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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 449: Council of Europe summit supports Zelenskyy’s Peace Formula

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 449: Council of Europe summit supports Zelenskyy’s Peace Formula
Article by: Zarina Zabrisky

Ukrainian forces advance 500 meters along the Bakhmut frontline. Another massive air strike on Ukraine. Council of Europe summit supports Zelenskyy’s Peace Formula.

Daily overview — Summary report, May 18

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, May 18, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. May 17, 2023. Source: ISW.

 

The four-hundred and forty-nine era of large-scale armed aggression of the Russian Federation against our country continues.

The Russian Federation continues to lead the war despite significant losses. The enemy continues to disregard international humanitarian law, strikes, and firing military and civilian objects.

During the day, the enemy fired 36 rockets and 23 air strikes, and fired about 30 bombardments from jet systems of our troops and settlements.

The probability of missile and air strikes across Ukraine remains high.

The opponent continues to focus the main efforts on the Lyman, Bakhmut and Mariinka directions. During the day, there were 17 combat clashes on the mentioned areas of the front, the hottest battles were fought for Bakhmut and Mariinka.

In the Volyn and Polysye directions, the operational environment without significant changes, no signs of the formation of offensive groups have been detected.

In the Siversk and Slobozhanshchyna directions, the enemy continues to maintain a military presence in border areas with Ukraine.

Luhansk Battle Map. May 17, 2023. Source: ISW.

During this day carried out mortar and artillery shelling of the settlements Leonivka Chernihiv region; Boyaro-Ležačí, pavlívka, basívka, miropíllâ sumy region, as well as staricâ, sinel homnikove, ogírceve, gatishche, nesterne, budarki in kharkiv region.
In the direction of artillery and mortar shelling of the enemy, the settlements of Kamyanka, Kolodyazne, Figolivka, Novomlinsk, Dvorichna, Zapadne, Masyutivka, Lyman First, Tabayivka, Berestove Kharkiv region and Stelmakhivka Luhansk region.

Donetsk Battle Map. May 17, 2023. Source: ISW.

In the Lymansky direction during the day, the enemy did not conduct offensive actions. Artillery shelling suffered makííí lerivka, bílogorívka luhansk region; verkhnyokamiansʹke and spírne donetsk region.

Bakhmut Battle Map. May 17, 2023. Source: ISW.

In the Bakhmut direction, the enemy continues to lead offensive actions. Heavy battles continue for the city of Bakhmut. Also, the opponent led unsuccessful offensive actions towards the settlement of ivanivs’ke. He made aviation strikes in the areas of Bogdanivka settlements, Bakhmut. Vasyukivka, Zaliznyanske, Orihovo-Vasilivka, Bogdanivka, Bakhmut, Ivanivka, Chasiv Yar, White Mountain, Northern Donetsk region were affected by enemy shelling.

In the Avdiivka direction, the opponent carried out offensive actions in the direction of the North, had no success. During the day, he caused aviation strikes in the areas of Novokalynovogo and Avdiivka. He carried out artillery shelling of the settlements of Novokalinove, Berdyči, Avdiivka, Tonen’ke, Pervomajske, Karlivka and Nevelske of Donetsk region

In the Maryynka direction, the units of the defense forces once again repelled numerous attacks of the enemy in the area of the city of marinka. At the same time, the enemy continues to destroy settlements along the collision line, carrying out artillery shelling of Krasnogorivka, Mariinka and Victory of Donetsk region.

In the direction of Shakhtar during the day, the enemy did not conduct offensive actions. He made aviation strikes near the settlements of Zolota Niva and Velika Novosílka. Shelling, in particular, vuhledar, prechistívku, novoukraí Novonku and shahtarsʹke.

Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. May 17, 2023. Source: ISW.

The opponent continues to conduct defensive actions in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson directions. Launched an aviation strike on the settlement of Novopil Donetsk region and carried out the artillery attacks. Among them are Burlatske, Donetsk region; Olgivske, Charivne, Bilogirâ, Mala Tokmachka, Novodanilivka, Novoandriivka, Stepove, Kamianske and Plavni Zaporizhzhia region, and the city of Kherson.

