In today's summary:
- Heavy fighting continues for Bakhmut and Marinka;
- A new PMC for mobilized soldiers is being created under the auspices of the Wagner Group;
- According to official data, 7,000 Ukrainian soldiers are listed as missing in action;
- Shahed drones attack the Zaporizhzhia and Odesa regions;
- Ukrainian drones attack Russia’s Tula and Bryansk regions;
- Der Spiegel: Ukraine received the second of four promised Iris-T air defense systems;
- Ukraine’s low supplies of air defense ammunition will be the main topic of the April 21 meeting at Ramstein.
The front line
Heavy fighting continues for Bakhmut and Marinka, according to the evening report of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) General Staff. The Ukrainian army repelled attacks in the vicinity of the village of Stupochki, located a few kilometers from Konstantynivka. In Bakhmut itself, according to Ukrainian project DeepState, the Russian military is advancing along Levanevsky Street in the northwest of the city. Fighting continues near the railroad, and battles have resumed for Khromove, which is crossed by the road to Chasiv Yar.
Colonel Dmytro Zavorotniuk, commander of Ukraine's 101st Territorial Defense Brigade, reported that the Russians use small infantry groups of 5-6 people to storm Bakhmut. Under the cover of artillery, they approach the Ukrainian fighters and start small arms battles. According to the colonel, his brigade has a good situation with the training, cohesion and motivation of personnel, so the fighters are not afraid to engage the enemy and continue to defend the city.
Russian Telegram channels circulated a video from Bakhmut showing the shelling of a Ukrainian BREM-1 armored recovery vehicle, which was attempting to pull out a stuck T-80BVM tank under a railroad bridge in the center of the city. The tank in the video seems to be the same legendary “Bunny” trophy tank that, as The Insider wrote in an earlier summary on April 11, later had to be burned. A researcher tweeting under the handle @Danspiun, wrote that according to his sources, the ARV was damaged, but not destroyed by the strikes, but was unable to pull out the tank.
Multiple reports have surfaced regarding the creation of a new private military company (PMC) called “Wolves,” aimed at incorporating mobilized men to support the Russian forces in the Bakhmut area. A video report about the so-called “'Wolves' sabotage and reconnaissance assault brigade» is circulating on social media.
The man in the video introduces himself as a fighter of the Wolves PMC, and claims that the group is currently deployed in the Soledar direction providing cover to mercenaries from the Wagner Group. “We’re reinforcing our positions, we're also engaged in engineering reconnaissance, and occasionally train new fighters. We have a fairly large number of competent, experienced professionals who have been through more than one conflict,” he said.
Earlier, a Ukrainian army officer, tweeting under the handle Tatarigami_UA, reported that the new PMC is being staffed and trained to reinforce the Russian troop grouping in the vicinity of Bakhmut.
With regard to the PMC’s name, the Ukrainian army already has a detachment called “Da Vinci Wolves” (“Vovky Da Vinci”), while the Russian army is advised by a special unit called the “Tsar Wolves,” according to former Roscosmos [Russia's space agency] director Dmitry Rogozin, who also named himself as the head of the group.
Mobilized soldiers from Russia’s Sakha Republic (Yakutia) are forcibly sent to the PMC and deployed to Bakhmut, according to a report by Tayga.info.
Andrei Kartapolov, Head of the Russian State Duma Defense Committee, has denied a claim made by another deputy, Fedot Tumusov, that six mobilized soldiers from Yakutia were assigned to the “Veteran” PMC attached to Russia’s 3rd Army Corps and the Wagner Group without their knowledge. Tumusov reported the news on his personal Telegram channel.
Earlier, Tumusov was approached by Oktyabrina Kuleshova, who heads state social policy in Yakutia’s Megino-Kangalassky ulus [district] and is responsible for working with the families of the soldiers taking part in Russia’s so-called “special military operation.” Kuleshova reported that a mobilized man from the village of Byuteydyakh and five other residents of the Khangalassky, Verkhoyansky and Srednekolyisky uluses were assigned to two PMCs and taken to Bakhmut “without their consent.”
