Thu. Dec 7th, 2023

Content Assessment: Weaponizing Religion? Russo-Ukrainian War Update (April 4 - 10, 2023)

Information - 93%
Insight - 92%
Relevance - 92%
Objectivity - 91%
Authority - 93%



A short percentage-based assessment of the qualitative benefit of the post highlighting the recent Ukraine conflict assessments in maps from the Institute for the Study of War.

Editor’s Note: The discipline of eDiscovery, which involves the identification, preservation, and analysis of electronic data, is increasingly being used in investigations and litigation relating to war crimes. In the case of the Russo-Ukrainian War, eDiscovery tools and techniques can be used to identify and collect electronic evidence of war crimes, such as emails, social media posts, and other digital communications that may provide valuable insights into the actions of individuals and organizations involved in the conflict. This evidence can then be used in investigations and legal proceedings to hold perpetrators of war crimes accountable for their actions. Additionally, eDiscovery can help to efficiently and effectively manage the vast amount of electronic evidence that may be relevant to war crimes cases, allowing investigators and legal teams to quickly and accurately analyze the data to identify key pieces of information. This weekly update may be useful for cybersecurity, information governance, and legal discovery professionals as they consider investigations and litigation resulting from war crimes committed during the war.

Background Note: One of the most accurate and detailed sources for ongoing updates on the Ukraine crisis is the Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment from the Institute for the Study of War. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a 501(c)(3) organization and produces strictly non-partisan, non-ideological, fact-based research. ISW seeks to promote an informed understanding of war and military affairs through comprehensive, independent, and accessible open-source research and analysis. ISW’s research is made available to the general public, military practitioners, policymakers, and media members. Providing a daily synthesis of key events related to the Russian aggression against Ukraine, ISW updates may benefit investigators and litigators as they follow the business, information technology, and legal trends and trajectories impacted by and stemming from the current Russo-Ukrainian conflict.

Assessment and Maps*

Russo-Ukrainian Conflict Assessments – An Overview in Maps

General Assessment Background Info 

  • ISW systematically publishes Russian campaign assessments that include maps highlighting the assessed control of terrain in Ukraine and main Russian maneuver axes.
  • These maps augment daily synthetic products that cover key events related to renewed Russian aggression against Ukraine.

The Russian Offensive Campaign Assessments

  • April 10, 2023
  • By Kateryna Stepanenko, Karolina Hird, Grace Mappes, Nicole Wolkov, Layne Philipson, and Frederick W. Kagan

Key Development

  • Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin is reportedly advancing his political aspirations by seeking to gain control of a Russian political party.

Key Takeaways

  • Putin may be unable to satisfy the role of a patron to loyalist figures to the same extent as he had been able to before the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
  • The Russian Foreign Ministry (MFA) directly responded to Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s criticisms of its agenda at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), marking the first time that a Russian government institution has formally responded to Prigozhin’s criticism.
  • The Russian Foreign Ministry (MFA) attack on Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin is a continuation of the Kremlin’s efforts to discredit and undermine Prigozhin.
  • Russian milbloggers adamantly decried the charging of Russian military doctor and “Union of Donbas Volunteers” member Yuri Yevich for “discrediting the Russian armed forces,” suggesting that the broad applications of this new law will likely be a growing source of discontent in the pro-war information space.
  • The Russian State Duma will consider an amendment to the Russian Criminal Code increasing criminal penalties for high treason and terrorist activities on April 13.
  • Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu met with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk, Belarus, on April 10.
  • Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks along the Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Russian forces continued to make territorial gains in and around Bakhmut, and continued ground attacks on the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
  • Russian forces continued defensive preparations in Kherson and Zaporizhia oblasts.
  • Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin criticized Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) prisoner recruitment efforts, likely in an effort to advertise ongoing Wagner volunteer recruitment campaigns.
  • Wagner forces are reportedly continuing to commit war crimes by beheading Ukrainian servicemen in Bakhmut.
  • Russian officials and occupation authorities continue to deport children to Russia under the guise of medical, rehabilitation, and voluntary evacuation schemes.

