May 9, 2023

Sitrep for May 8–9 (as of 8:30 a.m.)

RuAF Strikes on the Territory of Ukraine

On the night of May 9, the RuAF hit Kyiv — the work of air defense systems was reported. No further details were available at the time that the sitrep was recorded. The aim of these attacks probably was to test the capabilities of Western air defense systems and deplete the stocks of anti-aircraft guided missiles.

On the evening of May 8, Kharkiv was hit reportedly with six S-300 air defense system missiles. Details are unknown.

Mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klytschko claimed the drone attack on the city on the night of May 8 to have been the most massive one in recent times. According to him, 60 Shahed kamikaze drones were launched. However, according to Spokesman of the Air Force Command of the AFU Yuriy Ihnat, there were 35 drones in total. Reportedly, as a result of the attack on Kyiv, five people were injured, and a downed drone damaged a residential building.

As we have already reported, during the RuAF strike on Odesa on the night of May 8 missiles hit a warehouse of the Ukrainian Red Cross’s Odesa Regional Organization, which stored humanitarian aid for the Odesa region. As a result of the fire, the warehouse was completely burned out. A warehouse guard, previously considered missing, turned out to have been killed.

The Situation on the Frontline

Contrary to some predictions, Russian forces failed to capture Bakhmut by May 9, although to date only a small part of the town is still under the AFU control.

There was a video showing close-range gunfights between Wagner Group mercenaries and Ukrainian servicemen. The fighting was geolocated on Levanevsky Street, outside the territory of the military unit, where armored vehicles were previously stored. Therefore, most likely, it has already come under the control of pro-Russian forces. However, there is still no reason to assume that Bakhmut will be completely captured in the coming days.

The Russian Defense Ministry, for the first time, mentioned the Universal Gliding and Correction Module (UMPK) in its report. It is said that in the Kupiansk direction, a crew of a Su-34 fighter-bomber attacked an alleged place of temporary deployment of foreign mercenaries near the village of Ivanivka (between Kupiansk and Kharkiv) with bombs equipped with the UMPK.

A group of researchers bought and analyzed satellite images of the directions where supposedly the Ukrainian counteroffensive may begin — Zaporizhzhia and Tokmak. They marked the location of fortifications found on the images on a map. If we overlay this marking on the terrain relief, we will see the textbook construction of defensive structures — tying trenches and ditches to forest belts and heights. Despite the fact that in modern combat operations drones have eliminated some of the advantages of positions at local heights, the ballistic advantage still plays a significant role: it is much more effective to attack the enemy from a higher position than from a lower one.

Judging by the map, the defense lines extend 25–30 km deep. Analysts identified six defensive zones:

  1. Outpost line, where separate platoon and squad strongpoints, as well as company strongpoints, are located.
  2. The first defensive line, 2–3 km deep, includes company trenches and strongpoints in a continuous line. This zone has recently been reinforced and continues to be constantly improved. The key links of this defensive line are the villages of Kopani and Robotyne.
  3. In the next zone, 4–5 km deep, there are reserves and possible false positions (it is difficult to distinguish them from real ones on satellite images), and the main part of the artillery is concentrated here. It is assumed that mechanized reserves will maneuver along the first defensive line, for which a large number of shelters for vehicles have been built.
  4. The main defensive line, where there are powerful multi-layer trenches with anti-tank ditches and anti-tank concrete pyramids ("dragon's teeth"), as well as minefields (although we assume that the latter should be in all zones). These fortifications form a practically continuous defensive belt along the entire front, 3–4 km deep.
  5. Reserve positions behind the main defensive line.
  6. The town of Tokmak, surrounded by an anti-tank ditch and strongpoints.

Satellite images from Mar. 13, 2023 were used for the analysis. It is likely that over the almost two months since then, the defense lines have continued to be strengthened.

The main issue in this regard remains the training of the military personnel who will take up these positions. Each unit must create and practice a firing plan in defense, including "range cards" for soldiers (stating when and where to shoot). Officers must explain to soldiers their tasks and conduct training. Without proper fire organization by competent officers, defense will not be effective, despite the quality of fortifications. It is also necessary for the soldiers to occupy their positions in advance.

With such a lengthy preparation by both sides, it can be expected that the new phase of the war, which will begin with the start of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, will be protracted, and the prospects for the latter cannot be assessed in the first few days.

Also, photos have emerged showing a pile of anti-tank concrete pyramids in Makiivka on the Donetsk axis.

Once again, it should be noted that one of the consequences of the war is the increase in crime in Russia. In the village of Tolmachevo in the Novosibirsk region, a military serviceman returned from the “special military operation” and, together with his acquaintances in a state of alcoholic intoxication, started a fight with local residents, as a result of which one of the defenders shot the attackers with a hunting rifle (notably, he first fired a warning shot into the air and only then began to shoot to kill). As a result, two people were killed and two more were seriously injured.

Deliveries of Western Military Equipment

Croatia has handed over nine Mil Mi-8 helicopters to Ukraine; they flew on their own, and another five will be delivered later by ground transport.

Poland stated that it has already transferred ten Mikoyan MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine (previously, it was reported about eight of them, some of which are unfit for flight and are used as spare parts donors).

Norway handed over another batch of vehicles with life-saving equipment to Ukraine. So far, 97 fire trucks and ambulances and 16 semi-trailers with rescue equipment have already been delivered.

Mark Krutov, editor for RFE/RL's Russian Service, analyzed satellite images of the Ilsky Oil Refinery in the Krasnodar region, which was attacked by drones on May 4. At least three fuel tanks seem to be damaged.

A video of the launch of a HIMARS MLRS rocket has been published, on the first frame of which six rocket rails are visible: three rocket lids are present (marked in red), and three more have already been fired (circled in green).

To distract Ukrainian air defense and "clear" the sky, the Russian side began using makeshift plywood drones. We have previously written about a similar case.

Poland and Romania are conducting joint missions to control migration risks. On May 5, during one of these missions, an L-410 Turbolet aircraft belonging to the Polish Border Police was flying over the Black Sea in international airspace 60 km east of Romanian airspace. It was intercepted by a Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jet, which performed dangerous maneuvers — approached up to 5 meters, generating a high level of turbulence, which, according to the Polish border guards, caused short-term loss of control of the aircraft and a significant loss in altitude.

For the reference, on Jan. 7, 2017, a serious air incident occurred due to one aircraft getting into the wake of another: after getting dangerously close to a passenger airliner (as close as 300 meters), the business jet rolled over several times, descended uncontrollably by about 3 km and then had to make an emergency landing.

On May 6., Chief of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine Kyrylo Budanov, answering a journalist's question about the involvement of the Ukrainian special services in the murder of Daria Dugina [pro-Russian activist, daughter of Aleksandr Dugin — Russian political philosopher, known for views widely characterized as fascist], said, “This topic is over. All I will say is that we have killed Russians and we will continue to kill Russians anywhere in the world until the complete victory of Ukraine.” At a briefing in Washington on May 8, when reporters asked Principal Deputy Spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State Vedant Patel to comment on this statement, he responded saying that the US does not encourage the killings of civilians anywhere. We believe that Budanov did not mean all Russians in general, but those Russians who are directly involved in the war or actively contribute to it. The Department of State representative gave a very general response because he did not know what Budanov said exactly, and was forced to improvise.