The front line
Bakhmut remains the site of the fiercest fighting in Ukraine. According to a statement from the country’s Defense Ministry, the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) repelled 20 Russian attacks in the Bakhmut direction over the course of April 4. Russian pro-war Telegram channel WarGonzo reported that the Wagner PMC launched an offensive on Ivanivske, southwest of Bakhmut, but failed to reach the settlement. Following heavy artillery and air strikes, Wagner units have broken through the defense of the Ukrainian garrison in the south of Bakhmut, and are conducting their assault operations in the center of the city.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner PMC, planted a flag on the ruins of the Bakhmut City Council building. The fact was confirmed by Serhiy Cherevatyi, spokesman for the Eastern Group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU), on national TV. “[Prigozhin] is planting flags on buildings that have long been physically non-existent. That is, this building, as he says, the City Administration – it is simply destroyed,” Cherevatyi said.
The installation of the flag on the ruins of the Bakhmut City Council building was also confirmed by the Ukrainian project DeepState, which geolocated the site. It can also be seen in a drone video posted by Russian “war correspondent” Alexander Simonov.
In the Vuhledar direction, the Russian Air Force carried out airstrikes on Ukrainian positions using guided aerial bombs.
AFU Air Force spokesman Yury Ihnat earlier reported the use of guided aerial bombs by the Russian military.
“This is a new threat that has appeared before us: without flying into our air defense strike zone, they drop these bombs. The bombs fly dozens of kilometers – let me remind you, this bomb has a payload of 500 kg each – something must be done about it. Not only by means of air defense, which we are waiting for, but [Ukraine has to] increase pressure and work with [its] Western partners to create an aviation coalition and provide Ukraine with fighter [jets],” Ihnat said.
According to Ihnat, the Russians launch up to 20 guided aerial bombs a day.
“The enemy uses gliding bombs, which can fly dozens of kilometers (up to 70 km) – up to 20 bombs a day along the entire line of contact. They are launched from Su-35 and Su-34 aircraft, which are not within the range of our air defenses, and this is a threat for us, to which we have nothing to respond with yet,” he said.
On the night of April 4, the Russian forces attacked southern Ukraine with kamikaze drones. According to the Ukrainian Air Force Command, 14 Shahed-136/131 drones were shot down by the country’s air defense forces. According to the AFU statement, the Russians launched up to 17 drones.
The speaker of the Odesa Regional Military Administration, Serhiy Bratchuk, reported that one of the drones hit a business facility in the Odesa region, causing a fire which was put out by the following morning. No casualties were reported as a result of the strike. 13 of the 14 drones were shot down over the Odesa region, while another one was shot down over the Mykolaiv region, Bratchuk added.
The US will send Ukraine another package of military aid, according to a press release issued by the Pentagon. The Biden administration has decided to give Kyiv “more ammunition for U.S.-provided HIMARS, air defense interceptors, and artillery rounds that Ukraine is using to defend itself, as well as anti-armor systems, small arms, heavy equipment transport vehicles, and maintenance support essential to strengthening Ukraine's defenders on the battlefield valued at up to $500 million.”
The total cost of the equipment and weapons to be supplied will amount to $2.6 billion, according to the report. The military aid package will also include air defense systems, mortar systems, artillery and tank ammunition.
The shipment will mark the thirty-fifth tranche of equipment from the US Defense Department's stockpile for Ukraine, which the Biden administration has authorized since August 2021. The Pentagon noted that most of the package (worth $2.1 billion) is delivered under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) program, which does not involve deliveries from US stocks, instead operating through additional orders for equipment and armament production, which can take quite a long time to execute.
The capabilities in this package include:
- Additional munitions for Patriot air defense systems;
- Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS);
- 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds;
- 120mm mortar rounds;
- 120mm and 105mm tank ammunition;
- 25mm ammunition;
- Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missiles;
- Approximately 400 grenade launchers and 200,000 rounds of ammunition;
- 11 tactical vehicles to recover equipment;
- 61 heavy fuel tankers;
- 10 trucks and 10 trailers to transport heavy equipment;
- Testing and diagnostic equipment to support vehicle maintenance and repair;
- Spare parts and other field equipment.
Under USAI, the Department of Defense will provide Ukraine with:
- Additional munitions for National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS);
- Nine counter-Unmanned Aerial System 30mm gun trucks;
- 10 mobile c-UAS laser-guided rocket systems;
- Three air surveillance radars;
- 30mm and 23mm anti-aircraft ammunition;
- 130mm and 122mm artillery rounds;
- 122mm GRAD rockets;
- Rocket launchers and ammunition;
- 120mm and 81mm mortar systems;
- 120mm, 81mm, and 60mm mortar rounds;
- 120mm tank ammunition;
- Javelin anti-armor systems;
- Anti-armor rockets;
- Precision aerial munitions;
- Approximately 3,600 small arms and more than 23,000,000 rounds of small arms ammunition;
- Seven tactical vehicles to recover equipment;
- Eight heavy fuel tankers and 105 fuel trailers;
- Armored bridging systems;
- Four logistics support vehicles;
- Trucks and ten trailers to transport heavy equipment;
- Secure communications equipment;
- SATCOM terminals and services;
- Funding for training, maintenance, and sustainment.
Russian military expert Ilya Kramnik commented that combined with the stockpile already accumulated and the two previous packages issued in March, which included engineering and demining equipment as well as ammunition, the current weapons transfer looks like preparation for a counteroffensive.
According to a Voice of America report citing US Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith, Washington and NATO allies expect the AFU to launch a spring offensive against Russian forces “in the coming weeks” – the schedule and the tactics of a possible offensive will be left up to Ukraine to determine, the official noted.
Australian company EOS Defense System has announced that it had signed a contract with the Ukrainian state-owned company SpetsTekhnoEksport (STE) for up to $80 million to supply 100 unnamed Remote Weapons Systems (RWS). The unnamed devices are likely the R400S-MK2-D-HD systems, which are already mounted on some of the Bushmaster and Inkas Titan-S armored vehicles supplied to the AFU.
The ordered RWS units are planned to be installed on combat vehicles expected to be delivered to Ukraine – possibly on Polish Rosomak armored personnel carriers (APCs), 100 units of which have also been ordered by Ukraine.
Shoigu gives numbers of destroyed foreign hardware
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed that since the beginning of this year, 14 US-made HIMARS multiple rocket launchers, 59 M777 howitzers, 13 Paladin howitzers, and 30 self-propelled artillery systems from Poland, Germany, France and Czechia, have been destroyed.
However, the M109A6 Paladin howitzers are not yet on the frontline. The US has stated that the units have been shipped, but evidence of their use has not yet appeared in open sources. Most likely, the information provided to Shoigu refers to earlier modifications of M109 155-mm self-propelled artillery guns (some of which have indeed been destroyed).
Finland officially joins NATO
Finland formally joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) at a ceremony on April 4 at NATO headquarters in Brussels, becoming the alliance’s 31st member. The country's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto completed the accession process by handing over the official document to US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
The total border between NATO member states and Russia has more than doubled from 1,215 kilometers to 2,555 kilometers, while the distance from the new NATO country to St. Petersburg is now just a couple of hundred kilometers.
The NATO accession of Sweden, which applied for membership in the alliance along with Finland in May 2022, has been delayed due to objections from Turkey.
For a summary of the main events on the front line in Ukraine on April 3, click here.