UA-69458566-1

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, May 17

Kateryna Stepanenko, Frederick W. Kagan, and George Barros

May 17, 7:00 pm ET

Mariupol defenders trapped in the Azovstal Steel Plant likely surrendered after Ukrainian officials negotiated evacuation measures with the Kremlin. Russian forces began evacuating wounded Ukrainian forces to Russian-occupied settlements in Donetsk Oblast on May 16 after the Russian Defense Ministry proposed the agreement earlier in the day. Ukrainian officials said that they will seek to return the Mariupol defenders to Ukraine in a prisoner exchange and continue to undertake appropriate measures to rescue all Ukrainian servicemen from Azovstal.

The Kremlin might have agreed to the conditional surrender of the Azovstal defenders to accelerate Russia’s ability to declare Mariupol fully under its control. The Ukrainian Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported that the Russian Defense Ministry’s Department of Information and Mass Communications is hastily preparing a press tour of foreign journalists through occupied territories of Ukraine between May 18 and May 21.[1] The Kremlin also could have agreed to such a deal to secure a victory in order to deflect criticism on social media of the failed Russian Siverskyi Donets River crossings and the overall slow pace of the invasion.

The Kremlin might refuse to exchange the Mariupol defenders. Some Russian State Duma members are petitioning to pass laws that would prohibit prisoner exchanges for individuals accused of “Nazism.”[2] Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin claimed that the Mariupol defenders must be charged with war crimes and cannot be exchanged for Russian prisoners of war.[3] The Kremlin may ignore the Russian State Duma’s concerns or use them to sabotage negotiations with Ukraine.

The surrender agreement generated some outrage and confusion on pro-Russian social media, rather than the celebration of the full capitulation of Mariupol that the Kremlin likely expected—possibly undermining Russian information operations. Some Russian Telegram channels ridiculed the Russian Defense Ministry for negotiating with Ukrainian “terrorists” and “Nazis.”[4] Some bloggers criticized the Donetsk People’s Republic for organizing the evacuation proceedings and blamed negotiating authorities for creating conditions for Ukrainian martyrdom.[5] Several Russian bloggers also called for the imprisonment or murder of surrendered Ukrainian servicemen.[6] Russian audiences are likely dissatisfied with the surrender agreement because they expected Russian forces to destroy Ukrainian defenders at Azovstal. The Kremlin has created large amounts of propaganda that portrayed successful Russian assaults on Azovstal without clearly setting conditions for surrender negotiations. Some Russians may find it difficult to reconcile the triumphant messaging with the abrupt negotiations leading to a negotiated surrender.

Russian forces have intensified artillery fire on Ukrainian border settlements in Chernihiv and Sumy oblasts over the past few weeks. The Ukrainian Northern Operational Command reported that Russian forces shelled the border between Sumy Oblast and Russia over 70 times on May 17.[7] Sumy Oblast Administration Head Dmytro Zhyvytskyi said that Russian saboteurs unsuccessfully attempted to break through the Ukrainian border on May 17.[8] 

Key Takeaways

  • The Ukrainian military command ordered the remaining defenders of Azovstal to surrender, likely conditionally, in hopes of returning them to Ukraine as part of yet-to-be-negotiated prisoner exchanges.
  • The announcement of the likely conditional surrender generated outrage in the Russian information space and demands in the Russian Duma for laws prohibiting exchanging the surrendered defenders of Azovstal.
  • Russian forces continued to make limited advances in Donbas, primarily focused on setting conditions for the Battle of Severodonetsk.


We do not report in detail on Russian war crimes because those activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We will continue to evaluate and report on the effects of these criminal activities on the Ukrainian military and population and specifically on combat in Ukrainian urban areas. We utterly condemn these Russian violations of the laws of armed conflict, Geneva Conventions, and humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

ISW has updated its assessment of the four primary efforts Russian forces are engaged in at this time. We have stopped coverage of supporting effort 4, “Sumy and northeastern Ukraine,” because it is no longer an active effort.

  • Main effort—Eastern Ukraine (comprised of one subordinate and three supporting efforts);
  • Subordinate main effort- Encirclement of Ukrainian troops in the cauldron between Izyum and Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts
  • Supporting effort 1—Mariupol;
  • Supporting effort 2—Kharkiv City;
  • Supporting effort 3—Southern axis.

Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine

Subordinate Main Effort—Southern Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk Oblasts (Russian objective: Encircle Ukrainian forces in Eastern Ukraine and capture the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)

Russian forces unsuccessfully attempted to improve their tactical positions south of Izyum to resume offensive operations in that sector. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces are replenishing troops and accumulating reserves to renew their drive on Slovyansk.[9] Russian forces likely did not secure the highway east of Dovhenke—a village approximately 30 km south of Izyum; that highway is necessary to continue the advance toward Slovyansk. Russian aviation attacked Ukrainian positions near Izyum, and Russian ground forces made limited territorial advances in the Lyman district.[10] Ukrainian artillery reportedly destroyed Russian equipment just 15 km north of Izyum on May 17.[11]

Russian forces continued their efforts to secure highways to Lysychansk from the south and Bahmut from the east with insignificant progress. Russian forces advanced a small distance north of Popasna in an effort to reach a major road connection to Severodonetsk.[12] The Luhansk People’s Republic claimed to have seized Novozvanivka just southwest of Popasna on the way to the Bahmut-Lysychansk highway but have likely not entered the settlement judging from reports of Russian shelling in the area, which suggest that Ukrainian defenders are still there.[13] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted an unsuccessful assault on a settlement 6 km southeast of Severodonetsk on May 17.[14]

Russian forces may be pushing hard to win the Battle of Severodonetsk in part to forestall emerging criticism of the Russian military campaign in the domestic information space. Russian State Duma Deputy from the Communist Party Viktor Sobolev expressed surprise over the lack of significant victories in Donbas compared to a number of successful operations in 2014.[15] Sobolev said that Russian forces must finally finish up the “special military operation” in Donbas and at least create an effective cauldron (encirclement) in Severodonetsk. Sobolev also criticized the Russian command for initiating a large-scale offensive operation without destroying Ukrainian strike capabilities. Luhansk Oblast Head Serhiy Haidai claimed that Russian forces are committing most of their combat power to a shallow encirclement to reassure the Russian population of Russian successes in Ukraine.[16] Pro-Russian Telegram channels began celebrating the arrival of a BMPT “Terminator” urban warfare vehicle in Severodonetsk’s vicinity, portraying it as a Russian wonder weapon.[17]

Russian forces also conducted a series of unsuccessful ground assaults in western Donetsk Oblast on May 17. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces unsuccessfully attempted to seize a segment of the N20 highway to Slovyansk east of Avdiivka.[18] Russian forces also reportedly attempted to advance in settlements east of Avdiivka but did not make any territorial gains.[19] Russian forces attempted to break Ukrainian defenses and reach the N15 highway to Zaporizhia without success.[20]



Supporting Effort #1—Mariupol (Russian objective: Capture Mariupol and reduce the Ukrainian defenders)

The Ukrainian military command ordered defenders at the Azovstal Steel Plant to surrender to Russian forces.[21] Russian officials likely accepted the Ukrainian surrender and evacuated over 260 wounded servicemen on May 16. The Ukrainian Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) announced that Ukrainian officials will attempt to negotiate prisoner exchanges for Mariupol defenders and undertake further unspecified measures to rescue the remaining servicemen.[22] The Russian Defense Ministry posted videos of a mass evacuation of the Azovstal on May 17, but ISW cannot confirm if all of Mariupol’s defenders left the plant.[23] Reuters reported that at least seven buses with Ukrainian servicemen who did not appear wounded left Mariupol on May 17.[24] Russian media also filmed the Donetsk People’s Republic forces reportedly demining Azovstal.[25]



Supporting Effort #2—Kharkiv City (Russian objective: Withdraw forces to the north and defend ground lines of communication (GLOCs) to Izyum)

Ukrainian forces continued to push the remaining Russian forces northeast of Kharkiv City on May 17. Kharkiv Oblast Administration Head Oleg Synegubov reported that Russian forces are attempting to repel Ukrainian counteroffensives in the direction of Vovchansk, a border settlement approximately 90 km northeast of Kharkiv City.[26] Ukrainian forces are continuing to threaten Russian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) to Izyum via Vovchansk. Pentagon officials noted that Russia may still hold positions close to Kharkiv City, likely referring to occupied settlements along the Belgorod-Kharkiv highway in the north.[27] Ukrainian forces downed a Russian attack helicopter just east of Kharkiv City on May 16.[28]



