dispatches
May 24

Sitrep for May 22-24, 2024 (as of 9 a.m. UTC+3) 

Frontline Situation Update

The Russian Ministry of Defense continues to claim new territorial gains without providing any corroborating evidence. On May 22, the Russian Armed Forces allegedly captured the village of Klishchiivka in the Bakhmut direction, referred by the MoD as the Chasiv Yar direction, southwest of Bakhmut. However, according to the pro-Russian WarGonzo Telegram channel, Russian forces had merely advanced in the area, with WarGonzo only confirming the capture of the village the following day. On May 23, the MoD reported the capture of the nearby village of Andriivka, south of Klishchiivka.

Similarly, there have been no significant changes in the Pokrovsk direction in recent days.

Ukrainian military observer Kostiantyn Mashovets has analyzed the composition, and movements, of Russian forces on the Donetsk and Kharkiv axes. He concludes that Russia currently lacks the reserves necessary to advance on both fronts simultaneously, a point we have noted since the beginning of the offensive in the Kharkiv region. Consequently, Mashovets believes that Russian command will likely have to prioritize one of the two directions: either continuing the offensive in the Pokrovsk direction or redirecting additional forces to the Kharkiv axis, thereby potentially weakening its forces on the Pokrovsk front. Should that not occur, the Russian offensive risks turning into another protracted and costly endeavor reminiscent of the six-months battle for the town of Avdiivka, which required to conjugate the strengths of three combined arms armies, a separate tank division, as well as numerous other units, forcing the RuAF to limit their offensives in other directions.

Thus, although the offensive in the Kharkiv region was intended to divert Ukrainian forces from other directions, it appears that the opposite has occurred: it is Russian units that had to weaken their offensive on the Donetsk axis.

We still believe that the Ukrainian side should not cling to strategically insignificant settlements and waste scarce resources and manpower on holding them. Despite the RuAF advances, the situation in any of the directions cannot be called critical. For Ukraine, it is currently more important to preserve the lives of soldiers and accumulate resources to turn the tide in the future—possibly as early as next year, when Western military production increases.

In our opinion, Russian strikes on the Sumy region are not a precursor to a forthcoming offensive in this direction, as we do not see concentrations of Russian troops near the border. Moreover, the aforementioned situation with reserves in the RuAF will not allow for simultaneous active offensives here as well.

Despite the Russian authorities’ statements that the goal of the offensive in the Kharkiv region is to create a buffer zone, the intensity of attacks on the Belgorod region has not actually decreased.

The Commander-in-Chief of the AFU, General Oleksandr Syrskyi, also reported a slowdown in the Russian offensive on the Kharkiv axis and stated that the RuAF is “bogged down in street fighting for the town of Vovchansk.” While we cannot confirm this yet, the pace of offensive actions indeed continues to decline. This may be due to the fact that, according to Reuters, the promised Western ammunition is finally reaching Ukrainian artillery units.

Stanislav "Osman" Bunyatov, Ukrainian soldier from the 24th Separate Assault Battalion Aidar, author of the Govoryat Sniper [They Say Sniper] Telegram channel, has reported that the AFU left the village of Krynky in the Kherson region and moved to some other fortified positions on the left bank of the Dnipro River. Despite the latter clarification, some people perceived this news as a retreat. At the same time, Spokesman for the Ukrainian Navy Dmytro Pletenchuk rejected this notion, claiming that Ukrainian forces were successfully carrying out their tasks in Krynky and maintaining control over the situation. Since at least March 29, the DeepState project has been marking a significant part of the village as under Russian control on their map.

Although we still believe that it would be better for Ukraine to completely leave this so-called bridgehead, we generally perceive the withdrawal from the completely destroyed Krynky as positive news.

On May 22, Ukrainian forces launched an ATACMS tactical ballistic missile attack on air defense positions near the Mospyne airfield in the Donetsk region. Judging by footage published by the Dos'ye Shpiona [Spy Dossier] Telegram channel, the strike destroyed a mobile command post, a new 96L6-TsP air surveillance radar of a S-350 SAM system (also compatible with the S-400 SAM system), two S-300/400 launchers and damaged another one. The Russian side also reported wounded civilians, with further details currently unknown. One of the ATACMS missiles could have been intercepted and have fallen in an unintended location as a result. Analyzing our daily summaries on strikes on civilian infrastructure, we noticed that with the beginning of regular attacks on the Kharkiv region, the number of civilian casualties has noticeably increased.

Arrests and detentions of high-ranking officials continue at the Russian Ministry of Defense, with corruption and abuse of power cited as the reasons. We believe these arrests are not related to the situation on the frontline. In most cases, generals who have not achieved military success on the battlefield are not arrested, but rather relieved of their positions and sent to Syria. It is worth noting that we are yet to encounter any effective or outstanding generals or officials within the structures of the MoD. Additionally, we doubt that the appointment of Russia’s new Minister of Defense Andrey Belousov can promptly change this situation. Despite Belousov's notorious slogan "One can make mistakes, but one cannot lie," we observe how the MoD continues to lie about the capture of settlements.

Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Head of the Main Communications Directorate, Lieutenant General Vadim Shamarin, has been detained on charges of bribery. Communication problems in the Russian army have been known since the beginning of the full-scale invasion: electronic warfare systems brought to the frontline either did not work or soldiers did not know how to use them. We believe that replacing Shamarin with someone else will not fundamentally change the situation.

Additionally, Chief of the Department of Defense Procurement at the MoD, Vladimir Verteletsky, has been detained on suspicion of abuse of power. We are also confident that his arrest will not lead to any significant changes in the ministry's operations.

The Russian Investigative Committee has requested that General Ivan Popov, former Commander of the 58th Army, be placed under house arrest, although the court later ruled to leave him in pre-trial detention. It is possible that some of those arrested will end up being fined, receiving suspended sentences or prison sentences equivalent to the term they will have spent in pre-trial detention by the time of the verdict.

Amid mass arrests in the Russian MoD, pro-Russian war correspondent Dmitry Steshin jokes that Lefortovo Prison could soon become a branch of the General Staff, with Igor "Strelkov" Girkin, former separatist commander and military blogger, as its chief.

Putin has signed a decree sanctioning the compensation of damages caused by US "unfriendly actions" with property belonging to the country or its nationals. It is worth noting that on April 24, President Baiden signed an Aid Bill to Ukraine which, among other things, allows the confiscation of Russian assets in the USA. Meanwhile, the government of Germany does not support the idea of confiscating Russian assets in favor of Ukraine. It is possible that Putin’s Decree is intended to exert pressure on European countries to dissuade them from adopting measures similar to those of the US.

On May 24, the US is expected to announce a new military aid package for Ukraine worth $275 million. According to preliminary information from the Associated Press sources, it will include additional munitions for HIMARS MLRS, 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds, Javelin and AT-4 anti-tank systems, as well as anti-tank mines, tactical vehicles, small arms and ammunition.