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Weekly Ukraine war summary: Kharkiv border region “comes into motion,” record long-range drone attack on Russian territory

RU

In today's summary:

  • The Russian Armed Forces launched an offensive in the border region of Kharkiv Oblast, but the scale of the operation is still difficult to assess.
  • To the north of the Avdiivka operational area, Ukrainian troops managed to “curtail” a Russian breakthrough.
  • Employees of the Russian military traffic police had a high-profile conflict with Chechen soldiers from the Akhmat battalion.
  • Ukraine has adopted a law allowing certain categories of convicts to be recruited for military service.
  • Massive missile and drone strikes on the Ukrainian energy sector hit infrastructure in six regions.
  • A record-breaking UAV attack deep inside Russian territory saw a Ukrainian drone fly 1,500 kilometers to strike an oil refinery in Bashkortostan.
  • Oryx volunteers confirmed, based on visual evidence, that Russia has now lost 3,000 tanks in Ukraine since the start of its full-scale invasion.
  • The new U.S. aid package includes missiles for Patriot and NASAMS SAMs, new HIMARS MLRS, and Bradley IFVs.

Situation at the front

The main event of the week was the start of a Russian offensive in the north of Kharkiv Oblast. Preparations for the operation began even earlier, as Russian forces began assembling in the border area prior to the assault. According to Ukrainian and Russian sources, during one day of fighting Russian forces managed to occupy the border villages of Strilecha, Krasne, Pyl’na, Borysivka, and Hatyshche. Most of them are located in the “no man’s land” outside the area where Ukraine has constructed defensive fortifications.

These modest successes have already cost Russia casualties in both manpower and armored vehicles. Some of the losses were incurred on the Russian side of the border. Russian pro-war Telegram channels, in turn, are showing pictures of six captured Ukrainian soldiers and footage of strikes on Ukrainian artillery and surface-to-air missile systems (SAMs).

Despite these advances, Russian pro-war media are urging their followers and colleagues not to describe the operation as an assault on the city of Kharkiv.

Self-styled Russian “military correspondent” Alexander Kots noted that “the borderland has come into motion,” but warned his readers against feelings of false optimism. Propagandist Anastasia Kashevarova, meanwhile, fiercely criticized so-called “couch butchers” for writing about the “capture of Kharkiv.”

Analysts, for their part, believe (1, 2) that the forces available to the Russian side are insufficient to storm the city of Kharkiv and suggest that the offensive is meant to serve as a diversion aimed at drawing away Ukrainian reserves from other parts of the front. One Ukrainian military channel compared the Russian army’s recent actions in Kharkiv Oblast to the raids carried out by the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK) and Freedom of Russia Legion (LSR) — paramilitary units comprised of Russian nationals fighting on the Ukrainian side — in Russia’s Kursk, Bryansk, and Belgorod regions.

The slow advance of the Russian army continued throughout the week on other parts of the front. In the Avdiivka operational area, Russian forces managed to fully occupy Arkhangelske and Ocheretyne, and also to enter Netailove and Umanske. However, Russian and Ukrainian channels alike write that the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) managed to “curtail a breakthrough” from Ocheretyne, which threatened the H 32 (T0504) highway between Kostiantynivka and Pokrovsk. Russian forces are currently located within approximately 10 kilometers of the highway. To the south, Russian forces are advancing in Krasnohorivka, but have been forced to defend against Ukrainian counterattacks in the center of Heorhiivka.

Russian forces were also apparently able to gain a foothold in the center of Robotyne in the Zaporizhzhia direction, reach Staromaiorske on the Vremevsky Bulge, advance in the southern part of the Siversk Bulge, and fully occupy Kyslivka and Kotlyarivka southeast of Kupyansk.

According to Ukrainian military observer Kostiantyn Mashovets, the Russians are regrouping In the area of Chasiv Yar, where they are preparing to resume offensive operations. After hearing a report by AFU commander-in-chief Oleksandr Syrskyi, on the evening of May 10 President Volodymyr Zelensky said that “heavy fighting” was taking place “along the entire front line.”

