May 29, 2023

Sitrep for May 26–29 (as of 8:30 a.m.)

Bakhmut has been completely captured by pro-Russian forces. Video showing Ukrainian artillery strikes in the area of the MiG-17 aircraft monument [i.e. where the monument used to be] has been published (it can be identified thanks to the particularly sharp angles at which the streets converge), which we interpret as evidence of the loss of the last Ukrainian positions within the town. Whether the district was captured on May 25 (when Yevgeny Prigozhin [Russian oligarch, confidant of Vladimir Putin, and the owner of the Wagner Group] published his statement online) or at a later date is currently unknown.

Strikes on Ukrainian and Russian Territory

Efforts to clear the rubble resulting from the May 26 hit on a Dnipro clinic have continued over the weekend. Four casualties have been reported as of today.

A Russian attack on Ukraine, involving a record amount of loitering munitions, took place on May 28 at night — according to the Ukrainian side, 52 out of the 54 drones launched were shot down. The majority of the drones were aimed at Kyiv, whilst others targeted military and critical infrastructure. One person was killed, and another one injured by falling debris in Kyiv’s Solomianskyi district.

Strikes in the Kharkiv region killed two people and wounded three others.

Infrastructure facilities were damaged in the Zhytomyr region.

As a result of strikes on the town of Shebekino, Belgorod region, on May 27, a security guard of the town enterprise was killed, and two teenagers were injured. Governor of the region Vyacheslav Gladkov has received many questions and comments in social networks from local residents who complain about the lack of evacuation from the danger zone, and that many families cannot leave even on their own initiative because of upcoming school exams. At the same time, teenagers from the Belgorod region are being sent to the Armata training camp (reportedly, the conditions there will be close to ones in accordance with the combined arms field manual). Over five days, schoolchildren and students will take a course in military medicine and tactictics, undergo fire radiation-chemical and physical training, they will stand guard, march in formation, be on duty in the kitchen and shoot airsoft weapons. Unfortunately, such skills (especially marching in formation) will in no way help children protect themselves in conditions of constant strikes.

On May 27, in the Bryansk region, a kamikaze drone hit a VAZ-2121 Niva SUV driven by Russian servicemen, and two of them were killed as a result. The photo showing the aftermath of the attack resembles photographs showing the use of US-made AGM-114R9X Hellfire kinetic guided missiles [with a modified warhead that does not explode upon impact but instead deploys several blades that shred the target]. Initially, another raid of a sabotage-reconnaissance group into the territory of Russia was reported, but the information was later refuted.

On the night of May 28, Ukrainian forces attempted to attack the Ilsky oil refinery southwest of Krasnodar. The Russian Defense Ministry said that all the drones were shot down. Let us recall that this refinery was already attacked on May 5.

Strikes on the occupied territory are continued as part of the preparation to the Ukrainian counteroffensive. As evidence of the strike on Berdiansk on the night of May 26, an obituary of Major Ortikov, who was killed when the command post was hit, has appeared. Another obituary of former cossack Punin evidences that an air defense battery was hit (we wrote about the possible strike on an S-300 SAM system, with a reference to Ukrainian sources).

Furthermore, Lieutenant Colonel Aseyev was buried on May 25; he commanded a separate reconnaissance battalion; the date of death is unknown.

The Azovstal [iron and steel works] area in Mariupol was hit on May 26. A part of the territory around the works was restricted to clear the debris; the extent of damage is not clear yet.

Occupied Berdiansk and Novopetrivka (to the northeast of Berdiansk) were hit again on May 27.

Volnovakha, which is under Russia’s control, was reportedly hit on May 27, resulting in one person killed and another one wounded.

On the evening of May 28, reports of new strikes on Berdiansk and Mariupol appeared.

The Joint Center for Control and Coordination of the “LPR” reported that the village of Almazna, Luhansk region, was hit on May 28, resulting in two persons killed, and eight wounded (the death toll has risen to three later). The photographs show damaged residential buildings, however we have not yet seen any traces that would allow determination of the strike’s direction.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has published a video showing the naval ship Ivan Khurs entering the port of Sevastopol with no trace of having been hit by unmanned surface vessels (USV), as well as the crew’s report of the successful mission accomplishment with no losses. This confirms that the attack that we covered in our previous sitrep had not reached the target.

Also, the Russian Ministry of Defense has informed that a Sukhoi Su-25 ground-attack aircraft had been hit by an anti-aircraft missile system on May 23 but still had managed to land. (In our previous sitrep, we wrote that the presumed emergency landing of the hit aircraft could be the reason for the smoke in the vicinity of Melitopol Airport on May 25. It appears that these events are not linked, as the dates do not match.)

