Issue 271, 27 February 2023

Situational report 27FEB2023

Key takeaways:

  • On Monday, Russians’ probable gains were limited to areas north of Bakhmut. All other attacks were repelled;
  • The situation in the Kharkiv Oblast remained unchanged. Frontline attacks had no impact on the frontline. Russians continued artillery strikes across the region;
  • Likewise, no significant events unfolded in Luhansk Oblast. A Russian source claimed that Ukrainians were preparing for a counterattack near Svatove;
  • Russians made no reported gains in the Luhansk Oblast. The situation near Kreminna did not change;
  • Russians probably made marginal gains north of Bakhmut. Reports about a Ukrainian counterattack in the area were not confirmed. Ukrainian positions in the city deteriorated;
  • Attacks in other parts of the oblast did not deliver any changes;
  • No changes occurred in the Zaporizhihia and Kherson Oblasts;
  • The posture of the Belarusian Armed Forces did not change; Russians may have deployed another train with equipment from Belarus to the Rostov Oblast in Russia.

General outlook

On Monday, the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) repelled 81 Russian ground attacks.

Russians launched eight missile and 28 air strikes, 12 of them employed Iranian Shahed-136 combat UAVs. Reportedly 11 drones were shot down.

Russians also carried out more than 85 MLRS attacks. They also carried artillery strikes on towns and villages near the state border. Specifically, they shelled Khrinivka, Yeline in the Chernihiv Oblast and Budivelne, Hirky, Atynske, Volfyne, Pavlivka, and Stepok in the Sumy oblast. Veterynarne, Strilecha, Hatyshche, Vovchanski Khutory, and Kamyanka in the Kharkiv oblast were also shelled.

Regarding battlefield strikes, on Monday, Russian artillery struck Dvorichna, Hryanykivka, Kurylivka, Kyslivka, Tabaivka in the Kharkiv Oblast and Nevske, Chervonopopivka, Dibrova in the Luhansk Oblast. In the Donetsk Oblast, Russians shelled Rozdolivka, Zaliznyanske, Dubovo-Vasylivka, Berkhivka, Bakhmut, Ivanivske, Stupochky, Klishchiivka, Ozaryanivka Avdiivka and Netaylove, Vodyane, Pervomaiske, Mariinka, Bohoyavlenka, Novomykhailivka, Velyka Novosilka, Neskuchne, Vuhledar, Vremivka and Novopil. In the Zaporizhzhia Oblast they hit Olhivske, Hulyaipole, Zaliznychne, Charivne, Orikhiv, Mala Tokmachka, and Bilohirya. In the Kherson Oblast, Russians fired at Berehove, Beryslav, Vesele, Tyahynka, Antonivka, and the city of Kherson.

Ukrainian Air Force launched four air strikes on Russian concentration areas. Missile and artillery units hit one command post, two concentration areas, and two air defence sites.

The situation at selected axes and directions

Kharkiv/Luhansk direction

No major changes occurred in the region on Monday. No Russian attacks were recorded near the state border. According to Oleh Synehubov, the head of the Kharkiv Oblast, Russians heavily shelled border settlements of the Kharkivsky, Chuhuivsky and Kupyansky districts. Specifically, they struck Vovchansk and Kyrylivka, damaging civil infrastructure.

Likewise, no major or even tactically significant events took place in the Luhansk Oblast. Russians continued attacking along the Ploshchanka – Kreminna line, but neither Ukrainian nor Russian sources reported any changes. According to Serhiy Haidai, the Luhansk Regional Military Civil Administration Head, active military operations were ongoing on three axes: in the Svatove district, near Kreminna, and in Bilohorivka. In these areas, Russians accumulated heavy equipment and brought in new reserves. It is the first time Haidai has mentioned the Svatove area in the context of a possible Russian attack. Neither open source also noted such a possibility, so to put it mildly, his assessment may not be fully accurate. We will nevertheless pay a special attention to monitoring this part of the Luhansk Oblast to see whether there is any credence to Haidai’s comment.

On the other hand, according to a Russian source, the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) are planning a counterattack in the near future in the Svatove, Vuhledar and Zaporizhzhia directions.

When it comes to ground operations,  no changes were reported near Novoselivske or Kuzemivka. The same pertains to Makiivka, Ploshchanka and the Chervonopopivka area. On Monday, a Russian blogger with a long history of spreading fake news noted that Russian troops continued to conduct offensive actions towards Zarichne, Yampolivka and Terny. However, he was highly likely correct in this case, as these villages are attacked daily. Nevertheless, no source claimed any frontline changes in the area.

Villages west of Kreminna also saw ground combat, especially in the Serebryansky forest, but no Russian advances were recorded there.

According to Haidain, the situation in Bilohorivka is stable as Ukrainians repel all Russian attacks.

Donetsk Oblast Direction

Russians continued to extend their territorial control over areas north of Bakhmut. The other parts of the front remained unchanged.

Russians resumed their attacks on Spirne and Verknokamyanske, but all attempts to break through Ukrainian lines were repelled.

According to the Russian source, Wagner PMC concentrated on attacking Orikhove-Vasylivka and Zaliznyanske west of Soledar. Russians also continued to attack Vasiukivka, Rozdolivka and Vesele, but reportedly these assaults were futile. However, the Ukrainian bloggers assert that Russians are driving a “wedge” between Yahidne and Berkhivka to reach Khromove, thus to block the road linking Chasiv Yar with Bakhmut. Orikhovo-Vasylivka remains under Ukrainian control.

