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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 455: Russian authorities ended the “counterterrorism” operation in Belgorod Oblast

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 455: Russian authorities ended the “counterterrorism” operation in Belgorod Oblast

Russian authorities ended the “counterterrorism” operation in Belgorod Oblast. Ukraine F-16 training has begun in Poland, says EU’s Borrell, but Ukraine Air Force spokesperson denies it.

Daily overview — Summary report, May 24

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, May 24, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. May 23, 2023. Source: ISW.

 
Day 455 of the russian full-scale military aggression against Ukraine has begun.
During the day of May 24th, the adversary carried out 41x airstrikes and launched 53x MLRS attacks. Civilians suffered, private residential buildings and other civil and administrative infrastructure were destroyed and damaged.
The threat of missile and air strikes remains high across Ukraine.
The enemy continues to focus its main efforts on the Kup’yans’k, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Mar’inka axes – 26x combat clashes took place. Heavy fighting continues in the cities of Bakhmut and Mar’inka.
Volyn’ and Polissya axes: no significant changes.
Luhansk Battle Map. May 23, 2023. Source: ISW.
Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: the enemy forces carried out an air strike near Dovzhanka, condicted mortar and artillery shelling on the settlements of Hrinivka, Yeline, and Gremyach of the Chernihiv Oblast and Gudovo, Vovkivka, Bunyakyne, Stukalyvka, Volfyne, Novomykolaivka, Ryasne, and Velyka Pysarivka of the Sumy Oblast, as well as Stognii, Udy, Strelecha, Hlyboke, Morokhovets, Lyptsi, Neskuchne, Ohirtseve, Gatishche, Pletenivka, Vovchans’k, Varvarivka, Nesterne, Budarky and Zemlianka in Kharkiv Oblast.
Kup’yans’k axis: the russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensives in the vicinities of Masyutivka. Airstrikes near Kislivka and Kotlyarivka. Kam’ianka, Topoli, Krasne Pershe, Novomlyns’k, Dvorichna, Masyutivka, Mala Shapkivka, Kindrasivka, Kup’yans’k, Tabaivka, and Berestov in the Kharkiv Oblast and Stelmakhivka in the Luhansk Oblast were hit by enemy artillery and mortar fire.
Donetsk Battle Map. May 23, 2023. Source: ISW.
Lyman axis: the enemy forces carried out offensive operations in the axis of Bilogorivka, without success. They also carried out an airstrike there. Nevs’ke and Bilogorivka in the Luhansk Oblast, Torske and Spirne in the Donetsk Oblast were shelled by artillery fire.
Bakhmut Battle Map. May 23, 2023. Source: ISW.
Bakhmut axis: the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensive actions in the axis of Khromovoy. They carried out airstrikes in the districts of Bakhmut, Ivanivskyi, Bila Hora, Ozaryanivka, and Toretsk. Kramatorsk, Vasyukivka, Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Hryhorivka, Bakhmut, Ivanovs’ke, Stupochki, Kostyantynivka, Bila Gora, Toretsk, Pivnichne, Pivdenne and New York of the Donetsk Oblast were affected by enemy shelling.
Avdiivka axis: the russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensives in the vicinities of Pervomayskyi. They carried out airstrikes in the Novokalynovoy and Avdiivka areas. Keramik, Ocheretyne, Lastochkine, Avdiivka, Severne, Vodyane, Pervomais’ke, Netaylove, Karlivka and Nevelske of the Donetsk Oblast were shelled by russians.
Mar’inka axis: numerous enemy attacks were repelled in the area of the city of Mar’inka. Krasnohorivka, Georgiivka, Maksimilianivka, Kurakhove, and Pobyeda of the Donetsk Oblast also got under enemy fire.
Shakhtars’ke axis: the enemy forces carried out an air strike in the area of Prechistivka and shelled Paraskoviivka, Novomykhailivka, Vugledar, Bogoyavlenka, Zolotaya Niva, and Velika Novosilka.
Zaporizhzhia and Kherson axes: russian forces are on the defensive. Enemy airstrikes on the settlements of Hulyaipole, Mala Tokmachka, and Stepove in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast, as well as shelling of Vremivka, Burlats’kyi, Novosilka, and Zelene Pole in the Donetsk Oblast, were recorded; Olhivsskyi, Hulyaipole, Zaliznychny, Biloghirya, Malya Tokmachka, Malyy Shcherbaki and Kam’ianka of the Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Zolota Balka, Vesele, Kozats’ke, Lvove, Antonivka, Kizomys, Stanislav of the Kherson Oblast and the city of Kherson also came under enemy artillery fire.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. May 23, 2023. Source: ISW.
Ukrainian Air Force carried out 15x strikes on manpower and military equipment concentration areas, as well as 3x strikes on anti-aircraft missile systems.
Ukrainian Armed Forces also destroyed an enemy strike and reconnaissance helicopter Ka-52, 4x strike UAVs of the “Shahed” type and 1x reconnaissance drone of the “Zala” type.
Ukrainian missile and artillery units hit 3x control points, 4x concentrations of weapons and military equipment, 1x ammunition depot, 2x artillery units in firing positions and 3x more important enemy targets.

