Institute for the Study of War, More on the false flag attack Russia is said to be preparing for Moldova, Ukraine’s western neighbor

April 27, 2022

Russian forces made minor but steady advances both from Izyum and in continued assaults along the line of contact in eastern Ukraine on April 27. Russian forces took several small towns directly west of Izyum in the past 24 hours. While this line of advance takes Russian forces away from their main objective of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, they likely intend to outflank Ukrainian defensive positions on the highways to Barvinkove and Slovyansk. Russian forces made several small advances in eastern Ukraine; Russia’s increasing concentration of artillery assets is likely enabling these tactical advances. Russian forces are advancing methodically in several sectors but have achieved no notable breakthroughs. The capability of Russian forces to encircle large groups of Ukrainian forces remains in doubt.

 

The Kremlin continued to prepare for a likely false-flag missile attack against the Moldovan territory of Transnistria, which is illegally occupied by Russian forces. Russian proxies in Transnistria falsely claimed Ukrainian forces are preparing to attack Transnistria, and Ukrainian intelligence reported Russian forces are preparing to conduct a missile strike on Transnistria and blame Ukraine. Russian and Transnistrian forces also increased their readiness for possible operations in the last 24 hours. Russia may intend to involve Transnistria in the war in Ukraine to utilize Transnistria’s (limited) reserve forces or to launch attacks and shell Ukraine from Transnistrian territory. The Kremlin may alternatively seek to destabilize Moldova itself to raise tensions in Moldova and neighboring Romania and put additional pressure on NATO, possibly seeking to reduce Western military support to Ukraine either by diverting NATO forces to Romania or threatening a wider escalation.

 

Russian forces are stepping up “filtration measures” in occupied territories and abducting Ukrainian citizens, likely for use in future prisoner exchanges. Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported on April 27 that Russian forces are conducting large-scale “filtration measures” in Kharkiv, Zaporizhia, Kherson, Mykolaiv, Luhansk, and Donetsk Oblasts.[1] The “filtration” targets men of military age, former military and law enforcement personnel, and pro-Ukrainian activists for interrogation, torture, and possible execution. The GUR reported Russian forces are additionally shipping Ukrainian hostages to Crimea to “replenish the exchange fund,” seeking to exchange Ukrainian civilians for Russian military prisoners in future prisoner swaps. The GUR additionally speculated that Russian forces may be preparing to use Ukrainian civilians to portray Prisoners of War in May 9th Victory Day celebrations, noting that Russian forces conducted similar propaganda efforts in Donetsk in 2014.

 

Ukrainian forces likely conducted drone or possibly missile strikes on Russian logistics centers in Belgorod and Voronezh on April 27. Russian sources and social media reported multiple explosions early on April 27, which Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Mikhail Podolyak later euphemistically confirmed were Ukrainian strikes, stating Russian cities cannot “sit out” the invasion of Ukraine and “the disarmament of the Belgorod-Voronezh warehouses is a natural process.”[2] Ukrainian forces will likely conduct further cross-border strikes to disrupt Russian logistics, which the Kremlin will likely falsely frame as an escalation or somehow a war crime.

 

Key Takeaways

  • Concentrated artillery is likely enabling limited Russian advances in eastern Ukraine, though Russian forces continue to struggle to break through prepared Ukrainian defenses.

  • Russian forces funneled additional reinforcements and tactical missile units into the Izyum front and made minor advances. Russian forces are likely attempting to bypass Ukrainian forces on the road to Barvinkove by advancing directly west before pivoting southwards in the coming days.

  • Heavy Russian bombardment and continued assaults failed to make headway against Ukrainian defenders in Mariupol’s Azovstal plant, even as Russian forces reportedly prepared to stage a press tour in the occupied areas of the city on April 28.

  • Russian forces around Kherson are likely preparing for a renewed push to capture the entirety of Kherson Oblast in the coming days but Ukrainian counterattacks continue to disrupt Russian operations in the area.

  • Russian occupation forces continued preparations to announce the creation of a Russian proxy “Kherson People’s Republic” (KNR) amid widespread Ukrainian resistance.

  • The Kremlin may be preparing to either bring Transnistria into the war in Ukraine or destabilize Moldova itself to put additional pressure on NATO.

 

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.