Ukraine Weekly Security Report 28 April 2023
Whilst Russian Forces have pushed further NW in Bakhmut (mainly by Wagner Group who are increasingly reliant on Airborne VDV Forces) they have not breached Ukrainian Supply Lines and calls are being made from the Russian side to adopt a more defensive posture to prepare for the Offensive. Wagner Chief Pregozhin stated that he expects the offensive to begin as soon as the weather improves and that Bakhmut will be a key objective for Ukraine.
28th reports came in via Russian Milbloggers that Wagner Group had made significant progress in Bakhmut and overrun Ukrainian positions near Khromove.
The air strikes in Kyiv and elsewhere early hours of the 28th demonstrate that despite reports Russia is conserving it’s missile fleet for key strategic targets the ground reality can be very different. As the much anticipated Ukrainian Offensive grows nearer (exact time window varies), this means Russia will adopt a more defensive posture whilst reserving the right to strike at will at targets both military and civilian.
China’s President Xi made his first call with Ukrainian President Zelensky. Xi specifically made mention of recognising Ukraine's Sovereign Right to Independence (contradicting the Chinese Ambassador to France). Xi also called for a peaceful solution but on the same day strengthened ties with Russia (specifically Naval assets) via Memorandum of Understanding.
Russia is fortifying its front lines and building in multiple layers of defence at key strategic areas such as Sevastapol in preparation of the much anticipated Ukrainian Spring Offensive. Media reports have stated that Russia has for a number of months been building up extensive fortifications including trenches, tank traps and heavily mined areas all along its east and southern regions.
Russia: April 25th President Putin signed a decree to take temporary control of Russian assets for two European energy firms (Uniper SE & Fortum Oyj) and demonstrates continued Russian hostility to Western firms in the Russian Market.
Russia: Social Media reports 25th April that authorities are increasing pressure on citizens who do not attend Military Conscription Offices when ordered. Punishments reportedly range from travel bans (to overseas), driving bans and restrictions on taking out loans and mortgages until the individual attends Conscription.
Russia: 26th April Russian Councils approved amendments to laws that give increased powers against citizens who are found guilty of:
Discrediting The Russian Armed Forces
Actions that threaten National Security
Participation in activities of a foreign organisation/international NGO which Moscow deems ‘undesirable’.
Further to that the amends allow for a sentence of Life Imprisonment for High Treason.
COMMENT the assessment is that the strengthened laws will act as a deterrent and also reinforce self censorship amongst the Russian populace. COMMENT ENDS
Sanctions: ahead of the May G7 meeting, Japanese & EU parties have pushed back on the US proposal for near total export Sanctions on Russia. Senior Russian Officials have threatened to terminate the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI) if the G7 bans exports to Russia. Negotiations are underway however Russia will continue to weaponize their exports to the West (which in turn drives prices up) in the short to medium term.
Belarus: 25th April Ukraine Defence Commander General Nayev reported that Russian troop numbers in Belarus had now reached 17,000. These Forces are based along Belarus’ southern border and Russia’s borders. Whilst this shows an increase it is assessed that this will not result in a fresh offensive operation in the short to medium term.
Ukraine: Reports 27th state that on 26th April President Zelensky and President Xi of China held their first telephone conversation. Pres. Xi stated that China recognised Ukraine's Independence and Sovereign Status (directly contradicting Chinas Ambassador to France Lu Shaye’s recent remarks), and also urged for a peaceful solution to the conflict. COMMENT: Whilst Xi’s call to Zelensky is a positive move, the same day China signed a new Memorandum of Understanding with Russia to strengthen co-operation with Chinese Maritime Forces. It is highly unlikely that there will be a ceasefire for the foreseeable future although Chinas involvement opens more channels of communication. COMMENT ENDS
US Leaks: 24th April Washington Post reported (via the previous classified US Govt leaks) that the CIA persuaded Ukraine to not carry out mass attacks Feb 24th (the 1st anniversary of Russia’s invasion) against Moscow using all their resources. Latest leaks 27th suggest Putin is seeking to ‘quietly recruit’ up to 815,000 more troops in 2023.