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. May 17, 2023. Source: ISW.

Russian invaders continue to pressure locals in the Kherson region’s temporarily occupied territories, including the Genichesky district. Yes, threatening deportation, occupiers force Ukrainian citizens to receive Russian passports.
The living force of the enemy arrived at individual settlements of Kakhovsky district. Residences are placed not only in vacant houses, but also settle in settlements where civilians currently live. People who are outraged are facing eviction.
Recently, the opponent has stepped up counter-intelligence measures in the temporarily captured Kherson district. On the roads between settlements, the number of roadblocks has significantly increased, there are prudent checks of vehicles, documents, special attention is paid to the content of phones.

Aviation Defense Forces per day imposed 6 strikes on the areas of concentration of the personnel and military equipment of the enemy

During this day, 21 winged rockets and 7 enemy reconnaissance UAVs of different types were destroyed by our defenders.
Missile troops and artillery units hit the arms and military equipment focus area, ammunition depot, 3 artillery units on the firing position, an anti-aircraft missile complex, 7 radio-electronic combat stations and the occupants radio-location station.
More about this source text

Military Updates

US officials report minimal damage to Patriot system after Russian attack near Kyiv. Three US officials have reported that the damage to a Patriot missile defense system, following a Russian missile attack near Kyiv, was minimal. One official described the damage as “minor,” CNN reports. The incident prompted the US to send inspectors to evaluate the system after Ukrainian forces reported potential damage. The officials confirmed that the system is still functional and that the radar component, one of the Patriot system’s crucial elements, was unharmed. They do not anticipate the need to remove the Patriot from the battlefield for repairs.

Ukrainian forces advance 500 meters along the Bakhmut frontline. Ukrainian defenders have advanced up to 500 meters along the Bakhmut frontline, according to the Eastern grouping spokesman of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Serhiy Cherevatyi, who reported this on the “FreeDom” TV channel, as relayed by Interfax-Ukraine and Ukrainska Pravda. Cherevatyi indicated that the previous day was not an exception to the advances made by Ukrainian forces who managed to push forward up to 500 meters on various sections of the Bakhmut direction, liberating Ukrainian territory.

According to British Defence Intelligence, (last 48 hours): 

  • The Russian state is likely effectively banning senior officials from resigning from their jobs while the ‘Special Military Operation’ continues. The measures likely extend to at least regional leaders, security officials and members of the powerful Presidential Administration.

 

  • In private, many officials are likely highly sceptical about the war, as well as often experiencing work stress within the dysfunctional wartime apparatus. The ban is likely enforced with strong hints that resignees will face trumped up criminal charges.

 

  • As well as being concerned about capability gaps resignees would leave, the authorities are likely also attempting to prevent any impression of defeatism, and to bolster a sense of collective responsibility for the war.

Losses of the Russian army 

Losses of the Russian Army. Source: Euromaidan Press.

Humanitarian 

Child and three other civilians killed in Russian shelling in Kherson oblast. Today a child and three other persons were killed to Russian shelling in the town of Zelenivka, Kherson Oblast, Andriy Yermak, Head of Ukraine’s Presidential Office, and Kherson Oblast Head report. Two other persons were injured.

Ukraine brings back 6-year-old girl from Russia after her military parents were held captive. 6-year-old Anna-Maria has been returned to her homeland from Russia after her parents, both military personnel, were held captive in Mariupol. The Ukrainian Parliament’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dmytro Lubinets, shared the news on Facebook.

A co-founder of a Czech volunteer project died from wounds after rescuing Ukrainian soldiers. A co-founder of a Czech Phoenix volunteer project died after receiving wounds on the frontline while rescuing Ukrainian soldiers. He was treated for several weeks, but doctors didn’t manage to save him, the Project Phoenix informed. Known as Taylor, he dedicated himself to treating Ukrainian soldiers and providing humanitarian aid since the beginning of the invasion.

