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Ukraine reports breakthrough in Bakhmut, Russia begins active use of aerial bombs. What happened on the front line on March 30?

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The front line

The US-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported a small advance of Russian units in Bakhmut. After studying videos found online and geolocating them, ISW’s analysts concluded that Russian forces have made slight advances in the south and southwest of the city. Earlier, ISW reported that the Wagner Private Military Company (PMC) had already occupied about two-thirds of Bakhmut.

A New York Times report citing Ukrainian commanders reported a turning point in the battle for Bakhmut, with the intensity of Russian attacks dropping significantly and the threat of imminent encirclement no longer present. A counteroffensive by the AFU is now expected.

“The enemy exhausted all its reserves,” the commander, Col. Yevhen Mezhevikin, 40, said on Tuesday. “The density of assaults dropped by several times,” he said. “Before, they could assault in all directions simultaneously and in groups of not less than 20, 30 or 40 people, but gradually it is dying down.”

Based on open source data, the ISW concluded that Russian units have also made advances on both sides of Avdiivka – a town near Donetsk – in the past few days. “Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City frontline on March 29. Geolocated footage published on March 29 indicates that Russian forces likely advanced north of Vodyane (8km southwest of Avdiivka) and in Vesele (7km northeast of Avdiivka),” the ISW reported. This indicates that Avdiivka, which the Russians have been storming since the first day of the war, is currently enclosed by Russian troops from three sides, but not fully surrounded.

In other areas, the front line has not changed over the past two days, according to the ISW. The institute’s analysts reported that there is only information about attacks and counterattacks by the sides near Kupyansk, between Kreminna and Lyman, and a number of other locations.

According to a report from the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU), Belohorivka, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Marinka are at the very center of combat operations. The AFU managed to repel 47 attacks in the following directions: Kupyansk and Lyman – near Stelmakhivka, Kuzminy and Berestove; Bakhmut – in Bakhmut and near Orikhovo-Vasylivka; Avdiivka and Marinka – in the areas of Novobakhmutivka, Novokalynove, Stepne, Avdiivka, Sieverne, Vodyane, Krasnivka and Marinka.

The operational situation is practically unchanged in the Volyn, Poliske, Siversk, Slobozhanske, Shakhtarsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson axes.

The weather on the front is also rapidly changing – temperatures of +18 Celsius and springtime weather had persisted until recently, being quickly replaced by snowfall. Pro-Russian Telegram channel KotsNews published a weather report from the Svatove frontier:

Russian losses

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace claimed that Russia has lost 220,000 people killed and wounded in Ukraine, according to a Sky News report.

According to Wallace, Russian troops are now barely advancing and are suffering huge losses.

“The Russian forces have some really significant and deep systemic problems at the moment in their efforts. The latest US assessments I have seen now put casualty figures over 220,000 of dead or injured,” the official said.

A month ago, British intelligence analysts reported that Russian Defense Ministry forces and mercenaries had likely lost between 175,000 and 200,000 people wounded and killed in Ukraine. The report also noted that the level of Russia’s troop losses in Russia had increased significantly since September 2022, when Vladimir Putin announced the start of the country’s “partial mobilization.”

400,000 Russian “volunteers”

British defense intelligence analysts have highlighted reports in the Russian media concerning the potential recruitment of 400,000 additional soldiers by the Kremlin. Russia is presenting the recruitment campaign as a “voluntary recruitment of professional personnel” and not as a new compulsory mobilization. However, there is a real possibility that this distinction will be blurred in practice, and that regional authorities will try to meet their recruitment targets by coercion.

Russian authorities have chosen an ostensibly “volunteer scheme” to fill personnel shortages while minimizing domestic outbursts of discontent. It is unlikely that such a campaign will attract 400,000 real volunteers, according to British intelligence.

Arms supplies

Fifteen Viktor anti-aircraft guns, purchased with funds raised by volunteers, are leaving the Czech Republic for Ukraine. The money for the weapons was contributed by donors and volunteers as part of the “Gift to Putin” project, which raised a total of 90 million Czech koruna (approximately €3.83 million).

“The time has come to say goodbye. The 15 MR-2 Viktor counter-drone systems, for which we collected 90 million [koruna] from you, are going to the front. Let the Ukrainian military shoot accurately, take care,” wrote the volunteers.

Employees of the Tambov bread-baking plant are assembling “Bekas” FPV drones, reported independent outlet TV Rain, citing a publication in the Russian government-owned newspaper Rossiskaya Gazeta. The company has allocated one of its workshops for the production of drones for the needs of the Russian military. Some parts are purchased directly by the bakery, while others are printed on a 3D printer, with the capacity to assemble up to 200 drones per month.

Russian Telegram channel Military Informer (“Voenny Osvedomitel”) published photos of two Swedish-designed Bandvagn 206 and 206S tracked all-terrain vehicles in the AFU’s posession. The first was transferred from Italy, while the second was most likely transferred from the UK or the Netherlands, the channel's authors claimed. There were no previous reports on the delivery of these vehicles to Ukraine.

Norway wants to transfer 12 diesel trains to Ukraine, reported local media outlet Nettavisen. According to the publication, the country’s Minister of Transport, Ion-Ivar Nygård, the first four trains can likely be sent before the summer, while the remaining 8 could be transferred within a year. Ukrainian railroad workers rely on diesel locomotives for transportation when the country’s energy infrastructure and traction substations, which ensure the movement of electric trains, are hit by Russian missiles.

The first four MiG-29SA fighters, which Slovakia recently handed over to Ukraine, are already performing combat missions, according to local publication Sita. On March 29, Deputy Chair of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, Olena Kondratyuk, speaking at the National Council of the Slovak Republic, said that the fighters are already protecting the sky over Kharkiv.

Shelling

The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that its air defense forces shot down Ukraine’s new Hrim-2 (Grom-2) missile for the first time. This missile system was developed mainly with funds from Saudi Arabia, and in the interests of the Saudi armed forces, but was never completed, wrote the Telegram channel Military Informer (“Voenny Osvedomitel”). There were reportedly only a couple of prototype launchers and a few manufactured rocket engines in existence at the start of the Russian invasion. The channel’s authors suggested that Ukraine could have fine-tuned the launchers it had at its disposal and produced several missiles over the past year. The Grom-2 is essentially an equivalent of the Russian Iskander-M or the American MGM-140 ATACMS. The warhead weighs close to 480 kg, wits its reported range for export versions coming in at up to 300 km, and 500 km for the AFU.

The Russians have begun to actively use guided aerial bombs, said AFU Air Force spokesman Yuri Ignat:

“This is a new threat that appeared before us: without flying into the range of our air defense, they drop these bombs. Bombs of 500 kg fly dozens of kilometers – let me remind you, this bomb has a warhead, something should be done about it. Not only with air defense means, which we are waiting for, but still to increase pressure and work with Western partners to create an aviation coalition and to provide Ukraine with fighter jets.”

Ignat added that winged aerial bombs appear on the front line area almost every day. The pro-Russian Telegram channel FighterBomber had earlier reported the increased use of Russian glider bombs.

Pro-Russian sources have referred to the system for converting free-falling missiles into guided bombs as the UMPK (Universal Module for Planning and Correction). The system appears to be an equivalent of the US-made JDAM, which, as previously reported, has already entered service with the AFU.

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