The advance of the RF Armed Forces near Kharkov and Donetsk has stalled, the largest drone attack on Russia and Crimea. What was happening at the front this week

In today’s summary:

  • The offensive of the RF Armed Forces in the north of the Kharkiv region has been stopped – the maximum advance was up to 10 km;
  • Vladimir Putin said that there is no goal to capture Kharkiv, we are talking about the creation of a “sanitary zone” in the border area;
  • The advance of Russian troops in the Avdiivka and Maryinka operational areas has finally stalled;
  • The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation announced the “liberation” of the village of Rabotino in the Zaporozhye region – Z-channels did not believe it;
  • Effective ATACMS strikes on the Belbek airfield near Sevastopol – two MiG-31s and one Su-27 were destroyed;
  • The largest combined attack of sea and air drones in Crimea and the Krasnodar Territory during the war;
  • A Russian soldier named Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky, who had accumulated debts, died at the front;
  • The Insider found out that Austrian Steyr Mannlicher sniper rifles are being supplied to Russia.
  • The situation at the front
  • Over the past week, everyone’s attention has been focused on the north of the Kharkiv region, where the Russian offensive that began on May 10 was developing. During the first days of the operation, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense (1, 2) and DeepState (1, 2), which are mostly not contradictory, Russian forces managed to occupy about 10 border villages. In addition, the RF Armed Forces reached the outskirts of Volchansk, entered the northern part of the city and engaged in street fighting. By Wednesday, the Z-military correspondents were quick to announce the capture of two-thirds of the city or even full control over it.

One of the infantry groups was visually confirmed to have entered at least the district central hospital, where it was allegedly destroyed. In addition, the Russian military continues to be accused of war crimes against civilians in Vovchansk – in particular, in the shooting and capture of volunteers who helped evacuate the civilian population.

How seriously the Ukrainian leadership assesses the situation in the Kharkiv direction is evidenced, for example, by the change of the commander of the operational-tactical group of troops “Kharkiv” to the Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Mikhail Drapatyi, as well as the cancellation of all international visits by Zelensky.

By May 16, according to Ukrainian military observer Konstantin Mashovets, the Russian offensive towards Kharkiv itself through the village of Liptsy was completely stopped due to a lack of reserves, while it was premature to talk about stabilizing the situation in Vovchansk. Nevertheless, the situation in the new operational area gave rise to the Ukrainian General Staff to declare that the plans of the RF Armed Forces to wedge into the Ukrainian defenses in Vovchansk were thwarted, and Volodymyr Zelensky – that the situation in the direction as a whole stabilized, and the maximum advance of the enemy was only 10 km.

Vladimir Putin argued with Zelensky in absentia, saying that the RF Armed Forces in the Kharkiv direction are achieving success every day. At the same time, he admitted that “today” there is no goal to capture Kharkiv, and the task is to create a “sanitary zone” designed to reduce the number of Ukrainian shelling of Belgorod and the region. In any case, the offensive that began led, at least, according to the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Alexander Syrsky, to an increase in the active front by 70 km – which, according to one of the Z-channels, forced the Armed Forces of Ukraine to use scattered reserves from different brigades in the direction.

Neither the Russian offensive nor the Ukrainian defense near Kharkiv is going smoothly for their participants. The Russian military and their relatives complain (1, 2) about weak counter-battery warfare and “meat assaults”, while Ukrainian analysts draw attention to the ugly state of the IFS (1, 2), and journalist Yuriy Butusov notes the lack of air defense systems. Volodymyr Zelensky, in turn, claims that two more batteries of Patriot air defense systems are needed for the defense of Kharkiv and the region. In addition, the Ukrainian military reported a sudden shutdown of Starlink satellite communication terminals on the first day of the offensive (apparently as a result of the work of Russian electronic warfare systems).

Ukrainian sources draw attention to the situation in the Sumy region, where the RF Armed Forces may launch an operation similar to the one in Kharkiv. The first to talk about this was the head of the Main Intelligence Directorate Kyrylo Budanov, and later the Ukrainian serviceman Stanislav Bunyatov said that the Russians were pulling equipment to the border with the region (soon in the Kursk region near the border they managed to destroy two Russian tanks).

The situation in the Avdiivka and Maryinka operational areas west of Donetsk has not undergone major changes in a week – in any case, the full control of the RF Armed Forces over any of the settlements has not been officially announced. “Military correspondents” write (1, 2) about minor advances and “clean-up operations”, and the state of affairs in many settlements is described succinctly “no change” – or even “the situation is hanging…”.