Military Updates

Russian Volunteer Corps denies Russian military’s claims on cross-border raid suppression in Belgorod region. According to AP citing senior official in Moscow, Russian military and security forces successfully suppressed an alleged cross-border raid from Russian volunteers basing in Ukraine on Tuesday. They asserted that over 70 attackers were killed during a 24-hour battle. Meanwhile, the Russian Volunteer Corps and the Legion “Freedom for Russia,” composed of Russian volunteers in Ukraine’s Armed Forces, denies these claims in their recent message.

Ukraine F-16 training has begun in Poland, says EU’s Borrell – France 24. The training of Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16 jets has begun in Poland, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on 23 May, after the United States gave its green light, France 24 reports. “I am happy that finally, the training of the pilots for the F-16 has started in several countries. It will take time, but the sooner the better,” he said at a meeting of EU defense ministers in Brussels, adding “For example in Poland.”

Ukraine F-16 pilot training has not yet begun, only preparations are underway – Air Force spox. Training of Ukrainian pilots to operate F-16 fighter jets hasn’t yet begun, according to Yurii Ihnat, the Ukrainian Air Force spokesman. “The process of getting people ready to start this training is still ongoing. Advance teams have traveled to countries that can provide us with training sites. The assessment of how that process will go is underway. The pilots themselves are not in the countries yet,” he said on the national telethon, according to UNIAN.

Russia still capable of waging protracted war, no cracks visible in Putin’s system – German intel. German intelligence chief Bruno Kahl doesn’t see a threat to Putin’s system yet. He says that public criticism of how Russia is waging war in Ukraine represents routine disagreements among Russians but in no way a threat to the system, DW reports.

Fighting “slightly decreased” in Bakhmut as Ukraine holds its southwestern outskirts – Defense Ministry. According to a 23 May morning update by Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar, Russian offensive activity has “slightly decreased” in the Bakhmut sector over the last day. At the same time, the number of fire attacks is “consistently high.” “Fighting in Bakhmut has decreased, the enemy continues to clear the areas under its control. Our troops control the southwestern outskirts of the city in the ‘Airplane’ area,” she wrote referring to the area near the southwestern entrance to the city, where the monument to the MiG-17 aircraft stood.

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

  • Credible research by independent Russian journalists suggests that between January and May 2023, Russian military courts dealt with 1,053 cases of personnel going absent without leave (AWOL) – more than during the whole of 2022.

 

  • Russia’s military has struggled to enforce discipline in its ranks throughout its operations in Ukraine, but its issues have highly likely worsened following the forced mobilisation of reservists since October 2022.

 

  • Court data suggests that most of those found guilty of going AWOL are now punished with suspended sentences, meaning they can be redeployed to the ‘special military operation’. Russia’s efforts to improve discipline have focused on making examples of defaulters, and promoting patriotic zeal, rather than addressing the root causes of soldiers’ disillusionment.

Losses of the Russian army 

Losses of the Russian Army. Source: Euromaidan Press.

Humanitarian 

Woman killed as Russian shelling hits village in Kherson Oblast. In the morning of May 23, one person tragically lost her life as Russian forces shelled the village of Kozatske in Kherson Oblast, Kherson Oblast Prosecutor’s Office wrote on Telegram. According to the statement, “In the morning of May 23, the Russian army conducted mortar shelling on the settlement of Kozatske. As a result of the shelling, a woman was killed.”

Russian army attacks Avdiivka, leaving 9-story building destroyed and people trapped. Today, at 10:00 a.m., the Russian army launched an attack on Avdiivka, according to Vitaliy Barabash, the Chief of the Military Civil Administration. A 9-story building has been destroyed, and people are trapped under the rubble. At least two individuals have been injured as a result of the missile strike on Avdiivka.

Russians looted Byzantine gold from the Chersonesos Museum in Crimea. The temporarily occupied Crimea has witnessed the looting of the ancient reserve museum of Chersonesos Taurica by Russian forces, as reported by the Office of the President of Ukraine in Crimea. The occupiers plundered the museum, including artifacts such as ancient bone, clay, and other material works, falsely claiming to transport them to an exhibition on Byzantine gold in Veliky Novgorod. Furthermore, illegal archaeological excavations continue to take place on the museum’s premises by Russian occupants.