The command of the AFU Support Forces estimated that Russia used munitions with poisonous substances 444 times in April alone. This mainly involved dropping K51 tear gas grenades from drones.

Meanwhile, the Russian military remains at war with its own military police: ex-Wagner Group mercenaries from the Akhmat unit claim that military traffic police officers prevented 100 liters of blood plasma for the wounded from being delivered to a hospital, leading to the deaths of multiple soldiers.

Propagandist Anastasia Kashevarova explained the incident by saying that the car delivering the plasma did not have black military license plates, as it was not registered with the unit. She published a video depicting the military police officers “pestering” the “Akhmat” vehicle.

Ukraine has adopted a law giving some convicts the right to parole in order to sign a contract with the AFU. However, the option is not available to those convicted of crimes against the national security of Ukraine, premeditated murder of two or more persons, or murder involving particular cruelty or sexual assault. Those found guilty of serious offenses involving corruption are also exempt from parole. Ukraine’s Justice Minister Denys Maliuska explained that the law will allow for anywhere from 10,000-20,000 prisoners to enter the ranks of the AFU.

Meanwhile, Russian convicts who served in Storm-Z detachments under a far more dubious scheme are complaining that wounded fighters have not been paid compensation and that others were not provided with benefits and veterans' certificates. Simultaneously, soldiers of one of the Storm line detachments (not to be confused with Storm Z, as these are assault units formed out of regular troops) refused to “go to die” on orders from their commanders.

Mutual strikes and sabotage

This week, Russian forces launched another massive missile and drone strike on Ukrainian energy facilities. According to the AFU Air Force, a total of 55 cruise and ballistic missiles (of which 39 were shot down) and 21 Shahed-type suicide drones (20 were shot down) were used on the night of May 8 alone. Electricity transmission and generation facilities in six regions of Ukraine were hit. Kyiv Oblast was also attacked, but no damage to infrastructure facilities was recorded there.

Although kamikaze drone attacks on Ukraine continued throughout the week (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), the overwhelming majority of UAVs were intercepted, according to the AFU. However, power infrastructure facilities in the Dnipropetrovsk and Sumy Oblasts were impacted. Russian forces also shelled the railway station in Kherson, the city of Kostiantynivka in Donetsk Oblast (using UMPB D30 gliding munitions), and the city of Nikopol in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast (with artillery).

The shelling of Kharkiv continued throughout the week (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), resulting in dozens of casualties. Two people were killed and five were injured in the shelling of Vovchansk and other border settlements in Ukraine’s Kharkiv Oblast as the Russian offensive kicked into gear, prompting local authorities to announce an evacuation of the area.

Also in Kharkiv Oblast, Russian forces struck an AFU training area and a bridge. The latter strike was apparently aimed at complicating the logistics of Ukrainian forces defending the north of the region.

Several Russian regions also suffered from the actions of the Russian Aerospace Forces — air-dropped bombs exploded in Krasnodar Krai and Belgorod, in the latter case injuring five people.

During the week, Ukrainian forces struck refineries and oil depots in Russia and occupied Ukrainian territories. Two oil depots in Yurovka in Krasnodar Krai and the Gazprom Neftekhim Salavat refinery in Bashkortostan were hit using drones, one of which is said to have flown 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) — the deepest confirmed strike into Russian territory to date.

An oil depot in occupied Luhansk, in turn, was struck with ATACMS missiles. The missiles’ debris were captured by both photos and video. ATACMS also allegedly hit the positioning area of an Iskander ballistic missile system in Crimea and a Russian military deployment location in Mariupol.

The shelling also affected Russia's border areas, particularly the Belgorod Region, where FPV drones struck two minibuses and a passenger car carrying employees of the Agro-Belogorie enterprise on May 6 (killing 7 people and injuring 40). 11 people were injured in a rocket attack on Belgorod on May 9. Significant damage to 84 apartments in 26 apartment buildings and damage to 53 cars and a gas supply line were also confirmed.

