Tag: Eastern Ukraine

Russian Mass-Casualty Attack on Civilians at Kramatorsk Train Station

A Russian missile attack on Kramatorsk train station in eastern Ukraine has killed at least 50 people, likely only civilians, and wounded 100 others, on 8 April 2022. Kramatorsk hosts…

A Russian missile attack on Kramatorsk train station in eastern Ukraine has killed at least 50 people, likely only civilians, and wounded 100 others, on 8 April 2022. Kramatorsk hosts the headquarters of the Joint Force Operations (JFO), which is the Ukrainian military effort to counter the Russian occupation of Donetsk and Luhansk. After the Kremlin downsized its war aims, the JFO is bracing for a supercharged Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine. 

KEY JUDGEMENTS 

I. Russian forces used the Tochka-U short-range ballistic missile (SRBM), our analysis of the missile wreckage concludes. Russia still has some Tochka-Us in service despite claims to the contrary. Tochkas were filmed re-deploying from southern Belarus as early as 30 March 2022. In addition, Russia likely has a vast stockpile of combat-worthy Tochkas in reserve. 

II. Russia has announced that it attacked several railways nodes in eastern Ukraine on 8 April 2022, including Slavyantsk, but refused to claim the Kramatorsk missile strike. Instead, the Kremlin is pushing a false-flag disinformation campaign to shift the blame on Kyiv. 

III. The targeting of civilians might have been the sole objective of Russia’s missile strike, considering that the Kramatorsk train station is a well-known evacuation site. Violence against the enemy’s civilian population is a hallmark of Russian urban warfare. 


WEAPON USED: TOCHKA-U (SS-21 SCARAB)

1. Missile debris photographed near Kramatorsk train station is consistent with the booster section of a 9K79-1 Tochka-U (AFIC/NATO Reporting name: SS-21 Scarab) short-range ballistic missile (SRBM). Various online photos and 3D renderings can be used to compare and validate. The most notable identifiers are the lattice aerodynamic rudders on the tail section, the four fins, and the metal line.

Visual analysis based on comparison between debris photo and online 3D rendering of Tochka-U (T-Intelligence 2022)

2. The Tochka-U can carry various warheads – conventional, high explosive, fragmentation, chemical, and nuclear – with a maximum payload weight of 480 kg. With a circular error probability (CEP) of 15 meters, the Tochka-U was designed for area effect in locations where collateral damage is not a concern.

TARGET: KRAMATORSK TRAIN STATION

3. Geolocation confirms that the attack took place at Kramatorsk train station. Multiple independent comparisons of eyewitness multimedia material from the target site with online images of Kramatorsk train station provide irrefutable validation. 

Attack site cross-referenced with Google Maps imagery (T-Intelligence 2022)

4. A closer inspection of the target site shows that most of the destruction rained on the railway platform. The area includes an outdoor sitting area, where hundreds of civilians were waiting to evacuate by train.

TARGETING KEY EVAC CORRIDORS 

5. The targeting of civilians might have been the sole objective of Russia’s missile strike, considering that Kramatorsk train station is a key evacuation site. According to the city’s mayor, around 8,000 civilians have passed through Kramatorsk train station each day for the past weeks. The railway platform and outdoor seating area absorbed most of the damage; the railway remains functional. 

6. The high number of casualties and lack of a major impact crater is consistent with the damage caused by a fragmentation warhead. Tochka’s 9N123K fragmentation warhead contains 50 submunitions (type 9N24) that deploy thousands of metal shrapnel pieces in the target area. The use of fragmentation submunition would also explain the steady rise in the death toll – initial reports said 27 killed, but the estimate went up to over 50 in several hours. 

7. Targeting Kramatorks train station to reduce its logistical potential or destroy a military shipment might have been a secondary objective. If that was the case, the Russian military would have most likely fitted the Tochka-U with a conventional high explosive warhead and concentrated the strike on the railways. Even in the unlikely hypothesis that the infrastructure was the main target, the Russian Tochka-U units showed severe and inexcusable disregard for the heavy civilian presence at Kramatorsk train station attempting to evacuate. 

MISSILE LAUNCH SITE: RUSSIAN CONTROLLED TERRITORY 

8. Several videos are circulating on social media show missile launches that might be related to the Kramatorsk attack.

9. Preliminary geolocations put the approximate launch near Shakhatersk inside Russian-held territory. The distance from the estimated launch site to Kramatorks is 109 km, which falls within Tochka’s maximum engagement range.

