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Weekly Ukraine war summary: Russia razing Vovchansk to the ground, Shahed downing record, and a strike on Russia’s nuclear forces facility


In this week's summary:

  • Russia’s advance in Vovchansk has slowed down, but its forces are now razing the town to the ground with artillery and aerial bombs
  • The further advance of the Russian Armed Forces in Kharkiv Oblast would require additional reserves, and the Armed Forces of Ukraine are laying the groundwork for a counterattack in the area
  • In the Donetsk sector, Russian forces gain 100-200 meters at a time through costly “meat grinder” assaults
  • Vladimir Putin continues to purge his top military brass, removing the odious commander of the 20th Army, Sukhrab Akhmedov
  • Over the past week, Ukrainian air defenses shot down 130 of 131 Shahed-type drones launched by Russia
  • In Armavir, Ukrainian UAVs damaged an over-the-horizon radar station — a facility connected with the combat control system of the Russian nuclear forces
  • Sweden announced a $7 billion long-term aid package for Ukraine, while Germany has requested €3.8 billion for this purpose
  • The Russian Armed Forces are facing a shortage of 12-gauge hunting rifles, which have proven effective against drones.

Situation at the front

Judging solely by the confirmed territorial changes from May 18 to May 24, it would seem that the Russian-Ukrainian war is going through a phase of relative calm. However, as Tatarigami_UA, a reserve officer of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) and founder of OSINT group Frontintelligence Insight, notes, fierce fighting in fact continues in many sectors along the line of engagement, and the Russian Armed Forces retain reserves for potential further pressure on the Ukrainian defenses.

Early this week, Russian troops managed to advance near Zelene and Buhruvatka in the Kharkiv sector. After this, the northern front completely stalled everywhere except for Vovchansk, where Russian patriotic “war correspondents” are still reporting tactical successes. Fierce fighting involving the use of armored vehicles (at least from the Ukrainian side) is ongoing in Vovchansk. According to Ukrainian sources, the Russians slowed down the pace of their offensive, apparently deciding to “raze the city to the ground” with artillery, guided bombs, and FPV(first-person view) drones. In addition, evidence of looting and killing of Ukrainian civilians by Russian soldiers continues to emerge.

For several days, Ukraine’s defense in the north of Kharkiv Oblast was organized under the personal control of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi. However, his style of command has detractors: for one, Tatarigami_UA criticizes Syrskyi for “micromanagement” and believes that Syrskyi's hands-on activities distract brigade commanders from combat work. Furthermore, Ukrainian activists and military bloggers were outraged by the appointment of Yuriy Sodol as commander of the Khortytsia Operational-Strategic Group of Troops (responsible for the defense of Kharkiv Oblast and most of Donetsk Oblast). Sodol’s tenure in charge of Ukraine’s Marine Corps earned him the reputation of a “butcher general.”

Ukrainian observers continue to criticize their side’s fortification-building efforts in the Kharkiv sector during the many months of relative calm. According to war correspondent Yuriy Butusov, there are no fortifications at all near Vovchansk, and the fortifications near Lyptsi, which are supposed to cover the approaches to Kharkiv itself, were erected in a lowland, meaning that Ukrainian fighters now have to defend positions in hastily dug field fortifications on the high ground. The situation with fortifications became the subject of criminal proceedings, as did the abandonment of positions by Ukrainian troops, which allowed for the Russians' initial successful breakthrough into Kharkiv Oblast.

Nevertheless, according to Ukrainian military observer Kostiantyn Mashovets, a further Russian offensive in Kharkiv Oblast or a similar operation in Sumy Oblast would require the attackers to draw reserves from other sectors. Pro-war Russian “correspondent” WarGonzo goes even further, warning of a possible Ukrainian counterattack near Kharkiv. According to his assessment, the AFU has managed to saturate this area with FPV drones, artillery, and personnel, creating numerical superiority and thus opening up a chance to seize the initiative.

However, Moscow’s forces still enjoy a considerable advantage in the northern sector thanks to one very specific geographical factor: because of the proximity to the Russian border, Russian artillery and UAV positions are located in internationally recognized Russian territory, where Ukrainian forces are banned from striking with U.S.-supplied weapons. But after numerous requests from Ukrainian officials to lift the ban, a group led by U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who recently visited Kyiv, appears to be advocating for Washington to reconsider its policy.

Another important focus of Russian efforts this week was Chasiv Yar. Russian channels are publishing videos of troops breaching the city limits and speculating about a possible breakthrough via the Siverskyi Donets Donbas Canal south of the city, where the water flows through pipes. Ukrainian channels, for their part, reported fending off the onslaught of Russian troops throughout the week (1, 2, 3), while recognizing the enemy's “partial success” in advancing into the city.

