Key developments on April 12:
- Ukraine’s counteroffensive delayed, Washington Post reports
- Zelensky meets with bipartisan U.S. Senate delegation
- European officials react to decapitation video of a presumed Ukrainian POW
- Russian forces complete 120-km defense line in Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Oblast
- Ukraine repels 34 Russian attacks over April 12
Long-awaited Ukraine's counteroffensive has been delayed due to weather conditions, slow military hardware deliveries, and a low stock of ammunition, the Washington Post reported on April 12.
The recent U.S. intelligence document leaks are also complicating matters, according to the report. They delve into details about the capabilities of Ukraine’s Armed Forces and alleged weaknesses of air defense, which could make Ukrainians alter counteroffensive strategies.
A Ukrainian corporal told the newspaper that the Ukrainian military is conducting reconnaissance missions in eastern Donetsk Oblast to “test” Russian defenses. But for a full offensive to go forward, Ukraine needs more heavy equipment, armored vehicles, and training.
Freshly-mobilized Russian troops were being deployed into the Bakhmut sector in Donetsk Oblast to dig reinforcements and had done so with any material possible, “even trash,” a Ukrainian captain stationed outside of Bakhmut told the Post.
Speculation about the authenticity of the leaked intelligence documents is ongoing. (Editor’s Note: The next episode of our video podcast, “This Week in Ukraine,” will focus on the intelligence leak. Subscribe to our Youtube channel to not miss it.) Ukraine’s military intelligence said on April 7 that the supposed classified war files leaked online were forged by Russia and dismissed it as “fake.” The reports suggest, however, that the U.S. is taking the leak seriously and investigating its source.
The five-week-old documents haven’t revealed details of when, how, or where Ukraine plans to launch its counterattack. Oleksii Danilov, National Security and Defense Council Secretary, said on April 6 that “no more than five people” are filled in on Ukrainian plans for the upcoming counteroffensive.
Zelensky welcomes U.S. Senate delegation
President Volodymyr Zelensky met with the U.S. Senate bipartisan delegation, including Joseph Manchin (D-W.Va.), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) in Kyiv on April 12.
The support of both houses of the U.S. Congress, President Joe Biden’s, “and all Americans’ helped us to withstand the war unleashed by Russia,” Zelensky told the senators.
They discussed further directions of U.S. assistance and the Congressional role in this process, according to Zelensky’s presidential office.
“Continuation of such comprehensive support – defense and financial – is the guarantee of our victory over the aggressor,” Zelensky told the senators, adding that their visit is “an important signal of support for our state and the entire Ukrainian people.”
Zelensky has informed the Senate delegation of the situation at the front line.
Ukrainian authorities continue to call on allies to provide modern fighter jets to defend Ukraine’s airspace and more effectively counterattack the Russian troops on the battlefield. So far, no country has pledged to send Western-built fighter jets, though several partners of Ukraine, including the U.K., have not ruled out such a move. The U.S. has consistently ruled out the jets.
Reactions to decapitation video
A video, posted online late on April 11, appears to show a Russian fighter cutting off the head of a Ukrainian prisoner of war (POW) with a knife, while the man is screaming from pain.
It’s not yet known when and where the video was filmed. The victim hasn’t been identified. The green foliage in the video suggests that it was filmed last year.
President Zelensky blasted Russian “beasts” and called on international leaders to react to the alleged execution of a Ukrainian POW. Ukraine's Security Service launched an investigation into it.
Charles Michel, the President of the European Council, said he was “mortified by the atrocious video.”
“Accountability and justice must prevail over terror and impunity. The EU will do all possible to ensure that. The EU will continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” Michel tweeted on April 12.
The European Union's spokesperson Nabila Massrali said that the video, if its authenticity is confirmed, serves as “yet another brutal reminder about the inhumane nature of the Russian aggression.”
Executions of POWs is a breach of the Geneva Conventions and “demonstrates once more Russia's complete disregard of international law, in particular, international humanitarian law,” Massrali told reporters, as quoted by CNN.
“The EU reiterates its firm commitment to holding to account all perpetrators and accomplices of war crimes committed in connection with Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine,” added the EU spokesperson.
The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine said it was “appalled” by the “particularly gruesome videos.”
Urmas Reinsalu, Estonia’s Foreign Minister, also commented on the footage.
“Video is circulating on Twitter showing Russians beheading a Ukrainian soldier… And yet we are literally talking about the need for dialogue and competing against each other in the Olympics? What are we doing here?” Reinsalu tweeted.
The British Ambassador to Kyiv Melinda Simmons said the video “adds to the rap sheet that Russia needs to face for its crimes against Ukraine.”
“If it (the video) was designed to intimidate, it’s done the opposite,” Simmons tweeted.
The Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian media that the video was “horrible,” but added that its authenticity needed to be verified, as “we live in a world of fakes.”
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry called on the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court’s Office to “immediately pay attention to another atrocity committed by the Russian military” in the investigation of alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Russian citizens in Ukraine.
On the battlefield
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported in its 6 p.m. update on April 12 that Russian troops had continued to focus their efforts on offensives in Donetsk Oblast.
Despite the numerous losses in equipment and manpower, the Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Marinka sectors remain Russia's top assault priorities, according to the report.
Ukraine's military repelled over 34 Russian attacks in Donetsk Oblast on April 12 and hit the Russian troops 10 times with artillery , destroying one ammunition depot, and one radar station. Additionally, one Russian Orlan-10 aerial drone was downed.
Apart from Donetsk Oblast, Russian forces shelled settlements in Sumy, Chernihiv, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson oblasts on April 12, according to the report.
The most severe fighting is ongoing for the town of Marinka, where Ukraine’s military repelled 14 Russian attacks.
Russian troops continue their attempts to seize Bakhmut and Avdiivka, an industrial town some 5 kilometers north of Donetsk. Ukraine repelled 18 Russian attacks in the Bakhmut sector alone, the military said.
The military also said Russia is keeping its units close to the border in Russia’s Kursk and Belgorod regions.
Russian troops have built three lines of defensive zones across nearly 120 kilometers in the occupied parts of southeastern Zaporizhzhia Oblast in preparation for Ukraine's expected counteroffensive towards the key city of Melitopol, the U.K. Defense Ministry said on April 12 in its daily intelligence update.
However, it is unclear whether Russia can accumulate enough forces and artillery fire to support the defenses, the ministry said.
The Russian defensive zone consists of a front line with advanced combat positions and two more zones with almost continuous, more complex barricades, according to the report.
Russian forces occupied large territories of Zaporizhzhia Oblast in the first stage of the full-scale invasion. Since then, the front line in the area has been the most static due to the vast, flat, open fields that complicate the large-scale offensives.
Nevertheless, Zaporizhzhia Oblast is exactly the direction that many expect Ukraine to launch its counteroffensive in the late spring or early summer. The breakthrough in the region would have the greatest strategic importance, potentially cutting off Russia's land corridor to Crimea and isolating its presence on the occupied peninsula.