Supporting Effort #3—Southern Axis (Objective: Defend Kherson against Ukrainian counterattacks)

Russian forces did not conduct offensive operations throughout the southern axis on May 17.[29] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces continued to reinforce defense lines with concrete structures and fired on Ukrainian positions.[30] The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that Russian forces prevented a large-scale Ukrainian counteroffensive in a settlement approximately 30 km west of the Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk oblasts, but ISW cannot independently verify these claims.[31]

Russian forces are continuing to pressure Ukrainian civilians into accepting Russian occupation in southern Ukraine. The Zaporizhia Military Administration reported that Russian forces are preparing for a referendum in Enerhodar.[32] The Ukrainian Southern Operational Command said that Russian forces are continuing to set information conditions to promote the creation of a proxy republic or a Russian province in occupied settlements of Kherson and Mykolaiv oblasts.[33] The Ukrainian Resistance Center reported that locals found two Russian soldiers dead in Melitopol, likely due to Ukrainian partisan activity in the area.[34]

Russian forces continued to launch rocket- and airstrikes on Odesa and Mykolaiv oblasts in an effort to disrupt transportation infrastructure in the region. The Ukrainian Southern Operational Command reported that Russian forces launched two cruise missiles at a bridge over the Dniester estuary on May 17.[35] The bridge connects Odesa Oblast with the highway to Romania and has reportedly been damaged and out of operation for over two weeks. Russian forces likely seek to destroy the bridge beyond the possibility of repair to disrupt Ukrainian supply lines from Romania. The Ukrainian Southern Operational Command also reported that Russian forces struck maritime infrastructure 70 km southwest of Mykolaiv Oblast.[36]



Immediate items to watch

  • Russian forces will likely complete their withdrawal from the vicinity of Kharkiv City but attempt to hold a line west of Vovchansk to defend their GLOCs from Belgorod to Izyum. It is unclear if they will succeed.
  • The Russians will continue efforts to encircle Severodonetsk and Lysychansk at least from the south, possibly by focusing on cutting off the last highway connecting Severodonetsk-Lysychansk with the rest of Ukraine.

[1] https://www.facebook.com/DefenceIntelligenceofUkraine/posts/314082754236485

[2] https://t.me/nakanuneru/8261

[3] https://t.me/voenkorKotenok/36418

[4] https://t.me/strelkovii/2563https://t.me/strelkovii/2561; https://t.me/nakanuneru/8265

[5] https://t.me/strelkovii/2561

[6] https://t.me/Sladkov_plus/5488

[7] https://t.me/stranaua/42592

[8] https://www.facebook.com/DPSUkraine/posts/340151164890427; https://t.me/Zhyvytskyy/2172

[9] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/319091590403926; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/318752420437843

[10] https://twitter.com/RALee85/status/1526209845837418498 https://t.me/breakingmash/34851; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/318752420437843; https://t.me/nm_dnr/7967 ; https://dan-news dot info/defence/poselok-drobyshevo-na-severe-dnr-osvobozhden-ot-ukrainskih-okkupantov-zajavil/

[11] https://twitter.com/Blue_Sauron/status/1526531875744915457

[12] https://realist dot online/news/karta-boevykh-dejstvij-v-ukraine-po-sostojaniju-na-14-maja; https://voennoedelo dot com/posts/id23472-9z3emj9r2plahl9de7rn; https://t.me/milinfolive/83501

[13] https://t.me/luhanskaVTSA/2658?single

[14] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/318752420437843

[15] https://t.me/nakanuneru/8249

[16] https://t.me/luhanskaVTSA/2670

[17] https://twitter.com/RALee85/status/1525749683334922247 https://t.me/vorposte/21432

[18] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/319091590403926

[19] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/318752420437843; https://twitter.com/UAWeapons/status/1526299474439684097; https://twitter.com/RALee85/status/1526497335903240193 https://t.me/NeoficialniyBeZsonoV/13201

[20] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/318752420437843; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/319091590403926; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/319091590403926

 