Read the complete update.

  • April 9, 2023
  • By George Barros, Kateryna Stepanenko with Noel Mikkelsen, Thomas Bergeron, Daniel Mealie, Will Kielm, and Mitchell Belcher

Key Development

  • Russia continues to weaponize religion in an effort to discredit Ukraine in the international arena and is using information operations about religion to advance military objectives despite itself committing gross violations of religious freedom in occupied Ukraine. Russia may use the upcoming Orthodox Easter holiday on April 16 in an effort to delay Ukrainian counteroffensives by calling for a ceasefire out of respect for the Orthodox religion despite the fact that Russia has shown no such respect for religion in areas its forces occupy. Russian religious persecutions are likely also part of an ongoing Russian cultural genocide and ethnic cleansing campaign aimed at extirpating the idea of an independent Ukrainian nationality or Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian occupation authorities are likely conducting a campaign of systematic religious persecution in occupied Ukraine.
  • Russian authorities systematically repress religious liberty in Russia as a matter of state policy.
  • Russian occupation officials have been repressing Ukrainian religious communities in proxy republics in eastern Ukraine and in illegally occupied Crimea since 2014.
  • Moscow’s religious persecution campaign seeks to eradicate the Autocephalous (independent) Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU), which Moscow views as schismatic despite the decision by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople in 2019 granting the Ukrainian Orthodox Church its independence from the Moscow Patriarchate.
  • Russian occupation forces have also targeted other denominations that are distinctly culturally Ukrainian.
  • Russia’s campaign also represses Ukraine’s Protestant minority.
  • Witness reports indicate that Russian soldiers’ conduct towards Protestants in occupied Ukraine is brutal.
  • Russia’s systematic religious persecution supports a larger Russian campaign of cultural genocide against Ukraine.
  • The Kremlin continues an information operation aimed at falsely portraying Russia as a religiously tolerant state while deliberately repressing religious freedoms in Ukraine.
  • The UOC MP is not an independent religious organization but rather an extension of the Russian state and an instrument of Russian hybrid warfare.
  • Russia will continue to weaponize the UOC MP and religion to incite social tensions in Ukraine and influence battlefield realities.

Read the complete update.

  • April 8, 2023
  • By Karolina Hird, Kateryna Stepanenko, Riley Bailey, Angela Howard, Nicole Wolkov, and Frederick W. Kagan

Key Development

  • Ukrainian and Russian sources discussed the decreased rate of Russian offensive operations along the entire frontline on April 8, supporting ISW’s assessment that the overall Russian offensive is approaching culmination.

Key Takeaways

  • The dynamics of battlefield artillery usage in Ukraine reflect the fact that Russian forces are using artillery to offset their degraded offensive capabilities.
  • Former Russian officer and ardent nationalist Igor Girkin launched a new effort likely aimed at protecting the influence the Russian pro-war faction within the Kremlin.
  • The “Club of Angry Patriot’s” reveals several key implications about the Kremlin dynamics and the perceived danger to Putin’s regime.
  • Girkin may be advancing the political goals of unnamed figures within Russian power structures possibly within the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB).
  • Russian nationalists seized on assassinated Russian milblogger Maxim Fomin’s funeral to promote pro-war narratives.
  • Russia’s missile campaign to degrade Ukraine’s unified energy infrastructure has failed definitively, and Russia appears to have abandoned the effort.
  • The Kremlin is likely intensifying legal punishments for terrorism-related crimes as part of a larger effort to promote self-censorship and establish legal conditions for intensified domestic repressions.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) may be setting conditions for a false flag attack in Sumy Oblast.
  • Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks along the Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Russian forces have continued to make gains around Bakhmut, and tensions between the Wagner Group and conventional Russian forces over responsibility for tactical gains in Bakhmut appear to be intensifying.
  • Russian sources continued to speculate about the planned Ukrainian counteroffensive in southern Ukraine, including hypothesizing about the possibility of a Ukrainian amphibious landing across the Kakhovka Reservoir.
  • The Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) on April 6 proposed a defense industrial base (DIB) deregulation reform that could expedite defense production but will more likely facilitate corruption and embezzlement.
  • Ukrainian officials reported that 31 children returned to Ukraine after having been deported to Russia as Russian officials continue to discuss the adoption of Ukrainian children into Russian families.