RUSSIA ANNOUNCED ATTACKS ON TRAIN STATIONS IN EASTERN UKRAINE

10. On the morning of 8 April 2022, the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced on Telegram that it had conducted missile strikes that “destroyed weapons and military equipment of the Ukrainian military reserves arriving in Donbass at Pokrovsk, Slavyansk and Barvenkovo railway stations.” Interestingly, the strike on Kramatorsk, the sister city of Slovyansk, was omitted. 

ANNA NEWS CONFIRMED THE KRAMATORSK TRAIN STATION ATTACK (THEN DELETED IT)

11. ANNA News, a known Russian disinformation outlet, quickly confirmed the Kramatorsk missile attack on Telegram, and claimed based on “verified information” that a Ukrainian military train was the intended target.  After news broke out that dozens of civilians died in the attack, ANNA News deleted the Telegram announcement. Luckily enough, many users managed to screenshot the post before it disappeared. 

DON’T CALL IT A COMEBACK: TOCHKA-Us STILL IN SERVICE WITH RUSSIAN MILITARY

12. Despite official denials by Moscow, the Russian military still uses Tochka-U SRBMs. Some Tochkas probably never left service, while others were re-operationalized to preserve the Iskander SRBM stockpiles. 

SPOTTED IN BELARUS

13. On 30 March 2022, footage posted on social media showed Tochka-U tractor erector launchers (TELs) with the Russian identification marking “V” on railcars stopped at a train station in Voevoda village, Belarus. The Voevoda rail stop is 20 km southeast of Gomel and 30 km from the Ukrainian border. Geolocation confirms the event and puts the train at 52°18’31.5″N 31°12’32.0″E. The original source, TikTok user “@_taiger_Z”, uploaded the video on 30 March 2022 (archived).

a frame collage showing Tochka-Us on railcars in southern Belarus (T-Intelligence)

14. According to Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT), who checked railcar databases, the Tochka-Us were rushed to Belgorod in Russia (40 km from Kharkiv, Ukraine). The end destination suggests a likely redeployment amidst Russia’s planned focus on eastern Ukraine as part of its downsized war plans. 

15. Before 31 March, a V-marked convoy, including eight vehicles consistent with Tochka-U TELs and transloaders, was filmed moving along the M10 highway from Rechitsa to Gomel. Defense blog also featured this video in an article marking the return of Tochka-Us to active service with the Russian military. The exact date of this video could not be established, but it is possible that it was filmed on the morning of 30 March, as the uploader claims. 

16. Historical weather data indicates that it snowed in Gomel between 08:30 and 10:30 on 30 March, with temperatures between -1 and 3 Celsius. In Rechitsa, the temperature was lower, ranging from -2 to -4 degrees. Optical satellite imagery could not be obtained for verification due to cloud cover. It is also possible that the video was filmed in late February, during or after the Russian-Belarussian exercises that Moscow used as cover for its deployment north of Kyiv. 

Historical weather forecast for Gomel and Rechitsa (Belarus) on 30 March 2022

47th MISSILE BRIGADE LIKELY STILL USES TOCHKAS

17. Russia’s 47th Missile Brigade (Southern Military District/MD), based in Korenovsk, was still using Tochkas in 2021, according to CIT. The 47th has only received Iskander SRBMs in January 2022, and as the CIT analysts argue, the unit likely continues to field Tochkas as a stopgap measure until full operational capability of the Iskanders is achieved. The Donbas is the Southern MD’s area of responsibility. 


18. Hundreds of Russian Tochka-U SRBMs are likely kept in reserve and can be swiftly re-operationalized. The vast majority of Russian missile brigades retired their Tochka-U systems between 2010 and 2019 when they received the new generation of operational-tactical Iskander missiles. This means that most Tochkas have not been disabled and remain functional – most militaries allow for several years to pass until they start destroying retired equipment. 


by HARM

editing by Gecko

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Russia’s Military Build-Up near Ukraine (II): Troops from Siberia, Snap Drills in Crimea, and More Convoys

The Russian Federation’s military build-up near Ukraine is expanding, drawing forces from the Central Military District and escalating as thousands of snap exercises take place throughout the country.  Social media…

The Russian Federation’s military build-up near Ukraine is expanding, drawing forces from the Central Military District and escalating as thousands of snap exercises take place throughout the country. 

Social media users have continued to capture scores of rail flatbeds hauling main battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, rocket launchers, fuel trucks, and even air defenses. 

Sequel to our initial report, here is T-Intell’s breakdown of the most noteworthy open-source information from 2-7 April 2021:


1. Probably the most noteworthy development is the deployment of units from the Central Military District (CMD) towards the Ukrainian border. Russia typically moves and parades units from the Southern Military District and Western Military District if it wants to “bear scare” Ukraine and the West. 

