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CDS Daily brief (17.04.23) | CDS comments on key events

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Snapshot of the day:

General, humanitarian:

  • Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets stated that at least 20,000 Ukrainian civilians are being held hostage by Russia, with many relatives afraid to seek assistance due to fear of repercussions in occupied regions.
  • The Russian forces shelled seven regions of Ukraine on April 16.
  • The plans of the Russian occupiers to forcibly conscript Crimean Tatars into their army have been foiled.
  • The “Grain Initiative” is at risk of being halted as Russia has once again blocked vessel inspections in the Bosphorus, jeopardizing the functioning of the Initiative.


  • The Wagner PMC is given a leading role in the capture of Bakhmut.
  • The Russian Airborne Forces units have lost 40-50% of personnel over the course of the year. They are replaced by poorly-trained mobilized personnel, which would have a long- term impact on combat readiness.
  • The enemy actively uses operational-tactical and army aviation in Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Maryinka.
  • Russian forces have intensified artillery fire on the western coast of Kherson Oblast and continue to use guided aerial bombs to target civilian infrastructure. They have also resumed using S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems to strike ground targets in the depth of Ukrainian territory.


  • New evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Russians was revealed by the Russian human rights project, the Ukrainian ombudsman and Ukraine’s Security Service.
  • A Russian independent media outlet believes about 33,000 Russian convicted criminals are “missing” in prisons across Russia, for the Wagner PMC recruited them. In turn, Wagner PMC says they no longer recruit convicts, but the Russian MOD still does.
  • Slovakia has completed the transfer of its 13 MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine.
  • PRC’s defense minister is in Moscow to talk about the support of the Russian war efforts and give the impression that the Beijing-Moscow alliance is a reality.
  • The DOJ is investigating a former Navy non-commissioned officer and a pro-Russian propagandist for her role in spreading a series of leaked Pentagon documents.
Humanitarian aspect:

Dmytro Lubinets, Verkhovna Rada Ombudsman for Human Rights, has stated that at least 20,000 Ukrainian civilians are being held hostage by Russia. This number represents only those whose relatives have officially approached, and this number alone is staggering. During the occupation of Kyiv Oblast in March of last year alone [which was for a relatively short period], approximately

800 civilians were taken away by the aggressors. He emphasized that the exact number of Ukrainian civilians held by Russia is unknown, as many of their relatives are afraid to seek help. The fear of repercussions in the currently occupied regions of Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk, Luhansk Oblasts, and Crimea may deter relatives from seeking assistance.


According to the Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets, 86% of Ukrainian soldiers who have returned from Russian captivity have reported direct physical torture by Russians. This information is corroborated by the international human rights mission of the United Nations, which has similar figures. Each POW case is investigated, and evidence of ill-treatment towards them is documented.

Since the start of the full-scale invasion, Ukraine has returned 2,235 prisoners of war, according to Anna Malyar, Deputy Minister of Defense. During the past week, 230 Ukrainians were successfully returned from Russian captivity.

Russian attacks

On April 16, the Russian army attacked seven regions of Ukraine within a day, using aviation, drones, multiple rocket launchers, artillery, and mortars, according to the consolidated information from regional military administrations.

Consequences of enemy shelling as of Morning, April 17

  • In Novoukrayinka, Donetsk Oblast, 5 houses were damaged, and in Solovyove, 2 houses were damaged. Two rocket strikes hit Kostiantynivka; the enemy targeted the territory of an enterprise, damaging 3 buildings and a vehicle. Three shellings were recorded in Kurakhove and sporadic shelling in Avdiivka.
  • Border and frontline towns and villages in Kharkiv Oblast came under fire. In Vovchansk, at least 11 private residential houses were damaged.
  • On April 16 night, Russian forces shelled the border areas of Chernihiv Oblast twice, possibly with mortars. A total of 8 impacts were recorded. There is no information about damages or casualties.
  • Yesterday evening, the Russian occupiers shelled Zaporizhzhia, damaging houses in a garden cooperative. There were no casualties. In total, the enemy conducted 56 shelling at 16 towns and villages of the oblast within 24 hours. There have been 52 registered reports of the destruction of social infrastructure objects, housing, vehicles, and others.
  • At night, the Russians shelled the Bilopillia community of Sumy Oblast with grenade launchers; 10 impacts were recorded.
  • The occupiers shelled the Kherson Oblast 46 times. The residential areas of Kherson were attacked three times. There were no casualties.
  • Night in Mykolaiv and Dnipropetrovsk Oblasts passed without shelling.
Occupied territories

