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“Syrian” scorched earth tactics in Bakhmut, Russia's propaganda strike on a bridge in Chernihiv region. What happened on the front line?

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The front line

The commander of the AFU Ground Forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi, visited the hottest sections of the front in the Bakhmut direction and heard reports from commanders of military units and groupings on the progress of the defense. He stated that the Russians had switched to a new tactic in Bakhmut.

“The enemy has switched to the so-called Syrian scorched earth tactic. It involves destroying buildings and positions with air strikes and artillery fire,” the Military Media Center quoted Syrskyi as saying.

This information was confirmed to The Insider by military expert Roman Svitan, who said that the proportion of damage caused by Russian aviation and artillery strikes in Bakhmut has increased.

“The objective is to eliminate the high-rise structures within the city, and the focus is on demolishing the ones located in the western part of Bakhmut where Ukrainian troops are stationed. Similar to situations in Aleppo or Mariupol, there are plans to employ aerial bombardments and mass destruction weapons like the TOS [heavy flamethrower system] Buratino and UR-77 demining vehicles. The Russians have initiated full-scale military operations with the intention of destroying the city, as they have realized that taking control of the area through small-scale attacks is unfeasible. Their goal was to capture Bakhmut by Easter, and if it proved impossible, they were to completely annihilate it. Consequently, the Russians have now initiated a campaign of total destruction in Bakhmut.”

According to the expert, Ukrainian troops have taken positions on high ground to protect Bakhmut. In anticipation of potential airstrikes, they have deployed new surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) to deter Russian planes from bombing the city. Despite the challenging circumstances, the expert said the AFU have the situation under control.

“The line of defense stretches along the railroad and the highway connecting Kostiantynivka to Bakhmut. The highway is heavily guarded, and the Russians are facing difficulty in advancing through it. Similarly, the railroad presents a challenge for the Russian forces to cross. There are several hundred meters of open terrain, which can be fired upon. At present, the Ukrainian Armed Forces have successfully maintained control over both lines.”

A video depicting the destruction in Bakhmut was shared on the Telegram channel run by Ukrainian journalist Denis Kazansky.

Based on data obtained from open sources, Bild journalist Julian Röpcke confirms that Russian forces have advanced to the center of Bakhmut and presently control about 75% of the city, as the head of the self-proclaimed “DNR,” Denis Pushilin, was quoted saying earlier by the TASS news agency. Pushilin visited the part of Bakhmut controlled by Wagner PMC fighters.

According to the Twitter account Poulet volant, Wagner PMC mercenaries already control 78% of Bakhmut.

The Bridge Strike

Using Su-34 fighter jets, pilots from the Western Military District conducted an airstrike on a bridge over the Sudost River in the Chernihiv region of Ukraine. A video of the attack was shared by Russian “war correspondent” Yevgeniy Poddubnyy on his Telegram channel. Poddubnyy alleges that the strike was aimed at eliminating saboteurs who had entered the Bryansk region and were using the bridge for transportation.

Viktor Alksnis, a retired aviation colonel, claims that the recent airstrike was executed using Russia's latest Kh-29TD missile. This solid-propellant air-to-surface missile utilizes a television guidance system and operates on a “fire and forget” principle. It is primarily intended for targeting stationary objects and has a maximum range of 30-40 km. A Su-34 fired the missile from Russian territory, avoiding detection by Ukrainian air defense systems within the target area.

Alksnis says, however, that despite the attack, the bridge was not destroyed but rather only sustained damage as depicted in the photograph. The damage does not appear to impede the movement of Ukrainian «saboteur and reconnaissance groups» across it. Alksnis believes that in order to completely destroy the bridge, new Kh-29TD strikes would be required, and each missile is quite expensive. He suggests that the airstrike on the bridge was “orchestrated for propaganda purposes” by the Russian Defense Ministry.

“Were you upset about the lack of bridge strikes? Well, here you have it, attacks on a bridge! We will now be shown this video every day, just like the propaganda staging of strikes on critical infrastructure in Ukraine. The Russian military spent hundreds of cruise missiles on the Ukrainian 350 kilovolt power grid, despite knowing that the stability of the infrastructure is maintained via the 750 kilovolt high voltage power grid. It is unclear why this higher voltage grid was spared from the strikes. As a result, Ukraine announced yesterday that the energy sector was functioning without any issues and was prepared to resume electricity imports to the West,” Alksnis writes.

AFU's shortage of air defense equipment

According to The Washington Post, classified Pentagon and US intelligence documents that have surfaced online indicate that the Ukrainian Armed Forces are currently experiencing a significant shortage of air defense equipment and ammunition.

The documents indicate that “Ukraine's ability to provide medium range air defense to protect the front lines will be completely reduced by May 23.” The current air defense resources can only “withstand two-three more wave strikes” from attacking Russian missiles and drones. Furthermore, the documents mention that the number of air defense systems deployed by the West is limited, and often insufficient to counter large-scale Russian attacks.

The documents also indicate an acute shortage of ammunition in the Ukrainian Armed Forces. According to the article, “without consistent resupply, the stockpile would dwindle within days.” Yuriy Ihnat, a spokesman for the Air Force Command of the AFU, told The Washington Post that the information on air defense equipment from the classified documents was already outdated. At the same time, he acknowledged the threat of a shortage of munitions produced in Russia.

During a conversation with The Insider, Israeli military expert David Gendelman mentioned that the actual figures regarding the quantity of interceptor missiles for Ukraine's S-300 and Buk air defense systems are classified, making it impossible to verify the accuracy of the information contained in the leaked Pentagon documents.

“It has been widely acknowledged that there is a scarcity of missiles for Soviet-produced SAMs. Since mid-2022, Ukraine has been making significant efforts to obtain them from across the globe with the help of its Western allies. However, these are rough estimates that do not specify the exact date when the missiles will be depleted. While it is evident that there is a shortage, without access to classified data, it is impossible to confirm the accuracy of the leaked information.”

Meanwhile CNN reports that a source close to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has stated that Ukraine has altered some military plans due to the purported leak of classified US military documents. The leaked documents allegedly reveal critical weaknesses in Ukrainian weaponry, air defense, and information about the size and readiness of units at a crucial moment in the conflict, as Ukrainian forces prepare for a counteroffensive against Russia. One document reportedly shows the US spying on Zelenskyy, while another suggests that the US has sources within the Russian Defense Ministry and the Wagner PMC. The leak has raised concerns that much of the intelligence on Russia was obtained through intercepted communications, which could prompt the Russians to alter their communication methods to better conceal their plans.

Prisoner exchange

According to the Telegram channel of the Russian Defense Ministry, 106 Russian prisoners of war have been returned from Ukraine as part of an exchange. On the other hand, Ukraine claims that 100 of its servicemen, including sailors, border guards, and national guardsmen who participated in the fighting for Mariupol, the defense of Azovstal, and Hostomel, have been released from captivity, with some of them being seriously wounded.

“We are bringing home 100 military personnel , including sailors, border guards, National Guardsmen. Our soldiers are home now. And we will bring everyone else back. Because people are the main value of Ukraine,” wrote the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak.

On September 21, 2022, the largest prisoner exchange so far occurred, with 215 Ukrainian servicemen returning to Ukraine and 56 people, including Viktor Medvedchuk, Ukrainian oligarch and Vladimir Putin's confidant, returning to Russia.

See previous April 7 summary for latest updates on the war: US intelligence leak, Ukrainian UAV in Moscow suburbs, saboteurs enter Russia’s Bryansk region. What happened on the front line on April 6?

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