May 12, 2023

Sitrep for May 11–12 (as of 9:00 a.m.)

The Situation on the Frontline

On May 11, at a press conference in Kyiv, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated that Ukraine needs more time to prepare a counteroffensive as the AFU have to wait for the arrival of all the promised equipment.

However, on the evening of May 11, several Russian military correspondents immediately reported that the Ukrainian counteroffensive had begun, but these reports were later refuted. Russian propagandist and war correspondent of Komsomolskaya Pravda Aleksandr Kots claimed in his Telegram channel that Ukrainian tanks were already driving along the Kharkiv bypass road towards the Russian-Ukrainian border, allegedly to attack the flanks in the Svatove and Bakhmut directions. A few hours later, he reported that there was no active progress in the Orikhiv direction and in the area of Huliaipole.

VGTRK [All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company] military correspondent Yevgeny Poddubny reported that Ukrainian troops began to encircle Russian forces in the Bakhmut direction and broke through RuAF positions in the area of Soledar, which, in his opinion, marked the beginning of the counteroffensive. Later, he also corrected himself and explained that combat activities had slightly intensified, but everything was calm on the southern axis.

Pro-Russian journalist Semyon Pegov (a.k.a. WarGonzo) agreed with Poddubny's post about the start of the counteroffensive: according to his sources, the AFU have made successful local attacks in the area of Mayorsk.

“DPR” military correspondent Vladislav Ugolny reported about the concentration of Ukrainian boats in the area of the Dnipro river and the upcoming landing operation but later called his post a demonstrative misinformation. Yet the Russia Today pro-Kremlin channel had already reported about the upcoming AFU landing operation.

Anastasia Kashevarova [pro-Russian propagandist and supply volunteer] made an excuse for military correspondents. In her opinion, there was no misinformation in their reports, but the readers got into a panic. The military activity of the AFU did increase in some areas ahead of a major offensive, which had been prepared for a long time; the fighting is still going on, but there have been no major breakthroughs yet.

The Russian Ministry of Defense was forced to issue an official denial of any breakthroughs on the frontline, clarifying that fighting continues in the Bakhmut and Donetsk directions.

Finnish analyst Emil Kastehelmi from the Black Bird Group has marked Ukrainian counterattacks on the map in the Klischiivka area, as well as in the Khromove area, where the enemy was pushed back 600 meters from the road leading out of Bakhmut. In addition, the map shows Ukrainian forces advancing in the Bohdanivka area.

These counterattacks are confirmed by OSINT analyst Def Mon, who also marked local offensive actions towards Soledar on the map.

CNN, citing Western military sources, reports that the Ukrainian Armed Forces have begun "shaping" operations in advance of a counteroffensive. We have seen this before the start of previous Ukrainian counteroffensives: strikes on ammunition depots, bridge demolitions, and local offensive actions are standard tactics before major combined operations.

Video has appeared showing Cobra II armored vehicles of Turkish production, which have come into the possession of Ukrainian forces. We have noticed that the vehicles are raising a lot of dust, which suggests that the muddy season has ended.

Yevgeny Prigozhin [Russian oligarch, confidant of Vladimir Putin, and the owner of the Wagner Group] reported that the Wagner Group had taken control of another 220 square meters in the west of Bakhmut (note that this is a very small area) over the past 24 hours. At the same time, he previously announced an advance of 55 thousand meters, which is absolutely implausible (perhaps he meant square meters).

According to the Mayor of Sloviansk, Russian forces hit the city with S-300 air defense system missiles. Multi-storey residential buildings, cars and single-family houses were damaged. As a result of the strike on a single-family house, a female local resident was injured and later died. This strike is a war crime.

The discussion on the interception of a Kh47M2 Kinzhal missile by a Patriot SAM system, which we covered earlier, continues. The FighterBomber Telegram channel [associated with the Russian Air and Space Force], which had previously claimed that judging by the photos of the debris it was definitely not a Kinzhal, admitted that the photo showed a warhead, which is located inside of Kinzhal’s body and has a shape distinct from it. At the same time, the channel still doubts Patriot’s capacity of intercepting such missiles.

