Northeast – Kharkiv Area of Operations
- Russian forces continue to retreat from Kharkiv. Ukrainian forces liberated several towns including Pytomnyk, Cherkasy Tyshky and Ruski Tyshkynorth of Kharkiv City, they have advanced north to connect with the recently liberated town of Staryi Saltiv. Fighting in vicinity of Udy increased as the Russian withdrawal from the northeast of Kharkiv accelerates.
- The Russian 138th Motor Rifle Brigade (MRB) from the 6th Combined Arms Army (CAA) suffered numerous casualties near Kharkiv.
- The Borivka Village Council claim that Russian forces are withdrawing at scale from Borova and Bohuslavka and moving north in the direction of Kupyansk.
- RFAF may send forces from Izyum to support defensive efforts.
- Reinforcements from Belgorod have likely been arranged with the intent of stopping the Ukrainian counteroffensive from reaching the international border. It is possible that these were originally designated to offensive action on the Eastern Axis. On 9 May, some analysts suggest that Russia may not have abandoned it’s efforts to encircle Kharkiv. It is likely that any operational momentum provided by reinforcements will be capitalised on, but the priority will be defensive initially and will come at the cost of not deploying the additional forces to the Izyum front.
The Ukrainian General Staff reported that 1st Tank Army are concentrating in Belgorod, Russia, for deployment to areas near the Ukraine-Russia border. Source: General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine
Some Ukraine commentators believe that Kharkiv remains a Russian objective in the short term. Source: @JackDetsch
East – Donbas Area of Operations (assessed RFAF Main Effort)
- Russian Forces were expected to conduct further offences from Izyum between 8-9 May. This did not occur instead they continued to regroup and replenish. Ukrainian positions in Sulyhivka, Nova Dmytrivka and Kurulka towards the Slovyansk front, as well as the front line at Barvinkove have since been in contact but no substantial progress has been made.
- Further offensive action occurred in Severodonetsk where Russian Forces are reported to have attempted large scale river crossings at Bilihorivka. Likely in an attempt to encircle Severodonetsk. These were unsuccessful but the offensive continues and marginal gains around Severodonetsk were made on 9 May.
- Southeast of Severodonetsk the Luhansk Peoples Republic (LNR) reportedly captured the town of Nyzhnje and are continuing towards Toshkivka.
- In the Donetsk Oblast the Russian 90th Tank Division are holding ground in Shandryholove and Oleksandrivka.
- Russian forces commenced ground attacks along the line of contact and made marginal westward advances on 10 May. Russian forces reportedly captured the remaining part of Velyka Komyshuvakha and Ukrainian troops withdrew towards Hrushuvakha and Barvinkove.
- The last significant RFAF gain was 57Km to the south of Slovyansk in Popasna on 7 May and although fighting continues along the Donbas frontline, reinforcements may be required to increase the rate of territorial gain. The Ukrainian General Staff has suggested the next objective will be Bakhmut.
- The requirement for reinforcements is becoming a major issue on the Eastern Axis, as it in the Northeast. The requirement for resupply and reinforcement across multiple fronts has led to covert attempts to reinforce RFAF with contract forces from Wagner Group.
RSOTM a Wagner ran telegram account suggests the Russians need a further 600,000 troops needed to secure victory. Source: @RSOTM
South – Kherson and Black Sea Coast Area of Operations
- The Southern axis is typified by lack of progress including an ineffective RFAF offensive around Huliaipole, Donetsk. Although key cities such as Mariupol remain a very public indication of Russian progress it is likely that large areas of the front will continue to consolidate, perhaps waiting for reinforcements in order to complete their operations.
- Operations are likely to re-commence in the direction of Zaporizhia and Kryvyi Rih as a priority. The artillery softening tactic is likely to continue, targeting key terrain before e ground assaults re-commence.
Satellite Infra-Red imaging shows the large number of fires in Ukraine along the front line. These are likely the result of artillery strikes. Source: NASA
- Odessa remains an artillery and air strike target. An assault from either the Eastern front or from the maritime flank is unlikely in the short term. Strikes on 9 May likely used Khinzal hypersonic air-launched cruise missiles. These travel at such high speed that they can impact at their target before air defence forces can react, and sirens sounded. The lack of forewarning is likely to increase the number of casualties associated with strikes using this weapon system.
- Operations in the Azovstal Steel Plant continued after the civilian evacuation. The extraction itself was protracted, taking the civilian evacuees more than two days to reach safety. It is possible that only 2 RFAF battalion tactical groups (BTGs) remain in Mariupol to complete the operation as other have redeployed to the Donbas.
Indications that RFAF will redeploy some forces currently taking position in Mariupol. Source: @jackdetsch
- On 9 May occupying forces celebrated victory day in Mariupol likely in an effort to support Russian messaging to their domestic audience.
- The Ukrainian General Staff reports that regrouping and consolidation is occurring in Zaporizhia. Their assessment is that Zaporizhia will be the likely destination for RFAF troops redeployed from Mariupol in order to support the offensive against Zaporizhia city.
