Ukraine RileySENTINEL 14 APR 2023

Ukraine Weekly Situation Report

Ukraine Weekly Security Report 14 April 2023

Situation Summary

Despite Russian advances and some substantial gains made during the past week, the Battle for Bakhmut is not yet over. Wagner Group estimate 80% of the city is under Russian control however Ukrainian forces dispute this and continue to defend the remaining portion of the city in dogged fashion. Russia has lost thousands of troops in the offensive against the city which has been nicknamed ‘the meat grinder’. Wagner forces now working with elite Russian VDV forces are keen to deliver a victory over the Ukrainian military having failed to take control of the city for more than 9 months.

Whilst it still remains highly likely Russia will take the city in the coming weeks before Ukraine launches a counter offensive, any victory will seem hollow as Russian casualties continue to mount in significantly. Media reports late 14th April that Ukrainian Forces have made a partial withdrawal from parts of Bakhmut.

Russian forces have been continuing to launch limited attacks along the entire Eastern front in the past week however it has been reported that offensive capabilities appear to be declining in all areas with exception of Avdiivka and Bakhmut. Ukrainian Ground Forces spokesman Ivan Tymochko believes Russian forces are focused on distracting and fixating Ukrainian troops ahead of the possible counter offensive. Russian Milbloggers believe the drop in offensive operations is a direct result of Russian commanders hoping to shift focus on to defensive duties and using probing attacks to assess the strength and ability of Ukrainian forces to gain momentum in a counter offensive.

Both Ukrainian and Russian sources agree the Winter Offensive is continuing to fail, little offensive gains have been made over the past 72 hrs around Avdiivka and Donetsk, and the pace of offensive operations has dropped or stagnated completely around Oskil- Kremmina and has choked in Marinka. It is unlikely Russia will continue to make any further mass offensives in the near future.

Leaked documents allegedly from the US Department of Defense are reported to have given detailed analysis of the Ukrainian war. These documents which have appeared online outline the plan for Ukrainian offensives and assess the likelihood of successful advances against Russian positions. The reports also detail the numbers of foreign Special Forces personnel deployed inside Ukrainian territory and the U.S. gathering intelligence on close allies. The Pentagon has confirmed the documents appear to contain some classified information but stress that much of the information has been altered. Russian Milbloggers have also doubted the validity of the documents claiming them to be disinformation designed to deceive Russian military strategy. April 13th saw the US FBI arrest a 21 year old Air National Guard for the leaks and reportedly seek to charge him with Espionage.

Key Updates

  • Wagner Group forces, supported by Elite VDV are reported to have encircled Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut. Ukrainian commanders refute the claims however they claim the situation in the city is ‘difficult’

  • Russian political landscape has become more volatile with Pro-War Nationalists, including Wagner Group leader Prigozhin becoming increasingly active in political movements. The rift between Anti-War and Pro-War factions in the Kremlin may be exposed as Russian authorities use terrorism laws and patriot laws to crack down on opponents and critics.

  • President Zelensky and Ukrainian Foreign Minister have called for action against Russian war crimes in the aftermath of a video showing Wagner Forces allegedly beheading a Ukrainian prisoner.

  • Russian forces have continued fighting on the Oskil-Kreminna front lines with little progress being made. Russian VDV troops are reported to have captured Ukrainian positions in the forest 5 km from the south of Kremmina.

  • Russian commanders are reported to have switched tactics towards capturing Marinka in the face of a failed offensive against Avdiivka. Ukrainian commanders report Russian advances on stalled frontlines following weeks of setbacks around Donetsk and Avdiivka.

  • U.K. Defense Intelligence has reported Russian troops are building 120km of defensive lines along the Southern Front close to Melitopol. The defenses are said to be capable of causing a serious obstacle should Ukrainian launch an offensive in the area.

  • U.S. Leaked classified documents have highlighted weaknesses in the Ukrainian military capabilities and reported catastrophic shortages in Ukrainian air defense ammunition, the reports are said to be heavily altered however Russian milbloggers are divided as to the validity of the documents.

UA/RU Armed Conflict Developments

Russian troops supporting Wagner Group forces have continued to make steady progress in Bakhmut. Ukrainian forces still hold positions in the West of the city and continue to hold out against Russian advances. Ukrainian military spokesman Cherevaty confirmed on 9 April the presence of Russian VDV troops working in support of Wagner Forces in the city. He confirmed that Russian forces had made marginal gains in the South Bakhmut but were far from controlling the city. Russian forces have been accused of war crimes in the city as footage was released on 10 April allegedly showing Russian forces beheading a Ukrainian prisoner. Kremlin sources have said to be looking into the incident but have cast doubt over its authenticity.