We examined the photos of a T-54B tank with two "chicken coops" [cope cages] mounted on its turret somewhere on the frontline in Ukraine. The author of the tweet mistakenly labeled it as a T-55 tank, but the mushroom-like air intake on the turret proves it to be a T-54.

One of the Russian servicemen shed some light on the use of T-54 tanks in the current invasion. According to him, a month ago, up to a company (10 vehicles) of T-54/55 tanks were assigned to a howitzer division; their crews were manned by tank operators and artillerymen and trained within a week. In the southern directions, these tanks are used as self-propelled guns, employing indirect fire (as we indicated earlier, this is typical for both sides in this war).

Deliveries of Western Military Equipment

United Kingdom's Secretary of State for Defense Ben Wallace confirmed the shipment of an undisclosed number of Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Ukraine. These missiles come in various modifications with a range of up to 500 kilometers. Presumably, Ukraine has been provided with an "export" modification with a flight range of 250–290 kilometers. It is not yet clear how these air-launched missiles will be launched: one option is to refit Mikoyan MiG-29 aircraft for them. If Ukraine is able to use missiles of this range, it will turn the tide of the war.

Secretary Wallace also stated that all pledged Challenger 2 tanks had already arrived in Ukraine.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced that Abrams tanks would arrive in Ukraine in early fall. At the moment, the infrastructure for their supply and maintenance is being established, since these tanks are equipped with gas turbine engines and other complex systems. We previously reported that Germany had got several Abrams tanks to train Ukrainian crews.

There is a tendency among Russian officials who face responsibility for criminal offenses to sign up as volunteer fighters and go to the frontline. In 2022, member of the Ryazan Regional Duma [regional parliament] Nikita Usachyov was found guilty in a criminal case of large-scale fraud, but the decision was later appealed. On May 11, 2023, an appeal hearing was to be held, but two days before the trial, Usachyov decided to go to the war as a volunteer fighter. Earlier, Rustyam Abushaev, the Mayor of the town of Bolshoy Kamen, Primorsky region, who was wanted for fraud, went to the war in a similar way.

Four months ago, Dmitry Shevchenko, a Ukrainian blacksmith who hosts a popular blog on Youtube, published a video in which he sawed a tube of a Russian 2A72 cannon of a BTR-82A armored personnel carrier into pieces to make tanto knives. In the process, he noticed that the tube was 11mm thick on one side and 8mm thick on the other. An uneven tube will heat and expand unevenly during firing, resulting in an unpredictable direction of firing 一 this is a factory defect that should not have passed military quality control. When pro-Kremlin blogger Rostislav Mokrenko pointed this out, pro-Kremlin bots raided his blog’s comments.

The Financial Times published an investigation detailing the circumvention of sanctions imposed on Russia. Over $1 billion worth of goods sent from the European Union to Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan were “lost” while transiting through Russia. According to the reporter’s calculations, about half of the dual-use goods shipped from the EU in 2022 "evaporated" in this manner. By listing fictitious destinations on EU customs declarations, Russia was able to circumvent sanctions and retain access to key European goods, including aircraft components, optical equipment and gas turbines.

CIT volunteers analyzed the military vehicles displayed at the May 9 [WW2 Victory Day] parades in different cities. Comparing this year with the previous two, we see that the decline in the number of vehicles continues. 2009 vehicles were displayed at the parades in 2021, 1275 in 2022, and only 912 in 2023. Despite the fact that only one tank was present in the Moscow parade, in other cities we counted 43 units (last year it was 71). The number of air defense systems has significantly decreased (67 versus 137).

It is notable that parades were canceled in many cities this year, which is the reason for the decrease in the total number of vehicles. Despite the fact that there were few military vehicles displayed in Moscow, tanks, S-400 missile systems, and other combat vehicles took part in the parades in other regions. Note that it is incorrect to estimate the amount of military vehicles remaining at the disposal of pro-Russian forces based on the Moscow parade.