BILD columnist Julian Röpke also writes about the stop of the Russian offensive near Avdiivka, explaining this by the supply of Western ammunition and the successful use of kamikaze drones. Events developed somewhat better for the RF Armed Forces in the Kupyansk direction, where the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine was forced to recognize the withdrawal to “more advantageous positions”, which was accompanied by a DeepState report about the “partial success” of Russian forces in the area of Kislovka and Berestovo.

One of the most “high-profile” events of the week was the announcement by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation about the “liberation” of the village of Rabotino in the Zaporozhye direction (or what was left of it after first Ukrainian and then Russian offensive actions). Despite the footage posted by the department with a flag flying over the lunar landscape on the site of the former village, the control of the RF Armed Forces over the settlement is not confirmed not only by Ukrainian (1, 2), but also by Russian (1, 2) sources, and the latter recall the “cleansing” of Krynka on the left bank of the Dnieper at the end of February this year (the Armed Forces of Ukraine still maintain a presence in this settlement).

The situation with Rabotino looks especially indicative against the background of the Z-public’s admiration for the phrase of Andrei Belousov, who replaced Sergei Shoigu as Minister of Defense: “You can make mistakes, you can’t lie!” (1, 2, 3) Many pro-war commentators managed to scatter praise of the new appointee, although others were at first frankly perplexed by the announcement.

Against the background of the appointment of a new minister, it is worth noting Putin’s statement that changes in the composition of the General Staff are not planned. It can be assumed that he is generally satisfied with the work of Valery Gerasimov, who directly manages the “SVO” as the commander of the United Group of Forces (forces).

Belousov himself, meanwhile, outlined the priorities of the RF Armed Forces, and, according to him, this is the recruitment of troops, “but not mobilization.” In particular, we are talking about the supply of ammunition, missiles, UAVs, electronic warfare equipment to troops in the “NVO” zone. According to Belousov, “every ruble of budget money” should be spent on this. In turn, Z-figures and members of the public have already complained to the new minister about the independent payment by the military for operations to remove fragments, the bureaucratic nature of the adoption of new developments for service and the illegal detention of wounded mobilized men who are going to be sent to war again.

Mutual shelling and sabotage
The past week was marked by several successful strikes on the territory of Russia and the occupied Crimea.

For two nights in a row (on May 15 and 16), the Crimean military airfield of Belbek was attacked by ATACMS (the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation both times reported the interception of all missiles – 1, 2) with a cluster warhead, which led to the destruction of several aircraft (at least two MiG-31s and one Su-27), vehicles from the S-400 air defense system and a gas station.

The strikes and the publication of images of their consequences caused a flurry of criticism in Z-channels (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) addressed to the command, which did not bother to build reinforced concrete shelters or at least steel hangars, as well as officials cheerfully reporting on the complete suppression of attacks by air defense systems, and representatives of the Russian authorities who draw and then ignore the “red lines”.

Also in Crimea, Storm Shadow / SCALP-EG missiles hit an air defense unit on Mount Ai-Petri (the death of its commander, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Kulakov, which was reported by ASTRA sources, was subsequently confirmed by open data). In addition, among the notable targets of Ukrainian raids on the occupied territories, it is worth highlighting the oil depot in the occupied Rovenky in the Luhansk region (affected by ATACMS), the ammunition depot in Sorokyne (until 2016 – Krasnodon), as well as the rally gathering place and restaurant in Donetsk in connection with the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the “DPR” (the deaths of civilians and of the Russian military).

On the territory of Russia, Ukrainian forces hit a refinery and a freight train in the Volgograd region, an electrical substation in the Lipetsk region, an oil depot in the Rostov region and the Bazalt defense enterprise in Tula.

On the night of May 17, the largest attack of drones and BECs on the territory of the Russian Federation and Crimea took place during the war (estimates reach 140 UAVs and 20 naval drones). Among the affected objects are a power substation in Sevastopol, port and other fuel and lubricants infrastructure (1, 2) in Novorossiysk, as well as a refinery in Tuapse, which had recently resumed work after a January raid.

The RF Armed Forces, in turn, continued to hit Ukrainian military and civilian targets. Among the first are the field airfield of helicopters in the Zaporozhye region (Russian commentators claim the destruction of two Mi-24s and the damage to two more, as well as one Mi-8), the accumulation of kamikaze UAVs in the Kherson region, the place of unloading ammunition in the Donetsk region (the strike was recognized as unsuccessful), crossings in the Kharkiv region (1, 2), one of which was quite prompt restored, as well as a possible parking lot of armored vehicles in Mykolaiv (6 people were injured).

