May 8

Sitrep for May 6-8, 2024 (as of 8:30 UTC+3 a.m.)

Frontline Situation Update

For the first time in recent weeks, the Russian side has failed to make significant progress on the ground, with the frontline remaining largely unchanged over the past two days. It is premature to determine the exact cause of this slowdown of the Russian Armed Forces. Possible factors could include the arrival of Western weapons in Ukraine, the transfer of reserves by the Armed Forces of Ukraine or internal issues within the Russian Army.

Fighting continues in the area of Novomykhailivka, located south of Marinka on the Donetsk axis. A video depicting a Russian attack involving an infantry fighting vehicle and eight motorcycles has been published, confirming that the use of motorcycles during assaults on Ukrainian positions along the Zaporizhzhia axis was not an isolated incident. This once again emphasizes the shortage of armored vehicles in the RuAF.

The drawbacks of motorcycles extend beyond their vulnerability to bullets and shrapnel; they also possess limited carrying capacity. Typically, only one or two troopers armed with assault rifles can ride a motorcycle, making it impossible to carry heavier weapons. In the video of the aforementioned attack, a motorcycle can be seen falling on its side, likely due to the rider struggling to maintain balance over rough terrain, exacerbated by the weight of their gear. This highlights the unsuitability of motorcycles for assaults in full-scale warfare. Instead, motorcycles are better suited for specialized operations carried out by special forces units.

Journalist and blogger Ivan Filippov, while analyzing Russian pro-war Telegram channels, observed a growing number of complaints regarding the shortage of vehicles. According to some bloggers, even UAZ Bukhanka SGR minibusses are now difficult to buy. Although the UAZ plant continues to produce them, with the official website listing the cost at over a million rubles [$10,855], availability remains an issue. Despite the Ministry of Industry and Trade delivering 480 minibusses and over 200 UAZ Pickups to RuAF servicemen at the end of April, it is evident that this quantity falls short of meeting the demand.

On May 6, the Fighterbomber and the Voevoda veshchayet [Voevoda broadcasts] pro-Russian Telegram channels [associated with the Russian Air and Space Force] reported about the death of four pilots. According to Fighterbomber, two pilots were killed in the crash of a Sukhoi Su-34 fighter-bomber near the village of Valuyki, Belgorod region. Preliminary information suggests the crash may have been caused by engine failure.

In another instance, according to Aleksey Voevoda, two former fighter pilots died in an African country. Presumably, they were involved in training local pilots as part of the shadow structure put in place by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, or were otherwise involved in operations of Russian special services to expand influence on this continent.

On May 6, the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense (GUR) posted a video showing Magura V5 unmanned surface vessels attacking a Russian boat in Vuzka Bay, Crimea. Initially, it was claimed that the targeted vessel was a high-speed Patrol Project 12150 Mongoose boat, although some researchers suggested it might have been a Patrol RM-860 motorboat, possibly belonging to the Coast Guard. In this case, it is still considered a legitimate military target. It is possible that the GUR had initially been after a larger target, but no other ships were present in the bay on the day. The cost of the motorboat is approximately five times less than that of the Magura unmanned surface vessel that attacked it.

On the same day, the Russian Ministry of Defense posted footage depicting the destruction of an unmanned surface vessel by a Ka-29 helicopter and claimed the destruction of five USVs in total.

Footage of the attack also revealed that something white was attached to the Ukrainian vessel. It turned out that USVs are now equipped with R-73 air-to-air missiles, initially designed for fighter jets and adapted for launch from water. These missiles can reportedly independently lock onto a target without relying on a bulky ground surveillance radar. Thus, unmanned surface vessels can now attack both maritime and airborne targets. Each USV in the group carrying up to two such missiles can support other vessels making their way toward a target.

We do not believe that these air-to-air missiles will lead to increased security measures in the Russian coastal zone until an aircraft is actually shot down.

Another video has emerged featuring a new Russian "turtle-tank": this time, an MT-LB multi-purpose armored vehicle was entirely covered with metal sheets. Additionally, photos and videos have been released featuring UDSh smoke canisters installed on a Ural truck and an infantry fighting vehicle. These canisters, resembling TM-62 anti-tank mines visually, are used to deploy a smoke screen against drones. Typically, smoke grenade launchers are mounted on tanks or APCs for this purpose, and installing them on Urals does not appear to be particularly useful.

Video footage captured the loading of B1 Centauro armored vehicles, commonly known as "tank hunters," and FH70 howitzers, alongside trucks, in the port of Naples. These military assets are being shipped to Ukraine.

Ukrainian and Russian Strikes

Strikes on Russian civilian vehicles in border areas continue. On May 6, near the village of Shchetinovka in the Belgorod region, two KAMAZ trucks were targeted by Ukrainian drones; no casualties were reported as a result of the attack.

However, on the same day near the village of Beryozovka in the Belgorod region, located approximately 5 km [3 mi] from the Russia-Ukraine border, drones attacked two buses belonging to the Agro-Belogorye agro-holding company. As a result, eight people were killed, and 42 others, including three children, sustained injuries. There were no indications, such as the letter Z, suggesting that these buses were being used for military purposes.

