benefit from being on the defensive in most areas–offensive operations normally generate increased artillery requirements. […]

Russian nationalists seized on assassinated Russian milblogger Maxim Fomin’s (also known as Vladlen Tatarsky) funeral to promote pro-war narratives. Footage from Fomin’s funeral at Troekurovsky Cemetery in Moscow shows hundreds to thousands of people in attendance including Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin and Russian Liberal Democratic Party Leader Leonid Slutsky. Images showing the Order of Courage medal, Wagner awards, and an engraved sledgehammer at Fomin’s coffin circulated in Russian nationalist media. Prigozhin commended the “difficult work” of war reporters and claimed that he would do everything to ensure that Fomin’s work continues to resonate. Former Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) Spokesperson Eduard Basurin used Fomin’s funeral to reiterate the narrative that Russia must reject negotiations and pursue the unconditional surrender of Ukraine. Footage from the funeral service and burial show Russian forces giving Fomin military honors. Fomin’s funeral could be the first instance of a Wagner-affiliated funeral receiving official Russian military honors.

Russia’s missile campaign to degrade Ukraine’s unified energy infrastructure has failed definitively, and Russia appears to have abandoned the effort. Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko announced on April 8 that Ukraine is resuming energy exports for the first time since October 11, 2022. Russian authorities began efforts in October to degrade Ukrainian energy infrastructure to a significant extent by the end of winter, which Russians consider March 1; however, the series of large-scale Russian missile strikes on energy infrastructure failed to achieve the assessed Russian aims of causing a humanitarian disaster, weakening Ukrainian military capabilities, and forcing Ukraine to negotiate. State-run Russian media acknowledged this failure on March 1. Russia likely abandoned the effort soon after. The United Kingdom Ministry of Defense (UK MoD) noted on April 8 that the frequency of Russian large-scale, long-range attacks on energy infrastructure has decreased since March 2023. The UK MoD assessed that Russia continues small-scale strikes (strikes using fewer than 25 munitions) with predictably less effect. Russia maintains the capability to renew such strikes though, if it so desired. Halushchenko stated that Ukraine has the flexibility to adjust Ukrainian energy exports if the situation changes.

The Kremlin is likely intensifying legal punishments for terrorism-related crimes as part of a larger effort to promote self-censorship and establish legal conditions for intensified domestic repressions. Duma Chairman of the Committee on Security and Anti-Corruption Vasily Piskarev stated on April 7 that the State Duma has introduced amendments to increase prison terms for committing acts of terrorism, assistance to terrorist activities or organizations or participation in a terrorist community, sabotage, and acts of international terrorism. Russian President Vladimir Putin also recently signed two bills expanding legal punishment for the discreditation of all Russian personnel fighting in Ukraine and for the misappropriation of Russian military assets, likely to promote sell-censorship and facilitate crackdowns on anti-war dissent. Russian sources have previously reported that the Federal Security Service (FSB) is increasingly detaining Russian civilians under suspicions of financially assisting Ukrainian forces and that Russian authorities appear to be cracking down against bars in urban areas that host Russian civil society groups. The Kremlin has introduced indefinite terrorism warning regimes in occupied territories and maximum, medium, and elevated levels of martial law in many western Russian oblasts, and Russian authorities in these areas may more readily apply the expanded terrorism terms to further stifle resistance to occupation authorities as well as dissent in Russia itself.

Russian authorities are likely planning to further expand what they deem to be terroristic and extremist affiliations to encourage self-censorship. Duma Deputy Head of the Committee on Information Policy Oleg Matveichev stated on April 4 that he has prepared a bill to recognize feminism as an extremist ideology and argued that feminists overwhelmingly oppose the “military operation” in Ukraine. Matveichev argued that Ukrainian feminism consists of women serving together with men fighting against Russians and alleged that the woman accused of killing of Russian milblogger Maxim Fomin (Vladlen Tatarsky) was motivated by feminist ideology. Matveichev has not specified how the bill would define feminism, and the bill may use a vague overarching definition in order to further promote widespread self-censorship. Russian authorities may increasingly portray other ideologies and groups not explicitly aligned with the Kremlin as being against the war in Ukraine in order to set conditions for increased crackdowns and self-censorship. Ukrainian “feminism” would appear to be giving Ukraine an advantage in this war since, as Matveichev notes, it has brought many talented and determined Ukrainian women into the fight.