27th a missile was discovered in a Polish forest with Cyrillic markings. At the time of publishing this report it is believed to be Polish or Ukrainian munitions, possibly dropped from a jet during training missions.
UA/RU Armed Conflict Updates
BAKHMUT: 22 – 26 Reports state that whilst Wagner Units continue to slowly gain ground they are becoming more reliant on Elite VDV Airborne Troops. 23rd April an audio clip purportedly from Wagner Chief Prigozin stated that his Forces should ‘not take POW’s’ including civilians and children. This has been denied by Prigozin. Tactically Russian Forces are slowly taking more ground but at great loss of personnel and equipment. Fears from Russia are that the offensive will retake Bakhmut in time for Victory day 9th May.
BAKHMUT: 26 April UK Defence Intelligence reported that Bakhmut had effectively been under siege for the last 11 months and that Ukrainian Forces have consolidated into one unit as part of a deeper defence that also encompasses the town of Chasiv Yar to the West of Bakhmut. Intense fighting continues with Ukraine fighting to maintain control of supply routes into the area (notably the 0506 Route) and reports suggest that muddy conditions are hampering other supply routes using unsurfaced roads.
BAKHMUT: late reporting 28th had Russian Milbloggers report that Russian Forces had broken through Ukr positions near Khromove using Wagner Group elements. If so this would mean that one of the two remaining ground communication lines had been breached. These reports cannot be confirmed currently.
DONETSK: OSKIL-KREMINNA: SOUTHERN FRONT: Russian advances have been limited in the area reportedly (Russian Milbloggers stated that Russia had made advances in forests around Kriminna however this is unconfirmed), Ukrainian Senior Military Staff note a more reluctant attitude to offensive operations from Russian Forces and a move to strengthening defencing positions. Russia has made some advances in Donetsk and geolocated footage showed Forces had made small progress along the N-20 highway 6 miles north of Avdivka. Southern front reported 27th that explosions had occurred in Russian occupied areas of Nova Kakhovka in Kherson Oblast and in Melitopol in Zaporizhzhia obast. This has been interpreted as Ukrainian strikes at Russian logistics and concentrations of forces.
SUPPLIES: NATO Chief stated 27th April that up to 98% of promised equipment to Ukraine had reached its destination.
Nuclear Issues: UK Defence Intelligence reported 27th April that Russian Forces had built up a number of sandbagged defensive positions on top of a number of the reactor buildings at the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (Reactors 2, 3 & 5). Whilst this is a new development, the UK MOD assess that this is preparation for the expected Ukrainian counter-offensive and should fighting occur at the plant and some safety systems may be damaged, the risk of catastrophic failure of the reactors is assessed as low as most Infantry weapons do not have the capability to penetrate the heavily fortified structures.
South. Reports 25th April state that Russia has a multi layered (at least 6) defensive screen at Sevastapol (Headquarters of Russian 6th Fleet) to protect assets there. Amongst the defences are reportedly trained dolphins and floating barriers COMMENT 24th April 3 Ukrainian UnderSea Vehicles (USV) failed to penetrate defences which demonstrates how effective Russia has become following previous Ukrainian successes with USV’s.
Kyiv: Early morning of 28th multiple missile strikes were reported in cities across Ukraine including Kyiv. Latest reports state that around 12 persons were killed and xxx injured at the time of writing this report. The other cities struck were Uman, Dnipro, Kremenchuk and Poltava (explosions reported) and Mykolaiv in the south. Ukrainian Defence sources stated that the missiles were launched from Russian Tu-95 bombers and 21 out of 23 missiles were intercepted along with two drones. Civilian apartments and storage facilities were struck among others. COMMENT This is the first attack on Kyiv since March 9 (51 days) and whilst multiple targets were struck it’s unknown currently why civilian buildings were targeted and also demonstrates once again that the situation can change rapidly and as the anticipated Ukrainian Offensive draws closer Russia will strike back with little to no warning. COMMENT ENDS
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