May 16, 2023

Sitrep for May 15–16 (as of 8:30 a.m.)

Strikes on the Territory of Ukraine

On May 15, as a result of the RuAF strike on Nikopol, three people were injured. According to Head of the Dnipropetrovsk Regional Military Administration Serhiy Lysak, about 30 munitions hit the city. As a result, a farm building and an infrastructure facility caught fire, and 14 five-story residential buildings and 7 single-family houses were also damaged. It is unclear what type of weapon was used.

On the night of May 16, there were reports on work of air defense in Kyiv. Missile fragments were recorded to have fallen in Obolonskyi, Darnitskyi, and Solomenskyi districts. Three people were injured in the Solomenskyi district. According to Head of the Kyiv City Military Administration Serhiy Popko, Kyiv was attacked with the maximum number of missiles within the shortest period of time, but the vast majority of them were shot down.

Moreover, on the night of May 16, Russian forces hit residential areas of Kherson with thermite incendiary munitions again (we remind you that it is a war crime).

On May 15, as a result of an explosion in a barbershop in Luhansk, seven people were injured (later one of them died) including the former interim head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the "LPR" Ihor Kornet. It is still unclear whether it was a grenade explosion (which is unlikely, judging by the scale of destruction) or an IED explosion, but there are certainly no traces of a strike in the available photographs, so something must have exploded from the inside (the windows were smashed out).

On May 15, as a result of a strike on temporarily occupied Yasynuvata in the Donetsk region, one person was killed, and another one was wounded. One of the shells hit a multi-storey residential building at Shkolnaya Street, 34, piercing the wall of an apartment, but did not explode so the residents were not injured. Based on the entry hole and the geolocation of the building, we established that the shell was fired from the northwest, where Ukrainian positions are located. Such a shelling is a war crime.

Satellite images of a storage facility containing Soviet air-dropped bombs in the Khmelnytskyi region have emerged, showing the site after it was struck on May 13. By comparing the images before and after the strike, it can be seen that the facility was completely destroyed in the explosion.

The Situation on the Frontline

Pro-Russian Telegram channels report that the Armed Forces of Ukraine managed to push back Russian forces to the southwest of Ivanivske, thereby further securing the road from Bakhmut to Kostiantynivka.

A video has surfaced showing Ukrainian forces adjusting artillery fire on a building located on the western outskirts of Bakhmut. This indicates that the Wagner Group has made significant advances in Bakhmut recently.

Visual evidence has been published confirming that the territory of the former Luhansk Higher Military Aviation School of Navigators was hit with Storm Shadow missiles on May 15. Additionally, residents of Kramatorsk reported an aircraft launching a missile (or a decoy target) the same morning. It appears that Ukraine has received an ample supply of those missiles and there is no need for the AFU to use them sparingly.

Russian Aircraft Crash in the Bryansk Region

Authorities in the Bryansk region have asked local residents to assist in the search for the body of the second pilot from the crashed aircraft (the type was not specified) by providing boats and swamp boots to the search teams.

Belarus's Alyaksandr Lukashenka visited the Central Command Post of the Belarusian Air Force and Air Defense Forces, and while explaining the introduction of a high alert regime, he stated that four aircraft were shot down in the Bryansk region.

The Astra independent media outlet found an obituary for one of the dead pilots, Captain Maksim Savchenko, and restored the timeline of events (refuting yesterday's statement made by a pro-Russian Telegram channel that all aircraft had been shot down within a few minutes):

  • emergency services of the Bryansk region received the first message about an aircraft crash at noon. At that time, a Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jet crashed in Suretsky Muravey village, and the body of a pilot was found at the crash site;
  • at 12:20 p.m., a helicopter crashed in Klintsy, later the bodies of three pilots were found there;
  • at 12:30 p.m. in Istrovka village, Starodubsky district, a Sukhoi Su-34 fighter-bomber crashed; remains of a pilot were also found there;
  • at the same time, a second Mil Mi-8 helicopter crashed a few kilometers from Volkustichi village, Unechsky district, and the bodies of three crew members were found there.

In our opinion, the fact that the aircraft were shot down within half an hour almost completely disproves the version of friendly fire.

On the morning of May 16, the Podslushano. Klintsy [Overheard. Klintsy] Telegram channel published a video on which the sounds of drones flying in the Bryansk region were heard, and the interception of one of them was recorded.