[21] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/318566267123125

[22] https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=775333650519056; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SG5BxVuAo4Q&ab_channel=%D0%A3%D0%BA%D1%80%D1%96%D0%BD%D1%84%D0%BE%D1%80%D0%BChttps://hromadske dot ua/posts/inshogo-sposobu-poryatunku-vijskovih-z-azovstali-nizh-zdijsnyuyetsya-zaraz-nemaye-minoboroni

[23] https://t.me/voenkorKotenok/36436; https://t.me/voenkorKotenok/36419https://t.me/voenkorKotenok/36414; https://t.me/nakanuneru/8266

[24] https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/surrendered-ukrainian-fighters-leave-azovstal-steel-works-reuters-witness-2022-05-17/

[25] https://t.me/milinfolive/83497

[26] https://t.me/stranaua/42609

[27] https://www.defense.gov/News/Transcripts/Transcript/Article/3033452/pentagon-press-secretary-john-f-kirby-holds-a-press-briefing/

[28] https://twitter.com/UAWeapons/status/1526240874014855168           ; https://twitter.com/666_mancer/status/1526302579092869121 https://t.me/ngu_war_for_peace/2880

[29] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/319091590403926

 

[30] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/319091590403926https://t.me/zoda_gov_ua/7856; https://t.me/zoda_gov_ua/7856; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/318752420437843

[31] https://t.me/mod_russia/15817 ; https://t.me/voenkorKotenok/36437

[32] https://t.me/zoda_gov_ua/7860

[33] https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1147941499098616

[34] https://sprotyv.mod.gov dot ua/2022/05/17/u-melitopoli-stalo-na-dvoh-okupantiv-menshe/

[35] https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1147941499098616; https://t.me/Bratchuk_Sergey/12241

[36] https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=483479763565238

 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, May 16

  

Kateryna Stepanenko, Karolina Hird, and Frederick W. Kagan

May 16, 6:00 pm ET

Russian forces conducted limited and largely unsuccessful ground offensives along the front line in Ukraine on May 16. The Russian grouping around Kharkiv City is notably trying to hold the border and prevent Ukrainian troops from advancing further north. This activity is different from previous Russian withdrawals from around Kyiv, Chernihiv, and Sumy earlier in the war when the Russians pulled completely back to Russian territory. Russian troops may seek to retain positions in Ukraine and continue artillery strikes on Ukrainian positions in order to prevent Ukrainian forces from getting into tube or rocket-artillery range of the outskirts of Belgorod, a major city in Russia and a key hub of the Russian military effort. The Russians might alternatively hope to conduct a counter-counter-offensive to push back south toward Kharkiv, although such an effort is highly unlikely to succeed.

Russian military bloggers continued to post analysis that is skeptical of Russian efforts and increasingly in-line with Western assessments of Russian military failures in Ukraine. One such blogger, Igor Strelkov, claimed that the Russian offensive to take Donbas has ultimately failed and that “not a single large settlement “has been liberated.[1] Strelkov even noted that the capture of Rubizhne is relatively insignificant because it happened before the new offensive in Donbas had begun. Strelkov stated that Russian forces are unlikely to liberate Donbas by the summer and that Ukrainian troops will hold their positions around Donetsk City. Strelkov notably claimed that Russian failures thus far have not surprised him because the intent of Russian command has been so evident throughout the operation that Ukrainian troops are aware of exactly how to best respond and warns that Russian troops are fighting to the point of exhaustion under “rules proposed by the enemy.” The continued disenchantment of pro-Russian milbloggers with the Russian war effort may fuel dissatisfaction in Russia itself, especially if Moscow continues to press recruitment and conscription efforts that send poorly-trained cannon-fodder to the front lines.

Over 260 Mariupol defenders evacuated from the Azovstal Steel Plant to Russian occupied settlements in Donetsk Oblast on May 16.[2] Ukrainian and Russian authorities negotiated evacuation for wounded Ukrainian servicemen via humanitarian corridors. Ukrainian officials previously called for the evacuation of 60 medics and critically wounded servicemen on May 13.[3] The Kremlin may extend humanitarian corridors for remaining Ukrainian defenders in an effort to fully control Mariupol.