Armed Russian FSB violently arrest peaceful Jehovah’s Witness in occupied Crimea. Russia’s FSB have arrested 31-year-old Jehovah’s Witness Maksym Zynchenko in occupied Feodosia bringing to 23 the number of Ukrainians in occupied Crimea either serving sentences or facing ‘trial’ purely for practising their faith.

Support

Germany provides Ukraine with military aid, including air surveillance radar station. The German federal government announced on Tuesday that it has updated the list of military aid provided to Ukraine, stating that it has handed over a TRML-4D air surveillance radar station. The TRML-4D utilizes advanced AESA radar technology, capable of detecting, tracking, and classifying various types of airborne targets, with a focus on small, fast, low-flying, and/or maneuvering cruise missiles and aircraft, as well as hovering helicopters. It enables the rapid detection and tracking of up to 1500 targets within a radius of up to 250 km.

France offers security guarantees to Ukraine, affirms commitment to support. France has expressed its readiness to enter into agreements with Ukraine, providing it with long-term security guarantees, according to an official statement from the French Foreign Ministry on May 23. This declaration follows an article published by The Washington Post on May 22, which highlighted the consideration of an Israeli-style security agreement for Ukraine by NATO countries before Ukraine’s full NATO membership.

New Developments

Scholz: Putin’s war will end with Ukraine’s EU membership. Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz is confident that Russia will not win the war against Ukraine, Die Welt writes. ““This bitter chapter in the history of our continent, conjured up by Vladimir Putin in his imperialist delusion, will end with free Ukraine joining the European Union as a full member,” Scholz said during the 160th anniversary celebration of the SPD.

There should be no foreign peace plan for Ukraine, only Ukrainian – Ukraine President’s Office. In his interview with Radio Liberty, Ihor Zhovkva, the Ukrainian Presidential Office’s Deputy Head, said that the peace plan for Ukraine can be only Ukrainian since the war is ongoing in Ukrainian territory. “There can be no ‘Brazilian plan’ for peace in Ukraine, no ‘Chinese plan,’ no ‘African plan,’ no ‘Vatican plan.’ Since the war is taking place on the territory of Ukraine, the formula for peace should be only Ukrainian,” he said.

Russia’s Wagner Group tries to purchase weapons via Mali – US Department of State. The Russian Wagner Group, owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, secretly attempts to purchase military equipment via such African country as Mali, the US Department of State spox Matthew Miller said. Wagner Group may use fake documents for such deals, the State Department spox Matthew Miller told reporters at a regular briefing.

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of  May 23, 2022:

Russian authorities ended the “counterterrorism” operation in Belgorod Oblast and claimed to have defeated the all-Russian pro-Ukrainian Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK) and the Freedom of Russia Legion (LSR) in the region on May 23. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Western Military District (WMD) Border Guards units defeated the raid and expelled all “saboteurs” from Belgorod Oblast.[1] Belgorod Oblast Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov announced that the “counterterrorism” operation had ended but called on civilians who evacuated to wait before returning to the border settlements.[2] Russian authorities later announced on May 23 that authorities evacuated 100 civilians from nine border settlements in Belgorod Oblast on May 22 after Gladkov originally denied conducting formal evacuations.[3] Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not hold an emergency meeting of the Russian Security Council to discuss the Belgorod raid but will instead discuss the situation during the Security Council’s planned May 26 meeting, likely in an effort to project confidence about Russian handling of the situation.[4]

Russian forces likely pushed the RDK and LSR forces at least to the Kozinka border settlement and possibly out of Russian territory as of May 23. Kozinka is located approximately 76km southeast of Sumy City. Russian sources amplified footage of Russian forces firing on RDK and LSR vehicle positions near the Kozinka border checkpoint overnight and claimed that Russian forces recaptured Kozinka and its border checkpoint in the morning.[5] Geolocated footage from Russian state media shows damaged and destroyed vehicles at the checkpoint.[6] Some Russian sources claimed that RDK and LSR forces entrenched themselves in the Kozinka church but that preliminary reports suggest Russian forces may have ousted the pro-Ukrainian forces by the evening.[7] Russian sources claimed that Russian forces began clearing operations in Kozinka and Glotovo (immediately east of Kozinka) on May 23.[8] Geolocated footage posted on May 23 shows the aftermath of shelling Gora Podol (about 6km northwest of Kozinka) and Russian infantry conducting patrols between Grayvoron (about 7km northwest of Kozinka) and Gora Podol, suggesting that RDK and LSR personnel no longer hold or never held positions in the settlement.[9] It is unclear whether the RDK and LSR captured any villages on May 22 or May 23, however. The LSR claimed that LSR and RDK personnel continued to operate in Belgorod Oblast on May 23, however.[10]

Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted raids across the Kharkiv-Belgorod border on May 23, but ISW has observed no confirmation that these raids occurred. Some Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian and Ukraine-affiliated formations – including Azov Regiment, Kraken Regiment, Territorial Defense, and regular Ukrainian forces – and RDK personnel attempted additional raids near Gorkovsky, Bogun-Gorodok, and Tsapovka, and managed to cross the border south of Shchetinovka.[11] Other Russian sources denied claims that sabotage groups crossed the Kharkiv-Belgorod border.[12]Russian sources also claimed that Ukrainian forces accumulated reserves less than 10 kilometers from the Kharkiv-Belgorod border and expressed fear about the threat of further raids.[13] One milblogger claimed that the Azov Regiment, Kraken Regiment, Territorial Defense, and regular Ukrainian forces all took part in a raid in Bryansk Oblast on May 22, but ISW has still not observed confirmation of this claimed raid.[14]

The Russian information space largely hyperfixated on speculated goals for the raids and on the conduct of the Russian response. Some Russian milbloggers amplified claims that a drone struck the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) building in Belgorod City and speculated that Ukrainian forces aimed to attack the FSB and Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) in the raid.[15] Russian sources also amplified a photograph of Colonel General Alexander Lapin posing with a captured vehicle and claimed that Lapin led the counterterrorism operation alongside elements of the 3rd Motorized Rifle Division (20th Guards Combined Arms Army, Western Military District).[16] Many Russian sources praised Lapin for organizing Russian forces to conduct coherent counterterrorism operations after the Russian Border Service failed to repel the raids.[17] Some sources criticized the decision to give Lapin command and noted Lapin’s prior military failures such as the disastrous Siverskyi Donets river crossing near Bilohorivka, Luhansk Oblast in May 2022.[18] Lapin has notably returned to commanding Russian operations in eastern Ukraine after suffering intense criticism for commanding the operations to take Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, and Lapin has not received much praise in the information space since the campaign to undermine him led to Lapin’s dismissal in November 2022.[19] The openness of Russian milbloggers to praise Lapin for commanding the defense against an extremely small and limited border incursion suggests that at least some milblogger factions are amenable to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s tendency to rotate old and disgraced commanders.[20]  The Russian reaction to the raid in the information space and in the reported military activities appears to be a highly disproportionate response to a very small and localized undertaking. Russian forces should not have required significant reinforcements—or the involvement of a colonel general—to repulse a raid conducted by reportedly 13 armored vehicles.[21]

Ukrainian officials stated that the pace of fighting in the Bakhmut direction has decreased amid continued limited Ukrainian counterattacks on Bakhmut’s flanks on May 23. The Ukrainian General Staff did not report fighting in Bakhmut City in its 1800 situational report for the first time since December 2022, suggesting that Wagner Group forces may have made further advances within the city. The General Staff also reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive actions near Khromove (immediately west of Bakhmut).[22] Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar stated that combat operations have decreased in and around Bakhmut and reiterated that Ukrainian forces maintain positions in a fortified area near the MiG-17 monument in western Bakhmut.[23]  A milblogger amplified video footage purportedly showing Wagner forces near the MiG-17 monument and claimed that there are no Ukrainian forces in the area, however.[24] Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty stated that Ukrainian forces advanced 200 to 400 meters along the flanks of Bakhmut and still control a number of buildings and fortifications in southwestern Bakhmut.[25] A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces advanced near Yahidne (1km northwest of Bakhmut) and that Russian forces unsuccessfully attacked near Hryhorivka (8km northwest of Bakhmut) and Ivanivske (immediately west of Bakhmut).[26] Another milblogger denied reports that Ukrainian forces made gains during counterattacks northwest and southwest of Bakhmut and assessed that a Russian offensive from Bakhmut toward Ivanivske or Bohdanivka remains unlikely.[27]

Key Takeaways

  • Russian authorities ended the “counterterrorism” operation in Belgorod Oblast and claimed to have defeated the all-Russian pro-Ukrainian Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK) and the Freedom of Russia Legion (LSR) in the region on May 23.
  • Russian forces likely pushed the RDK and LSR forces at least to the Kozinka border settlement and possibly out of Russian territory as of May 23.
  • Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted raids across the Kharkiv-Belgorod border on May 23, but ISW has observed no confirmation that these raids occurred.
  • Ukrainian officials stated that the pace of fighting in the Bakhmut direction has decreased amid continued limited Ukrainian counterattacks on Bakhmut’s flanks on May 23.
  • Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks northeast of Kupiansk and along the Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations on the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
  • Russian forces continued defensive operations in southern Ukraine ahead of the planned Ukrainian counteroffensive.
  • Pardoned Wagner Group convicts continue to commit crimes in Russia after finishing their military contracts with Wagner.
  • Zaporizhzhia Oblast occupation officials announced the start of preliminary voting for the ruling United Russia party.
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