On the southern flank, the Russian Defense Ministry reported the re-capture of Klishchiivka and Andriivka, which Ukraine had liberated during their counteroffensive in the summer of 2023. However, like its statements about the capture of Robotyne and Bilohorivka, which we covered in last week’s summary. the Ministry's newest claims have not been independently verified.

The advance of the Russian Armed Forces in the Avdiivka and Marinka operational areas is proceeding extremely slowly. Commenting on the seizure of Netailove by Russian troops, Ukrainian serviceman Stanyslav Buniatov describes their tactics as “cannon fodder throwing,” with each deadly assault allowing Russia to advance by 100-200 meters. Russian “war correspondent” Yuri Kotenok, who regularly reports on Russia’s tactical successes on this section of the front (even those measured in centimeters), admits that the AFU has managed to improve in the areas of logistics and counter-battery fire.

Other noteworthy developments include the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces “to more favorable positions” in the vicinity of Kyslivka and Berestove in the Kupiansk sector. In the meantime, the AFU “improved the tactical situation” near Krynky on the left bank of the Dnipro by entering Kozachi Laheri. It is notable that, shortly before the Ukrainian announcement, Russian «war correspondents” had rushed to report another “mop-up” in Krynky (before later deleting their posts) and Kotenok subsequently dismissed such reports as a “banal lie.”

As for the Russian military command, the purge among Defense Ministry officials and high-ranking military officers continues. The Insider has put together an infographic highlighting the arrests and resignations that have taken place so far.

Russia’s “patriotic” circles have mostly welcomed Putin's purge of the top brass — especially the arrest of Vadim Shamarin, who was in charge of communications, and the dismissal of Sukhrab Akhmedov, commander of the 20th Army. Nevertheless, their replacements are facing daunting challenges: the Russian Armed Forces are struggling with vehicle shortages and communications issues, and the military in general has seen serious degradation over more than two years of war, as The Insider details in a recent piece (which will be made available in English shortly).

Mutual strikes and sabotage

The Ukrainian Air Force Command reports unprecedented successes in fending off Russian Shahed UAVs (1, 2, 3, 4, 5): according to their information, Ukrainian air defense assets failed to down only one out of 131 drones launched on the territory of Ukraine over the past week. Nevertheless, Russian drone raids caused power outages in three regions, including Sumy Oblast. In addition, one of the raids injured three people and set fire to several private houses in Kharkiv.

Kharkiv, the second most populous city in Ukraine, suffered daily attacks over the past week, as did other settlements in Kharkiv Oblast (1, 2, 3). May 20 was declared a regional day of mourning after 11 people were killed in yet another strike the day before. On May 23, a SAM strike launched with an S-300 system killed seven and injured 20 Kharkiv residents. The Factor-Druk printing house lost 50,000 books in the resulting fire.

Apart from Kharkiv, the list of Ukrainian cities under fire this week includes Kherson, and also Pokrovsk (in Donetsk Oblast). Russian targets of military significance included railroad infrastructure in Kharkiv Oblast, a bridge on the Vremyevsky Bulge, the Aviatorske Airfield in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast (in a strike that likely destroyed a previously damaged MiG-29), and a radar station positioning area in Sumy Oblast.

Russia also caused multiple (1, 2, 3, 4) unintended drops of FAB aerial bombs on its own Belgorod Oblast.

Ukrainian forces struck a large number of diverse targets in Russia and the occupied territories this week.

On May 19, drones hit the premises of an oil refinery in Slavyansk-on-Kuban, causing it to suspend operations. On the same day, also in Krasnodar Krai, UAVs struck the Kushchevskaya Airbase, damaging at least two fighter jets (Su-27 and Su-34), as satellite images later confirmed. Also on May 19, ATACMS missiles sank the Tsiklon small missile ship in Sevastopol (a photo confirming the sinking is available to CIT).

May 20 was marked by a strike on occupied Luhansk with Storm Shadow / SCALP-EG missiles. Subsequent reports suggest that the attack hit the command post of the Russian Group of Troops “South,” killing 13 servicemen and wounding 26 more, including the grouping commander Gennady Anashkin.

On May 21, the AFU launched a cluster munitions attack (most likely, with ATACMS missiles) on occupied Dovzhansk (before 2016, Sverdlovsk) in Luhansk Oblast. Allegedly, the Ukrainians hit a base of Russian soldiers, killing three and wounding four, as well as five civilians.

On May 22, several ATACMS went off near Mospyne in Donetsk Oblast, with available reports suggesting the destruction of multiple S-400 SAM system vehicles, including an “anti-ballistic” radar system.

On May 23, a Ukrainian UAV once again made it to Tatarstan, deep inside Russia, but was downed. May 23 also saw an attack against the 818th Separate Radio Center in Russia's Krasnodar Krai. That strike damaged a Voronezh-DM over-the-horizon radar station — an element of Russia’s missile warning system that forms part of the combat control system for strategic nuclear forces.