Frictions between Russian occupation administrations and pro-Russian collaborators is growing in occupied areas of Ukraine. The Zaporizhia Oblast Military Administration reported that Russian forces are having serious conflicts with collaborators due to interpersonal power conflicts.[4] A well-known collaborator in Zaporizhia accused the Russian-installed governor of the area of stealing his 10,000 ruble compensation. Advisor to the Mayor of Mariupol Petro Andryshchenko additionally claimed that relatives of those mobilized into the forces of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) are holding a mass protest against mobilization in Donetsk City. While ISW cannot independently verify these claims, such discontent amongst occupation elements suggests a general lack of planning by Russian authorities in occupied areas, now compounded by increasingly evident Russian losses.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian and Ukrainian authorities negotiated the evacuation of 264 wounded Ukrainian servicemen from the Azovstal Steel Plant on May 16.
  • Ukrainian forces reached the Russian border north of Kharkiv City.
  • Russian forces continued unsuccessful ground operations in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts and did not make any confirmed advances on May 16.
  • Russian forces continued to fortify their positions in Zaporizhia Oblast.


We do not report in detail on Russian war crimes because those activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We will continue to evaluate and report on the effects of these criminal activities on the Ukrainian military and population and specifically on combat in Ukrainian urban areas. We utterly condemn these Russian violations of the laws of armed conflict, Geneva Conventions, and humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

ISW has updated its assessment of the four primary efforts Russian forces are engaged in at this time. We have stopped coverage of supporting effort 4, “Sumy and northeastern Ukraine,” because it is no longer an active effort.

  • Main effort—Eastern Ukraine (comprised of one subordinate and three supporting efforts);
  • Subordinate main effort- Encirclement of Ukrainian troops in the cauldron between Izyum and Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts
  • Supporting effort 1 — Mariupol; 
  • Supporting effort 2—Kharkiv City;
  • Supporting effort 3—Southern axis.

Main effort—Eastern Ukraine

Subordinate Main Effort— Southern Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk Oblasts (Russian objective: Encircle Ukrainian forces in Eastern Ukraine and capture the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)

Russian forces did not make any confirmed advances in any direction from Izyum and focused on regrouping in preparation of renewed offensives on May 16.[5] Pro-Russian Telegram channels previously claimed that Russian troops entered Dovhenke, about 25 kilometers south of Izyum, on May 14.[6] Another pro-Russian Telegram channel claimed that fighting is on-going in the settlement on May 16, but that the offensive was a “bloody meat grinder,” indicating that Ukrainian fortifications in Dovhenke were effective and caused significant Russian losses.[7] The Ukrainian General Staff stated that elements of the Russian 20th Combined Arms Army are reconstituting after suffering losses around Izyum and likely preparing for renewed offensives towards Slovyansk.[8] Ukrainian forces are continuing to mount attacks against Russian positions in the Izyum area, and the Ukrainian General Staff claimed that Ukrainian troops destroyed a Russian ammunition depot in Izyum on May 16.[9] Such targeted Ukrainian attacks are likely putting continued pressure on Russian logistical capabilities around Izyum and contributing to the disruption of any planned Russian offensives in this area.

Russian forces continued offensive operations through Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts and made limited gains on May 16. The Head of the Luhansk Regional State Administration Serhiy Haidai stated that Russian forces in the area are focusing on securing territory from the direction of Bilohorivka, continuing attempts to seize Severodonetsk, and taking control of the highway to Lysychansk.[10] The Ukrainian General Staff noted that Russian forces did not conduct active ground operations in Severodonetsk and instead heavily shelled Ukrainian positions in the Rubizhne-Severodonetsk-Lysychansk area.[11] This is consistent with our previous assessment that Russian troops are likely increasingly unable to commit to a full-scale encirclement of the area east of the Izyum-Slovyansk-Debaltseve highway and are opting for a shallower encirclement with artillery support. Ukrainian forces in the area are reportedly destroying Russian communications routes and railway bridges between Rubizhne and  Severodonetsk to disrupt further Russian offensives on Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.[12] Russian forces additionally continued offensive operations south of Severodonetsk around Toshkiva, Pylpchatyne, and Hirske, which is a likely push towards Bakhmut in order either to secure northwestward highway access to the Slovyansk-Kramatorsk area or to cut the last highway connecting Severodonetsk with the rest of Ukraine at Bakhmut.[13]

