April 17, 2024

Institute for the Study of War: Ukraine strikes Russian military airfield on occupied Crimea and other aviation targets in Russia proper

Institute for the Study of War

Ukrainian forces struck a Russian military airfield in occupied Dzhankoi, Crimea, overnight on April 16 to 17. Geolocated footage posted on April 16 shows explosions at the airfield in Dzhankoi, where the Russian 39th Separate Helicopter Regiment (27th Composite Aviation Division, 4th Air Force and Air Defense Army, Southern Military District) is based. The Atesh Crimean partisan movement reported that its agents confirmed that the strike destroyed a S-400 missile system at the airfield, and severely damaged several other unspecified vehicles. Ukrainian sources posted an image reportedly showing three destroyed S-400 launchers following the strike. Russian forces have deployed Mi-8, Mi-25M, Mi-28, and Ka-52 helicopters to the Dzhankoi Air Base, although ISW has not yet observed visual evidence of damage to any helicopters as a result of the April 16 strike. A prominent Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces used around 12 MGM-140 ATACMS missiles to strike the airfield. ISW cannot independently confirm at this time the type of ordinance Ukrainian forces used in this strike, nor the extent of damage the strike caused. Ukrainian Southern Operational Command Spokesperson Colonel Nataliya Humenyuk noted, however, that the military airfield and affiliated aviation assets are legitimate military targets, tacitly acknowledging the strike. Russian combat and transport helicopters have provided Russian forces with distinct offensive and defensive battlefield advantages, particularly in southern Ukraine, and are legitimate military targets. Ukrainian forces have previously conducted ATACMS strikes against Russian military helicopters at airbases in Berdyansk, Zaporizhia Oblast and Luhansk City, Luhansk Oblast in 2023.

Ukraine’s Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reportedly targeted Russian aviation assets in the Republic of Mordovia, the Republic of Tatarstan, and Samara Oblast on April 17. GUR sources told Ukrainian outlet Suspilne on April 17 that GUR agents targeted a S9B6 “Container” over-the-horizon radar station at the base of the 590th Separate Radio Engineering Unit in Kovylkino, Mordovia, but did not specify how the GUR conducted the strike or whether the strike successfully damaged the radar station. The “Container” radar station reportedly has a 3,000-kilometer detection range and 100-kilometer detection height and is over 680 kilometers from the Ukrainian border. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian air defense destroyed a Ukrainian drone over Mordovia, which if accurate, could explain the lack of footage showing the aftermath of a strike in Kovylkino. Ukrainian special services sources additionally told Ukrainian outlet RBK-Ukraine on April 17 that the GUR also targeted the Gorbunov aviation plant in Kazan, Republic of Tatarstan. Geolocated footage shows that Russian air defense likely downed at least one Ukrainian drone near the Shahed-136/131 drone production plant near Yelabuga, Tatarstan. The GUR also cryptically stated on April 17 that unspecified actors destroyed a Russian Mi-8 helicopter at the Kryaz airfield in Samara Oblast and posted footage of a fire at the airfield, suggesting that the GUR may have also been responsible for a strike in Samara Oblast. Ukrainian strikes against Russian aviation assets in occupied Crimea, as well as within Russia, appear to represent a fairly coordinated and wide-reaching series of strikes specifically targeting Russian aviation, air defense, and radar detection capabilities.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukrainian forces struck a Russian military airfield in occupied Dzhankoi, Crimea, overnight on April 16 to 17.
  • Ukraine’s Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reportedly targeted Russian aviation assets in the Republic of Mordovia, the Republic of Tatarstan, and Samara Oblast on April 17.
  • Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov officially confirmed on April 17 that Russian peacekeeping forces began their anticipated withdrawal from Nagorno-Karabakh, as Russian sources largely blamed Armenian leadership for Azerbaijan’s seizure of Nagorno-Karabakh amid Armenia’s continued efforts to distance itself from political and security relations with Russia.
  • The Georgian parliament approved a bill in its first reading similar to Russia’s “foreign agents” law on April 17, which Russian state media seized on to further Kremlin efforts to amplify reports of political discord in Western and former Soviet states.
  • US President Joe Biden warned that Russia and its partners pose an increasing threat to NATO and stressed that US security assistance to Ukraine can address the Russian threat.
  • The US House of Representatives filed a supplemental appropriations bill on April 17 that would provide roughly $60 billion of assistance to Ukraine, and will reportedly vote on the measure on April 20.
  • Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Avdiivka and Donetsk City.
  • The Kremlin-controlled Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) is preparing a special training course for ROC clergy deployed to combat zones in Ukraine.

For full report:  https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-april-17-2024 

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