Read the complete update.

  • April 7, 2023
  • By Riley Bailey, George Barros, Nicole Wolkov, Layne Philipson, Karolina Hird, and Frederick W. Kagan

Key Development

  • Russian milbloggers responded with speculative anxiety to reportedly leaked (and possibly altered) classified US military documents about the war in Ukraine, indicating continued fear over the prospect of future Ukrainian counteroffensives in the Russian information space.

Key Takeaways

  • The Kremlin continues to indicate that it is not interested in legitimate negotiations while placing the onus for negotiations on the West.
  • A Ukrainian official reported that Russian aviation units are changing tactics, possibly as a result of aviation losses and depleted stocks of high-precision weapons.
  • High-ranking Russian officials reportedly can only leave Russia with permission from Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin.
  • Former Russian officer and prominent critical milblogger Igor Girkin revealed on April 7 that a volunteer battalion that he previously promoted is essentially a sham.
  • Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks along the Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Russian forces continued advancing in and around Bakhmut and continued ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City frontline.
  • Russian forces continue to build defenses in occupied Zaporizhia and Kherson oblasts.
  • Russian officials continue measures to support Russia’s ongoing spring conscription cycle amid continued crypto-mobilization efforts.
  • Russian occupation officials are accelerating passportization efforts in occupied Ukraine.

Read the complete update.

  • April 6, 2023
  • By Karolina Hird, Riley Bailey, Angela Howard, Grace Mappes, Layne Philipson, and Mason Clark

Key Development

  • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Moscow on April 5 and 6 to discuss further Union State integration, with Putin likely focused on strengthening Russian economic control over Belarus.

Key Takeaways

  • Lukashenko delivered boilerplate rhetoric that continues to indicate that he has no intention of involving Belarus further in Russia’s war effort.
  • Russian commanders are reportedly constructing specialized company-size units within key frontline formations engaged in urban combat to reinforce the diminished combat effectiveness of most Russian units.
  • Russian forces will likely deploy these “Storm Z” units along the Avdiivka–Donetsk City frontline.
  • China continues to rhetorically downplay its support for Russia and demonstrate that there are limits to the declared “no limits” Russian–Chinese partnership, but it will not be a true neutral arbiter in the war.
  • Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Russian forces continued ground attacks in and around Bakhmut and along the Avdiivka–Donetsk City line.
  • Ukrainian officials indicated that Russian forces are able to maintain a suitable rate of artillery fire in prioritized areas of the front at the expense of other sectors.
  • Russian forces may have withdrawn equipment from occupied Crimea for redeployment elsewhere in southern Ukraine out of fear of a Ukrainian counteroffensive.
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu visited Russian Defense Industrial Base (DIB) enterprises in Nizhny Novgorod Oblast to monitor the implementation of state defense orders.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin held one-on-one meetings with Russian occupation authorities.

Read the complete update.

