Issue 288, 29 March 2023

Situational report 28MAR2023

Key takeaways:

  • Russians continued limited ground activity in the Kharkiv Oblast, but all attacks were pushed back;
  • No changes were reported in the Luhansk Oblast; Conflicting information appeared about the situation near Bilohorivka, where both sides reported gains;
  • Russians probably made an incremental gain near Pervomaiske; The frontline in other parts of the Donetsk Oblast remained unchanged; the situation in Bakhmut remains very difficult for the defenders;
  • The situation in the Kherson and Zaporizhihia Oblasts remained unchanged;
  • Local sources reported explosions near Gvardeyskoye in Crimea, which houses an active air base;
  • We observed no changes in the posture of the Belarusian Armed Forces;

Situation near Avdiivka

General outlook

On Wednesday, Russians launched five missile and 25 air strikes and conducted 34 MLRS attacks. Russians conducted artillery strikes on towns and villages near the state border. Specifically, they shelled Chernatske, Esman, Kucherivka, Bilopillya, Volfyne, and Basivka in the Sumy Oblast and Tymofiivka, Veterynarne, Hlyboke, Pishchane, Hatyshche, Vovchansk and Bochkove in the Kharkiv Oblast.

Ukrainians repelled more than 60 Russian ground attacks.

Regarding battlefield strikes, Russian artillery struck Kolodyazne, Dvorichna, Zapadne, Petropavlivka, Kupyansk, Kyslivka, and Kamyanka in the Kharkiv Oblast and Stelmakhivka, Nevske, Kuzmyne, Bilohorivka in the Luhansk Oblast. In the Donetsk Oblast, Russians shelled Kolodyazi, Spirne, Siversk, Minkivka, Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Bakhmut, Chasiv Yar, Toretsk, Novokalynove, Avdiivka and Vodyane, Karlivka, Krasnohorivka, Mar’inka, Heorhiivka, Novomykhailivka, Vuhledar, Prechystivka, Velyka Novosilka, Vremivka. In the Zaporizhzhia Oblast, they hit Malynivka, Hulyaipole, Staroukrainka, Charivne. Lastly, in the Kherson Oblast, Russians fired at Vesele, Beryslav, Kozats’ke, Zelenivka, Antonivka, Dniprovs’ke, and the city of Kherson.

Ukrainian Air Force launched five air strikes on Russian concentration areas. In addition, the service claimed to have shot down one Russian Su-24M bomber aircraft. Ukrainian missile and artillery troops hit three Russian concentration areas, an electronic warfare station, one ammunition depot, and two fuel and lubricant depots.

According to a Russian source, “Ukrainian saboteurs” tried to push through Russian defences near Lomakovka in the Bryansk Oblast. Russians claimed to have detected the group and hit it with artillery, forcing a withdrawal. A similar attempt (same source) reportedly occurred near Cheremoshnoe in the Belgorod Oblast. However, in this instance, we assess that the village was hit with artillery (no ground attacks occurred), causing issues with the power supply.

Number of Russian ground attacks as reported by the Ukrainian General Staff

The situation at selected axes and directions

Kharkiv/Luhansk direction

No significant events occurred in the Kharkiv Oblast on Wednesday. No Russian ground attacks were recorded near the border with Russia. Russians again tried to conduct offensive actions near Krohmalne but failed and retreated with losses. Oleh Synehubov, the head of the Kharkiv Oblast, said that Russians continued to shell civilian infrastructure in the settlements of Kupyansky, Chuhuivsky, Kharkivsky and Bohodukhivsky districts of the region. In particular, Russians struck Bohodukhiv, Vovchansk, Dvorichna, Strilecha, and Veterynarne. He stated that 13 residential buildings and a kindergarten were damaged as a result of a rocket strike on Bogodukhiv. Residential and commercial buildings were also damaged in Dvorichna. Ukrainians counted more than 150 mortars, tanks, and artillery hits.

No significant changes occurred in the Luhansk Oblast. The front line was relatively stable. Ukrainian sources did not report any changes in the region. A Russian source stated that despite ground attacks, Russians did not progress in the oblast.

According to Serhiy Cherevaty, the Eastern Group of the Ukrainian Armed Forces spokesman, the Kypyansk-Liman line is where the bulk of Russian artillery activity was focused over the past three weeks. He claimed that Russians conducted 300 attacks on Ukrainian positions, which we assume pertains to this timeframe. In this area, Russians conduct more classic operations that involve mechanised and armoured formations, contrasting their operations in Bakhmut, which were based on “small tactical groups” (assault groups).

Positional battles continued near the Svatove area, but no source reported any changes or developments.

No Russian attacks were recorded towards Stelmakhivka on 29MAR.