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) may be setting conditions for a false flag attack in Sumy Oblast. The Russian MoD claimed on April 8 that Ukrainian forces have been delivering dead bodies from morgues to Okhtyrka, Sumy Oblast and applying toxic chemicals to the remains and the area in order to allege that Russian forces used chemical weapons. Russian forces may be attempting to set informational conditions for future chemical weapons attacks in Sumy Oblast or to justify previous chemical weapons use, although ISW has not observed Russian forces recently using chemical weapons in the area. It is unclear what overarching effect the Kremlin intends to achieve with increasingly outlandish and ineffective Russian information operations alleging Ukrainian false flag attacks.

Key Takeaways

  • Ukrainian and Russian sources discussed the decreased rate of Russian offensive operations along the entire frontline on April 8, supporting ISW’s assessment that the overall Russian offensive is approaching culmination.
  • The dynamics of battlefield artillery usage in Ukraine reflect the fact that Russian forces are using artillery to offset their degraded offensive capabilities.
  • Former Russian officer and ardent nationalist Igor Girkin launched a new effort likely aimed at protecting the influence the Russian pro-war faction within the Kremlin.
  • The “Club of Angry Patriot’s” reveals several key implications about the Kremlin dynamics and the perceived danger to Putin’s regime.
  • Girkin may be advancing the political goals of unnamed figures within Russian power structures possibly within the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB).
  • Russian nationalists seized on assassinated Russian milblogger Maxim Fomin’s funeral to promote pro-war narratives.
  • Russia’s missile campaign to degrade Ukraine’s unified energy infrastructure has failed definitively, and Russia appears to have abandoned the effort.
  • The Kremlin is likely intensifying legal punishments for terrorism-related crimes as part of a larger effort to promote self-censorship and establish legal conditions for intensified domestic repressions.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) may be setting conditions for a false flag attack in Sumy Oblast.
  • Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks along the Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Russian forces have continued to make gains around Bakhmut, and tensions between the Wagner Group and conventional Russian forces over responsibility for tactical gains in Bakhmut appear to be intensifying.
  • Russian sources continued to speculate about the planned Ukrainian counteroffensive in southern Ukraine, including hypothesizing about the possibility of a Ukrainian amphibious landing across the Kakhovka Reservoir.
  • The Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) on April 6 proposed a defense industrial base (DIB) deregulation reform that could expedite defense production but will more likely facilitate corruption and embezzlement.

Ukrainian officials reported that 31 children returned to Ukraine after having been deported to Russia as Russian officials continue to discuss the adoption of Ukrainian children into Russian families.

Ukrainian army failed to regain Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in October, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing The Times. “At the end of October, officials of the occupation administrations and the Russian Defence Ministry reported that the Ukrainian Armed Forces had attempted to drop an airborne force and retake the ZNPP, the newspaper writes. At the same time, Kyiv did not officially acknowledge the attempt to storm the nuclear power plant, but representatives of the Ukrainian Special Forces, Defence Intelligence and the Navy told The Times on condition of anonymity about the details of the operation.

At that time, Russian troops had been holding the power plant for more than six months, using its territory to fire on Ukrainian cities on the other side of the Dnipro river and a large steel plant in Nikopol. According to The Times, on the night of 19 October, about 600 Ukrainian troops in 30 boats packed with weapons, including heavy machine guns, MK-19 grenade launchers and anti-tank weapons, attempted to land on the left bank of the Dnipro.

The idea was that this would be an infantry-only battle. They wouldn’t be able to use artillery against us, as this is a nuclear plant, the newspaper quoted one of the military as saying. However, the newspaper writes that the Ukrainian army soldiers did not expect such serious resistance. The Russians had built a very dense defence, they had mined everything. When we were approaching, they even pulled up tanks and artillery and started firing at us right on the water. the Ukrainian soldier said.

As special forces speedboats crossed a stretch of river nearly three miles wide, precision Himars rockets provided by the US smashed into Russian positions on the riverbank (…) A handful of the Ukrainian special forces teams in smaller boats managed to make it to the shore as dawn broke, engaging the Russians in a three-hour firefight on the outskirts of the town of Enerhodar, which adjoins the plant. The main force was unable to land, however, the newspaper writes.