  • April 5, 2023
  • By Kateryna Stepanenko, Karolina Hird, Riley Bailey, Grace Mappes, Layne Philipson, and Mason Clark

Key Development

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that Ukrainian forces will withdraw from Bakhmut to avoid encirclement if necessary, but do not yet assess the need to do so.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin framed Russia’s efforts to consolidate control of occupied territories of Ukraine as a matter of internal security and rule of law during a meeting with the Russian National Security Council.
  • Putin also attempted to portray Russia as a respected world power against the backdrop of Chinese officials downplaying close relations with Russia.
  • Putin dismissed Colonel-General Nikolai Grechushkin from his post as Deputy Head of the Ministry of Emergency Situations on April 5.
  • Russian and Ukrainian forces continued to engage in positional battles along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Russian forces likely made gains in and around Bakhmut and continued offensive operations along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City frontline.
  • Russian businessmen may be assuming a larger role in supporting the Russian MoD’s efforts to form irregular volunteer formations.
  • Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova continues to deny international allegations that Russia is forcibly deporting Ukrainian children to Russia.

Read the complete update.

  • April 4, 2023
  • By Riley Bailey, George Barros, Kateryna Stepanenko, Nicole Wolkov, Angela Howard, and Mason Clark

Key Development

  • The Kremlin will likely attempt to coerce Belarus into further Union State integration when Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko meet in Moscow on April 5 and 6.

Key Takeaways

  • The Kremlin continues to attempt to employ nuclear threats to deter Western military aid provisions to Ukraine ahead of Ukraine’s planned counteroffensive.
  • Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s demonstrative response to the assassination of Russian milblogger Maxim Fomin indicates that Prigozhin likely believes that the attack was in part directed at himself.
  • The Kremlin continues to attempt to (falsely) reassure the Russian public that the war in Ukraine will not have significant long-term economic consequences.
  • The Kremlin is likely trying to shift more responsibility for growing Russian industry onto regional bodies to insulate itself from possible criticism about Russia’s deteriorating economic situation.
  • Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks along the Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations in and around Bakhmut, and along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City frontline.
  • Russian forces continue to prepare for a rumored pending Ukrainian counteroffensive in the southern direction.
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed that Russia’s ongoing spring conscription cycle is going according to plan, progressing as quickly as planned, and has completed initial military registration.
  • Russian occupation officials denied Ukrainian reports that Russian occupation authorities are preparing evacuation plans from occupied regions of Ukraine.
  • Belarusian state media claimed that the Belarusian State Security Committee (KGB) reportedly arrested two men under the suspicion of attempted terrorist attacks in Grodno.

Read the complete update.

We do not report in detail on Russian war crimes because those activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We will continue to evaluate and report on the effects of these criminal activities on the Ukrainian military and population and specifically on combat in Ukrainian urban areas. We utterly condemn these Russian violations of the laws of armed conflict, Geneva Conventions, and humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

Chronology of Maps from April 4-10, 2023  – Mouseover to Scroll

Ukraine Conflict Maps - 040423 - 041023

See the Institute for the Study of War Interactive Map of the Russian Invasion
Read the latest Ukraine Conflict updates from the Institute for the Study of War 

* Shared with direct express permission from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

About the Institute for the Study of War Research Methodology

ISW’s research methodology relies on both primary and secondary sources, enabling researchers to develop a comprehensive understanding of the situation on the ground. In order to analyze military and political developments in any given area, ISW’s research analysts must wholly understand the systems of enemy and friendly forces. They must also understand the population demographics, physical terrain, politics, and history of that area. This lays the analytical foundation for understanding the reasons for particular developments and fulfilling their assigned research objectives. ISW analysts also spend time in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in order to gain a better understanding of the security and political situation and to evaluate the implementation of current strategies and policies. Our researchers compile data and analyze trends, producing a granular analysis of developments in areas of research, producing an accurate, high-resolution, timely, and thorough picture of the situation. ISW’s research methodology guarantees its success and commitment to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations, achieve strategic objectives, and respond to emerging problems that may require the use of American military power.

About the Institute for the Study of War

The Institute for the Study of War advances an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education. We are committed to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve U.S. strategic objectives. ISW is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization.

Learn more, get involved, and contribute today.

Additional Reading

Source: ComplexDiscovery


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