Ukrainian forces strike deep into Kherson Oblast with cross-Dnipro raids
Prigozhin admitted that the Armed Forces of Ukraine are underestimated in Russia (on the photo are servicemen of the 22nd separate mechanized brigade) (Photo:Operational Command “South”)
The Russian military is changing tactics due to missile shortages, while the Ukrainian army is conducting raids across the Dnipro in southern Ukraine, U.S. think tank the Institute for the Study of War or ISW wrote in their March 23 assessment.
Meanwhile, the latest statements by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of Russia’s Wagner mercenary company, is contradicting Russian propaganda about the war, the ISW wrote.
Russian forces may be shifting their missile strike tactics to focus on Ukrainian military facilities as overall Russian missile strikes decrease, indicating the depletion of Russia’s stocks of high-precision missiles.
Ukrainian Main Directorate of Intelligence or HUR representative Vadym Skibitskyi has stated that during the winter, the Kremlin failed to destroy the Ukrainian energy system, ISW reported.
“Therefore, the Russians will now somewhat redirect the directions of strikes,” Skibitskyi said.
“It could be both military facilities and concentrations of troops, as well as the logistics system of our (military) groups,” he said. HUR estimates that Russia’s current high-precision weapon stockpile is equivalent to only 15% of what it was on Feb. 24, 2022.
ISW underscored the following facts from HUR:
- Russia’s higher-end Kalibr, Kh-101, and Kh-555 cruise missiles comprise less than 10 percent of Russia’s total remaining stocks.
- Russian forces cannot conduct missile attacks more than twice a month – due to the growing need to conserve missiles.
- Russia’s defense industrial base can produce only produce 20 to 30 Kalibr and Kh-101 cruise missiles per month, and even fewer Iskander ballistic missiles.
This data is consistent with previous ISW estimates that Russian forces are depleting their missile arsenal and this may limit the frequency and intensity of Russian missile strikes.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces continue to conduct raids over the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast, striking Russian positions on the east (left) bank of the river. ISW draws attention to geolocation-verified combat footage published on March 20 showing the occupiers attempting to strike Ukrainian forces operating in the southeast of Great Potemkin Island near Kherson. And on March 23, a geolocated video of fighting shows Ukrainian drones striking Russian positions near Vynrozsadnyk (district of the city of Oleshka) on the left bank of the Dnipro River.
ISW also said the leader of Russia’s Wagner mercenaries, Yevgeny Prigozhin, gave a 23-minute interview in which, on the one hand, he softened his rhetoric towards the Russian Ministry of Defense (possibly due to fear of losing support for his forces in Bakhmut), while on the other hand making a number of critical statements about Russia’s underestimation of the power of the Ukrainian.
Prigozhin expressed concern about a possible Ukrainian counterattack in eastern Ukraine, claiming that Ukraine allegedly has 80,000 troops in Bakhmut and reserves of 200,000, who are being concentrated for an offensive (according to Prigozhin, it will be an offensive across the entire eastern front, in Belgorod Oblast of Russia and in Bakhmut).
ISW noted that Prigozhin’s exaggerated statements are likely an attempt to get additional support and weapons from the Russian Ministry of Defense to save his forces in Bakhmut.
There were rare “positive” statements by Prigozhin about the Russian Ministry of Defense (in particular, the owner of Wagner PMC acknowledged that the regular Russian army is fighting together with Chechen units in Bilohorivka, Luhansk Oblast;also, unexpectedly, Prigozhin supported not only recruitment to Wagner, but also recruitment efforts of “volunteers” by the Ministry of Defense).
The softening of Prigozhin’s rhetoric may indicate a desire to “appease” the Russian Ministry of Defense in order to support his PMC, according to analysts at the Institute.
Prigozhin also denied Kremlin and Russian propaganda claims that Russia is supposedly at war in Ukraine “with NATO” and “with Nazis.” Prigozhin said Russia is only fighting with Ukrainians who are equipped with NATO-provided equipment and volunteers who support Ukraine, but not with NATO itself.
Prigozhin also criticized the goals of “denazification” and “demilitarization” of Ukraine and called on Russian military personnel and media to stop underestimating the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Thus, ISW analysts said that Prigozhin had rejected Kremlin’s claims that the war in Ukraine is protecting Russia from NATO threats, and refuted the necessity and achievability of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s maximalist goals for invading Ukraine.
ISW reported that the International Atomic Energy Agency or IAEA has issued a warning that Russian nuclear power company Rosatom may strengthen its control over Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZAPP) by restoring three transmission lines.
IAEA Director General Raphael Grossi saidRussian NPP workers were trained at ZNPP with experienced personnel, raising concerns about Russia’s intentions. Russia claims that the training is intended to ensure there is sufficient personnel in the event of a shortage. Previously, ISW reported on Russia’s attempts to gain control of ZNPP using Rosatom management and personnel to force recognition of Russian control of the nuclear power station – the largest one in Europe.
- Bloomberg reported that Prigozhin is preparing to scale back Wagner’s operations in Ukraine due to the loss of crucial supplies of personnel and ammunition by Russian military leadership. While Prigozhin has denied the report, ISW reminds that “Putin has completely abandoned Prigozhin after Wagner’s failure to capture Bakhmut.”
- HUR spokesperson Vadym Skibitskyi confirmed previous ISW assessments that Russian forces are unable to conduct large-scale offensives on multiple fronts simultaneously.
- Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin outlined various measures to support Russian military personnel, the Russian defense industrial base (DIB), and Russian “independence from the West” in an address to the State Duma.
- Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks northeast of Kupyansk and along the Svatove-Kreminna line in Luhansk Oblast.
- Russian forces are continuing to attack Bakhmut and areas in its vicinity, and around Avdiyivka.
- The Kremlin continues efforts to coerce Russian reservists, conscripts, and other personnel into contract service.
- Russian forces in Belarus recently redeployed back to Russia ahead of Russia’s spring conscription call-up on April 1.
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