- Preparation for the integration of Ukraine territory into Russia appears to be a short term priority. Please see our previous report regarding likely plans for Russian integration, which has somewhat evolved since the Russian withdrawal from Kyiv but remain extant regarding potential Russian satellite states. The head of the Donetsk Peoples Republic, Denis Pushilin visited Mariupol port on 08 May alongside Marat Khusnullin the Russian Deputy Prime Minister for Construction and Regional Development (see below Tweet from @HizBe). In Kherson, Kirill Stremousov, the occupation Deputy Chairman of Military Civil Administration made statements on 09 May that Kherson intends to become part of Russia rather than an independent republic (see below Tweet from @RussianIntel). On the same day Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, spokesperson for the Ukrainian Defines Ministry, suggested that Russian authorities are intensifying their patrols and checkpoint security operations which he takes as an indication of intent to support efforts to integrate the region into Russia (see link to statement below, from www.armyinform.com). Operations have reportedly included the arrival of Crimean troops to promulgate propaganda.
Denis Pushilin visited Mariupol as part of the Victory Day celebration. Source: @HizBie_
Kirill Stremousov has supposedly told Kherson residents will be given Russian passports. Source: @therussianintel
Spokesperson for the Ukrainian Defines Ministry, Oleksandr Motuzyanyk’s statement. Source: www.armyinform.com
- A confused picture of the situation in Snake Island has been circulated by the media. The island became famous for the resistance of a small contingent of Ukraine’s national guard which sparked a social media #Hashtag. Russian forces had secured the island and appeared to be reinforcing the location with a reported Spetznaz deployment (See below videos from The Daily Mail). Russia had concentrated strategic strike capabilities on the Black Sea coast between 6-8 May in order to hinder Ukrainian Air operations made possible by the loss of the Moskva, which would have controlled the Anti-Access and Area Denial (A2AD) bubble over the island. Ukrainian TB2 strikes also destroyed Strela-10 and ZU-23-2 air defence systems (See below story from The Express, The New Yorker & TRT). The open airspace granted access to Su-27 which alongside further TB2 operations began to target Snake Island. RFAF are unlikely to be able to re-take the island without long-range air defence, the movement of equipment such as the S-300/400 SAM, would be an indicator of this intent, but is considered unlikely in the short term. After the strikes were conducted a number of Russian flagged vessels have been identified approaching the island, this included a Rescue Tug, the Project 22870 and a landing craft, the Project 21820 (See below tweet from @OSINT88). These are likely conducting reconnaissance after the strikes and indicate further that currently Snake Island is not occupied by either Russian or Ukrainian forces.
Released footage of Ukrainian Air Force Su-27 Flankers striking Russian facilities at snake island. Source: www.dailymail.com
Footage of TB2 drone strikes. Source: www.express.co.uk
Satellite imagery of the Project 22870 and Project 21820 in vicinity of Snake island. Source: @OSINT88
- Ukrainian forces have reportedly closed the border with Moldova on 9 May amidst growing tensions in Transnistria. This has not been independently verified but pressure has been mounting with the increase of refugees crossing into Moldova.
The increase of refugees crossing into Moldova has been recognised by the UN who are likely working hard to keep borders open in order to assist humanitarian efforts. Source: www.indiablooms.com
- Russia’s ambassador to Poland, Sergey Andreev, was covered in red paint by protestors in Warsaw. Andreev was visiting a Soviet military cemetery in Warsaw on the anniversary of the allied victory over Nazi Germany in 1945. The footage showed the protestors chanting “fascists” and “murderers”. Andreev told Russian news agency Tass that he and his team had not been seriously hurt in the incident. The protesters prevented the ambassador from laying flowers at the cemetery and Polish police escorted him away. Russia’s foreign ministry responded to the incident by demanding Warsaw organise a new wreath-laying ceremony immediately and saying Poland should “ensure complete protection against any provocations”.
CNBC coverage of the incident, showing Sergey Andreev covered in Red Paint. Source: @CNBC
- The Belarusian Ministry of Defence once again increased its claims of US and NATO preparations to attack Belarus to support their announcement of the start of a second stage of ongoing military exercises on 10 May. These troops will likely remain on the border and backfill Russian reserve forces in Belarus.
- The deployment of Reserves will remain a key issue. In March, Putin had implied conscripts would not be employed in Ukraine on a speech that coincided with International Women’s Day, which clearly addressed a domestic concern. Reporting however pertains to a bleak situation; including information that troops in the Donbas are refusing to soldier and the general level of morale is low. This is being addressed with two key Russian approaches: the covert reinforcement of troops with contracted options, alongside constant reshuffling/redeployment of troops to meet operational targets; and the addressing of domestic concerns with propaganda from the front line. Conscripts have already been used to backfill regular forces in Russia to enable the formation of new fighting units for Ukraine.
- The propaganda witnessed peaked during Victory Day celebrations on 8 May. Putin made his speech on 9 May and continued to heap praise on his troops but also notably offered no indications of changes to the Operation. Announcements of changes must be carefully timed, and negative changes announced on Victory Day would clearly be construed negatively by the domestic audience. One significant portion of the propaganda was the inclusion of reportedly pro-Russian celebrations in occupied Ukraine. This was centred around Kozacha Lopan which as of 7 May was still in the middle of fighting between Ukrainian defensive forces and RFAF, calling into question the viability of the claim according to some commentators.
Telegram post with the caption: “Residents of the village of Kozacha Lopan, Kharkiv region, liberated by the Russian Federation, are celebrating the Great Victory Day for the first time in 8 years! Smiles and tears of joy do not leave their faces! Photo report from the scene.” