Espreso. Global

Russia's attempts to advance in Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia regions. Weekly military results by Serhiy Zgurets

20 April, 2024 Saturday

The most significant events on the contact line: Ukraine's Armed Forces destroyed Russian aircraft in Russia and in the temporarily occupied Dzhankoi


Destruction of Russian aircraft

To days ago, the Russian forces launched a combined missile attack on Ukrainian civilian cities, particularly targeting Dnipro and Odesa. They used Iskander cruise missiles, Shahed drones, and strategic bombers Tu-22M3, which they employ for launching Kh-22 missiles. These missiles are fast, with a range of up to 600 km, and just after these launches, it became known that one of the Russian Tu-22M3 aircraft was shot down. Initially, the Russian Federation claimed it was a technical malfunction, resulting in the aircraft crashing due to these issues. However, later on, both the Main Intelligence Directorate and the Commander of the Air Force stated that such a Russian strategic aircraft had been shot down for the first time.

Published video from the control cabin of one of the anti-aircraft missile complexes shows the strike against the Russian strategic aircraft. The Main Intelligence Directorate does not specify the exact SAM system but indicates that it's the same system and approach used in destroying the A-50. Recalling the incident when the long-range radar detection aircraft was shot down, now the Main Intelligence Directorate subtly suggests that it was the same complex used. Indeed, within a range of 300 km, the only system capable of such a distance is the S-200, with a specified range of 284 km. However, there were likely areas where Russian aircraft approached, turned, and during this moment, ambushes (a practical technique in anti-aircraft defense) launched missiles at the damaged Russian aircraft, which then likely made it to Russian territory before crashing. The aircraft had four pilots, two of whom were found, one is still missing, and one perished.

In total, the Soviet Union produced about 60 of these aircraft, and Russia had 27 in serviceable condition. The Main Intelligence Directorate now says that Russia will be afraid to fly Tu-22s into the same Odesa region. Because this aircraft was just used in these areas.

In addition to the report of the Tu-22M3 being shot down, it was mentioned that an Kh-22 missile was intercepted for the first time. Near Dnipro or Odesa, other SAM systems likely intercepted it, though the specific ones are unknown for now. We understand that modern complexes like the American Patriot or SAMP/T could potentially intercept Kh-22 missiles, but this remains speculative. Nonetheless, today marks a significant success for Ukrainian air defense, demonstrating the effectiveness of combining available systems. This combination poses an unexpected challenge for adversaries, as seen previously with the A-50 and now with the destruction of the strategic bomber Tu-22M3.

Western partners' purchases of Ukrainian weapons for the Armed Forces

The dynamics are such that the number of companies producing weapons has significantly increased, but the financial resources for procurement have not. The ZBROYARI project, where Denmark will purchase Ukrainian-made armaments for the Ukrainian Armed Forces, is based on the capabilities of our defense industry, as approved by Minister of Strategic Industries Oleksandr Kamyshin, estimated at $20 billion per year. However, Ukraine only has $6 billion allocated for procurement this year, highlighting the disparity between capabilities and financial resources. The idea proposed by the Ministry of Strategic Industries is to attract foreign companies or foreign states to allocate funds so that Ukraine can purchase weapons and equipment from its own production. This is the first such case, with Denmark allocating $28 million to this initiative, and the minister hopes that other states will follow suit. We hope this will indeed be the case.

Now there is another story that may, in my opinion, be worrying. I interviewed a representative of a drone manufacturer who revealed that they actually produced UAVs, but currently have no orders for the next year. Similarly, a number of Ukrainian companies lack guarantees for the winter due to insufficient funds in the state budget. At the same time, we have instances where we procure drones from foreign manufacturers precisely because other countries are willing to finance arms supplies to Ukraine from their own producers. We understand that the military business has various facets, and there is competition for Ukrainian funds as well as funds from foreign companies. I would prefer the government to find a balance so that more orders go to Ukrainian enterprises. Especially when it comes to drones, I am confident that they can compete in quality with the models offered by foreign companies.

Frontline situation in the Donetsk region

The two directions, one concerning the defense of Chasiv Yar and the other regarding the situation in certain areas around Avdiivka, are interconnected elements. Currently, the invading Russian army is directing its main efforts towards both of these directions. Even when we look at the dynamics of combat clashes, more than half are concentrated in these areas.

Chasiv Yar. In recent days, the situation there has been dynamic, but it seems that the Russian forces have started to stall for time and gather strength to intensify offensive actions in the near future. Currently, as before, they are trying to act in a way that allows them to advance from the north and south - from Bohdanivka and Ivanivske - along the forest tracks to approach the Siverskyi Donets-Donbas Canal. They are also preparing for frontal attacks along the road from Bakhmut to Chasiv Yar itself. These three directions remain active and challenging in terms of Russian actions.

                                                                                                                                          Photo: Espreso

The Russian military, as before, continue to use aviation, UAVs, and their advantage in artillery. If we look at the dynamics of changes in the advancement on these two fronts to the west of Bakhmut and Ivanivske, there isn't significant progress. I hope that this allows us to look with some optimism at the prospect of inflicting losses on the Russian forces and minimizing their advancement.

When we talk about the other direction, what's happening around Avdiivka, there are nuances that appear more alarming because there have been Russian advancements towards Ocheretyne and combat actions in Novokalynove over the past week. The Russian forces’ intention, as recognized by most experts, is to somehow advance towards Ocheretyne and Novokalynove, and then create a looming threat from the north over the line of combat that is currently held by Ukrainian forces.

                                                                                                                                         Photo: Espreso

We remember that after withdrawing to the west of Avdiivka, Ukrainian forces held a defensive line near the settlements of Berdychi, Semenivka, Orlivka, Umanske, Netailove. This line separates Ukrainian forces from the Russian troops with a river or other water obstacles, which complicates the Russian advance, excluding the traditional use of UAVs, aviation, and air superiority.

Now, Russians’ plan is to secure a breakthrough towards Ocheretyne, and then create pressure from the north along this defensive line, forcing Ukrainian troops to retreat further west to another prepared defensive position. Therefore, there is a significant amount of footage regarding the fighting in Ocheretyne and Novokalynove - this direction is currently extremely challenging. There have been videos showing the Russian troops advancing towards the power station in Ocheretyne, then retreating in panic, but yesterday evening, they attempted another assault, and it seems they are trying to consolidate their positions in certain areas.

In any case, these directions associated with Chasiv Yar and Avdiivka align with the political objectives of the adversary to create conditions for advancing towards the borders of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. They also carry political implications, particularly concerning the inauguration of the Russian main villain - they want to have at least some signs of progress.

Changes in the Zaporizhzhia direction

In Vuhledar, there are no significant changes, but in Robotyne and Verbovе, the Russian forces continue to attempt flank attacks as before. They enter Robotyne, where they are destroyed or repelled. This area, like others, remains extremely challenging. We understand that their goal is to level the front line and push Ukrainian troops out of the foothold that was gained by fighters during last year's offensive.

I really hope that decisions regarding American assistance will be made soon, and on the other hand, for the acceleration of ammunition supplies under the Czech initiative, because currently, there is no noticeable supply of these ammunition on the front lines. This means that procedures for purchasing and supplying critically needed ammunition are affecting the fact that the front line is currently being held due to the bravery of personnel, rather than the usual factors that sustain defenses, primarily artillery.

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