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Weekly Ukraine war summary: Russian armed forces cut into Ukrainian defenses near Ocheretyne, U.S. announces largest aid package of the war

RU

In today's summary:

  • Russian troops managed to cut into the Ukrainian defenses at Ocheretyne north of the Avdiivka operational area
  • Fierce fighting is ongoing for the town of Krasnohorivka, a key defensive node north of Marinka
  • An offensive grouping of the Russian Armed Forces is bogged down on the approaches to Chasiv Yar; storming the town is not yet possible
  • Ukrainian authorities are trying to bring back men of conscription age from abroad by impeding their access to consular services
  • The raids of Russia’s loitering munitions on Ukrainian territory have been sporadic this week
  • Russia's Defense Ministry has noted an increased frequency of Ukrainian attacks using an unconventional weapon: bomber balloons
  • The U.S. has finally made progress in allocating support for Ukraine, announcing major military aid packages
  • All week long, Russia's “frontline military-industrial complex” has been displaying interesting examples of makeshift tank armor.

Situation at the front

This week's most notable developments unfolded northwest of Avdiivka, where Russian forces managed to overcome at least the first line of Ukrainian defenses, breaking into the village of Ocheretyne. The Russian troops spent the week expanding their control over this locality, capturing Novobakhmutivka and Solovyovo. This advance caused Ukrainian forces to abandon Semenivka (which, however, had long been in the “gray zone”) and withdraw to new lines of defense. Finally, Russian forces entered Novokalynove.

Ukraine’s failure to hold Ocheretyne fueled a public discussion of problems in the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU), particularly in the 115th Separate Motorized Brigade, which operated on this section of the front. Ukrainian social networks were brimming with posts by military bloggers, servicemen of the brigade, and their relatives criticizing the carelessness of the unit’s command. However, some reports place the blame for what happened not only on the 115th Brigade, but also on miscalculations made at a higher level by the command of the Donetsk Operational-Tactical Group of the AFU.

To the south, Russian forces managed to gain a foothold in Krasnohorivka, at least for now. They also captured Novomykhailivka after months of fighting, laying the groundwork for a hypothetical offensive on Vuhledar from the northeast. According to one Ukrainian serviceman, these Russian breakthroughs illustrate Ukraine's shortage of artillery ammunition, anti-tank guided missiles, and other weapons systems that cannot be fully substituted by the increased use of FPV drones.

The line of contact in Chasiv Yar did not change significantly, the Russian capture of Bohdanivka excepted. Still, Russian pro-war sources disagreed on the strategic importance of this town. At present, there is no question that Russian forces are continuing to strengthen their positions inside Chasiv Yar while also encircling the city from the flanks — it is clear that the main assault still lies ahead. In the meantime, the Russian military continues razing the city to the ground with glide bombs, as Russian frontline aviation operates with relative ease in the combat zone, exposing Ukraine’s lack of air defense equipment. The Wall Street Journal's report from Chasiv Yar lays bare another problem of the AFU: the shortage of personnel, which has forced the city's defenders to stay on the front line for 10 or 15 days instead of the standard five.

Ukrainian authorities have taken a hard line on the issue of military personnel shortages. At the beginning of the week, Ukrainian consulates abroad temporarily stopped providing consular services to men of conscription age, and the country’s Cabinet of Ministers banned issuing passports to this category of citizens outside of Ukraine. From now on, Ukrainian men in need of a new ID must return to the country — and they may not be allowed to leave again. Poland and Lithuania are already hinting that they would assist Ukraine in sending home military-age men living inside their borders. Germany, on the other hand, has offered assurances that Ukrainian men living there will not lose protection, even if their passports have expired.

Also this week, The Insider published an overview of the situation on the ground following the capture of Avdiivka. The Russian Armed Forces still adhere to the practice of “meat assaults,” which allow it to achieve tactical but not operational progress. For their part, the AFU has been focusing on strategic defense in an attempt to weather shortages of ammunition and personnel. Unless something extraordinary happens, neither side will be able to break the positional stalemate in 2024, even if a few more Ukrainian-controlled towns in the east ultimately fall to the relentless Russian assaults.

Mutual strikes and sabotage

The week of Apr. 20-26 was marked by a near absence of mass raids by Russian Shahed-type UAVs on Ukrainian territory. The exceptions were the nights of Apr. 22 and 23, when Russian forces launched 23 Shaheds, of which Ukraine managed to destroy 20. Nevertheless, rocket attacks and guided aerial bomb strikes did not cease. Russian forces hit military and civilian targets, including airplanes at the Aviatorske Airfield near Dnipro and grain terminals at Pivdennyi Seaport.