Russians attacked Ukrainian positions near Novoselivske and Kuzemivka, but neither Russian nor Ukrainian sources reported any changes in this sector.

Russians also attacked Makiivka, while the situation near Ploshchanka and Chervonopopivka did not change.

There was a Russian attempt to approach Terny and Nevske. However, Russians were repulsed.

No significant changes occurred in the Kreminna area. Battles continued in the Serebryansky forest and near Dibrova. However, no frontline changes were reported. A video was posted online reportedly showing Russian fighters of the “Dare group” attacking Ukrainian positions and striking ammunition depots. Russian bloggers added that the Russian territorial control near Dibrova was expanded recently, but they provided no details about what this change involved.

No confirmed changes also occurred near the Bilohorivka area. On Wednesday, the Russian blogger claimed that Russians made some gains in this sector, but he did not confirm how (in)significant they were. On the other hand, Ukrainian bloggers claimed that Ukrainian units had taken some territory east of the settlement.

The Russian source stated that the Russian command was preparing for a possible Ukrainian attack in the Kupyansk direction. No further information about this development was provided.

Donetsk Oblast Direction

No changes were reported near Spirne and Vyimka on Wednesday. Ukrainian sources did not report any Russian advances in this sector. Russian blogger stated that Russian troops had tried to attack towards Verkhonokamyanske but were pushed back.

No changes were reported near Vasiukivka, Rozdolivka, Fedorivka and Vesele. Positional battles in this area continued. A video was posted online where a  Russian soldier said that attempts to attack towards Siversk failed. Out of 60 attackers, less than ten remained. A well-known Ukrainian journalist posted the video. Russian soldiers also appear to be relatively clean and in good spirits for someone who, as we understand, barely escaped death.

Wagner fighters continued attacking Ukrainian positions near Khromove and Bohdanivka without much success. Supported by artillery, they resumed assaults on Orikhovo-Vasylivka, but they made no progress there too. Ukrainian sources did not report any changes in areas northwest of Bakhmut. It appears that the main Russian focus is on capturing the city.

A Ukrainian source claimed that the UAF counterattack near Minkivka failed and that Ukrainians were pushed back.

No apparent changes took place in Bakhmut on Wednesday. The Russian blogger claimed that Russians progressed in northern parts of the city, but no visual evidence was provided to confirm the veracity of this claim. Another Russian source asserted that Wagner fighters fully controlled the Sobachvika(?) and Budenovka districts in the city’s southern parts.

Ukrainian source claims that no changes were recorded in the city. According to a Ukrainian soldier deployed in Bakhmut, heavy fighting continued, but Russian assault operations were unsuccessful. The tactical and strategic situation did not change. He added that Russians use a lot of drones for better situational awareness and to improve the precision of their artillery and mortar fires. Several Ukrainian units reportedly had come under mortar fire during short movements, which confirms almost constant surveillance.

Ukrainians claimed to have shot down a Russian Su-24M bomber aircraft near Bakhmut on Wednesday.

Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine’s Minister of Defence, said that Russians lost about 500 soldiers daily in the Bakhmut sector. High losses are one of the reasons why Ukrainians still hold onto the city.

We, however, estimate that these losses are exaggerated. Five hundred men a day would equal 15,000 a month. While Russians may lose around 4,000-8,000 in Bakhmut monthly, another 8,000 casualties for the remaining parts of the sector is highly unlikely.

In an interview with AP, Volodymyr Zelensky, the president of Ukraine, stated that if Ukraine loses the battle for Bakhmut, Putin will “sell this victory to the West, to his society, to China, to Iran” to gain international support and force Ukraine to make unacceptable compromises.

Returning to the frontline, no changes occurred near the Predtechyne – Ivanivske line. Battles for the road continued.

The Russian Armed Forces shelled Predtechyne, Kramatorsk, Minkivka, Vasyukivka, Siversk, Vyimka and Spirne. Ukrainian army hit Ozaryanivka, Kurdyumivka and Ivangrad.

No changes occurred near Kamyanka, Krasnohorivka and Stepove. Russian bloggers claimed that Kamyanka was fully captured.

In Avdiivka, Russian artillery continued to fire artillery on Ukrainian positions in the city. The same source asserted that Ukrainian units were preparing for possible Russian attacks near the town, and to this end, additional reinforcements had been brought in to strengthen defences around Avdiivka.

According to the Russian source, after the artillery shelling, Russian troops advanced along the M04 road from the Pisky side and from Vodyane towards Pervomaiske. Ukrainians confirmed this change.

No changes were made near Tonenke, Severne and Nevelske.

Despite attacks on Mariinka and Pobieda, Ukrainians held their ground.

No changes were reported near Novomykhailivka and Vuhledar.