The Times notes that due to the risk of radiation leakage, such an attempted assault raises questions even among Ukrainian officials who are convinced of the need to regain the ZNPP. The head of Ukraine’s Energoatom (the company that runs all power plants in this country – ed.), Petro Kotin, suggested that it would be possible to regain the plant if the Ukrainian army could advance south, toward Crimea and Melitopol. This is the only option [to regain the power plant – ed.] – no direct firing on the plant, no direct advance on the territory of the plant with direct actions against the Russians. It is very dangerous to do such things near nuclear materials, he said.”

Ukraine seeks to prevent military leaks after NATO assistance plans reportedly appear on social media, Reuters reports.  “Ukraine’s leaders discussed ways to prevent leaks of military information on Friday after secret documents detailing US and NATO efforts to help the country plan a counter-offensive against Russia’s invasion reportedly appeared on social media. The New York Times said on Thursday, citing senior US officials, that classified war documents were posted this week on Twitter and Telegram, which is widely used in Russia.

A Ukrainian official told Reuters the documents contained a very large amount of fictitious information and the posts looked like a Russian disinformation operation to sow doubts about the offensive, which requires advanced Western weapons. These are just standard elements of operational games by Russian intelligence. And nothing more, presidential official Mykhailo Podoliak said in a statement. The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The announcement by the presidential office of talks on Friday at the Ukrainian headquarters of the armed forces supreme command attended by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made no mention of a leak having occurred. The participants of the meeting focused on measures to prevent the leakage of information regarding the plans of the defence forces of Ukraine, it said. It was not clear whether the discussions centred on preventing leaks from within Ukraine or from among the Western partners it now shares information with, after an initial reluctance in the immediate aftermath of Russia’s invasion.

The Times said the documents did not reveal when or where the offensive would take place but that the leak could affect trust between the allies as it gave timetables for the delivery of weaponry and Ukrainian troops trained by the West. They appeared to have been modified in places, overstating American estimates of Ukrainian war dead and underestimating Russian military casualties, the paper said […]. Three US officials told Reuters in Washington that Russia or pro-Russian elements were likely to have been behind the leak.”

Russia likely behind US military document leak, US officials say, Reuters reports. “Russia or pro-Russian elements are likely behind the leak of several classified US military documents posted on social media that offer a partial, month-old snapshot of the war in Ukraine, three US officials told Reuters on Friday, while the Justice Department said separately it was probing the leak.

The documents appear to have been altered to lower the number of casualties suffered by Russian forces, the US officials said, adding their assessments were informal and separate from the investigation into the leak itself.”

  1. Consequences and what to do?

The “counterattack plan” leaked online is a fake and a Russian special operation, the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine (DIU) reports. “Representative of the [DIU] Andriy Yusov said on the air of a national telethon that the so-called “classified military documents” leaked online about the plans of the Armed Forces of Ukraine are a fake and a special operation of the Russian special services.

In recent decades, the most successful operations of the Russian special services took place in Photoshop. From the preliminary analysis of these materials, we see false figures on losses from both sides. Part of the information is clearly collected from open sources.

If we talk about the needs of the Ukrainian army: the topic was discussed a lot at all levels. It is not a secret for anyone that Ukraine asks questions about aviation, tanks, ammunition and other things that are needed for the faster liberation of the occupied territories, to save lives. Everything else – we will wait for official comments. But Ukrainian society has no reason to worry, said the representative of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.

Andriy Yusov added that there will be a counteroffensive, and the main plans of Russian forces will be seen and felt on the battlefield. He also suggested that the Russians may have forged documents to disrupt or slow down Western aid to Ukraine.”

 

Hans Petter Midttun: As repeatedly argued, I assess the full-scale invasion and the ongoing conventional war as a part of the Russian hybrid war. Hybrid war often is described as a grey zone operation below the threshold of war.

The theoretical delineation, however, did not survive the transition to the last phase of Russia’s war. It is the same aggressor, the same strategy with the same strategic aim and objectives, using the same military and non-military means as during the first 8 years of the war.