Ukrainian citizen of Russian origin receives life sentence for aiding Russian missile strikes on Lviv. A Ukrainian citizen, who was born in Russian Buryatia, received a life sentence for aiding Russian missile strikes on the Ukrainian city of Lviv. 47-year-old Vladyslav Kozeev photographed military objects in the Lviv region and sent them to the Russians. On 16 May 2023, the board of judges of the Zaliznychnyi district court of Lviv found him guilty of treason and sentenced him to life imprisonment with confiscation of property, Sudreporter writes.

Support

Council of Europe summit backs Zelenskyy’s Peace Formula. The fourth summit of the Council of Europe has endorsed Ukrainian President Zelenskyy’s Peace Formula, showing political support for Ukraine’s interpretation of the plan. The news comes from a correspondent in Reykjavik for “European Truth”. “Without accountability, there can be no lasting peace, and we support the principles of a fair and lasting peace set out in President Zelenskyy’s Peace Formula,” the document highlights. The Council of Europe summit thus becomes the first major international forum to officially validate Ukraine’s peace plan. The Council of Europe comprises 46 states.

New Developments

“We must win so that no dictator can blackmail neighbors with nuclear weapons,” Ukraine’s First Lady at Asian Leadership Conference. Ukraine’s First Lady, Olena Zelenska, delivered a speech at the Asian Leadership Conference in Seoul, South Korea. She highlighted the humanitarian consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Zelenska also drew parallels between the Korean experience of fighting for freedom and Ukraine’s current situation.

Dutch FM reports no progress yet on fighter jet coalition. In an update from Reuters, Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra announced on Wednesday that there has been no advancement in the international discussion regarding the potential supply of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. Hoekstra, responding to queries about previous talks with the UK, Denmark, Belgium, and other partners about the possible provision of F-16’s to Ukraine, stated, “We haven’t reached a solution yet.”

Ukroboronprom and Rheinmetall to launch joint enterprise in July. Ukroboronprom, the State Concern of Ukraine, and German defense company Rheinmetall have reached an agreement for a strategic partnership, with their joint venture set to commence operations in July. According to the press service of Ukroboronprom, the aim of the collaboration is to strengthen Ukraine’s defense industry and national security by establishing a joint enterprise.

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Stdy of War has made the following assessment as of  May 17, 2022:

Note: The data cutoff for this product was 3pm ET on May 17. ISW will cover subsequent reports in the May 18 Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment.

Important Note: ISW has reindexed its map layer for reported Ukrainian counteroffensives on May 12, 2023. We removed reported Ukrainian counteroffensive coded before May 1, 2023, in order to delineate more clearly new Ukrainian territorial gains from gains secured in previous Ukrainian counteroffensives. ISW retained a few reported Ukrainian counteroffensives polygons from before May 1, 2023, specifically on the Dnipro River Delta south of Kherson Oblast, to preserve context in that complex area of operations. May 1, 2023, is an arbitrary date and does not mark the beginning or end of any assessed Ukrainian or Russian effort. ISW has reindexed its map layers before and similarly removed old reported Ukrainian counteroffensives around Kyiv, Zhytomyr, Chernihiv, and Sumy oblasts following the conclusion of the Battle of Kyiv in April 2022.

Russian and Ukrainian officials acknowledged continued limited Ukrainian counterattacks near Bakhmut on May 17. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar stated that Ukrainian forces are advancing in unspecified areas on Bakhmut’s flanks.[1] Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty stated that Ukrainian forces advanced up to 500 meters in the Bakhmut direction in the past day and continue to attack Russian flanks.[2] The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) made marginal advances but acknowledged continued Ukrainian counterattacks against Bakhmut’s flanks near Bohdanivka (5km northwest of Bakhmut) and Ivanivske (6km west of Bakhmut).[3] Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin denied the MoD’s claim of territorial gains, however, and criticized the MoD for falsely portraying a retreat as capturing new positions.[4]One prominent milblogger complained that Russian forces must now react to Ukrainian actions, implying that Russian forces are losing the initiative in the Bakhmut area despite the limited nature of Ukrainian counterattacks in the area.[5]

