Ukraine Weekly Security Report 21 April 2023
It is now accepted that Russia has made significant advances in Bakhmut with Wagner Forces reportedly succeeding in crossing the central railway demarcation line. Numerous reports assess that Russian Forces now control around 90% of Bakhmut with Ukrainian Forces occupying areas to the west of the town. Russia has sustained significant losses achieving theses gains and comes at a time when an imminent Ukrainian Spring Offensive would mean that Russia will need the maximum assets available to defend their captured territory.
As the seasons change more is being discussed about the forthcoming Ukrainian Offensive. Russia s losses suggest that they do not have the current assets available to carry out an offensive of their own, so there have been numerous reports of Russian Forces saving air and Indirect Fire assets for specific military targets to degrade Ukrainian Air Defence Assets.
Numerous reports state how limited stocks of precision missiles for Russia are affecting tactical decisions on the ground. It is assessed that the highest value weapons will be reserved for use against specific Ukrainian military infrastructure whilst more indiscriminate weapons and UAV’s will be used against more mainstream targets.
NATO Chief Stoltenbergs unannounced visit to Kyiv 20th April, together with his subsequent statement on Ukraine joining NATO (once the war has ended) has the capacity to further increase tensions between Russia and The West.
Further Western military equipment is due to arrive in Ukraine in the coming weeks including Patriot Missile Defence Systems, Canadian supplied small arms and ammunition, German Leopard 2 tanks.
Wagner Group forces, supported by Elite VDV are reported to have succeeded in crossing the central railway line and now have control of roughly 90% of the area. Ukrainian Forces have consolidated in the west area.
With the impending Ukrainian Spring Offensive drawing closer, Russian disinformation groups have suggested that the warmer weather (most namely mud) will impact any such move by Ukraine. The assessed reality is that as the temperatures rise then thick mud will solidify and aid troop and vehicle movements.
Ukrainian Military Spokesperson stated that Russia has used almost its entire strategic stock of precision missiles since 11 Sept 2022. Cheaper munitions and UAV’s are being stockpiled by Russian Forces to prepare for the Ukrainian Spring Offensive. This also suggests that civilian targets will be a lower priority as opposed to military ones in order for Russia to maintain a capability in striking Ukrainian Forces as they advance.
Russian forces in Donetsk have conducted limited operations around Adviivka and Marinka. Russian Milbloggers reported advances 12km North and 13km NW of Adviivka which was denied by Ukrainian General Staff.
U.K. Defense Intelligence has reported that the biggest inhibitor to off road movements (with regards to forthcoming offensives) will be the widespread use of mines. UK MOD also reported on the existence of a new Russian Group the Dinipr Group of Forces (DGF) which concentrates on the Dinpro area and the South Western flank.
With regards to the Spring Offensive by Ukraine it is reported that ‘complex measures’ (according to Dep Defence Minister Maliar) were underway and that Russian Forces are now moving to a ‘Strategic Defence’ posture to hold onto any ground taken so far. With the exception of Bakhmut and limited offensive operations in Krmeinna/Lyman and Adviikvka/Marinka, most Russian Forces are now working on bolstering their defences.
A Russian fighter jet 20th April accidentally released munitions on the Russian town of Belgorod (whilst flying towards Ukraine) causing significant damage and injuring 3 persons.
UA/RU Armed Conflict Developments
BAKHMUT: 15-21 April. Russian Forces continue to make slow progress and UK Intelligence Sources state that the front line in Bakhmut is situated roughly along the geographics of the main railway line that runs through the centre. Reports 19th April stated that Wagner Forces have succeeded in crossing the railway line and have pushed into West Bakhmut.
BAKHMUT: 20 April multiple reports (which suggests accuracy) stated that Russian Forces now occupied roughly 90% of Bakhmut with Ukrainian Forces holding the are West of the town. Uncomfirmed reports 19/20Th April from Russia stated that they had taken sectors in the West of the town and as far as Bakhmut Hospital No.2.
DONETSK: OSKIL-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: Ukraine took delivery 19th April (according to media reports) of Patriot (the US anti missile defence) systems that were gifted to them by the USA, Germany and The Netherlands following Ukrainian forces finishing Patriot training in US late March which was earlier than expected.