During the week, the authorities reported on civilians killed and wounded as a result of Russian strikes, in particular, in Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk (1, 2), Kherson (1, 2, 3) and Odesa regions. It is worth noting that, according to the UN, in April, 89% of civilian deaths and injuries and 86% of attacks on educational and health facilities occurred in the territory controlled by the Ukrainian authorities.

In general, The Wall Street Journal notes a decrease in the effectiveness of countering Ukrainian air defense systems against Russian missile strikes (from 73% of downed targets to 30%), which is caused by the increase in the use of ballistic missiles by the Russian Armed Forces and the depletion of Ukrainian stocks of missiles. On the other hand, according to the Air Force Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (1, 2, 3), during all three Shahed raids over the past week, all drones launched on the territory of Ukraine were shot down.

The most intense exchange of strikes, during which civilians suffered, took place between the Kharkiv (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and Belgorod (1, 2, 3) regions. According to Vyorstka’s calculations, the city of Kharkiv was shelled more often in the period from January to May 2024 than in the whole of 2023.

At the same time, the situation developed with the loudest blow to civilian infrastructure in a week – to a house in Belgorod, where an entire entrance collapsed and 17 people died. Analysts found that the explosion occurred on the northeastern side of the house, facing deep into the territory of Russia. A similar conclusion was reached by the CIT, which is inclined to believe that the cause of the explosion was either a hit by Russian missiles or an “abnormal descent” of an aerial bomb from the UMPK from a Russian aircraft.

The exact cause of the explosion in Belgorod cannot yet be established, but similar incidents also took place in the region. On the night of May 11, a Russian missile allegedly fell in the village of Novosadovyi, as a result of which three people were injured. Incidents with the fall of aerial bombs occurred several times a week, in particular in the village of Razumnoye in the suburbs of Belgorod, less than 8 kilometers from the house, where the entrance collapsed on the same day. In total, according to The Insider, since the beginning of 2024, Russian ammunition has abnormally fallen on the region at least 44 times.

Even worse, according to ASTRA, the situation is in the “DPR”, where there are about 40 fallen bombs, which, unlike in the Belgorod region, cannot be demined due to the lack of explosives technicians.

Russian casualties, confirmed by open sources by Mediazona, the BBC Russian Service and a team of volunteers, increased by 1,431 people in two weeks, reaching 53,586 (the total number of deaths is estimated at 107,000). The most notable of the Russians whose death was confirmed was Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky, who took the name, surname and patronymic in honor of the founder of the Soviet punitive bodies in 2018 or 2019 and left behind debts on microloans in the amount of 30,000 rubles.

As for the losses of equipment, the Z-channel “Rubryka ot Ledok” counted 231 units of equipment of the Armed Forces of Ukraine lost in April. Among them are 20 tanks, 22 self-propelled guns, 47 infantry fighting vehicles and 22 MRAPs.

In turn, the 47th Mechanized Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine published a calculation of the losses of the Russian military and equipment, which the brigade’s fighters chalked up in April in the Avdiivka direction. The brigade counted 494 killed Russians and 65 destroyed pieces of equipment, including 13 tanks, 20 infantry fighting vehicles, 18 armored personnel carriers and 11 MT-LBs.

According to the calculations of the Naalsio researcher based on visual materials, in the Avdiivka operational area in the period from May 3 to May 10, the Russians lost at least 44 units of military equipment, the Ukrainians – 24. In the Krynk area on the left bank of the Dnieper, confirmed losses of equipment of the RF Armed Forces for the same period amounted to 12 units, Naalsio did not record any losses of equipment from the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

As for the Kharkiv direction, as of May 13, the confirmed losses of the RF Armed Forces, according to Naalsio, amounted to 6 pieces of equipment, the Armed Forces of Ukraine – 7. This ratio can be explained by reports that the Russians in the area are advancing mainly in small infantry groups, with little or no use of armored vehicles. However, tanks were also involved in the assault on Vovchansk, but Ukrainian sources report their destruction.

Z-channels note rather high losses of artillery of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Kharkiv region – “Military Informant” counted three destroyed wheeled self-propelled guns “Bogdana” of Ukrainian production. Rob Lee believes that in the face of the Russian offensive, Ukrainian artillery has to constantly maneuver, and not take cover in camouflaged “huts” made of anti-drone nets, and, thus, “expose themselves” to strikes.