Such attacks on civilian objects not only constitute war crimes but also have a detrimental effect on the enemy, potentially fueling further violence. Additionally, it is worth noting that following numerous strikes on Ukrainian energy infrastructure, the AFU have reportedly started targeting power substations on Russian territory. For instance, on May 7, Serhii Sternenko, a Ukrainian far-right social activist and YouTuber, shared a video purportedly depicting Ukrainian drones striking Russian observation complexes and allegedly destroying a power substation in the Belgorod region. Strikes on Russian electrical infrastructure violate international humanitarian law, and the rationale behind posting such videos is unclear.

The Astra Telegram channel reported that in addition to Dzhankoi, other targets were attacked in Crimea on the night of April 30. However, the quality of eyewitness videos does not allow to reliably confirm the nature of the strikes or the extent of the damage.

Nevertheless, an obituary for Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Spiridonov has since emerged, indicating that he apparently served in the 1528th Air and Missile Defense Regiment, equipped with S-400 SAM systems, and died on April 30th. This confirms that at least one Russian air defense system was damaged that day.

On the night of May 8, the AFU struck an oil depot in the city of Luhansk, likely using an ATACMS tactical ballistic missile. This depot can be considered a legitimate target, as its destruction provides a distinct military advantage to the Ukrainian side. Video footage from the scene reveal that a massive fire broke out after the strike. According to the head of the occupation administration Leonid Pasechnik, five oil depot employees were injured as a result of the strike.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has announced the dismantlement of a network of Federal Security Service (FSB) agents in the Ukrainian equivalent of Russia’s Federal Protective Service (FSO)—Ukraine’s State Security Administration. The agents were allegedly planning to assassinate the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Head of the SBU Vasyl Maliuk, the Chief of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine (GUR) Kyrylo Budanov, as well as a series of other high-ranking officials in the lead up to Vladimir Putin’s inauguration. It is reported that they had developed detailed plans and had already transferred weapons to Kyiv. While we cannot verify the SBU’s claims, given that Russia currently lacks the ability to win on the frontline, the planned murder of Ukraine’s top officials, likely followed by a declaration of victory, appears in our view to be a plausible scenario.

Analysts from the Molfar research group, after analyzing satellite images of the Crimean Bridge over an extended period of time, have concluded that Russia has now almost stopped using the bridge as a supply route for its troops. We cannot agree with this assessment at this time, as the images studied by the researchers were not taken every day, but at intervals of three to four days. The absence of cargo trains on some of the images does not necessarily mean that the bridge was not used for military purposes when satellites were not observing it.

The conclusions reached by Molfar analysts contradict the information received from our sources in February 2024, particularly concerning videos depicting T-62 tanks and other military vehicles arriving by train in the Crimean city of Yevpatoria. Similar videos were also disseminated by the ATESH Telegram channel and, in March, by the Krymsky Veter [Crimean Wind] Telegram channel. Notably, at that time, the railway in the southern part of the Russian-occupied territory had not yet been completed, suggesting that these vehicles could have only arrived via the Crimean Bridge. Additionally, Russian authorities have been intensifying control over social media, resulting in a decline in the appearance of videos showing cargo trains and the unloading of military equipment in Crimea in open sources, dating back to last year. Nevertheless, the absence of public reporting on these movements does not necessarily indicate a halt in the transport of military equipment via the Crimean Bridge.

This report likely became popular with Russian-language media because it was picked-up by The Independent, a major, and trusted, Western newspaper.

Last week we reported that the US Department of State had accused Russia of having used chloropicrin in the war in Ukraine, highlighting the absence of an expert opinion from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. On May 7, the OPCW published a statement indicating that there is no clear evidence of Russia using any chemical weapon in Ukraine. Thus far, the evidence provided by both Russia and Ukraine does not allow to accuse either party of using prohibited agents.

A patient at Ivanovo City Hospital No.1 complained that he could not get an appointment with a surgeon. In response to an editorial request from the IvanovoNews media outlet, Head Physician Andrey Chikin stated that he is experiencing a shortage of surgeons.  He explained that this shortage is exacerbated by the recent deaths of three surgeons, with one more currently participating in the "special military operation." Chikin mentioned that despite ongoing efforts to recruit personnel, organizing a full-fledged surgical reception in two shifts appears unfeasible at the moment. The circumstances surrounding the deaths of the mentioned surgeons remain undisclosed.

It is worth noting that medical personnel are considered obligated reservists in Russia, and we have repeatedly reported that in some Russian regions, doctors are forced to deploy to the combat zone.

On May 6, journalist Nadezhda Kevorkova was arrested on charges of "justification of terrorism" related to two of her posts, one of which was about the Taliban, a group prohibited in Russia. However, it is worth noting that Russian authorities have engaged in cooperation with the Taliban. Specifically, Zamir Kabulov, the Russian Presidential Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Director of the Foreign Ministry’s Second Asia Department, announced that a delegation of the ruling Taliban group in Afghanistan has been invited to participate in the Russia—Islamic World: KazanForum, scheduled to take place from May 14 to May 19 in Kazan.

On May 15, Conflict Intelligence Team celebrates its 10th anniversary, for which we plan to hold a celebratory live broadcast. As always, feel free to ask your questions through our bot.