Ukrainian officials reported that terrain features constrain Ukrainian offensive operations across the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast. Ukrainian Southern Forces Joint Press Center Head Nataliya Humenyuk acknowledged that the width of the Dnipro River hinders Ukrainian territorial advances in Kherson Oblast and called for the information space to “forget” about Ukrainian offensive activities in the Kherson direction.[6] Ukrainian Security Services (SBU) Colonel Roman Kostenko stated on May 14 that the Ukrainian forces pushed Russian forces back from the islands close to Kherson City and stated that the islands have poor terrain, no trenches, limited shelter, and that the ground is always wet.[7]

US officials reported that a Patriot air defense system is operational after the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian missile strikes on Kyiv destroyed the system on May 16. CNN cited three US officials as stating that a Patriot air defense system is still operational despite the Russian MoD claims that a Kinzhal missile destroyed it.[8] An unidentified US defense official had previously told CNN that the Patriot system likely suffered damage, but three officials specified that the system suffered minimal damage that does not impede its operations.[9] Officials did not specify if Russian missiles or debris caused the damage.

The Kremlin reportedly accused three hypersonic missile scientists of treason. Employees of the Institute of Theoretical and Applied Mathematics of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Science published an open letter on May 15 in defense of three of their scientists — Anatoly Maslov, Alexander Shiplyuk, and Valery Zvegintsev — whom Russian authorities reportedly arrested in the past year under suspicion of committing “high treason.”[10] The open letter also noted that these arrests deter the younger generation from pursuing careers in science, which contributes to a decrease in the quality of scientific research. Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov claimed that the Kremlin was aware of the open letter and that Russian security services are involved.[11]

Select Russian strongmen (siloviki) are likely attempting to signal to Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin that he must cease his political ambitions in Russia. Prigozhin responded to a media inquiry on May 17 about several allegations from Russian Telegram channels — which are reportedly affiliated with the Russian Presidential Administration and the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) — about Prigozhin’s political aspirations in Russia.[12] These channels claimed that Prigozhin is using the battle for Bakhmut and the war in Ukraine to become a political figure in Russia rather than actually fighting for Russia’s interests.[13] The journalist directly asked Prigozhin if he thinks that Russian siloviki are trying to signal to him via these Telegram channels.[14] Prigozhin confirmed that he had an interaction with an unnamed Russian senior official “recently” who had accused Prigozhin of deliberately acting in his own self-interest.[15] Prigozhin emphasized that this official was not Russian President Vladimir Putin but indirectly implied that these sentiments are widespread in the Russian Presidential Administration — noting that the Telegram posts reflect the collective opinion of the bureaucratic community.

The Russian siloviki may be intimidating Russian officials affiliated with Prigozhin to discourage their cooperation with Wagner. One of the Telegram channels mentioned in the media inquiry noted that Prigozhin is losing contact with Chairperson of the Russian State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin and had a fight with First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Russian Presidential Administration Sergey Kiriyenko who originally supported his initiatives.[16] Volodin, for example, reportedly stopped pushing Wagner’s agendas to avoid a conflict with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. The channel observed that a member of the Russian Communist Party, Viktor Sobolev, originally supported a bill that favored Wagner only to later denounce Wagner as an “illegal armed formation” on May 15.[17] The channel noted that Prigozhin still has contact with Putin’s administration via Chief of Staff of the Russian Presidential Executive Office Anton Vaino and noted that Prigozhin’s fate lies entirely in Putin’s hands. Shoigu is reportedly unsuccessfully attempting to convince Putin to eliminate Prigozhin due to Prigozhin’s failure to secure battlefield victories — which likely indicates that Prigozhin’s bloody efforts to capture Bakhmut are in fact an attempt to compete with Shoigu for self-preservation.

The siloviki appear to be unsuccessful in their attempts to scare Prigozhin into obedience. Prigozhin stated that he is ready to take on the “bureaucrats” and accused them of attempting to gain more authority while using Wagner to fight the war. Prigozhin also accused unnamed officials of being apathetic about Russian deaths on the frontlines and sarcastically stated that the future Russian defense minister has been in Bakhmut for over a week when responding to a question asking if Shoigu had accepted his invitation to visit the Bakhmut frontline.[18] Prigozhin had been recently publicizing his cooperation with former Russian Deputy Minister of Defense for Logistics-turned-Wagner-Group-deputy-commander Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, and it is possible that Prigozhin may be attempting to promote Mizintsev as a replacement for Shoigu.[19] Prigozhin is likely aware that Putin is not entirely convinced of Shoigu’s ability to win the war and may be hopeful that a decisive victory in Bakhmut would give him the leverage to replace Shoigu with Wagner-affiliated officials. Both Prigozhin and Shoigu likely perceive this feud as an existential matter.