Russian troops reportedly conducted ground assaults towards Lyman, Bakhmut, Kurakhove, Shandrygolove, and around Donetsk City on May 16.[14] These assaults, however, continued to be largely ineffective and pro-Russian military analysis Telegram channels reporting on such stymied advances are increasingly critical of heavy Russian losses. One such channel claimed that the Russian operation to defeat the Ukrainian grouping in Donetsk Oblast by late April has failed and that marginal tactical success has come at the cost of heavy losses and fierce fighting.[15] Discontent over unsuccessful Russian operations within Donetsk Oblast appears to be growing, and Advisor to the Mayor of Mariupol Petro Andryushchenko claimed that family members of those mobilized in the troops of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) militia held a massive protest against mobilization in Donetsk City on May 15.[16] While ISW cannot independently confirm Andryushchenko’s claim, it is consistent with growing discontent amongst previously pro-Russian military factions as losses during the war become more widely known.

 

Supporting Effort #1—Mariupol (Russian objective: Capture Mariupol and reduce the Ukrainian defenders)

Russian and Ukrainian officials negotiated the evacuation of 264 wounded Mariupol defenders from Azovstal Steel Plant to occupied Donetsk Oblast on May 16.[17] Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar reported that Russian forces evacuated 53 seriously wounded servicemen to Novoazovsk approximately 60 kilometers and 211 to occupied Olenivka south of Donetsk City.[18] Russian Defense Ministry claimed to have opened a humanitarian corridor for wounded Ukrainian defenders to receive treatment in occupied Donetsk Oblast on May 16.[19] Ukraine’s Azov Regiment Commander Denys Prokopenko published an ambiguous video stating that Ukrainian defenders at the Azovstal completed their order to prevent Russian soldiers from redeploying to other axes for 82 days.[20] It is possible that Ukrainian and Russian officials will negotiate to evacuate the remaining Mariupol defenders in the coming days.

Russian forces are trying to reopen the Port of Mariupol to establish shipping routes from Russia. The Donetsk People’s Republic claimed that proxy militia will demine the port by May 25.[21] Russian forces have raised a sunken Ukrainian ship from the sea floor in the port on May 15.[22] Andryushenko said another sunken Ukrainian ship and mines are preventing Russian forces from reopening the port.[23]


Supporting Effort #2—Kharkiv City (Russian objective: Withdraw forces to the north and defend ground lines of communication (GLOCs) to Izyum)

Ukrainian forces reached the Russian border in an unspecified location northeast of Kharkiv City on May 15.[24] The Ukrainian General Staff stated that Russian forces unsuccessfully tried to repel Ukrainian forces near the Russian border approximately 60 kilometers northeast from Kharkiv City on May 16.[25] Russian military bloggers also confirmed that Ukrainian forces are pushing Russian and Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) units to the border northwest and northeast of Kharkiv City, while withdrawn troops accumulate in Belgorod Oblast for future redeployments.[26] Kharkiv Oblast Administration Head Oleg Synegubov noted that Russian forces resumed limited shelling of northern and eastern residential areas in Kharkiv City and continued artillery fire against Ukrainian counteroffensives in the region.[27] Russian forces will likely seek to maintain condensed positions near Kharkiv-Belgorod highway to prevent Ukrainian artillery from striking the outskirts of Belgorod City and defend Russian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) near Vovchansk, approximately 90 kilometers northeast of Kharkiv City.


Supporting Effort #3—Southern Axis (Objective: Defend Kherson against Ukrainian counterattacks)

Russian forces continued to fortify their positions in Zaporizhia Oblast and did not conduct active offensive operations on the Southern axis on May 16. The Ukrainian nuclear power company Energoatom reported that Russian forces dug trenches and established concrete barricades along the entire perimeter of the Zaporizhya Nuclear Power Plant in Enerhodar City.[28] ISW has previously reported that Russian forces have fortified settlements approximately 37 kilometers east of Enerhodar and in areas south of Melitopol.[29] Russian forces are likely fortifying positions to establish long-term control over the occupied settlements. The Zaporizhia Oblast Military Administration also noted that Russian forces destroyed a highway between Russian-controlled settlements in Polohy district and areas of Ukrainian counteroffensives near Huliapole, approximately 47 and 60 kilometers west of the Donetsk Oblast border.[30] Road-bound Russian forces may abandon their efforts to seize Huliapole and instead establish defensive positions.[31]

Ukrainian forces reportedly struck Russian ammunition and field bases in central and northern Kherson Oblast. Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command reported that Ukrainian forces struck a Russian ammunition depot in Chornobaivka again, likely near the Kherson City Airport.[32] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces also destroyed a Russian field depot on the southeastern border of Mykolaiv Oblast.[33] Ukrainian forces will likely continue to inflict artillery and air strikes on Russian ammunition depots ineffectively located in the immediate vicinity of the frontline.

