April 28, 2023
Russian forces launched a series of missile strikes against rear areas of Ukraine on the night of April 27. Ukrainian military sources confirmed that Russian forces launched 23 Kh-101/Kh-555 missiles from Tu-95 aircraft over the Caspian Sea and struck civilian infrastructure in Uman, Cherkasy Oblast; Dnipro City; and Ukrainka, Kyiv Oblast. The Ukrainian Air Force reported that Ukrainian air defense shot down 21 of 23 missiles and two UAVs. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) acknowledged the strike and claimed that the Russian aerospace forces conducted a coordinated missile strike against Ukrainian reserve deployment points and struck all intended targets. Geolocated footage shows large-scale damage to a residential building in Uman, with the death toll reaching 20 civilians, including children, as of 1700 local time on April 28.
The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) confirmed the appointment of Vice Admiral Vladimir Vorobyov as the new commander of the Baltic Fleet on April 28 following the transfer of former Baltic Fleet Commander Admiral Viktor Liina to the Pacific Fleet. Russian state media reported that the Russian MoD introduced Vorobyov as the new Baltic Fleet commander thereby confirming that Liina replaced Admiral Sergei Avakyants as Pacific Fleet command. ISW had previously reported that Liina may have been replacing Avakyants because of Pacific Fleet failures exposed during recent combat readiness exercises, and Russian officials claimed that Avakyants was moved to a new position as head of Russian military sports training and patriotic education centers after aging out of military service. Vorobyov has previously served as Chief of Staff and First Deputy Commander of both the Baltic and Northern Fleets.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on April 27 codifying conditions for the further large-scale deportation to Russia of residents of occupied areas of Ukraine. Putin signed a decree entitled “On the Peculiarities of the Legal Status of Certain Categories of Foreign Citizens and Stateless Persons in the Russian Federation” that defines those who are living in Russian-occupied territories who have declared their desire to retain their current citizenship and refuse to accept Russian passports as “foreign citizens and stateless persons currently residing in the Russian Federation.” The decree holds that such individuals may continue to reside in occupied territories until July 1, 2024, suggesting that these individuals may be subject to deportation following this date. This decree codifies coercive methods to encourage residents of occupied areas to receive Russian passports and also sets conditions for the deportation of Ukrainians who do not agree to become Russian citizens. Russian authorities are also continuing other efforts to deport Ukrainians, particularly children, to Russia under various schemes. ISW continues to assess that all lines of effort aimed at deporting Ukrainians to Russia may constitute a violation of the Geneva Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, as well as a potential deliberate ethnic cleansing campaign.
Russian Defense Minister Army General Sergei Shoigu promoted the Kremlin’s efforts to form a potential anti-Western coalition during a meeting of the defense ministers of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states in New Delhi, India. Shoigu stated on April 28 that the SCO meeting occurred against the backdrop of the establishment of a new multipolar world order, which the collective West is actively opposing. Shoigu argued that the US and its allies are provoking conflicts with Russia and China and that the West is attempting to defeat Russia and threaten China through the war in Ukraine. Shoigu invited SCO member states to participate in the 11th Moscow Conference of International Security and called on the SCO to develop a framework for exchanging military information, cooperation in joint military exercises, and the development of partnerships between the SCO and Russian-favored multilateral organizations such as the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
The Kremlin has previously identified multilateral organizations without significant Western participation as its preferred bodies for international decision making and will likely continue to use such bodies to promote Russian President Vladimir Putin’s envisioned geopolitical conflict with the West. ISW assessed that Putin tried to use Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Moscow from March 20 to 22 to promote the idea of an anti-Western Russian-Chinese-based geopolitical bloc, but that Xi rebuffed Putin’s rhetorical overtures. The Kremlin is likely aware that the attractiveness of such a bloc lies more with China’s economic and political power than with Russia’s increasingly isolated economy and degraded military capacity, which is why it likely chose the Chinese-favored SCO to promote the idea of a potential anti-Western coalition. The Kremlin is also likely attempting to secure through multilateral engagement with China desired benefits of a Chinese-Russian bilateral relationship that Putin was unable to obtain in his meeting with Xi. The Kremlin’s attempts to use the SCO to support these efforts are unlikely to be more successful than its previous efforts to rally the rest of the world against the West and convince China that Russia is a reliable and equal security partner.
Head of the Kremlin-controlled Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill of Moscow defrocked a Russian Orthodox Church protodeacon who did not support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russian Orthodox Protodeacon Andrei Kuraev posted an order dated April 28 defrocking him for “anti-church activities” signed by Patriarch Kirill. The Russian Orthodox Church had previously defrocked Kuraev in December 2020, but Patriarch Kirill imposed a moratorium on the execution of this decision to give Kuraev time to “rethink his position.” Kuraev reportedly does not support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or the Russian Orthodox Church’s support for the invasion. Russian authorities fined Kuraev 30,000 rubles for discrediting the Russian military in August 2022 after Kuraev wrote a blog post about the current war in Ukraine. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty additionally reported that Kuraev has criticized the Russian Orthodox Church’s structures and Patriarch Kirill, accusing the Russian Orthodox Church of being distant from its parishioners, bureaucratic, and inert. Kuraev’s defrocking supports ISW’s assessment that the Russian Orthodox Church is not an independent religious organization but rather an extension of the Russian state and an instrument of Russian state power. Russian forces in Ukraine have reportedly gone out of their way to punish individual Russian Orthodox priests in Ukraine who were not fully cooperative with Russian military forces.
- Russian forces launched a series of missile strikes against rear areas of Ukraine on the night of April 27.
- The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) confirmed the appointment of Vice Admiral Vladimir Vorobyov as the new commander of the Baltic Fleet following the transfer of former Baltic Fleet commander Admiral Viktor Liina to the Pacific Fleet.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree codifying conditions for the further large-scale deportation of residents of occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia.
- Russian Defense Minister Army General Sergei Shoigu promoted the Kremlin’s efforts to form a potential anti-Western coalition during a meeting of the defense ministers of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states in New Delhi, India.
- Head of the Kremlin-controlled Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill of Moscow defrocked a Russian Orthodox Church protodeacon who did not support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
- Russian forces continued ground attacks near Kreminna and have made an incremental advance northwest of Kreminna as of April 28.
- Russian forces are increasing pressure against the T0504 Kostyantynivka-Chasiv Yar-Bakhmut highway.
- Russian forces continued routine indirect fire and defensive operations in southern Ukraine.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin tasked Russian officials with developing Russia’s domestic drone industry likely as part of the Kremlin’s effort to gradually mobilize Russia’s defense industrial base (DIB).
- Russian occupation authorities continue to announce patronage programs with Russian federal subjects.