On 11 April Russian Milbloggers claimed offensive operations were ongoing around Ivanivske for control of the main N-32 highway, however no advances have been made. On 13 April Wagner Group Financier Prigozhin claimed Russian forces have completed the encirclement of Ukrainian defenders in Bakhmut, a claim which Ukrainian commanders have said is too soon to verify. UK Defence report 14th April states that Ukranian Forces have made ‘orderly withdrawals’ from areas they have been forced to concede.

Both sides have been engaged in heavy fighting along the Oskil - Kreminna front with little momentum for Russian forces. Russian forces have decreased the numbers of offensive operations in the area over the past week however attacks along the entire front line are still ongoing. Russian forces have reportedly made recent advances in the forest areas to the south of Kreminna with VDV forces armed with Thermobaric weapons reportedly captured Ukrainian positions 5 km South of Kreminna on 10 April. Whilst the use of Thermobaric artillery has assisted Russian forces in making small positional gains it is deemed unlikely the weapon will result in any major breakthroughs on the front.

Heavy fighting has continued West of Donetsk around the key town of Avdiivka. Ukrainian forces claim to have repelled Russian advances around the town over the past 48 hrs. Russian milbloggers claim Russian forces have made gains around Keramik, Novokalynove and Novobakhmutivka to the North and North West of Avdiivka. Ukrainian Tavriisk Direction Defense Forces Spokesperson Colonel Oleksiy Dmytrashkivskyi stated on April 10 that Russian forces are attempting to take Marinka to reach Kurakhove (18 km west of Donetsk City) because Russian forces are unable to capture Avdiivka.

On 8 April Russian commander of Vostok Battalion, Aleksandar Khodakosky has declared Russian front line commanders have stopped issuing artillery ammunition to areas where there is no offensive operations ongoing. He noted that shortages in artillery ammunition was partially due to stockpiling supplies in preparation for defending against Ukrainian counter offensives and partially due to realities related to the failing Russian operations. He stated the high demand for ammunition in some areas was down to commanders using artillery to mask inadequacies in combat capabilities such as poor artillery targeting, insufficient ground assault capability and a lack of close air support. In comparison Ukraine is estimated to be using 1 shell to every 3 by Russia and having greater success due to improved accuracy, target prioritization and being in a defensive role.

Russian Southern Group of Forces has continued to construct extensive linear defenses in the Zaphorizhzia Oblast with the objective of defending against an anticipated assault on Melitopol. U.K. Defense Intelligence reports defenses covering over 120km and consisting of three layers of defensive zones, each approximately 10-20km behind the one in front. It is estimated that whilst these defensive positions will present a considerable obstacle to any Ukrainian attack, they will require support from significant numbers of troops and artillery support. It remains unclear if Russian forces on the Southern Front can gather these resources.

Political Developments

Belarus: 10th April Russian Defense Minister Shoigu and Belarus President Lukashenko conducted meetings in Minsk. The meeting is said to have reiterated the state of union between both countries and enhanced levels of cooperation agreed during meetings last week. Lukashenko is said to have expressed gratitude to Russia for keeping a military presence in Belarus in the face of what he described Polish and Lithuanian threats to Belarus borders. Shoigu in turn thanked Belarus for providing training grounds for Russian forces

War Crimes: Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba has described Russia forces as being worse than ISIS following footage allegedly showing a Wagner Group member beheading a Ukrainian soldier in Bakhmut. The Kremlin has described the video as ‘awful’ and said the authenticity needs to be checked. Russia has denied its forces have committed atrocities during the invasion.

US Documents: 13 April, US FBI have reportedly arrested a 21 year old member of the Air Force National Guard accused of posting leaked classified documents online. The Pentagon has described the leaks as a deliberate criminal act and . U.K. defense sources have described the documents as being heavily altered and Russian Milbloggers have denounced the information divulged in the documents as false.

Norway: Norway has expelled 15 Russian officials it has accused of spying under diplomatic cover. Foreign Minister Huitfeldt announced Norway has been monitoring the individuals over a period of time before they were expelled and that Norway would not allow Moscow to use its embassy to carry out covert intelligence services. Tass News Agency reported the Kremlin will weigh up an appropriate answer to Norway.

Sanctions: On 11 April U.S. and U.K. announced new sanctions aimed at 134 entities and private individuals located in over 20 countries all with close links to the Kremlin. The new measures will further disrupt Russian efforts to import critical technology used in the War in Ukraine.