Hybrid War is the parallel and synchronized use of both military and non-military means to destabilize nations from within. Synchronization is the ability to effectively coordinate the employment of both military and non-military means in time, space, and purpose to create the desired effects.

It allows Russia to ‘escalate’ or ‘de-escalate’ horizontally rather than just vertically, thus providing further options.

In this context, horizontal escalation or de-escalation refers to it’s the many instruments of power being applied in parallel. For example, by escalating the military aggressions, and simultaneously intensifying its diplomatic, political, economic and information efforts, Russia can achieve effects greater than through a one-dimensional military effort only. Instead of only military gains, Russia ensures multiple effects across NATO, EU and Ukraine (e.g., impact on foreign policy, diplomatic initiatives, bilateral relationships, finance markets, costs of living, information sphere, public opinion, fear, and more).

What happened on 24 February last year was just that: A horizontal and vertical escalation. A shift from the main focus on the non-military to the military tools – BUT – still using all tools. It is a total war.

The hybrid war strategy lends credibility to the claim that the so-called leaked “classified military documents” about the plans of the Ukrainian Armed Forces are a fake and a special operation of the Russian special services.

Part of the battlespace occurs inside the cognitive spaces of populations and key decision- and policymakers, making them, and not the military, the main target of the operation.

Russia aims to confuse and manipulate both the international audiences as well as its domestic population. Using disinformation, cyber-attacks, blackmail, provocations, fabrications, military deceptions, and other active measures, it creates a virtual reality that prompts not only its victims but also their partners into making the political decisions Russia wants without suspecting (or acknowledging) they are being manipulated.

The so-called leaked “classified military documents” support these efforts.

It inflates the Ukrainian losses, while greatly reducing Russian casualties, creating an illusion of success. It helps create uncertainty in the international community on the effects of the defence aid and the sense of continuing the attempt to create more favourable conditions on the battlefield for negotiations.

According to The Washington Post, the leaked documents “indicate alarming Ukrainian shortfalls in Western-supplied weaponry — especially ammunition and air defence — even as they show deep American penetration into Russian plans, equipment and manpower.” That is, however, already a well-known and documented fact by all who have followed open-source reporting. This has been one of the key messages in my reports and articles since 24 February 2022. For the general public, however, this might come across as a revelation and trigger the confusion, ambiguity, and response Russia is seeking.

The “leak” gives an impression of an efficient intelligence organisation, creating confidence within Russia about its ability to counter a Ukrainian offensive. Simultaneously, it might help create doubt within the Ukrainian Armed Forces. “Do the Russian forces know where and when we are attacking?”

The information creates doubts about the feasibility of the long-warned Ukrainian counteroffensive. Having laid out the fundamental weaknesses of the Ukrainian Armed Forces for all to see, a warned (potential) military failure might have severe political repercussions in Ukraine. Ukraine will not get a second chance. There are no more main battle tanks to be had in the short term. The population might not accept another attempt if the upcoming assault leads to both military failure and huge losses in men and equipment.

The most effective disinformation campaigns are built on facts, supplemented with lies and manipulated to create the desired effects.

Is Ukraine receiving the weapons they need on time? No, it does not. That has been long established by many analysts and think tanks. The slow and incremental inflow of weapons has limited Ukraine’s ability to conduct counteroffensives.

Is Ukraine able to effectively protect its sky? Of course not. That’s why it has been asking for modern combat aircraft and air defence since before the full-scale invasion. Equally important, it is the cause for the increased urgency in its call for F-16 multipurpose fighter jet.

Will the lack of Ukrainian air defence systems impact its ability to execute a successful counteroffensive? Very much so. I have previously argued that an offensive should not take place before several prerequisites are in place. More Air Defence and Western-made combat aircraft were some of the factors listed. Ukrainian Armed Forces will after all try to liberate territories over which the Russian Air Force is operating with impunity.

Will Ukraine run out of Soviet-made ammunition? Absolutely. We have long known that Ukraine is rationing its ammunition. USSR no longer exist and production lines existing in Russia are not about to alleviate the problem.

Are we being manipulated? Most probably. That said, that does not make the Ukrainian shortcomings less real. Nor are the Western and Russian weaknesses.

The fact remains that the West still has several untapped, high-tech and long-range weapon systems that might fundamentally shift the military balance to the advantage of Ukraine and the West.

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