Middle East

An obituary for Colonel Pechevisty appeared. He was killed on May 25 in Syria during an attack by a sabotage and reconnaissance group on a command post.

On May 26, the Russian Aerospace Forces carried out a strike for the first time since the end of 2022 (possibly in response to the attack of the sabotage and reconnaissance group) on targets of the Hayat Tahir al-Sham group in Idlib.

Clashes have erupted on the border between Afghanistan and Iran over access to water resources. Earlier, the Iranian authorities demanded from Afghanistan not to violate the water usage agreement and not to restrict the flow of the Helmand River. In response, the Taliban attacked the Iranian border checkpoint. The Taliban leader addressed the Iranian authorities, saying that they were ready to attack Teheran at the first word of the elders. It can be said that Russia got caught in the middle of the conflict: on the one hand, Russia is a military partner of Iran, and on the other hand, it has been trying to improve relations with the Taliban for a long time (despite the fact that this organization is recognized as terrorist and banned in Russia).

Deliveries of Western Military Equipment

The New York Times reports that Ukrainian servicemen proceeded to training in operating Abrams tanks. The first group consists of 400 people, and the process will take 10–12 weeks. A half of the troops will undergo basic warfare training (shooting, tactical medicine, platoon and company combat exercises, and combined arms exercises), and the second half will master tank refueling and maintenance. We read this as both the crews and the infantry meant to support those vehicles on the battlefield are trained together.

Ukraine has requested the supply of Taurus cruise missiles with a range of up to 500 kilometers from Germany. We doubt that German officials are ready for such a dramatic change in their position. It should also be noted that any shipment of missiles with a range of more than 300 km contradicts the guidelines of the Missile Technology Control Regime (Germany is a member of the association).

As part of the next aid package, Canada is going to provide Ukraine with AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles with a range of up to 35 km. These weapons can be used as an alternative to surface to air missiles for intercepting loitering munitions, cruise missiles, or even Russian aircraft if they get within the target range.

According to Bloomberg, the Netherlands may send F-16 fighter aircraft to Ukraine after training pilots.

In an interview to The Guardian, Mykhailo Podolyak, Advisor to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, said that the Ukrainian Armed Forces have already launched a preliminary operation as part of the counteroffensive, but it would take quite a while for it to gain momentum.

We have repeatedly reported that the upcoming counteroffensive should not be expected to be as lightning-fast as the one in the Kharkiv region last year. In our opinion, ongoing strikes on depots and control points may be preparations for the counteroffensive. Moreover, such statements may be a part of an information campaign.

It is possible that the massive attack by Shahed-136 (Geran-2) drones on May 28 was intended  to force Ukraine to use up as many anti-aircraft missiles as  possible. In case a massive ground offensive by the AFU begins in the coming days, this would allow Russian aircraft to fly more freely and attack convoys of advancing Ukrainian vehicles.

According to the Foreign Policy magazine, three US congressmen have implored President Biden to not wait for another political pressure campaign, but rather to expedite the delivery of ATACMS missiles to Ukraine. These missiles would enable Ukraine to turn the situation in their favor. The publication highlights that the issue of supplying such missiles raises concerns not only about the escalation of the military conflict but also about the limited stockpile, which is crucial for the United States in case of potential conflicts with Russia, China, or North Korea.

Mobilization Update

The news regarding the mobilized from the Orenburg region, whose relatives recorded a video appeal concerning the transfer of mobilized personnel under the command of the so-called DPR, where they are treated as cannon fodder, has taken a new turn. A video has emerged showing the bodies of killed mobilized soldiers from the Orenburg region, lying amidst the rubble of a building (possibly the aftermath of an attack on their temporary base). It is emphasized that the bodies are not being removed from the scene.

In Saint Petersburg, an advertisement for contract military service has been placed on the billboard of the Avangard children's cinema.

Based on open sources, journalists from BBC News Russian and Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet] together with volunteers have confirmed the deaths of over 24,000 individuals who fought on the Russian side. One-third of these losses are attributed to those who had no prior affiliation with the military before the invasion: volunteer fighters, draftees, and convicts.

Obituaries are only published for a portion of those killed in the war in Ukraine. Based on volunteer expeditions to cemeteries, it can be inferred that the actual number of burials is approximately twice as high. Among the deceased, there are nearly 2,300 mobilized men.