May 5, 2023

Sitrep for May 4–5 (as of 09:30 a.m.)

Drone Attack on the Moscow Kremlin

The Financial Times cites the opinions of some Western experts on the subject of drones in its article. Director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency Lieutenant General Scott Berrier suggests that, judging by the video, in order to control such drones, the operator has to be in line of sight. Perhaps it can be explained by the fact that equipment jamming GPS guidance systems has been installed in Moscow. Michael Kofman pointed out that the simplest explanation is the most likely one — the operation was at least organized by Ukraine in order to demonstrate the vulnerability of the Kremlin (one of the most protected places in the center of Moscow) and weaken the position of Russian authorities. In addition, all experts agree that such small drones had no chance to cause any serious damage.

Judging by the video, the drones are about the same size as Chinese-made Mugin-5 UAVs, which were previously used by the AFU. Since they can remain airborne for about 7 hours, it can be assumed that the drones that attacked the Kremlin had been launched in the Moscow region or nearby areas (they could hardly have been launched on the Ukrainian territory since the distance from the center of Moscow to the Russian-Ukrainian border is 760 km). Unfortunately, there is still no visual evidence of this assumption but the statements of the Baza Telegram channel sources that the operational services ignored reports of drones due to the huge number of false reports by utility workers who were ordered to monitor the sky. It is still unclear why the drones were not filmed by city CCTV cameras, at least in the airspace of Moscow.

Despite the fact that many Western experts are inclined to the version that the attack was (possibly unofficially) carried out by the Ukrainian side, the Institute for the Study of War continues to argue that it was a provocation by the Russian special services in order to cancel the Victory Day parades and thus hide the scale of losses in military vehicles. We still consider this version insubstantial: it is currently impossible to draw any conclusions about the RuAF reserves by certain types of military equipment present or absent in the parade (as it could be done before). In the present situation some of them may not take part in the festive events since all combat-ready units are on the frontline.

Mark Krutov, editor of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty news service, using available video footage of the clocks on the Kremlin towers, has proven that two drones were involved in the attack and two explosions occurred. Only the first of them caused a small fire.

Additional details of the Russian strike on Kherson on May 3 have emerged. Around 11 a.m., the Korabelny district of Kherson was hit, some of the munitions hit the only working Epicenter hypermarket, targeting the entrance, parking lot, and checkout area. Around 2 p.m., the city center and the railway station, next to an ATB supermarket, came under fire. The munitions hit the evacuation train Kherson — Lviv: one car burned down, a conductor was injured, but passengers were unharmed. Hits on volunteer cars were also reported.

On the evening of May 4, a Bayraktar TB2 drone reportedly lost control in the sky over Kyiv. Since an uncontrolled flight could lead to undesirable consequences, it was shot down.

In the village of Golovchino, Belgorod region (10 km to the border with Ukraine), a third fallen FAB-500 M-62 air-dropped bomb with UMPK [Universal Planning and Correction Module] was found (on Apr. 20, an “accidental release” of two such bombs occurred over Belgorod).

On May 4, Yevgeny Prigozhin [Russian oligarch, confidant of Vladimir Putin, and the owner of the Wagner Group] recorded a video against the backdrop of the corpses of the Wagner Group mercenaries who were killed that day. In the video, he demands ammunition from Valery Gerasimov [Chief of the General Staff of the RuAF] and Sergei Shoigu [Russia's Minister of Defense] at top volume and using foul language. About 40 bodies can be counted in the video, which is much less than Prigozhin claimed in previous days. It is possible, however, that some bodies were left on the battlefield.

After Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev was dismissed from the post of Deputy Minister of Defense responsible for logistics, Prigozhin offered him the position of first deputy to Dmitry Utkin, the commander of the Wagner Group. "War correspondent" Aleksandr Simonov affiliated with the Wagner Group released a video showing Mizintsev talking to instructors at the Wagner Group training camp.

Governor of Saint Petersburg Alexander Beglov increased the sign-up bonus for contract servicemen going to the frontline from 300 to 500 thousand rubles [from USD 3850 to USD 6400]. Contract servicemen's salaries have also been increased up to 230–240 thousand rubles [USD 3000] depending on the position held.

In addition, the city authorities try to attract people to the military service under contract through local businesses: enterprises are required to recruit an average of five people under the threat of a "serious conversation." In total, according to the military commissar for the Vyborg district, it is necessary to recruit one and a half times more people than were called up during mobilization.

Deliveries of Western Military Equipment

Ukraine has received a number of Hydra-70 aircraft rockets equipped with APKWS laser guidance kits, which turn them into precision-guided munitions. There is a video made in April where the 37th Marine Brigade of the AFU fires such rockets from a launcher mounted on a HMMWV. The new United States military assistance package announced on May 3 includes such munitions as well.

Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte reported that "there is no taboo" on supplying F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. Together with Belgium, Denmark and the UK, the Netherlands continues to discuss the transfer of aircraft in attempts to "finally resolve this question."

A video has appeared with a Leopard 2A6 tank at a training ground in Ukraine.

The weather forecast for the coming days shows consistent dry sunny weather; the soil is gradually drying up. We expect that the Ukrainian counteroffensive may begin in the coming days.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said that Putin has come to terms with the impossibility of seizing more territory in Ukraine. According to her, the Russian president will focus on strengthening control over the occupied territories and will not conduct large-scale offensive operations in the near future due to the lack of manpower and ammunition. Unless Russia begins forced mobilization and secures new sources of ammunition supply besides what it’s currently getting from Iran and other countries, the Russian Armed Forces will find it increasingly difficult to sustain even limited offensive operations.

We assume that if the Ukrainian counteroffensive proves to be large-scale and successful in its first weeks, then the need for mobilization in Russia will become even more acute, since the existing manpower may not even be enough to hold the occupied territories.

In its report about the fighting near the village of Spirne in the Donetsk region Channel One [Russian state-controlled television channel] shows the use of tear gas grenades by Russian forces. This is a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.