Consequently, reports that surfaced in social media on Saturday and Sunday alleging that Ukrainians conducted a limited counterattack and were close to cutting off Russian units in Yahidne and Berkhivka were proved to be untrue.

When it comes to Bakhmut, the southern flank is the only area which Ukrainians characterise as “under control”. A Ukrainian soldier asserted that the situation remains critical on the northern and eastern sides of the town, where the Wagner fighters were carried on assaulting Ukrainian defensive lines. According to a Russian source, Wagner captured Stupky districts in the city.

Ukrainian forces reportedly counterattacked near Ivanivske and managed to push Russian positions slightly back. Another Russian source, however, claimed that Russians succeeded in advancing towards Ivanivske.

No frontline changes were reported near Novobakhmutivka, Krasnohorivka and Vesele.

There was a ground attack on Avdiivka, supported by artillery, but it delivered no results.

The Ukrainian source stated that heavy battles took place near Nevelske, which resulted in “variable success”. Positions near Pervomaiske, Vodyane and Siverne remained untouched.

Russians also continued to assault Ukrainian positions near Mariinka and extended an attack towards a nearby Novomykhalivske. According to a Ukrainian source, Russian advantage lies in higher equipment numbers, but despite this, no frontline changes were reported in the area on Monday. There were also Russian attacks on Pobieda, but also without success.

The Russian source stated that the attackers attempted to reach the southern outskirts of Vuhledar again on Monday, but Ukrainian forces repelled the attack.

Russian artillery struck Novopil, Vremivka and Prechystivka, and no sources reported any changes in this area.

Zaporizhzhia direction

The situation remained stable in the Zaporizhihia Oblast. Local exchanges of fire continued along the entire frontline, but fighting was the most intense near Lobkove and Pyatikhatky. Yet, they had no impact on the frontline.

Kherson direction

Likewise, the Kherson Oblast did not undergo any changes. Russian artillery attacks on the city of Kherson continued.

According to Natalia Humeniuk, the spokesperson for Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command, Ukrainian troops concentrate forces near the border with Transnistria, which is the appropriate response to Russia’s threat from this region.

Should a Ukrainian attack Transnistria, Russians would be very hard-pressed to respond. They do not possess available manpower to reinforce their presence in the breakaway province. The pre-war number of soldiers deployed there stood at around 2,000. This force also fielded just one tank battalion. Assuming that this figure did not decrease as a result of measures applied by the MoD to facilitate the increase of combat forces deployed in Ukraine, Kyiv would probably not struggle with mustering force large enough to overwhelm a Russian contingent deployed there. Interestingly, Belarusian President, Alexander Lukashenko, claimed last week that Ukrainians might indeed attack Russian forces in the region to solve the issue of Trasndnistira “for the West”.

Military situation in Belarus

On 27FEB, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko met with Belarusian security officials to discuss the issue of financing the armed forces’ procurement programmes. The representatives of the State Security Council,  Belarusian Armed Forces, Internal Troops, KDB (KGB), and the Belarusian State Military Industry attended the meeting.

Lukashenko noted that keeping a sufficient level of domestic military production is necessary due to the dynamically changing regional security situation. He added that despite international sanctions, Belarus was ready to create any weapon system in cooperation with Russia. It allows it to secure the needs of the Belarusian Army long-term and simultaneously export its military equipment to 57 countries. Among such domestically produced items, Lukashenko listed modern counter-UAV electronic warfare systems. However, interestingly, he also underlined that the Belarusian military industry was currently unable to produce loitering munitions. But he claimed that ongoing research linked to the Belarusian medium-range air defence systems, missiles, and some unspecified anti-air robotic complex was about to finish.

Later in the day, the Belarusian President took part in the second meeting attended by a narrow group of the highest security officials, including the Minister of the Interior, Lt. Gen. Ivan Kubrakov, the Secretary of the State Security Council, Lt. Gen. Alexander Volfovich, as well as Belarusian Minister of Defence, Lt. Gen. Viktor Khrenin, and Chairmans of the State Border and State Security Committees (Lt. Gen. Anatoly Lappo and Lt. Gen. Ivan Tertel). Officially the meeting was related to Tuesday’s Lukashenko visit to China. However, the real reason behind the meeting was Sunday’s explosion at the Machulischy Air Base, where a Russian A-50 AEW&C aircraft was damaged.

Belarusian President instructed officials to ensure the highest level of military discipline in all power agencies. It pertains to the Belarusian Armed Forces but also Internal Troops, Border Guards and KDB (KGB). Service members should be focused entirely on their tasks, especially near the state border, as they can provide information about possible threats that the state may soon face.

Regarding the abovementioned incident, a representative of the Belarusian Union of Officers (BYPOL)  (an exile oppositionist group gathering former personnel from power agencies), Alexander Azarov, claimed that the attack was carried out with two UAVs and that its executors had already left Belarus.

Interestingly, unofficial sources reported increased activity of Belarusian power agencies in monitoring websites to identify citizens negatively commenting on the incident. Belarusian security forces published a warrant arrest with a Crimean native responsible for “committing a grave crime in the city of Machulischy”.

Nonetheless, several news outlets provided examples of various warrant versions, which might suggest that the order was made up.

On Monday, no information related to the training activity of the Belarusian military formations was published. However, the Belarusian Union of Railway Workers informed about the departure of another Russian echelon to the Rostov region. On 26FEB, a train with about 36 platform cars (carrying unspecified wheeled and tracked military vehicles), two covered wagons, and about five passenger cars left Slonim Railway Station and headed towards Neklinovka.