On Apr. 25, Ukrainian Railways reported three strikes on railway network facilities, while Russia’s Ministry of Defense claimed a hit on a military echelon, which caused damage to military equipment and led to casualties among armed forces personnel during the boarding of the train. The Russian ministry did not provide any evidence for these claims and did not comment on the damage the strike caused to civilians (1, 2), with Ukrainian sources saying that at least ten had been injured.

The Ukrainian side launched a mass UAV raid on multiple Russian regions on the night of Apr. 20, hitting fuel and energy facilities in the Smolensk region, an electric substation in the Bryansk region, and a steelworks in the Lipetsk region. The Russian Ministry of Defense reported intercepting 50 drones over eight Russian regions.

On the same day, the AFU attacked the Russian salvage vessel Kommuna, considered the oldest active warship in the world, in Sevastopol. Satellite images suggest that the ship escaped without (visible) damage, but two crew members are reported injured.

The image is available here.

Also this week, Ukraine has been launching more attacks using balloon bombers of a rather original design. According to Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu, Russian forces have managed to shoot down only 37 such aircraft since the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Losses

In the week from Apr. 12 to Apr.19, an investigator who calls himself Naalsio visually confirmed the loss of 14 units of Russian equipment west of Avdiivka. The AFU lost at least six units of its own there. In the vicinity of Krynky on the left bank of the Dnieper, it was possible to verify the loss of one piece of Russian equipment and none on the Ukrainian side during the same period.

The Russian military captured a German Leopard 2 tank in relatively good condition and evacuated it to the rear. This comes 10 months after Ukraine's first loss of such a tank. A Russian serviceman from the maintenance base was quick to disparage the NATO tank, criticizing its “excessive automation” in a comment given to state-owned channel RIA Novosti.

Weapons and military equipment

This week, the months-long epic involving the U.S. Ukraine aid funding bill finally came to an end. Following approval by the House of Representatives last week, the act passed the Senate on Tuesday and was signed into law by President Joe Biden on Wednesday. The Pentagon almost immediately announced a $1 billion military aid package to Ukraine, designed to at least partially meet Ukraine's pressing needs for air defense and artillery ammunition, anti-tank guided missiles, and armored vehicles. The weapons are to be transferred from existing U.S. stockpiles under the PDA mechanism.

This “stabilization” package was followed by an even more sizable package, the largest during the war, representing various orders to U.S. defense industries under the USAI program. In addition to ammunition, it includes SAMs for Patriot and NASAMS air-defense systems used for the protection of Ukrainian cities, as well as anti-drone equipment and components designed to facilitate Ukraine’s domestic UAV production.

For a more detailed assessment of U.S. military aid, read The Insider's breakdown.

In addition to the U.S., the UK also announced a major aid package to Ukraine, pledging to provide, among other things, 400 various armored fighting vehicles and support vehicles, 60 motorboats and boats, and 1,600 missiles, including SAMs and Storm Shadow / SCALP-EGs. It was later revealed that the package would include Paveway IV laser-guided aerial bombs.

Meanwhile, a drama is unfolding around the delivery of long-range air defense and ballistic missile defense systems to Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelensky and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba say that (1, 2) at least seven Patriot or SAMP-T class systems are needed for the country's air defense. These systems should at least cover major Ukrainian cities and their infrastructure facilities. However, neither the United States nor its European partners are in a hurry to part with their air defense capabilities, fearing for their own national security (and the United States also needs them for covering its own and allied facilities around the world). Aside from Germany's earlier promise of a Patriot battery, the only progress made so far was Spain's promise to supply an unspecified number of missiles for the system.

On the other side, Ukrainian observers have noted the appearance of American 203-mm artillery ammunition being used by the Russian side — most likely supplied from Iran and compatible with the Pion/Malka Soviet self-propelled cannon. The Russians have also begun using robotic electronic warfare vehicles and net-throwing drones to intercept enemy UAVs. They have also been seen welding anti-drone shields onto assault motorcycles.

However, the most notable development of Russia's “frontline military-industrial complex” was the rapid spread of so-called “royal grills” — makeshift canopies of additional armor that cover the tank almost entirely (1, 2, and 3).

While some observers have made witty remarks about Russia reverting to WWI-era tank-building practices, others urge (1, 2) restraint when it comes to mocking the life-saving inventions.

As far as we can judge, these “armored sheds” have been successful at bringing Russian personnel closer to enemy positions and covering them with numerous electronic warfare systems installed on the “grill” — albeit at the cost of complicated maintenance, loss of visibility, and hampered turret rotation.

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