Weapons and military equipment
Among the significant military aid packages promised to Ukraine this week are the Spanish one, which will include Leopard 2A4 tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, air defense systems and anti-drone systems, and Denmark’s allocation of €750 million for artillery, air defense and ensuring the supply of Danish F-16 fighters. In addition, Germany promised another IRIS-T air defense system, and France promised a new batch of Aster 30 missiles for the SAMP/T air defense system.

The German-led “air defense coalition” continues to take shape. Within its framework, Lithuania will supply six AMBER-1800 radars to Ukraine. In addition, the following contributions from other contributors are already known:

Germany will transfer one battery of Patriot air defense systems;
Belgium — €200 million;
the Netherlands — €150 million;
Denmark — €134 million for the purchase of a Patriot battery;
Canada – €52 million for the supply of missiles for the IRIS-T air defense system.
The United States, in turn, is considering transferring another Patriot battery with radar to Ukraine. Also, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced the allocation of another $2 billion for military needs for Ukraine. The funds allocated under the previously adopted bill, in combination with those remaining in the fund for financing foreign armed forces, will be invested in a fund that provides the Ukrainian side with weapons, investments in the military-industrial complex and financing the purchase of equipment in other countries.

As for the Russian “partners”, according to the Minister of Defense of the Republic of Korea Shin Won-sik, since September last year, the DPRK has delivered 6,700 containers of ammunition to Russia, which could fit up to 3 million 152-mm artillery rounds or up to 500 thousand 122-mm rockets.

Among the less obvious sources of weapons was Austria, from where, as The Insider found out, over the past two years, 169 Steyr Mannlicher sniper rifles and at least 3606 Glock pistols have been imported into Russia. Deliveries are carried out despite the sanctions of the European Union, which includes Austria.

The Insider has repeatedly written about how the Russian military-industrial complex, despite sanctions, receives foreign military and dual-use products:

On the purchase of tantalum capacitors of Western origin necessary for missiles and drones;
On the smuggling of small arms from Europe through Turkey and Kazakhstan;
On the import of high-precision metallurgical tools manufactured by the German company Gühring;
On the import of cartridges and small arms manufactured by the Italian holding Beretta;
On the supply of scarce machine tools through the Belgian company of the GRU agent;
On the purchase of metalworking machines of Taiwanese origin;
On the supply of microcircuits for missiles, electronic warfare stations and drones through China;
Assistance from Western companies in the production of Armata and T-90 Proryv tanks;
Purchases of components for the Kinzhal missile by Russian companies that have not been sanctioned;
On the sale by Latvian businesses of electronics for Iskander OTRK missiles and Tor-M2E air defense systems;
On the import of American electronics through intermediaries from China, Hong Kong, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Estonia and Finland;
About the smuggling of lasers, transistors and tactical antennas through the Sernia network;
On the cooperation of 25 European companies with defense enterprises in the Russian Federation;
On the imperfection of the sanctions policy in general in terms of restrictions on the supply of electronics to the Russian Federation.
The Ukrainian military diversified the arsenal of “skids” with Serbian M93P1 grenades for AGS-17 grenade launchers and AZB-5 incendiary bombs, and also “omangalize” Polish BRDM armored vehicles and captured Russian tanks. The RF Armed Forces, in turn, are expanding the use of “tsar braziers” and mastering ATVs as platforms for mortars and anti-aircraft turrets. Russian volunteers, in addition to “barbecues”, use spiritual protection for equipment sent to the front.

About the main events of the war in the reports for the week:

May 17: The largest combined attack on Sevastopol and Novorossiysk, Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky died in the war. What is happening at the front

May 16: ATACMS fly at the Belbek airfield in Crimea for the second day in a row, air bombs were dropped on the Belgorod region again. What is happening at the front

May 15: The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation “liberated” Rabotino, powerful “arrivals” at the airfield in Belbek, tanks were thrown into the assault on Vovchansk. What is happening at the front

May 14: Street fighting in Vovchansk, the failed offensive of the Russian Armed Forces on the Sumy region, the assault on Chasiv Yar. What is happening at the front

May 13: The RF Armed Forces reached the outskirts of Volchansk, a strike on a high-rise building in Belgorod, Sergei Shoigu left the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. What is happening at the front

Previous weekly report (from May 4 to May 10, 2024): The Kharkiv border area “began to move”, a record-breaking UAV attack on the territory of the Russian Federation. What happened at the front this week

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