Russian authorities continue to crack down against domestic anti-war dissent in an effort to strengthen domestic repressions and prepare Russian society for a long-term war effort. BBC’s Russia service reported on May 17, citing anonymous interlocutors, that the Russian General Prosecutor’s office and the Federal Service for the Supervision of Education and Science (Rosobrnadzor) conducted an unscheduled inspection at the European University in St. Petersburg as part of counterterror and counter-extremism measures.[20] BBC noted that the investigators investigated the dissertation topics and personal files of undergraduate and graduate students as well as the publications and classes of faculty in at least four departments: anthropology, history, sociology, and political science. BBC stated that the investigation affected several dozen faculty members and hundreds of students. BBC reported that Russian authorities have been conducting similar inspections at three other Moscow universities since 2021. One of the interlocutors stated that Russian authorities regularly conduct these inspections, resulting in faculty and curricula changes.

The Astrakhan Oblast “A Just Russia” party faction voted out faction head and former Russian State Duma Deputy Oleg Shein on May 16 after Shein resigned from the post on April 18.[21] Shein cited disagreements with federal “A Just Russia” faction co-leader Sergey Mironov — who is notably connected with Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin — for the Astrakhan faction’s vote and claimed that the party forced him out of his role due to his anti-war sentiment.[22] Shein later quipped that the faction had not yet ”invented” the reason for his ousting.[23]

Russian authorities are likely forcefully integrating Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) dioceses in occupied Zaporizhzhia Oblast as part of a wider religious persecution campaign in occupied Ukraine. Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill and the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) announced the adoption of the Berdiansk and Prymorsk UOC dioceses into the ROC on May 16.[24] [25] The ROC claimed that Berdiansk and Prymorsk dioceses, clergy, and parishioners voted to join the ROC after UOC leadership “abandoned” the dioceses.[26] [27] ISW has previously reported on Russia’s religious oppression of occupied Ukraine, including the detention or assassinations of at least 29 Ukrainian clergy or religious leaders since the start of the war.[28] [29]

Key Takeaways

  • Russian and Ukrainian officials acknowledged continued limited Ukrainian counterattacks near Bakhmut on May 17.
  • Ukrainian officials reported that terrain features constrain Ukrainian offensive operations across the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast.
  • US officials reported that a Patriot air defense system is operational after the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian missile strikes on Kyiv destroyed the system on May 16.
  • The Kremlin reportedly accused three hypersonic missile scientists of treason.
  • Select Russian strongmen (siloviki) are likely attempting to signal to Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin that he must cease his political ambitions in Russia.
  • The Russian siloviki may be intimidating Russian officials affiliated with Prigozhin to discourage their cooperation with Wagner but appear to be unsuccessful in their attempts to scare Prigozhin into obedience.
  • Russian authorities continue to crack down against domestic anti-war dissent in an effort to strengthen domestic repressions and prepare Russian society for a long-term war effort.
  • Russian authorities are likely forcefully integrating Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) dioceses in occupied Zaporizhzhia Oblast as part of a wider religious persecution campaign in occupied Ukraine.
  • Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks northeast of Kupiansk and along the Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Russian forces continued to make incremental gains in Bakhmut and conducted limited ground attacks on the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
  • Russian forces continued to target west (right) bank Kherson Oblast and islands at the Dnipro River delta out of fear of planned Ukrainian counteroffensives.
  • The Kremlin continues crypto-mobilization efforts by recruiting regional volunteer battalions and criminals.
  • The Russian State Duma adopted amendments to the martial law on May 16 that authorize the forced and controlled movement of citizens from territories under martial law to territories without marital law.
  • Russian ultranationalists are speculating about the fate of Belarus’ independence in the case of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s severe illness or death.
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