Russian forces launched another missile strike on Odesa Oblast, likely in effort to completely destroy the damaged bridge over Dniester estuary.[34] Russian forces will likely continue to target Ukrainian transport infrastructure connecting Odesa Oblast with Romania to disrupt one route by which Western countries can provide aid to Ukraine. Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command reported that Russian forces are continuing rescue operations on Snake Island following Ukrainian strikes against the Russian grouping on the island.[35] The situation in Transnistria did not change.[36]


Immediate items to watch

  • Russian forces will likely complete their withdrawal from the vicinity of Kharkiv City but attempt to hold a line west of Vovchansk to defend their GLOCs from Belgorod to Izyum. It is unclear if they will succeed.
  • The Russians will continue efforts to encircle Severodonetsk and Lysychansk at least from the south, possibly by focusing on cutting off the last highway connecting Severodonetsk-Lysychansk with the rest of Ukraine.
  • A Ukrainian counter-offensive around Izyum will likely begin soon.
  • The Battle of Mariupol may be coming to an end.

 


[1] https://t.me/strelkovii/2557

[2] https://hromadske dot ua/posts/ukrayina-rozpochala-operaciyu-z-poryatunku-zahisnikiv-mariupolya-minoboroni

[3] https://t dot me/mariupolnow/10289

[4] https://t.me/zoda_gov_ua/7824

[5] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/318020303844388; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/318398300473255; https://t.me/synegubov/3188

[6] https://t.me/rosich_rus/9631;

[7] https://t.me/strelkovii/2557

[8] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/318398300473255

[9] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/318398300473255; https://twitter.com/Blue_Sauron/status/1525896810941784072

[10] https://t.me/luhanskaVTSA/2643; https://t.me/millnr/8540

[11] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/videos/874376140630595/; https://twitter.com/GeoConfirmed/status/1525898193699053568; https://t.me/luhanskaVTSA/2652; https://t.me/luhanskaVTSA/2629; https://twitter.com/RALee85/status/1526149829746892801 https://t.me/izvestia/89812; https://t.me/luhanskaVTSA/2629

[12] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/videos/874376140630595/; https://twitter.com/GeoConfirmed/status/1525898193699053568

[13] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/318398300473255

[14] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/318020303844388; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/318398300473255

[15] https://t.me/strelkovii/2557

[16] https://t.me/andriyshTime/905

[17] https://hromadske dot ua/posts/ukrayina-rozpochala-operaciyu-z-poryatunku-zahisnikiv-mariupolya-minoboroni

[18] https://t.me/svoboda_radio/8539

[19] https://www.interfax.ru/world/841059

[20] https://hromadske dot ua/posts/ukrayina-rozpochala-operaciyu-z-poryatunku-zahisnikiv-mariupolya-minoboroni

[21] https://t.me/nm_dnr/7951

[22] https://t.me/mariupolnow/10468

[23] https://t.me/andriyshTime/912

[24] https://twitter.com/MarQs__/status/1526089242329370624https://t.me/synegubov/3188; https://t.me/synegubov/3187

[25] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/318398300473255

[26] https://t.me/voenkorKotenok/36375https://t.me/strelkovii/2557

[27] https://t.me/synegubov/3188; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/318020303844388;

[28] https://t.me/energoatom_ua/6201

[29] https://understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-may-15; https://understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-may-14

[30] https://t.me/zoda_gov_ua/7824

[31] https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-may-3

[32] https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=699921014552394

[33] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/318398300473255

[34] https://t.me/stranaua/42387; https://www.facebook.com/okPivden/posts/2057689287735647https://www.facebook.com/okPivden/posts/2057775164393726

[35] https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=699921014552394; https://twitter.com/The_Lookout_N/status/1526126069463625728

[36] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/318398300473255