A recent piece by The Insider documented the “training” of Russia’s military recruits – newly-mobilized soldiers thrown into suicide missions and left in the woods to wait for orders without food or medical care.
Several Ukrainian regions were attacked by kamikaze drones on April 19. According to the Odesa regional administration, 10 drones of the “Shahed” series were shot down by an air defense system, and a hit on a recreational facility was confirmed. Rescue services promptly eliminated the fire. There were no casualties. The Ukrainian Air Force reported that a total of 12 drones had attacked the area.
On April 18, seven more Shahed drones and an Orlan-10 drone were shot down over the Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro regions.
A 50-year-old man and a 44-year-old woman were killed as a result of shells hitting residential buildings in the city of Vovchansk in the Kharkiv region. Two people were also killed as a result of shelling in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
The Ukrainian army used a drone to attack a military registration and enlistment office building in the town of Novozybkov in Russia’s Bryansk region. There were no casualties as a result of the strike, although the building was left partially damaged and its windows were broken.
An unmarked drone was found in a clearing in the Shchyokinsky district in Russia’s Tula region, with the Committee for Regional Security reporting that there was no threat. The Telegram channel Mash claimed that the drone was equipped with explosives and was on course towards the Pervomayskaya Thermal Power Plant, eventually falling near the village of Minino. According to Mash, the drone was downed using electronic warfare.
Oleh Kotenko, Ukraine's Commissioner for Missing Persons, announced that 7,000 Ukrainian servicemen are currently listed as missing in action, according to a report by Liga.net. “The number does indeed exist, it’s a little more than seven thousand, and we’re counting on the fact that those people we’re looking for as missing are still in captivity,” Kotenko noted. According to his estimate, about 60-65% of those listed as missing in action are found alive as prisoners-of-war (POWs).
Pro-Russian Telegram channels are circulating a video of the downing of a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet in the Vuhledar direction. The plane was allegedly hit by a Russian marine with the callsign “Predator” (“Khishchik”). An interview with the marine was published earlier on April 19.
Ukraine’s low supplies of air defense ammunition will be the main topic of the April 21 meeting at Ramstein in Germany, reported the Financial Times, citing sources with knowledge of the matter. Ukraine fears that a shortage of air defense munitionы will allow the Russian military to resume large-scale airstrikes. Without adequate air defences, western capitals fear the long-planned Ukrainian counter-offensive against occupying Russian troops could falter.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov confirmed the arrival of the Patriot air defense system. “Today, our beautiful Ukrainian sky becomes more secure because Patriot air defense systems have arrived in Ukraine. Our air defenders have mastered them as fast as they could,» he tweeted.
More mine breaching equipment has appeared in the hands of Ukrainian troops, such as the Danish Minerydningsslange M/97 portable mine clearing charge (an MPLC originally made by the Ensign-Bickford Aerospace & Defense company), according to a report by the Ukraine Weapons Tracker.
Germany has handed over the second of four promised IRIS-T SLM surface-to-air missile systems to Ukraine, according to a report by Der Spiegel. However, Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuri Ihnat did not confirm the information, advising to wait for official comments.
The IRIS-T SLM air defense system is made up of three vehicles: a launcher on a military truck with space for eight missiles, a radar vehicle, and a command vehicle. The anti-aircraft missiles can hit targets at heights of up to 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) and ranges of up to 40 kilometers (24.8 miles).
The report also mentioned that the German government was in talks with Sweden to purchase wheeled launchers for the IRIS-T system.
The US has officially announced its new package of military aid to Ukraine totaling $325 million. The planned shipment will include ammunition for HIMARS MLRS systems, artillery shells, rockets, anti-tank weapon systems, anti-tank mines, small arms ammunition and spare parts.