The Ukrainian military intelligence service, HUR, reported the bombing of the car of an employee of a penal colony allegedly involved in the torture of Ukrainian prisoners of war in occupied Berdiansk, as well as the destruction of a boat in Vuzka Bay in occupied Crimea using a naval drone. One of the Ukrainian surface drones was spotted carrying R-73 air-to-air missiles, which, according to the authors of the Russian pro-war channel Military Informant, “means a completely new level of threat to [Russian] aircraft in the waters of the Black Sea.”

Losses

The BBC Russian Service and Mediazona, along with a team of volunteers, confirmed the deaths of another 1,110 soldiers on the Russian side between April 26 and May 10, according to open-source data (in total, the researchers counted 52,789 confirmed combat deaths since the start of the war).

Military analyst Naalsio updated the count of confirmed military equipment losses in the Avdiivka operational area — the Russian Armed Forces were reported to have lost at least 32 units of equipment between April 26 and May 3, while the AFU lost 7. In the Krynky area on the left bank of the Dnipro, the confirmed losses of the Russian army for the same timeframe amounted to 2 units of equipment, with no losses recorded for the AFU, as per Naalsio’s analysis.

In the Avdiivka direction, losses of American M1 Abrams tanks (1, 2) are increasing. Rob Lee, a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, believes that the relatively high losses of these tanks are due to a shortage of artillery ammunition and ATGMs on the Ukrainian side. As a result, the Abrams are forced to take on Russian armored vehicles close to the front, where they are more vulnerable to Russian attacks.

Russian forces also continued to hunt for Ukrainian air defenses, and for the first time managed to strike a British makeshift SAM on a Supacat chassis designed to launch AIM-132 ASRAAM air-to-air missiles. On the other hand, Russian forces wasted an Iskander missile by hitting decoys of a Patriot SAM launcher and AN/MPQ-53 radar.

The Russian Aerospace Forces-affiliated Telegram channel Fighterbomber announced the loss in combat of an Su-34 fighter-bomber manned with “the best crew.” The channel did not provide any details. According to a report by the channel Spy Dossier (“Dossier Shphiona”) the incident occurred during a combat mission near Valuiki in the Belgorod Region, and the cause of the loss was engine failure.

Project Oryx volunteers have documented the loss of 3,000 tanks by Russian forces since February 24, 2022. Of these, 2001 tanks were completely destroyed, 156 damaged, 329 abandoned, and 514 captured by the AFU. Oryx volunteer Jakub Janovsky specified that losses of T-72 tanks in various modifications (1441) made up a large plurality of the overall count. The Russian Armed Forces have also lost at least 840 T-80 tanks, 136 T-90 and T-62 tanks, 92 T-64 tanks, and 8 T-54/55 tanks. The exact model of 347 destroyed tanks could not be confirmed.

The Russian Aerospace Forces-affiliated Telegram channel Fighterbomber announced the loss in combat of an Su-34 fighter-bomber manned with “the best crew.” The channel did not provide any details. According to a report by the channel Spy Dossier (“Dossier Shphiona”) the incident occurred during a combat mission near Valuiki in the Belgorod Region, and the cause of the loss was engine failure.

Project Oryx volunteers have documented the loss of 3,000 tanks by Russian forces since February 24, 2022. Of these, 2001 tanks were completely destroyed, 156 damaged, 329 abandoned, and 514 captured by the AFU. Oryx volunteer Jakub Janovsky specified that losses of T-72 tanks in various modifications (1441) made up a large plurality of the overall count. The Russian Armed Forces have also lost at least 840 T-80 tanks, 136 T-90 and T-62 tanks, 92 T-64 tanks, and 8 T-54/55 tanks. The exact model of 347 destroyed tanks could not be confirmed.

According to a report by the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, at least 546 children have died and more than 1,330 others have been injured as a result of military actions since the start of the full-scale Russian invasion. The data is considered incomplete due to the near impossibility of obtaining full information in war zones and occupied territories. The largest number of child casualties were documented in the Donetsk (530), Kharkiv (365), and Kherson Oblasts (150).