According to Refat Chubarov, Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, the plans of the Russian occupiers to forcibly conscript Crimean Tatars into their army have been foiled. The Russian occupiers had targeted Crimean Tatar men of conscription age when they announced partial mobilization. However, through joint efforts and appeals from the Mejlis and the President of Ukraine, five to six thousand Crimean Tatars left the occupied peninsula to avoid illegal mobilization into the Russian AF. Many of them had vulnerable documents, such as expired Ukrainian passports or internal Ukrainian passports without international documents. They were able to leave for countries that allow entry with such documents, primarily Kazakhstan. Now, many of them are obtaining Ukrainian documents through the diplomatic representation of Ukraine.

Operational situation General conclusion:
  • The enemy is focusing its main efforts on conducting offensive actions in Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Maryinka directions.
  • The higher military-political leadership of the Russian Federation gives the Wagner PMC a leading role in the capture of Bakhmut.
  • The Russian Airborne Forces units and military formations have lost 40-50% of their personnel over the course of the year, which is being replaced by poorly-trained mobilized personnel. Such approaches to personnel replenishment will have a long-term impact on the combat readiness of these forces.
Change in the line of contact (LoC):
  • Defense Forces have repelled over 60 enemy attacks in various directions. The epicenter of the fighting remains in Bakhmut and Maryinka.
  • The enemy’s offensive actions in the areas of Hryhorivka and near Spirne in Luhansk oblast, as well as Khromove, Ivanivske, Novokalynove, Severne, Vodyane, Pervomaiske, Nevelske, and Maryinka in Donetsk oblast, were unsuccessful.
  • Enemy unsuccessfully attacked near Dibrova, Bilohorivka, Torske, and Nevske. Positional battles were reported in the area of Serebryansk forest. Russian forces use armored vehicles extensively in the Kupyansk-Lyman direction, which is not observed in other directions.
  • Ukrainian Defense Forces have partially repelled enemy positions near Bilohorivka.
  • The enemy has advanced to the south of the AZOM plant in the center of Bakhmut. Battles are ongoing near the railway station, with control frequently shifting between opposing forces. All Russian attacks in the direction of the T0504 highway in the areas of Ivanivske and southern Bakhmut have been repelled. Defense Forces have also repelled enemy attacks near Khromove and Ivanivske, close to Avdiivka, Novokalynove, Pivnichne, Vodyane, Pervomaiske, and Maryinka. The enemy has attacked near Stepove, Severne, Pervomaiske, Novomykhailivka, and Pobeda but has not succeeded.
  • Ukrainian Defense Forces have improved their tactical position southeast of Novosilka (36 km northeast of Hulyaipole, Zaporizhzhia Oblast).
Change in enemy disposition:
  • The 132nd Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade of the 1st Army Corps was spotted near Mayorsk.
  • In order to reinforce the 98th Separate Airborne Division, the enemy introduced units of the 20th Motorized Rifle Division of the 8th Army into Bakhmut (this information requires verification).
  • The commander of the Russian Airborne Forces, General Teplynsky, has returned to the command of the enemy grouping “Dnipro”.
Escalation indicators:
  • The enemy actively uses operational-tactical and army aviation in the directions of Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Maryinka.
