May 6

Sitrep for May 3-6, 2024 (as of 9:00 a.m. UTC+3)

Frontline Situation Update

After the capture of Kyslivka in the Kharkiv region, Russian forces proceeded to occupy the nearby village of Kotlyarivka, which was semi-encircled, as expected. It is worth noting that both of these settlements are relatively small, thus, their capture is not considered of significant importance. With the Russian Armed Forces trying to consolidate their success on the Donetsk axis, it seems somewhat illogical to increase pressure on secondary directions such as Kupiansk, Zaporizhzhia (where attacks on Robotyne continue), Vuhledar (where attacks on Urozhaine are ongoing) and even Kherson (where positions recently captured by the Armed Forces of Ukraine on Nestryha Island at the mouth of the Dnipro River have been recaptured by the RuAF. In conditions of limited resources, such actions reduce the likelihood of forces being transferred from these axes to Donetsk to expand the Ocheretyne salient.

In the Pokrovsk direction, Russian forces captured Arkhanhelske, which had also previously been semi-encircled. This occurred after the RuAF captured the villages of Novokalynove and Keramik. In addition, DeepState reported that the RuAF managed to occupy the entire village of Ocheretyne. While the RuAF have made significant advances in strengthening the northern flank of the Ocheretyne salient, on the southern flank, they have yet to occupy the space between the villages of Umanske, Netailove and Yasnobrodivka, which we mentioned earlier.

In interviews with Western media, Vadym Skibitskyi, Deputy Chief of the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine and Lieutenant General Oleksandr Pavliuk, Ukraine’s Commander of the Ground Forces, have stated that Russia is preparing to attack Kharkiv and Sumy. However, Pavliuk characterized the upcoming attacks as operations aimed at drawing away Ukrainian forces, rather than capturing these cities. It is worth noting that such maneuvers are justified only when there is an opportunity to exploit the enemy's vulnerabilities in the area from which troops are diverted. This requires reserves, which Russia does not appear to have. Otherwise, this distracting maneuver will likely be ineffective. Moreover, there is currently no evidence indicating that the RuAF have available forces to enter Kharkiv or Sumy.

Additionally, Skibitskyi stated that the RuAF recruits about 30 thousand people per month. However, we have not found any confirmation of his claims. It seems implausible to us that Russia has recruited more than 90 thousand people since the beginning of the year. According to Skibitskyi, the number of Russian troops on the frontline is currently 510 thousand, whereas three months ago it was 460 thousand. In this scenario, another 40 thousand recruits during this period are unaccounted for, based on the recruitment rates mentioned earlier. It is possible that this difference may be attributed to losses, although this assumption is speculative. We remain skeptical about the data provided by Ukrainian intelligence, as we believe they may exaggerate both RuAF recruitment rates and its losses, with one potentially being linked to the other.

We do not possess precise information regarding the exact number of Russian military personnel deployed in different directions, but we estimate the total number of the Russian group in Ukraine to be approximately 500 thousand soldiers. As ongoing recruitment into the RuAF continues, we expect another 100 to 150 thousand people to reach the front this year, although it is likely that most of them will be used to compensate for losses. Even if we assume that Skibitskyi's assessment of monthly recruitment is correct, the shortage of military equipment will hinder the formation of full-fledged motorized rifle units. Analysts who track Russian military equipment in ammunition depots report that while Russia possesses a significant stockpile, the rate of equipment recovery is low. The fact that the RuAF are experiencing problems with personnel and are unable to create stockpiles has also been described by many Western researchers, including Michael Kofman.

In the Bakhmut direction, no new advances by Russian forces have been reported, indicating that by May 9, it is unlikely that not only Chasiv Yar but also the Kanal neighborhood will be captured, despite attempts to encircle it. Meanwhile, for Ukrainian forces, the situation is complicated by the logistics of supplying troops with only a few roads running through the Siverskyi Donets-Donbas Canal. In one location, it goes into underground pipes, while in another, the canal is filled in, with a crossing  constructed on the embankment. It was precisely this crossing that was destroyed by Russian forces.

In the Pokrovsk direction, Russian forces hit two M1A1 Abrams tanks. As we suspected, they were pulled from the frontline due to the development of a new deployment strategy rather than their supposed vulnerability to drones. One of the tanks was hit by a Lancet kamikaze drone near Ivanivka, located approximately 10 km [6 mi] from Ocheretyne, while another was knocked out by Russian artillery on the outskirts of Novopokrovske,  south of the Ocheretyne salient.