On the night of May 24, the AFU launched a missile strike on targets in the vicinity of Simferopol and Alushta in occupied Crimea. According to some reports, the latter hit a parabolic antenna near Semydvirya. Also on May 24, a video was released confirming the destruction of two Russian S-400 launchers near occupied Klenivka in Donetsk Oblast — presumably carried out with ATACMS missiles.

Russian and occupation authorities reported civilian deaths and injuries as a result of shelling in Vasylivka in Zaporizhzhya, Donetsk, Simferopol, and Belgorod Oblast(1, 2, 3, 4).


OSINT analyst Naalsio has updated the tallies of equipment losses sustained by the AFU and Russian Armed Forces at certain sections of the front based on visual evidence. In the Avdiivka operational area, his data suggest that Russian forces lost at least 44 pieces of equipment between May 10 and May 17, while Ukrainian forces lost 12. In the vicinity of Krynky on the left bank of the Dnieper, reports suggest the loss of one piece of equipment by the Russians and two by the Ukrainians during the same period. In the border area of Kharkiv Oblast, at least 11 units of Russian equipment and 22 units of Ukrainian equipment were destroyed or damaged as of May 20.

As Yuriy Butusov writes, ever more footage is appearing that shows the destruction of Russian «tsar-mangal» or «turtle» tanks furnished with a shed-like full set of additional armor. The Ukrainian war correspondent published one such video, commenting that Ukrainian fighters of the 2nd Battalion of the National Guard's Rubezh Brigade “did a great job” in the Lyman sector. “One can only guess how the [Russian] crew of such a 'monster' must feel, moving around in what is essentially a mass grave,” Butusov added.

A strike on a Russian police department in the occupied town of Skadovsk in Kherson Oblast left 11 staff members injured, ASTRA writes. The attack also injured three civilians. The missile destroyed a building five meters from the police station.

For four months, Ukrainian fighters have been trying to evacuate a Russian T-90M tank left behind by its crew from the battlefield. Finally, they succeeded on the sixth attempt.

Weapons and military equipment

This week was marked by the announcement or finalization of major shipments of the following arms and military equipment to Ukraine:

  • YPR-765 armored personnel carriers from The Netherlands
  • Aster-30 surface-to-air missiles for the SAMP/T SAM system from France
  • Air defense radars, decoys, electronic warfare assets, reconnaissance UAVs, military boats, and unmanned surface vessels from the UK and International Assistance Fund for Ukraine partners to the tune of £150 million
  • 10 Leopard 1A5 tanks (jointly with Denmark), 8,500 artillery ammunition rounds, fuel trucks, UAVs, a fourth IRIS-T SAM system, and small arms from Germany
  • A new $275 million package from the United States will include rockets for HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems, artillery ammunition, Javelin and AT-4 anti-tank systems, and other equipment.

In addition, Sweden pledged 75 billion kroner (~$7 billion) in aid to Ukraine over the next two years, while in Germany, BILD reports that the Defense Ministry has requested an additional €3.8 billion for this purpose, as the previously allocated €7.1 billion has already been contracted. Germany also raised €1 billion for an “air defense coalition,” but ran into the challenge of finding countries willing to sell SAMs for Ukraine, according to Politico.

Among domestic defense industry innovations, Ukraine has demonstrated a factory upgrade for Leopard 1A5 tanks. The upgrade includes reinforcement with Ukrainian-made Nizh explosive reactive armor, along with its Soviet predecessor Kontakt-1. Ukraine’s military-industrial complex also showed off an unmanned surface vessel equipped with tubes for the BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launcher. A noteworthy photo of a Ukrainian “FrankenSAM” has surfaced: an Osa-AKM outfitted with R-73 air-to-air missiles instead of surface-to-air missiles, which are in short supply.

In addition, the Metinvest group of companies has mastered the production of “barbecue grill” armor for T-64, T-72, and M1A1 Abrams tanks.

Meanwhile, the Russian side is faced with a growing shortage of military equipment. Their storage bases have almost run out of T-72B tanks, which are used for the production of modernized T-72B3M. Armored vehicles from the Moscow Victory Day parade on May 9 went straight to the Kharkiv sector. Russia’s new “cavalry” has even resorted to the use of motorcycles, which were used in the border breakthrough in Kharkiv Oblast, according to “war correspondent” Semyon Pegov. «Turtle» tank armor is undergoing further evolution in the Russian forces, as evidenced by the photo of a new variety, featuring a thick layer of rubber.

The Russian Armed Forces are also facing a shortage of 12-gauge hunting rifles, which have proven effective against UAVs. These small arms are made from whatever is at hand, including metal chairs and pipes. In Buryatia, a Far East region where hunting is a popular livelihood, the Russian Guard law enforcement agency has launched a call to donate rifles and ammunition for locals fighting in Ukraine.

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