Hague: 12 April Financial times has reported Russia has been ordered by the Hague to pay 5 Billion USD in compensation to Ukraine for losses related to gas and oil assets in Crimea. The award is linked to a lawsuit filed by Ukraine following the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. The Kremlin has said it will analyse the decision before deciding next steps.

Russia: Heavy criticism has been aimed at Russian authorities by Milbloggers and Patriot groups following the arrest of Yuri Yevich under new laws banning criticism of the military. Yevich himself a popular pro-war blogger and volunteer in the Union of Donbas Volunteers Battalion since 2014, is accused of criticising the military during a tactical medical lesson he was conducting for Russian troops on 9 April. Yevich is reported to have lobbied for improvements in battlefield medical skills since the war began and his arrest has led many Russian milbloggers ot believe new ‘Patriot’ laws will be used by the Kremlin to shut down any genuine discussions on war progress.

BAKHMUT: 8-11 April Russian forces are said to be making steady progress in central Bakhmut despite spirited defense by Ukrainian forces. Ukrainian spokesman Cherevaty denied claims by Head of Donetsk Occupied Oblast Denis Pushilin that Russian forces controlled 75% of the city and were close to achieving victory in the battle for the city. Cherevaty announced Ukrainian defenders are repelling as many as 50 advances per day made by small Wagner Group units supported by Russian regular forces. Fighting has continued around the outskirts of the besieged city with fierce battles continuing around Ivaniske. Russian forces have been trying to capture the last remaining supply route into the city. Milbloggers have reported Russian troops have failed to make progress on this front.

13 April Russian MoD has reported forces have successfully encircled Ukrainian defenders in Bakhmut effectively stopping them from withdrawing and stopping supplies and reinforcements from reaching them. Ukrainian spokesman Cherevaty has denied the reports and claims supply lines are still open and despite the situation in Bakhmut being difficult, ammunition and reinforcements were still possible into the city. Wagner Group commander Prigozhin has also cast doubt on the claims by saying it is too early to talk about Russian forces encircling Bakhmut.

DONETSK: Russian forces have continued offensive operations along the Donetsk City and Avdiivka front without making any significant progress. Ukrainian forces have repelled Russian attacks around the city in the past 48 hrs. Russian Milbloggers have reported offensive momentum has resumed around Marinka and in previously stalled offensives in Novokalynovo, however Ukrainian Spokesperson Colonel Oleksiy Dmytrashkivskyi has claimed this is as a result of Russian forces refocusing attacks as a result of being unable to capture Avdiivka.

OSKIL-KREMINNA: Russian forces have made little progress against Ukrainian defenses on the axis. Reports by Russian Milbloggers on 10 April indicated that elite VDV units armed with TOS-1A thermobaric weapons have been making steady progress in the forest areas to the south of Kreminna. Media images would appear to verify these claims and show Russian forces taking control of Ukrainian positions 5 km South of Kreminna.

SOUTHERN FRONT: U.K. Defense Intelligence has reported Russian troops are preparing heavy defensive lines along a 120km line in anticipation of a Ukrainian offensive against Melitopol. Ukrainian spokesman Dmytrashkivskyi has claimed Russian forces have concentrated 113 Battalion Tactical Groups in Zaporizhia and a further 205 in Donetska.

SUPPLIES: Russian forces are reported to be limiting the issue of artillery ammunition to frontline locations with offensive operations ongoing. Aleksandar Khadakovsky Vostok Battalion commander has reported shortages in artillery ammunition is due to commanders stockpiling ammunition in preparation for defending against a Ukrainian Offensive. Meanwhile, leaked U.S. classified documents have claimed Ukrainian air defenses are close to collapse due to lack of ammunition and may only last until early May unless resupply is completed.

Analyst Notes: Despite conflicting reports it is highly likely Russian forces will gain victory in Bakhmut in the coming days. The victory is likely to bring some relief to the Kremlin after an underwhelming Winter offensive. The fighting on the battlefield has been overshadowed to some degree by the political maneuvering in the Kremlin, a number of Russian pro- War nationalists have launched social movement aimed at defending Russia from attack by Anti War factions within the Kremlin, however these Ultra Nationalist activists have been increasingly critical of the lack of success in the conflict. Meanwhile Anti-War factions within the Kremlin may pose a threat to Putin's regime from within in the aftermath of a disastrous winter offensive. With Wagner Group leader Prigozhin and other popular nationalist figures being accused of political posturing, the Kremlin trying to use Patriot laws and terrorism laws to control the public and media, economic shortages becoming evident across the country and a loss of International supporter from allies, the political landscape in Russia is less stable than ever before. Analyst Notes ENDS.


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