May 29

Sitrep for May 27-29, 2024 (as of 8:30 a.m. UTC+3)

Frontline Situation Update

The pace of the Russian offensive in the Kharkiv region has continued to slow in recent days. The only significant development on that front was a counterattack by the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the central part of Vovchansk, on the right (northern) bank of the Vovcha River. Securing a foothold in this part of the town will likely prove difficult, as many of the houses have already been heavily damaged by Russian airstrikes and artillery. Nevertheless, the success of this counterattack is significant in itself. West of Vovchansk, near the village of Buhruvatka, which we previously mentioned, the Russian Armed Forces are yet to ford the Siverskyi Donets River.

On the left flank of the Kharkiv axis, fighting continues without any changes in the frontline.

The situation has remained largely unchanged on the Zaporizhzhia axis too, with fighting still ongoing around Robotyne and Verbove.

According to a statement from the Ministry of Defense, Russian forces have fully captured the village of Netailove in the Pokrovsk/Avdiivka direction. Since the RuAF had already partially occupied this village back on May 20, and the fighting for it began a month ago, the capture of Netailove can scarcely be considered a significant advance.

Thus, summarizing the first 20 days of the Kharkiv offensive, it can now be said that it has failed both as a diversionary maneuver and in terms of capturing Ukrainian border areas. Although some still suggest that the RuAF are preparing an offensive in the Sumy region, we do not see any strategic advantage in this. However, the lack of such an advantage has not always prevented Russian military leadership from making certain decisions.

Western Assistance

Belgium will allocate €977 million [$1.06 billion] in military aid to Ukraine in 2024 and will deliver the first of the 30 F-16 fighter aircraft it promised by the end of 2028. However, according to their bilateral security agreement, Ukraine will only be able to use the Belgian aircraft over its own territory.

This raises the question of whether Ukrainian pilots can target Russian aircraft from Ukrainian airspace if the Russian aircraft are near the Russia-Ukraine border, but on the Russian side. The first F-16 aircraft to arrive in Ukraine are expected to come from Denmark, which, as far as we know, has not imposed such restrictions.

Spain has also signed a 10-year security agreement with Ukraine and promised a military aid package worth €1 billion [$1.08 billion] this year. This package will include:

  • 19 Leopard 2A4 tanks;
  • Missiles for Patriot air defense systems;
  • Artillery munitions;
  • Anti-drone gear.

According to El Pais, a significant portion of this aid, such as the supply of munitions and anti-drone equipment, will be fulfilled through long-term contracts with Spanish manufacturers, rather than from existing stockpiles.

Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, former Head of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and ex-deputy of the Verkhovna Rada [Ukrainian parliament], stated that due to an influx of draftees and a shortage of training facilities, the training period for recruits has been reduced from two to one and a half months. In response to the question of why they are not sent for training abroad, he said that such training is reserved for professional soldiers. The question remains, why mobilized soldiers who have completed basic training cannot be sent for further training abroad.

Meanwhile, at the end of January, Major General Viktor Nikoliuk, Commander of the Ukrainian Army Training Department at the time, claimed that AFU training facilities are ready to accommodate any numbers of personnel, in line with the law on mobilization.

Conscription, Mobilization and Contract Military Service

Ukraine's Minister of Defense Rustem Umerov stated in an interview with Reuters that the current Russian grouping in Ukraine and near the Russia-Ukraine border consists of 500,000 military personnel and could be increased by another 200,000 to 300,000 servicemen. We do not know what this statement is based on and see no data confirming the existence of such a reserve in Russia. This claim may be related to an interview by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on April 3, in which he claimed that Russia was preparing to mobilize 300,000 people by June 1. With only three days left until June 1, we still see no signs of preparations for the beginning of a new wave of mobilization.

The Krasnodar City Duma [municipal assembly] has introduced an additional sign-up bonus of 250,000 rubles [$2,820] for individuals who sign a contract with the MoD between June 1 and Oct. 1, 2024. We believe that with the beginning of the summer season, the number of people willing to go to war will likely decrease even further, prompting lawmakers to devise additional incentive measures. Including other sign-up bonuses, the total amount offered for signing a contract in the Krasnodar region can reach 1.65 million rubles [$18,600]. This total amount consists of the following: a regional governor's payment of 1 million rubles [$11,300] + a federal payment of 195,000 rubles [$2,200] + 200,000 rubles [$2,230] for service in a named unit of the region + 250,000 rubles [$2,820] from the Krasnodar City Duma.

Other regions of Russia are also increasing sign-up bonuses for contract soldiers. For example, at the end of May, the authorities of Russia’s constituent Republic of Tatarstan raised bonus payments from 305,000 [$3,400] to 505,000 rubles [$5,700], and the authorities of the Voronezh region increased theirs from 120,000 [$1,340] to the same 505,000 rubles [$5,700].

The continuing rise in regional bonus payments indicates ongoing difficulties with contract soldier recruitment and indirectly refutes statements by Western politicians, experts and journalists that Russia recruits 30,000 volunteer fighters monthly.

We believe that the spread of such misinformation prevents Ukrainian officials and military leadership from making optimal decisions and contributes to the AFU's reduced efficacy on the battlefield. The same applies to information about supplies. For instance, negotiations for purchasing shells under the Czech initiative began in February 2024, initially involving 450,000 artillery shells. Later, the number of shells increased to 1 million, with the first batches promised to be delivered to Ukraine by April 2024. However, as of now, deliveries have not yet begun, and on May 28, the Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala announced that the first tens of thousands of shells would only be delivered in June. All of this hinders the Ukrainian command's ability to effectively plan operations.

The Vyorstka media outlet, based on information received from human rights activists and relatives of mobilized soldiers, reports that since the beginning of 2024, cases of draftees being forced to enter into contracts with the Ministry of Defense have become more frequent, often involving the use of physical violence. Although this procedure actually makes no difference, as mobilized soldiers are also legally obliged to fight until the end of the war, MoD officers and officials transfer them to contract service to improve statistics on recruited contract soldiers.