Independent investigative outlet Important Stories (IStories) published an article dedicated to veterans and survivors of World War II, as well as former inmates of Nazi concentration camps, who died or were forced to leave their homes as a result of the Russian “operation to denazify Ukraine.”

Weapons and military equipment

The U.S. announced another $400 million Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA) package of military aid to Ukraine, to be supplied from Pentagon stocks. It includes additional ammunition for Patriot and NASAMS air defense systems, Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, 155mm and 105 mm artillery rounds, ATGMs, Bradley infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), M113 armored personnel carriers (APCs), MRAP-class armored vehicles, and HIMARS MLRS rockets (along with the launchers themselves; three more are to be purchased with German funds).

Ukraine will receive a shipment of F-16 fighter jets by July, according to a report by the British publication The Standard, which did not specify which of the countries in the “F-16 coalition” is set to be the first to transfer planes to Kyiv. The Netherlands, for its part, promised to deliver fighter jets to Ukraine in the fall of this year. Meanwhile, Czechia has already delivered a simulator for F-16 pilots to a Ukrainian tactical aviation brigade.

The first 180,000 artillery ammunition rounds purchased under the Czech initiative are also expected to be delivered in June, with a subsequent batch already contracted. Notably, after the government of Slovakia refused to participate in the initiative, a Slovakian grassroots crowdfunding effort raised $4 million for ammunition for the AFU — enough to purchase 2,692 artillery rounds.

Last week, enterprises from the Russian military-industrial complex reported on deliveries of regular batches of T-72B3M and T-90M tanks, BMP-3 and BMD-4M IFVs, and Su-35S fighter jets. Deliveries of new armored vehicles are especially important for the Russian Armed Forces, as storage bases with Soviet equipment continue to be emptied out. According to estimates by the researcher Jompy, there are only 400-500 BMP-2 IFVs and about 400 MT-LB tracked fighting vehicles left in storage in Russia, and only 300 of the latter are in combat-ready condition.

Russian troops also receive “military-affiliated” equipment in a variety of ways — for example, the Chinese company Jitian Intelligent Equipment plans to produce agricultural drones in Krasnodar Krai. The UAVs are banned for use in this and other border regions, but are widely used by both sides for drone drops.

Ukrainian investigative journalists revealed that the Israeli company Gilat Satellite Networks imports into Russia satellite communication systems manufactured at a factory in the Ukrainian city of Uzhhorod. This equipment is later sent to the “special military operation zone” by volunteers.

On both sides of the front, alternative vehicles that are less visible to enemy surveillance are gaining popularity: Ukrainian soldiers reported on the use of ATVs for supply and evacuation of the wounded, while the Russian Defense Ministry demonstrated the use of buggies, a UAZ light cargo vehicle, and a motorcycle for the delivery of fuel supplies. Also spotted on the front lines was a Russian “assault motorcycle” with an attached wooden pallet used in place of a sidecar to transport additional troops on the battlefield.

Russian and Ukrainian soldiers continue to upgrade military vehicles in various ways. On the Russian side, a further evolution of the “Tsar-Mangal” (or Turtle Tank) has been spotted, with the tank’s steel plates covered with anti-drone grills.

This system, combined with the electronic warfare equipment installed on the tank, apparently provides good protection against FPV drones.

The Ukrainian military, in turn, has demonstrated a heavy APC based on the T-72 tank, which lacks a turret but has an anti-drone grill over the troop compartment, along with hinged panels with additional explosive reactive armor on the sides.

A similar vehicle, based on the T-64 tank, was seen last year near Bakhmut.

Our previous weekly summaries of the main events of the Ukraine war:

April 29 — May 3, 2024: U.S. accuses Russian army of using chemical weapons, missile strikes on Odesa, “death fields” near Avdiivka

April 22 — April 26, 2024: Russian armed forces cut into Ukrainian defenses near Ocheretyne, U.S. announces largest aid package of the war

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