May 18, 2023

Sitrep for May 17–18 (as of 09:00 a.m.)

Strikes on the Territory of Ukraine

On the afternoon of May 17, Russian forces hit the village of Zelenivka in the Kherson region. As a result of a strike on the area near a store, three people were killed and several more were injured.

On the night of May 18, as a result of the RuAF missile attack, an industrial facility in Odesa was damaged; one person was killed, and two more were injured.

On the morning of May 18, another attack on Kyiv reportedly was successfully repelled by the Ukrainian air defense, but fragments of missiles fell on the city. According to preliminary data, there were no victims.

The Situation on the Frontline

Pro-Wagner military correspondent Aleksandr Simonov posted a map of Bakhmut marking that the RuAF had lost a number of positions in the area of Klishchiivka. This means that Ukrainian forces keep advancing south of the T0504 road leading through Ivanivske to Kostiantynivka. Russian forces are striking at the bridge in Ivanivske in order to make it difficult to supply the AFU along this route.

The Financial Times correspondent Christopher Miller compared satellite images of Bakhmut for May 8, 2022 and May 15, 2023. Both these images and photos posted by the pro-Wagner Telegram channel show that the town was almost completely destroyed in a year (as well as e.g. the town of Popasna). After liberation, it will have to be rebuilt if the Ukrainian authorities make such a decision.

It is likely that in the near future offensive operations may intensify in the most probable areas: in the area of Klishchiivka and the Berkhivka Reservoir, in order to further encircle the pro-Russian grouping in Bakhmut. It is impossible to predict whether the RuAF will replace the Wagner Group mercenaries in positions in the town, but we highly doubt such a scenario. If Yevgeny Prigozhin [Russian oligarch, confidant of Vladimir Putin and the owner of the Wagner Group] decides to arbitrarily leave these positions, it will entail negative consequences for himself and for the entire Wagner Group.

The local successes of Ukrainian forces on the flanks of Bakhmut may be due to the fact that the RuAF units holding positions there largely consist of poorly motivated and poorly trained mobilized soldiers, as well as due to the disunity of the Russian command.

The Alleged Interception of Six Kinzhal Missiles on the Night of May 16

We should remember that at first, the Russian Defense Ministry said it did not fire such a great number of these missiles at once, but later it reported that one Patriot radar station and five Patriot launchers were destroyed as a result of the Kinzhal missile attack (so if these particular missiles supposedly reached their targets, then at least six were launched).

CNN quoted US official sources saying that a Patriot radar station was not damaged, but two "components" of the system were hit (it is unclear which ones). The damage was so insignificant that the system did not need to be removed from the territory of Ukraine for repair and did not even need to be turned off.

On Jan. 6, 2023, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov cited Ukrainian intelligence estimates that Russia had 43 Kinzhal missiles at the start of the full-scale invasion, and by early 2023 it had managed to produce another 20 missiles, but 10 missiles had been spent (that is, there were 53 missiles at the beginning of January this year). At the moment, according to Reznikov, Russia has 73 Kinzhals left. It turns out (if Ukrainian intelligence is correct) that 27 missiles were produced during those months (about 7 missiles per month). Even if we assume that the Ukrainian side exaggerated the number of the downed Kinzhals, the situation is still disadvantageous for Russia because, as far as we know, no significant damage has been inflicted on the enemy with these missiles so far.

Jeffrey Lewis, a professor who served as the State Department's national security advisor and researched Patriot capabilities in various wars, published a thread in which he expressed his views on these air defense systems. He said that during the Gulf War (1990–1991), Patriot systems were claimed to have intercepted nearly all Iraqi missiles of the SCUD family, but later, the US Army revised its estimate 一 only about half were probably intercepted, and only a quarter could be reliably assessed. The ensuing investigation showed that even this estimate may have been exaggerated. Similarly, Saudi claims that all Iranian missiles launched from Yemen during the conflict in 2018 were shot down have not been confirmed.

It is important to note that during the Gulf War, the version of the Patriot system was designed to intercept fighter jets among other targets, and not long-range ballistic missiles. A Patriot PAC-3 upgrade, which is more suitable for such targets, was developed later, and is the one that is used in Kyiv. Lewis does not believe that these systems will significantly improve the security of Ukraine (as we said yesterday, this was not a "wonder weapon"), but he does not doubt their ability to shoot down Russian hypersonic missiles.

Deliveries of Western Military Equipment

A video was published showing a trawl carrying a Bradley infantry fighting vehicle towards the frontline, reportedly in the Donetsk region. We consider this to be another indirect sign of the imminent start of the counteroffensive, along with Storm Shadow missile strikes on Russian command posts and the downing of four aircraft in the Bryansk region.

President of Poland Andrzej Duda said that his country has shipped "almost all" Mikoyan MiG-29 fighters it had to Ukraine, but is not yet ready to provide F-16s (a week ago it was reported that 14 MiG-29 aircraft had been supplied).

Photos have appeared clearly confirming that the Armed Forces of Ukraine have at their disposal M483A1 155mm cluster shells manufactured by the Turkish company MKE (Makine Kimya Endüstri). Note that neither Ukraine nor Russia have ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions, so usage of this type of ammunition against military facilities outside a city is not considered a war crime. We do not know the explosive effectiveness of submunitions in these Turkish shells and therefore how much of them may remain undetonated after initial use, turning into de facto landmines.

President of Turkey Recep Tayip Erdogan said that despite Russia's threats to block the agreement on the export of Ukrainian agricultural products, the "grain deal" has been extended for 60 days. Later, confirmation came from Russia’s Foreign Ministry. Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine Oleksandr Kubrakov also confirmed that grain exports have been extended until July 18.

Photos have surfaced of a Soviet-era AZP S-60 57mm anti-aircraft gun mounted on the chassis of a Soviet-era BTS-4 armored tractor in service with the Russian Army.

Head of Russia's Ministry of Finance Maksut Shadayev stated that the unified register of Russians subject to military service (necessary so that digital draft notices come into operation) "will be launched quickly" by the fall draft campaign, that is, around October 2023. However, his words contradict the draft government decree published in early May. The document outlines three stages of the register's introduction. From Jul. 1 to Dec. 31, 2023, it is proposed to create the database itself, in 2024 — to put the register into operation, and only from 2025 — to start full-fledged use of the system. We allow the early start of the use of digital draft notices, even if, according to some documents, they should not have legal force.

Members of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation have submitted to the State Duma a draft law providing for the introduction of a one-percent fee to bills in restaurants, bars and nightclubs. It is proposed to channel the collected money to the Defenders of the Fatherland fund to support the families of citizens fighting in the war with Ukraine. The fund was created at the instruction of Vladimir Putin.

According to the source of the Ostorozhno, Novosti [Beware the news] Telegram channel, the infectious diseases hospital in the village of Voronovskoye (New Moscow), which had initially been built for coronavirus patients, was repurposed to treat wounded troops, including ex-convicts from the Wagner Group. The personnel are transferred from Moscow hospitals; all sign a non-disclosure agreement. There are several security checks at the entrance to confirm each visitor’s identity.