The front line
Wagner PMC founder Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed that his fighters seized the City Administration building in Bakhmut in the Donetsk region. On April 2, Prigozhin's press service released a video in which he claimed the alleged capture of Bakhmut by Wagner forces on Sunday night.
“April 2, 2023, 23:00. We hoisted a Russian flag with the inscription ‘In good memory of Vladlen Tatarsky’ and the flag of the Wagner PMC on the City Administration of Bakhmut. Legally, Bakhmut is captured. The enemy is concentrated in the western areas,” Prigozhin says in the video.
Serhiy Cherevatyi, spokesman for the Eastern Group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU), told the Reuters news agency that Russian forces were “very far away” from capturing Bakhmut. The spokesman confirmed that fighting did take place near the City Administration building, but it was unclear where the Russian troops raised their flag.
Buildings in the center of Bakhmut have been destroyed or badly damaged. As noted by Ukrainian Telegram channel DeepState, the City Administration building was completely destroyed as a result of the fighting. Ukrainian military analysts cross-checked drone footage published by Russian Telegram channels against satellite images of the area and found that the Bakhmut City Council, located in the city center (on 44 Mira Street), was leveled to the ground.
A video from the center of Bakhmut was later published on social media.
Heavy fighting for Bakhmut has been taking place since August 2022. On the Russian side, the troop grouping consists of mercenaries from the Wagner PMC. In mid-March 2023, Prigozhin claimed that his mercenaries “control about 70%” of the city.
In a conversation with The Insider, defense expert Oleksandr Kovalenko explained that Prigozhin’s recent statements about the flag-raising in Bakhmut echoed the claims of RT chief Margarita Simonyan, and were but another PR move.
“Margarita Simonyan claimed that 'Ukraine can be taken over in two or three days’ – an in-depth comprehensive analysis condensed into a single statement. Some time later, the same Margarita Simonyan stated: ‘Well, we have already captured Kyiv, we landed our landing force in Hostomel [airport].’ In her understanding, the landing in Hostomel was, in fact, the same as the capture and control of Kyiv. The same can be said for the actions of Yevgeny Prigozhin, as the city of Bakhmut is 100% not under the control of not only by the Wagner PMC, but also the units of the Russian occupation troops.
The same Bakhmut administration building that Prigozhin spoke of in his video is a hundred meters behind him. He was not on the roof, he was not at the main entrance. He was standing with some kind of flag at night in the distance and talking about how legally Bakhmut is already under the control of the Wagner PMC. Russian [field commanders] – well, I can’t call Prigozhin a military commander, because he doesn’t even have a military education – are beginning to use weird language and some sort of local slang that is very far from reality. So I regard what Prigozhin demonstrated as a PR move. He once again tried to draw attention to the Wagner PMC.”
Kovalenko noted that Bakhmut has long been surrounded according to many Russian “experts,” but if analyzed from a military standpoint, the city cannot be said to be encircled, as logistics routes on the O0506 and O0504 highways are maintained, and logistic support is constantly being provided to Ukrainian forces in the area.
The expert added that Russia has not had much success in moving along the right bank of the Bakhmutka river. An objective for Wagner’s southern troop grouping to move north along the right bank of Bakhmutka, set several weeks ago, to close in with the group in the northern sector (the industrial zone), has not been achieved. Its completion would have cut off the AFU’s access to the right bank of the river, which would have given the Russian occupation units an opportunity to cross the Bakhmutka. But as of today, even this has not been achieved, says Kovalenko, as the right bank is still under Ukrainian control.
In Bakhmut’s northern sector, an attack with 9M79 missiles – used by the Tochka-U operational and tactical missile system – was reported on an industrial area on April 2. The strike impacted Wagner PMC units, significantly affecting their combat efficiency in moving from the north to the south.
In speaking of Bakhmut, Prigozhin mentioned Sergei Surovikin, deputy commander of the group of Russian forces in Ukraine, saying that he was directly involved in the Bakhmut “meat grinder” operation. Together with the commanders of the Wagner PMC participated in the development of the operation to “liberate” Bakhmut.
“Sergei Vladimirovich Surovikin was directly involved in the [operation’s] development and implementation, at the time when he headed the group [of forces]. And that is why I would attribute to him a huge number of decisions that were made,” read a statement by Prigozhin’s company Concord, directly citing the Wagner Group founder.
In early January, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu appointed a new commander of Russia’s Joint Group of Forces in Ukraine – General Staff head Valeriy Gerasimov assumed the position, while General Sergei Surovikin, who previously held the post, was appointed as his deputy.