Russian artillery units shelled Novomykhailivka, Krasnohorivka, Tonenke, Lastochkyne, Keramika and Druzhba. Ukrainian forces fired at Donetsk, Yasynuvata and Mayorsk.

Zaporizhzhia direction

No changes were reported in this area on Wednesday.

According to Ivan Fedorov, the Ukrainian mayor of Melitopol, several explosions were heard near a local airfield. Russians, in their reports, admitted an attack on a motive power (locomotive) depot. Another source specified that Ukrainians hit  (three missiles) a railway power substation, causing short-lived power outages.

This strike could be an early indication that Ukrainians will try to hinder the movement of Russian rail in the region in anticipation of a counter-offensive.

According to Yevheniy Balitsky, the Zaporizhzhia Oblast occupation administration head, his administration already allocated funds to construct a four-lane road along the Sea of Azov that will connect Dzhankoi in Crimea to Rostov Oblast through Berdyansk in Zaporizhzhia Oblast.

Kherson direction and Crimea

The situation in this region also remained unchanged. Russians continued to shell the city of Kherson and neighbouring infrastructure, damaging civil infrastructure.

According to Vladimir Saldo, the Kherson Oblast occupation head, Russian officials hope to open a railway between the Kherson Oblast and Crimea before the start of the summer season.

Russian officials struggle to fully implement the use of the Russian Ruble in areas they occupy. The occupation administration warned locals on 28MAR that anyone who refused to accept rubbles or attempted to sabotage its use in the region would face criminal prosecution.

Locals reported explosions in Gvardeyskoye, Crimea. The city houses the 37th Mixed Aviation Regiment. It has one squadron each of Su-24Ms and Su-25SMs. It is unclear what caused explosions and what damages were.

Military situation in Belarus

On 29MAR, no noteworthy actions of the Belarusian high-rank military representatives were observed. According to unofficial reports, Col. Andrey Klishevich has been appointed to the position of the Head of the Military Education Department.

The Belarusian military formations continued training activities, mainly centred around artillery formations.

The elements of the 51st Artillery Brigade and an unspecified artillery brigade were involved in a complex bilateral exercise held under the Chief of Missile Forces and Artillery, Col. Ruslan Chehhov. Practical actions probably started on 28MAR and focused on using UAVs to improve counter-battery fire.

A 2S1 Battalion of the 841st Artillery Group (11th Mechanised Brigade) started a tactical exercise with live ammo firing. A 2S1 Battalion of the 350th Artillery Group (6th Mechanised Brigade) firing drills also commenced.

The Belarusian Hajun monitoring team informed about the start of the Territorial Defence Forces (TDF) exercises in the Korelichsky and Novogrudok regions. They will be carried out between 28MAR and 21APR and include theoretical and practical drills, finished with a command-staff exercise. Inferring from the purchases made by the local executive committees, both drills will likely engage up to 130 soldiers. The source stated that two rifle companies would be formed after 56 conscripts would have been drafted, which means that one company had around 30 men.

On Wednesday, three transfers of Belarusian military equipment were reported:

  1. A single S-300 launcher with a radar station and a truck were moving in Dolaty village;
  2. An R-434 radio relay station with about five trucks were moving in Nesvezh;
  3. About 20-30 BTRs, several armoured vehicles and trucks (most likely of the 103rd Airborne Brigade) were moving towards Vitebsk from Polotsk;

Moreover, the significant training activity of the Belarusian Air Force was observed.
It included training flights of fighter aircraft (Baranovichi Air Base), trainer aircraft and Su-25 close air support (Lida Air Base), as well as helicopters and probably cargo airframes (Machulischy Air Base).

The Baranovichi Air Base also hosted at least two training flights of unspecified Russian fighter aircraft.
Besides, a single Russian fuel truck (Baranovichi>Ivaschevichy), as well as two trucks (Stolbsty>Baranovichi), were spotted on the move.

Below is the list of Belarusian training activities undertaken on 29MAR. Click here for the complete list of exercises conducted since the start of the year.

  • 28MAR: Start of the complex bilateral exercise (unspecified location, 51st Artillery Brigade and an unspecified artillery brigade);
  • 28MAR: Tactical exercise with live ammo firing (unspecified location, 2S1 Battalion of the 841st Artillery Group of the 11th Mechanised Brigade);
  • 28MAR: Start of the Territorial Defence Forces inspection (Korelichsky and Novogrudok regions, local executive committee and territorial defence troops members);
  • 29MAR: Live ammo firing (unspecified location, 2S1 Battalion of the 350th Artillery Group of the 6th Mechanised Brigade);

Lines of advance in Ukraine

Please click here to access the current scribble map and here to access the archive map.