Reports of accidental releases of Russian air-dropped bombs in the Belgorod region have become frequent occurrences. Typically, these incidents happen in uninhabited areas, the bombs do not detonate, and thus rarely receive coverage in national news. However, on May 4, an explosion in Belgorod resulted in five injuries and damage to more than 30 houses. Officials have not commented on the cause of the explosion, but it is speculated that an accidental release of a Russian air-dropped bomb could have been the cause. The pattern of damage does not resemble the aftermath of a gas explosion, and there were no reports of AFU attacks on Belgorod that day, nor was an air raid alert issued. It is worth noting that Oleh Synyehubov, Governor of the Kharkiv region, reported the launch of Russian guided air-dropped bombs into Ukrainian territory around the time of the explosion in Belgorod.

Pro-Russian Telegram channels have been circulating photos of Russian soldiers armed with Vepr-12 semi-automatic shotguns, based on the AK assault rifle, used to defend against drones. One of the soldiers featured in the photographs is said to be tasked with protecting a Tor SAM system.

Anti-aircraft warfare typically involves various systems optimized to counter threats at different distances within multi-layered air defenses. These include systems designed for long-range threats, such as the S-300 or S-400, medium-range threats, like the Buk, or short-range threats, such as the Pantsir S-1 and Tor systems. Additionally, there are weapons designed to counter aerial threats at close-range, such as anti-aircraft guns, machine guns or MANPADS, enabling expensive long-range systems to be covered by shorter-range inexpensive ones. As to the soldiers armed with shotguns, whose effective ranges do not exceed a couple of hundred meters [yards], they can be regarded as very close-range air defense systems, providing protection to short-range SAMs.

Western Assistance 

In recent weeks, several reports have surfaced indicating that Russian forces possess effective electronic warfare capabilities, successfully neutralizing high-precision Western weaponry. US Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Bill LaPlante has revealed that a certain Western weapon (likely GLSDB munitions) proved so ineffective that the AFU had largely stopped using it.

Similar data has emerged on Excalibur artillery shells, which appear to have not been used for a certain amount of time, with EW means reportedly reducing their effectiveness from 70% to 6%.

The US Department of Defense has awarded a $23.5 million contract to Scientific Applications and Research Associates Inc. for the supply of sensors capable of detecting radio-electronic interference and their installation on JDAM-ER glide bombs. Once radio interference is detected during the flight, the sensor will redirect the bomb towards the source, similar to how anti-radiation AGM-88 HARM missiles are directed towards the source of radio emissions. Delivery is set to start only in October 2025.

It is reported that in 2024, another six TRML-4D radars will be delivered to Ukraine. Videos depicting strikes on such radars are frequently circulated, but it is exceedingly difficult to ascertain whether real radars or mock-ups were targeted. Consequently, the current number of such radars in the possession of the AFU remains unknown.

We currently lack sufficient data to determine when and in what quantity new weapons will arrive in Ukraine. Unfortunately, there have been numerous instances where Western partners failed to uphold their promises or delayed deliveries. Therefore, it is possible that the arrival of F-16 fighter aircraft may also be delayed. We assume that the Russian advance in the Avdiivka and Bakhmut directions will continue at approximately the same pace until the end of May. We do not expect the RuAF to conduct a major offensive in May or June, as suggested by Ukrainian military observer Kostiantyn Mashovets. However, as Western weapons begin to arrive in Ukraine, we anticipate that the Russian advance will slow down, leading to a stabilization of the frontline by the end of July.

In 2023 and 2024, many Russian regions competed in offering sign-up bonuses for contract enlistment, while other regions, like the Oryol region, initially did not provide such bonuses. In September 2023, Elena Sapozhnikova, head of the Oryol regional finance department, responded to a question from Mikhail Vdovin, the deputy speaker of the regional council, about the introduction of regional bonuses for contract soldiers, stating that there were no available funds for this in the budget. Nevertheless, in April 2024, Andrey Klychkov, Governor of the Oryol region, introduced 250,000 rubles [$2,730] sign-up bonus for soldiers who signed contracts with the Ministry of Defense to fight in Ukraine. It is likely that the reason for this change was not an unexpected increase in the budget, but rather fulfilling the plan for sending volunteer fighters to the war becoming the main indicator for evaluating the work of governors.