  • Russian forces have intensified artillery fire on the western coast of Kherson Oblast and continue to use guided aerial bombs to target civilian infrastructure. They have also resumed using S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems to strike ground targets in the depth of Ukrainian territory, delivering 25 strikes with S-300 systems in Zaporizhzhia and Mykolaiv Oblasts over the past 24 hours.
Possible operation situation developments:
  • In the short-term perspective, the Ukrainian Defense Forces will adhere to their chosen strategy of inflicting maximum losses on the enemy in close combat in the directions where the main efforts are concentrated, partially due to a shortage of ammunition for artillery.
Azov-Black Sea Maritime Operational Area:
  • There are currently 9 enemy ships in the sea, including one landing ship, patrolling areas near the coast of Novorossiysk and Crimea. Among them, there is one corvette and two Project 636.3 submarines, which are capable of carrying up to 16 Kalibr missiles in the vicinity of firing positions near Crimea and Novorossiysk.
  • Planned anti-submarine and sabotage exercises took place in the naval bases of Sevastopol and Novorossiysk, accompanied by actual closures of port raids.
  • After the end of the storm, sea mines reappeared in the coastal zone. At the end of last week, the Romanian Navy destroyed a sea mine on the approach to the port of Constanta.
  • The enemy’s aviation has significantly increased flights from the Crimean airfields of Belbek, Saki, Dzhankoy, and Hvardiyske over the sea. Twelve fighter aircraft were involved in monitoring the surface and air situation in the northwestern part of the Black Sea waters: three Su-30SM, five Su-27/30, two Su-24M, and two MiG-29K (from the airfields of Saki and Belbek). The monitoring of the aerial situation and command of operational- tactical aviation over the Azov Sea were conducted by the A-50U and Il-22 AWACS aircraft.
  • The “Grain Initiative” is at risk of being halted as Russia has once again blocked vessel inspections in the Bosphorus, jeopardizing the functioning of the Initiative. Since April 10, the Russian side at the Joint Coordination Center (JCC) in Istanbul has unilaterally ceased registering vessels submitted by Ukrainian ports to form an inspection plan. Instead, they create their own inspection plan and choose vessels from the queue at their discretion. This goes against the conditions of the Initiative and is unacceptable for Ukraine.
  • This is the second time in 9 months of the “Grain Initiative” operation that no inspection plan has been compiled and no vessel has been inspected, which has already reduced the volume of Ukrainian agricultural exports to world markets by 15-18 million tons due to Russian sabotage and delays under various pretexts since November 2022.
  • Since April 2023, Russian representatives at the JCC have been trying to interfere in the activities of Ukrainian ports and exporters by imposing their own criteria for determining specific vessels that will participate in the Initiative. For example, they have refused to register three vessels, two of which are bound for China, already awaiting cargo at the “Pivdenny” port without any explanation. This indicates that the Russian side is trying to establish control over the number of loaded vessels and their directions, violating the “Grain Initiative” provisions. Ukraine categorically rejects these latest demands of Russia and opposes interference in the activities of Ukrainian ports. It is seen as another attempt by Russia to dictate its policy to the world, threaten food security, and use food as a weapon.
Russian operational losses from 24.02.22 to 17.04.23