Poland has sent several MiG-29 jet fighters to Kyiv, Marcin Przydacz, head of the International Policy Bureau of the Polish Presidential Office, told the RMF radio station. According to Przydacz, the transfer of the first batch of fighters to Ukraine has been completed.
Yuriy Ihnat, a spokesman for the Air Force of Ukraine, called the handover a historic step, noting that Ukraine currently has three MiG-29 brigades.
“There are 5 brigades of fighters: 2 brigades of Su-27s and 3 brigades of MiG-29s,” said Ihnat.
The Danish Ministry of Defense has agreed to make a joint donation of 8,000 155 mm artillery shells to Ukraine with the Norwegian Ministry of Defense, according to an official statement published on Monday, April 3. The timing of the production and delivery of the shells was not specified.
Car of pro-Russian official explodes in Melitopol
A pro-Russian official has been severely injured as the result of a car bomb explosion on Bogdan Khmelnitsky Street in occupied Melitopol, according to a report from the city’s Russian “administration.”
Maxim Zubarev, who until recently headed the Russian “administration” of the Yakimivka settlement, was injured in the blast, and is currently in serious condition. In mid-November, Ukrainian media reported that Zubarev died in a car explosion. Later, however, reports confirmed that he had survived.
The settlement of Yakimivka in Ukraine’s Melitopol district was occupied by Russian forces in March 2022. In May, Zubarev was appointed head of the settlement’s Russian “civil-military administration.” Soon after his appointment, Zubarev created a Cossack brigade in Yakimivka.
On March 27, the car of the Russian-appointed head of the city police department, Mikhail Moskvin, exploded in occupied Mariupol. Moskvin was a few meters away from the car at the time of the explosion and was not seriously injured.
Murder of propagandist Vladlen Tatarsky
A video depicting the aftermath of St. Petersburg cafe explosion, where “military correspondent” Vladlen Tatarsky (real name Maxim Fomin) was killed on April 2, has been published on social media. 26-year-old Daria Trepova is suspected of being involved in the explosion and was detained by Russia’s Investigative Committee the day after the blast. In a video published by Russian police, the woman admits to bringing a statuette presumably containing explosives to the meeting with Tatarsky.
Multiple Telegram channels, citing “sources,” reported that Trepova allegedly confessed to the Investigative Committee that she was recruited by journalist Roman Popkov. The journalist denied the claim and told The Insider that the statement could have been made after she was beaten:
“I saw all these wild messages from trash Telegram channels just now. Here’s what I want to say: it's total bullshit and nonsense, it's a lie. I know Dasha Tykovka from Twitter, she's my longtime subscriber there and [on my] Telegram channel, and I've already forgotten when we last communicated. Of course, I didn't give her any orders to blow this bastard up, and I wasn't involved in such an operation.
I understand that there are enough other partisan groups in Russia that do all this. She couldn't have thought that I asked her to do anything for anyone. I'm sure that the FSB, having taken a person hostage, will be beating all kinds of evidence out of her now; she'll confess to anything: that I controlled her, like in the Korol i Shut song ‘The Sorcerer's Puppet’ ('Kukla Kolduna') that the ACF [Anti-Corruption Foundation, founded by opposition politician Alexey Navalny and declared an «extremist organization» in Russia – The Insider] is to blame for everything, that the Navalny network is a HUR [Ukraine's military intelligence – The Insider] or SBU [Security Service of Ukraine – The Insider] asset; they’ll beat anything out of her now.”
Roman Popkov is a former correspondent for MBKh Media, a media outlet funded by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and the former leader of the Moscow branch of Eduard Limonov's National Bolshevik Party (NBP), which was declared extremist in Russia in 2007.
Multiple media outlets earlier reported that Daria Trepova left the room before the explosion went off. Judging by the latest video, Trepova seems to have remained in the building. One of the victims of the explosion, Marat Arnis, published footage of what happened after the device went off. In an earlier conversation with The Insider, Arnis said he did not see the woman leave the bar – an observation confirmed by his video. At some point after the explosion, the video seems to show Daria Trepova coming out of the establishment looking dazed, and then leaving.
Russia’s Investigative Committee has reclassified the case on the murder of military correspondent Tatarsky to a more serious charge – a terrorist attack. Vladimir Putin posthumously decorated Tatarsky with the Order of Courage. According to the presidential decree signed by Putin, the blogger was awarded “for courage and bravery shown in the performance of [his] professional duty.”