TELECOMMUNICATIONS: Analysis of Russia’s capability and efforts to disrupt Ukraine's access to the Starlink satellite system has been reportedly underestimated. Citing US Intelligence reports, the Washington Post 18th April stated that Russia has been experimenting using it’s Tobol Electronic Warfare System (designed to protect Kremlin satellites) to actively target the Starlink system. Whether the tests have succeeded is not yet known and recent Starlink outages in Ukraine can not be verified as a result of this capability but it does highlight that Russia is seeking to actively target Starlink.
SABOTAGE: A joint investigation by Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway released information 19th April that Russian vessels have been conducting hostile reconnaissance of offshore Western Critical Infrastructure such as offshore wind turbines and deepsea buried cables and gas pipelines in the Baltic and North Seas. Suspicious vessels have had their AIS (Automatic Identifying System) turned off but intercepted communications revealed that ships were transmitting signals to a Russian Naval Base. COMMENT whilst this investigation shows that Russia is likely creating a ‘Target Pack’ of Western Critical Assets this does not necessarily mean they will attack them imminently.
It is therefore likely that this capability will be held in reserve and deployed at a time when/if NATO escalations increase, and gives Russia the means to inflict economic pain on Western countries. The fact that the persons and Groups responsible for the NordStream 1 & 2 attacks back in Sept 2022 are still unconfirmed demonstrates how difficult it is to definitively state who was/is responsible for such attacks. It also reveals how vulnerable these assets are to attack by Threat Actors. COMMENT ENDS
Russian Forces are reportedly concentrating their limited missile stocks on targeted strikes (with a view to degrading) Ukrainian Air Defence capabilities. This would suggest a twofold affect:
Reducing the Air Defences would limit casualties to Russian Air Assets and give them increased air superiority.
As the focus will be on Ukrainian military targets, this would suggest a reduced risk to civilian infrastructure and targets as opposed to the widespread targeting of civilians during the Winter 2022 period.
Russia: 17th April prominent anti war Politician Vladimir Kara-Murza has been sentenced at a Moscow court to 25 years imprisonment for Treason. His arrest stemmed from an interview he gave whilst in Moscow for CNN in which he stated that the Kremlin was a ‘regime of murderers’ and also for a speech he have in the USA about ‘atrocities carried out by Russian Forces in Ukraine’ among other subjects. . The 25 year sentence is the longest ever (and the maximum sentence possible under Russian law) for a Putin critic and has attracted widespread condemnation from western countries. Friday 21st April AM the UK Govt announced sanctions against five FSB Agents connected with the poisoning and arrest of Mr Murza.
Putin: Vladimir Putin made an unscheduled visit 18th April to Ukraine and visited the southern Kherson Region and then flew by helicopter to visit the Headquarters of the Russian. National Guard in the eastern Luhansk Region.
UN Security Council Meeting: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavarov is seeking to overturn a decision by US authorities denying both him and a Russian delegation he was leading their visas to allow them to attend the UN meeting in New York City later in April.
Belarus: President Lukashenka reportedly met with Denis Pushilin, the Russian installed Head of Donetsk Peoples Republic (DNR) 18th April. This has prompted Ukraine to recall their Ambassador from Minsk in protest.
Ukraine: For the first time NATO Chief Jens Stoltenberg visited Kyiv and met with President Zelensky 20thApril. This significant Show Of Support culminated in two notable occurrences:
President Zelensky was invited (and accepted) to the next NATO Summit due to take place in Finland.
Jens Stoltenberg stated at a meeting in Ramstein Germany that ‘Ukraine will join NATO once the war ends’
COMMENT with regards to the Ukraine joining NATO statement (with the blessing of all NATO countries barring Turkey), Russia has stated that one of it’s key aims of it’s ‘Special Operation’ has always been to prevent NATO expansion and to prevent Ukraine joining NATO. The Russian response to this major development is not yet known however this could mark yet another escalation point and deepen the divide between Russia, its Allies and The West. During the same NATO member meeting US SEcDef Lloyd Austin reiterated support by the US for Ukraine stating that they will support them ‘for as long as it takes’ COMMENT ENDS
Canada announced £23million in military assistance to Ukraine (ammunition, rifles and communications equipment) it was announced 21st April. This follows US training for Ukrainian Forces in Germany to commence in May (for training on M1 Abrams Battle Tanks).
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