Personnel – almost 182,660 people (+590);

Tanks – 3,660 (+3);

Armored combat vehicles – 7,087 (+4);

Artillery systems – 2,804 (+9)

Multiple rocket launchers (MLRS) – 538 (0); Anti-aircraft warfare systems – 285 (+1); Vehicles and fuel tanks – 5,672 (+14); Aircraft – 308 (0);

Helicopters – 293 (0);

UAV operational and tactical level – 2,347 (+8); Intercepted cruise missiles – 911 (0);

Boats/ships – 18 (0).

Ukraine, general news
  • The international financial assistance to Ukraine in the form of loans and grants since the beginning of the war has exceeded $45 billion, according to Member of Parliament Yaroslav Zhelezniak.
  • As of April 1, 2023, there were 137,000 registered unemployed individuals in Ukraine, according to the State Employment Service. The largest proportion of the unemployed are individuals aged 35 to 44, comprising 29%, followed by those aged 45 to 55 at 28%. Among the unemployed, 43% have higher education, 36% have vocational or technical education, and 21% have general secondary education.
International diplomatic aspect

Gulagu.net, a Russian human rights project, has published a video conversation with mercenaries of the Wagner PMC, talking about the murder of Ukrainian juveniles in Bakhmut and Soledar towns of the Donetsk region. Two convicted criminals who Vladimir Putin pardoned after their “service” was over confessed to murdering as many as twenty children and juveniles, blowing up about fifty wounded POWs and the Russians who refused to fight, as well as deliberate destruction of buildings. On one occasion, a mercenary shot a 5-6-year-old girl in her head, and on another one, he “cleared” the basement of a 9-story building in Bakhmut with 300-400 civilians, including 40 children. The mercenary also admitted that the “Wagnerians” do not take prisoners and practice killing Ukrainian soldiers: “Mainly with a knife. We cut the throat. We filmed it. When Prigozhin said sledgehammer, we took a sledgehammer and killed it with a sledgehammer. This is his method. He is a terrible person.” Recently, Ukraine’s ombudsman stated that he possesses dozens of facts about Russian regular and mercenary forces beheading Ukrainian POWs or cutting their limbs and other body parts. It is common for Russians to film such atrocities. Ukraine’s Security Service published an intercept of a Russian soldier’s phone call to his wife, where he confessed that he had received and carried out orders to kill anyone he met, regardless of whether it was children, older people, or women. The wife justified his actions by saying all civilians had already left the town.

According to Mediazona, a Russian independent media outlet, their OSINT (Open Source Intelligence) project has revealed that approximately 33,000 convicted criminals are “missing” from prisons across Russia. It is believed that they may have been recruited into the Wagner PMC. Wagner PMC claims they no longer recruit criminals, but the Russian Ministry of Defense is still carry out such recruitment.

The Slovak Republic has completed the transfer of its 13 MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, as confirmed by the Slovakian Defense Minister.

While in Moscow, China’s Defense Minister Li Shangfu stated that it is his first overseas visit since taking over as defense minister, and he “specifically chose Russia for this to emphasize the special nature and strategic importance of our bilateral ties”. China is likely to step up its support for Russia’s war efforts while putting all efforts to keep it below the radars so that the West won’t impose additional export control measures or sanctions. Meanwhile, the timing of the visit, which came after the show of force by the PLA as a sign of irritation with the Taiwan President’s visit to the U.S., and Russia’s Pacific Fleet drills, is the message to the U.S., aiming to underline the decisiveness and convey the impression that the Beijing-Moscow alliance is a reality.

Former Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel was awarded the country’s highest Order of Merit, the Grand Cross, by President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Given the criticisms of her strategy towards Russia and Ukraine, it can be seen as ironic. On the one hand, she remains a popular politician in Germany. On the other hand, all-out Russia’s invasion of Ukraine proved her strategy of overdependence on Russian resources and markets wrong for Germany and Europe as a whole, while Ukraine is paying the highest price of all. Contrary to Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has admitted his mistakes, Angela Merkel believes she was right in denying a NATO Membership Action Plan for Ukraine and Georgia in 2008 and driving the Minsk process over the Russian war in Donbas. In her own words, she tried to buy Ukraine time to prepare for a possible full-scale conflict. Yet her words do not match deeds, for she was against arming Ukraine, and only after the all-out invasion the government of Olaf Scholtz abandoned the taboo on the supply of weapons for Ukraine’s self-defense.

The Department of Justice is investigating a former Navy non-commissioned officer for her role in spreading a series of leaked Pentagon documents. Right after the arrest of Jack Teixeira, a serviceman of the U.S. Air Force who leaked Pentagon’s classified documents and has strong anti- Ukrainian views, another pro-Russian Armed Forces-related person came to light. Sarah Bils was behind several pro-Russian social media accounts under the banner of “Donbass Devushka” (a lady from Donbas). She was involved in pro-Russian information warfare against Ukraine.

Russia, relevant news

Russian opposition politician and journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza have been sentenced to 25 years of imprisonment on charges of spreading “fake news” about the military, collaborating with an “undesirable” organization (specifically, the Free Russia Foundation), and “state treason.” Kara- Murza has pleaded not guilty. The politician has been in detention for about a year. His lawyers have reported that his health has deteriorated sharply during this time.

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