April 21, 2023
Russian forces used a new delivery of Shahed drones to strike Ukraine for the third consecutive day, targeting Kyiv for the first time in 25 days. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces launched 26 drones on April 20, of which Ukrainian forces shot down 21 and 12 drones on April 21, of which Ukrainian forces shot down eight. Russian forces targeted Kyiv, Odesa, Poltava, Vinnytsia, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia, Kharkiv, and Chernihiv oblasts overnight on April 19 to 20 and 20 to 21. The Kyiv City Military Administration reported no damage from the strikes in Kyiv. Head of the Ukrainian Joint Coordination Press Center of the Southern Forces Nataliya Humenyuk stated on April 20 that Russian forces waited until a new shipment of Shahed drones arrived to use them for further strikes and noted that Russian use of missiles has also decreased.
Commander of the Russian Baltic Sea Fleet Admiral Viktor Liina reportedly assumed command of the Russian Pacific Fleet on April 21 following the completion of Russian drills in the Pacific on April 20. Kremlin newswire TASS, citing an unnamed source, reported that Liina replaced Admiral Sergei Avakyants who had commanded the Russian Pacific Fleet since 2012. Unofficial reports of Liina’s appointments coincide with the Russian Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) announcement that the Pacific Fleet and elements of the Russian Aerospace Forces completed drills in the Pacific under the supervision of Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov. The Russian MoD may have named Yevmenov as the supervisor for these drills following milblogger and nationalist discourse about Avakyants’ abrupt termination amidst the combat readiness checks. ISW previously assessed that Avakyants’ dismissal may have been a result of his inability to recreate pre-war, large scale Pacific Fleet combat readiness checks due to the Pacific Fleet’s significant combat losses in Ukraine.
A Russian fighter-bomber accidentally bombed Belgorod on April 20. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced on April 20 that a Russian Su-34 bomber accidentally dropped a bomb while flying over Belgorod City. The explosion left a crater with a 20-meter (65-foot) radius in the southern part of the city and injured three civilians. The cause of the accidental bombing remains unclear, as does the reason for flying an armed bomber over a populated city. Russian milbloggers did not react to the bombing with the same vitriolic anger they often use with Russian battlefield failures. One milblogger compared the accidental bombing to the Su-34 crash in Yeysk, Krasnodar Krai, in October 2022, claiming that Belgorod residents should be thankful that the bomb did not hit a residential building. Another milblogger expressed appreciation for the MoD taking responsibility for the accident and characterized the act as an atypical sign of health in the MoD. A Rossiya-1 broadcaster, speaking about the event, stated that “modern military equipment allows Russian units to eliminate extremists in the special operation zone from a minimal distance”– likely an error that indicates confusion in Russian state media on how to frame the accident in the information space.
The Angry Patriots Club accused Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin of supporting efforts to freeze the war in Ukraine. Former Russian officer and ardent nationalist Igor Girkin and his Angry Patriots Club posed 40 direct questions addressed towards the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the Russian military command about Russia’s conduct of the war in Ukraine, foreign affairs, and domestic power struggles. Girkin asked why Russian authorities are not arresting Prigozhin for his “direct calls” to freeze the war at the current frontlines, which Girkin characterized as calls to “violate the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.” Girkin notably mentioned Prigozhin when asking who was responsible for Russian withdrawal from Kherson Oblast – an operation overseen by Wagner-affiliated former Commander of the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine at that time Army General Sergey Surovikin. Girkin and Prigozhin have a long-standing feud – likely as a result of competition for patronage – and Girkin’s accusations against Prigozhin may be an attempt to discredit his rival.
- Russian forces used a new delivery of Shahed drones to strike Ukraine for the third consecutive day, targeting Kyiv for the first time in 25 days.
- Commander of the Russian Baltic Sea Fleet Admiral Viktor Liina reportedly assumed command of the Russian Pacific Fleet following the completion of Russian drills in the Pacific.
- A Russian fighter-bomber accidentally bombed Belgorod on April 20.
- The Angry Patriots Club accused Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin of supporting efforts to freeze the war in Ukraine.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law aimed at supporting the Kremlin’s ongoing efforts to set conditions for domestic crackdowns and the removal of officials who have fallen out of favor.
- Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line.
- Russian forces continued to advance in and around Bakhmut, although Russian forces have not completed a turning movement around the city.
- Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Avdiivka-Donetsk front and conducted a limited ground attack in western Donetsk Oblast.
- Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces have established positions on the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast.
- Russian federal subjects are forming new cross-regional volunteer formations to support the ongoing force generation campaigns.
- Russian authorities are expanding the logistics capabilities and security measures on the Arabat Spit likely to prepare for a possible Ukrainian counteroffensive.