May 4, 2023

Sitrep for May 3–4 (as of 09:30 a.m.)

On the afternoon of May 3, the city of Kherson was hit. The only working hypermarket, a gas station, as well as the area near the railway station were hit. President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy reported 21 killed and 48 wounded civilians. Although the territory of Ukraine is regularly hit by the RuAF such massive tragedies stand out from the total number of other strikes as it is a serious war crime.

On the night of May 4, an air raid alert was announced in many regions of Ukraine. According to the Kyiv administration, all Shahed drones and "probably ballistic-type" missiles used by the RuAF to attack the city were shot down. No casualties or damage were reported. Spokesman of the Military Administration of the Odesa region Serhiy Bratchuk reports that 12 out of 15 Shahed-136 kamikaze drones used by the RuAF to attack Odesa were successfully shot down, and the remaining three hit the dormitory of an educational institution. Fortunately, there were no casualties. Explosions were also reported in the Sumy, Chernihiv and Zaporizhzhia regions.

On the night of May 3, two drones attacked the Kremlin in Moscow. One of them exploded over the dome of the Senate Palace, causing a small fire on the roof. The second one exploded in the air some time later, and its fragments fell on the territory of the Kremlin. The incident did not cause any serious damage (the report from the scene was filmed by pro-Russian “war correspondent” Aleksandr Sladkov).

It is important to note that a small aircraft-type drone can be clearly seen in the video. This means that, firstly, it could not have been launched from afar, and secondly, to launch an UAV of this type, one need either an acceleration runway or a catapult which is a rather bulky structure (as an example, one can watch a video showing Shahed drones launched in this way). Given the large number of cameras within the city limits, it is surprising that no videos showing drones flying in the sky outside the Kremlin territory have appeared yet.

The American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) assumes that the attack was staged by Russian special services in order to convince citizens to support the war more actively and should be a pretext for limiting Victory Day celebrations on May 9. This version seems unfounded to us: the Russian state media preferred to give minimal coverage to the incident, and attacks deep inside Russia are useful to Ukraine from a practical point of view by leading to a withdrawal of air defense systems from the front to strategically important facilities in Russian regions.

There has been a sharp increase in the number of reports of sabotage using drones or explosives in various regions of Russia over the recent days.

Oil refinery containers in the village of Ilsky, Krasnodar region, were attacked on the night of May 4, leading to a small fire.

Another drone attacked the Novoshakhtinsky Oil Plant near the village of Kiselevka, Rostov region. The resulting fire was quickly extinguished, no one was injured.

In the Leningrad region, six more explosive devices were found near the site of the explosion of power line poles (this report was first refuted, but then confirmed).

There are reports of an explosion in the village of Mospino in the Russian-occupied Donetsk region on May 3. Available photos and videos depict a towering plume of smoke, but details are still unknown.

The Situation on the Frontline

Yevgeny Prigozhin [Russian oligarch, confidant of Vladimir Putin, and the owner of the Wagner Group] once again complains about the critical ammunition shortage. He claims that the Wagner's Group had advanced 230 meters in Bakhmut over the past day, losing 116 mercenaries killed in action. According to Prigozhin, a dangerous situation for pro-Russian forces on the flanks in Bakhmut indicates the beginning of the Ukrainian counteroffensive.

The Voyenny Osvedomitel [Military Informant] Telegram channel reports about an alleged reconnaissance-in-force operation by the AFU in the Zaporizhzhia direction. According to the channel, Russian forces repulsed the attack, and also attacked the advancing enemy with MLRS (released videos do not indicate the exact target of the Russian MLRS).

There is no convincing evidence that the counteroffensive has already begun, but we acknowledge that it may start in the near future.

Politico, citing two European officials, reports that Kyiv is now trying to keep the details and timing of the counteroffensive, as well as the number of troops, secret from the Western allies, fearing further leaks of classified documents. In addition, in Ukraine itself, the circle of people who know the start date of the counteroffensive is very limited.

On May 3, the United States announced a new military aid package for Ukraine worth up to $300 million. It will include:

  • Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS);
  • 155mm Howitzers and artillery rounds for them;
  • 120mm, 81mm, and 60mm mortar rounds;
  • Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missiles;
  • AT-4 and Carl Gustaf anti-armor weapon systems;
  • Hydra-70 aircraft rockets;
  • Small arms and small arms ammunition;
  • Demolition munitions for obstacle clearing;
  • Trucks and trailers to transport heavy equipment;
  • Testing and diagnostic equipment to support vehicle maintenance and repair;
  • Spare parts and other field equipment.

Тwo animators, Kirill Chubko and Tatyana Mostyko, were killed in the Krasnodar region. They went missing on the evening of Apr. 28, last seen on a highway. Later their car was discovered burned in the forest, and about two hundred thousand rubles were withdrawn from their accounts. On May 3, three suspects were arrested and confessed to the murders. Telegram channels published their names. According to publicly available records, a person with the same name and age as one of the suspects was sentenced to 18 years in a maximum security penal colony for several especially grievous crimes (including organizing a criminal gang, robbery, and murder) in 2016. It is possible that he was freed after fighting on the frontlines serving out a contract with the Wagner Group.