Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy with troops near the frontline city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, March 22, 2023
Map: Institute for the Study of War
UPDATE 1645 GMT:
Ukraine electricity provider Ukrenergo says power has been fully restored throughout the country after Russian missile strikes more than three weeks ago.
All restrictions on consumption, which were introduced in Kyiv region, Zhytomyr region, and Kharkiv region, due to equipment damage during a massive enemy missile attack on March 9 have been lifted.
Russia launched 95 missiles on March 9, of which 34 were downed. The interception rate was relatively low, compared to the 17 other Russian waves since October 10, because “the armed forces of Ukraine do not have means capable of destroying Kh-22 and Kh-47 ‘Kinzhal’ and S-300 [missiles].”
UPDATE 0958 GMT:
Russian shelling has killed at least six civilians and wounded eight in Kostiantynivka in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine.
The attack damaged 16 apartment buildings, eight private houses, a school, and an administrative building.
Kostiantynivka is 20 km (12.5 miles) west of the frontline city of Bakhmut.
Three people were killed and six more were injured. pic.twitter.com/XkWvLM5woA
— NEXTA (@nexta_tv) April 2, 2023
UPDATE 0753 GMT:
Ukraine State security service SBU has charged a cleric of the Moscow-linked Ukrainian Orthodox Church with fomenting religious enmity and both justifying and denying Russian armed aggression against Ukraine.
Metropolitan Pavlo (Petro Lebid) is the former Prior of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery. On Saturday, a court ordered him to remain under 24-hour house arrest, wearing an electronic bracelet. The cleric can still conduct services and communicate with parishioners.
The Moscow-Patriarchate Ukrainian Church, which had been under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church, declared in May 2022 that it formally cut ties.
But the SBU alleges that Lebid repeatedly insulted the religious feelings of Ukrainians, belittled the views of believers of other denominations, and tried to foster hostile attitudes towards them in his public speeches.
SBU head Vasyl Maliuk said, “The law and the responsibility for its violation are the same for everyone, and a cassock does not always guarantee pure intentions. Today, the enemy is trying to use the church circles to promote its propaganda and split Ukrainian society.”
Lebid told reporters after the hearing, “I haven’t done anything. I believe this is a political order.”
He complained about his accommodation, “There is nothing to sleep on, no heat and no light. There is no kitchen, no spoon. But it’s okay, I’ll endure it all.”
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Russia has missed its deadline of April 1 to capture the Donbas — the area across the Donetsk and Luhansk regions — in eastern Ukraine.
Russian forces and their Ukrainian proxies have occupied part of the Donbas — an abbreviation of “Donets Coal Basin” — since 2014. After Vladimir Putin’s invasion failed to capture Kyiv and topple the Zelenskiy Government in its opening phase, with Russian forces withdrawing from northern Ukraine, establishing full control of the Donbas became a priority.
Last July, the Russian assault succeeded in seizing all of Luhansk. However, that was the invasion’s last major advance, as Ukraine’s autumn counter-offensive liberated territory in the northeast and south of the country.
On December 22, Russia’s Chief of General Staff, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, said forces were focusing most of their efforts on seizing the Donetsk region. Operations escalated with a winter offensive in early February.
But the “human wave” attacks of Russia’s Wagner mercenaries still could not complete the 10-month attempt to seize the city of Bakhmut. An offensive to the south, near Vuhledar, ended in disaster with the loss of about 130 armored vehicles and the decimation of entire brigades. To the north, operations toward Kupyansk, Svatove, and Kreminna have made little progress.
New: Russian, Ukrainian, and Western sources observed that the Russian winter offensive has failed to achieve the Kremlin’s goals of seizing all of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts by March 31.
— ISW (@TheStudyofWar) April 2, 2023
UK military intelligence summarized on Saturday:
Eighty days [after Gen. Gerasimov took personal command of the invasion], it is increasingly apparent that this project has failed.
On several axes along the Donbas front, Russian forces have made only marginal gains at the cost of tens of thousands of casualties, largely squandering its temporary advantage in personnel gained from the autumn’s partial mobilisation.
The analysts conclude that after his 10 years as Chief of General Staff, “There is a realistic possibility that Gerasimov is pushing the limits of how far Russia’s political leadership will tolerate failure.”
Growing Concern in Russia
Russian military bloggers are now expressing concern that the offensive may fail to complete its Donbas takeover between Orthodox Easter on April 16 and Soviet Labor Day on May 9.
But the deputy head of the Russian National Guard in the Donetsk region, Alexander Khodakovsky, said Russia needs to shift to defensive positions. He claimed that this is also the position of Army Gen. Sergey Surovikin, a former commander of the invasion.
Khodakovsky said unnamed commanders may be continuing the offensive for personal reasons rather than taking a rational approach to the issue — a possible implication that Gerasimov is persisting to retain favor with Vladimir Putin.
On Saturday, Russia’s Wagner mercenaries did not make any confirmed gain in or around Bakhmut. Offensive operations continued near Avdiivka, about 90 km (56 miles) to the south, and there were limited ground attacks towards Svatove and Kreminna to the north.