However, this week, Conflict Intelligence Team (CITEAM) observed BMPs, MLRS, and other vehicles moving west from Yurga and Novosibirsk (Siberia) on railways. 

Many vehicles’ license plates, which indicate the unit’s origin, have been partially covered to preserve some degree of operations security during the cross-theatre movement. 

It is unusual for CMD units to deploy so far from “home” except for strategic exercises. This development sets the recent troop build-up apart from past “bear scares.” 

2. Russia ordered all of its forces to conduct readiness inspections. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, a total of 4048 exercises of various scales will take place during April, including 812 bilateral exercises, at 101 training grounds and 520 facilities of the training and material base. Checks will take place in all military districts, and all types and branches of troops will take part in them.

One such snap exercise took place in Opuk training range, Crimean peninsula. Over 200 troops from the 810th Naval Infantry Brigade (Black Sea Fleet) simulated an operation to capture a beachhead. Ground forces assaulted enemy positions using BTR-82s armored personnel carriers and Mi-8AM and Ka-27 helicopters. 

3. Enter the battle-hardened “Pskov paratroopers.” Train markings seen in a TikTok video suggest that Russia has instructed one of its most experienced units, the 104th Guards Air Assault Regiment, to join the build-up – CITEAM has found. Based in Cheryokva and part of the 76th Guard Air Assault Division, the 104th is a unit known for having fought and sustained heavy casualties in Eastern Ukraine. The forward-positioning of this echelon adds further credibility to Russia’s build-up. 

4. Advanced air defenses spotted on flatbed railcars, ready for deployment. A video shows a Pantsir S-1 (AFIC/NATO reporting name: SA-22 Greyhound) and numerous S-300 tractor erector launchers (SA-20B Gargoyle) without their missile tubes in an unidentified railway terminal – reportedly Voronezh. This deployment was probably connected with the snap air defense exercise in the Ashuluk training range on 6 April.

Video frame collage showing Pantsir and S-300 systems

5. Russia continues to amass a diverse and increasingly credible posture. The hardware spotted on the move in the past three days include (but are not limited to): 

  • T-90 main battle tanks (moving from Makhachkala to Crimea); 
  • T-72 main battle tanks and BMP-3 infantry fight vehicles (Kropotkin train station, Krasnodar); 
  • 2S4 Tyulpan 240mm self-propelled mortar system (Krasnodar)
  • Tunguska anti-air artillery (on the move M1 highway); 
  • MT-LB armored personnel carriers (Voronezh region);
  • Towed howitzer, likely 2A65 Msta-B (Klintsy, Bryansk region);
  • 2S23 self-propelled artillery, 
  • TOS-1 thermobaric rocket launchers (Voronezh region).

6. Despite multiple social media claims, large-scale fighting has not reignited in Donbas. However, there has been a spike in ceasefire violations. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission (SSM) recorded 1,424 ceasefire violations in the Donetsk region between 2-5 April. In the previous reporting period (2-3 April), the mission recorded 594 ceasefire violations. In Luhansk, the SMM recorded 126 ceasefire violations, a slight decrease from the 427 violations noticed in the previous reporting cycle. 

Visualisation of ceasefire violations in Eastern Ukraine © OSCE SSM

In addition, the SSM also noted the disappearance of seven multiple launch rocket systems (BM-21 Grad, 122mm) and five towed howitzers (2A65 Msta-B, 152mm) from a warehouse in the non-government-controlled Luhansk region on 1 April 2021. The report specifically mentions that this is the first time these heavy weapons have disappeared. 

7. The Russian-backed “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DPR) has announced military conscription for citizens born 1994 – 2003. Signed on 25 March, the DPR plans to implement the draft between 1 April 2021 and 5 July 2022. Despite the symbolic timing, DPR only expects to mobilize around 200 conscripts. Conscription campaigns are likely to continue and, in time, increase in scope.  

PRELIMINARY ASSESSMENT

What initially seemed like another annual “bear scare” – Russia’s typical postures ahead of negotiations – has now turned into a credible threat for a renewed offensive against Ukraine. This reading is based on logistical and military indicators that measure capability for an invasion, not the intention – which is political. 

Russia’s intentions remain unclear, and our confidence levels for large-scale conventional operations against Ukraine are low to moderate. We maintain our assessment that Russia aims to posture and intimidate. However, given the forces’ heightened readiness and hardware deployed, this can change at any moment. 


by HARM

special credits to @GirkinGirkin for aggregating a vast amount of media material from Russian-language accounts

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