Deliveries of Western Military Equipment

As far as we know, Zelenskyy's European tour, during which he met President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Germany, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in the UK, and President Emmanuel Macron in France, is nearly over. These meetings resulted in announcements of additional military aid for Ukraine.

France has promised to supply Ukraine with long-range missiles (probably Storm Shadow missiles, which are called SCALP-EGs in France), as well as to equip several Ukrainian battalions with dozens of armored vehicles, including AMX-10RC armored fighting vehicles.

The UK will provide Ukraine with hundreds of air-defense missiles (at the moment, the Ukrainian Armed Forces are in dire need of them), as well as long-range kamikaze drones.

The transfer of Western fighter jets to Ukraine is still not considered, but a spokesman for the British Prime Minister said that the UK would begin basic training of Ukrainian pilots this summer, while working with other countries on the issue of transferring F-16 jets. Macron also announced that France could start training Ukrainian pilots. It is not known what type of aircraft they will be trained on (probably, F-16 fighters are meant, which, however, are not in service with either the UK or France). According to the BBC, the Ukrainian side does not express a desire to receive British aircraft at the moment.

Ben Wallace, the UK defense secretary, said that Great Britain would continue to provide military assistance to Ukraine so that other Western countries would not be tempted to force the Kyiv authorities to make concessions in order to achieve peace. We consider this important as there are concerns that if Ukraine does not achieve significant success in the counteroffensive, then the level of support will fall.

The SAMP/T air defense missile system arrived in Ukraine, which Italy and France had previously promised to deliver.

The first obituary of a former convict from the Irkutsk region, recruited by the Russian Ministry of Defense to the Shtorm Z [Storm Z] unit, appeared. In 2020, he was found guilty of murdering two people with a weight and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

In Rostov-on-Don, a member of the United Russia party [Putin’s ruling party] solemnly unveiled a "hero's desk" in his honor. Maxim Gelas allegedly served in the infantry in the "LPR" for three months, returned home, received the medal "For Courage" and continued to work as a legislator. We doubt that he really was at the frontline: there have already been a few cases when members of regional parliaments supposedly fought, but in reality just were present somewhere in the "special military operation" zone having their pictures taken while wearing uniforms and holding firearms, and shortly after returning home.

The Washington Post published material based on one of the leaked Pentagon documents alleging that Yevgeny Prigozhin [Russian oligarch, confidant of Vladimir Putin, and the owner of the Wagner Group] was in contact with the Main Directorate of Intelligence of Ukraine. The newspaper’s sources in Ukraine confirmed the fact of such communication, which is not surprising at all taking into account regular prisoner of war swaps between the Wagner Group and the Ukrainian side which may be conducted only after prior negotiations (according to our information, exchanges are indeed fall under the jurisdiction of the Main Directorate of Intelligence).

The document claims that Prigozhin flew to one of the African countries for a meeting with Directorate officers, where he allegedly offered to disclose Russian troop positions in exchange for a Ukrainian pullback in Bakhmut. The Ukrainian side rejected the offer because they did not trust Prigozhin.

Based on open data, we were unable to detect a flight of a business jet affiliated with Prigozhin towards Africa. Without intelligence clearance, we cannot confirm whether such an offer took place, but we consider it doubtful, since we see no sense for Prigozhin to make such a deal. Had such an offer been accepted, it is not clear how the Wagner Group's further advance could have been carried out (we doubt that similar requests to leave Sloviansk and Kramatorsk would work).

We also believe that Ukrainian intelligence does not lack information about the location of Russian troops on Ukrainian territory, given the abundance of data transmitted by Western intelligence, satellite imagery, and pro-Ukrainian locals. However, it is possible that such an offer might have been made for the purpose of disinformation or as a provocation on the part of Prigozhin.

Note that part of the information in those leaked documents came from unreliable sources. We have not yet seen independent confirmation of this story.

In response to the publication, Prigozhin at first laughed it off, saying that he was still in Africa with Kyrylo Budanov [chief of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of Ukraine], and later stated that he had not visited the continent at least since the beginning of the "special military operation" and called the published information "speculation."

Volodymyr Zelenskyy also declined to comment on the document, saying that it was a matter of military intelligence and that he was not entitled to divulge state secrets.

A strange video appeared, showing a drone dropping a grenade on Russian soldiers. We find it suspicious and the soldiers' behavior atypical: they do not run away after the explosion, but stay where they are and remove a helmet and weapon from a wounded man without fear of a second grenade drop.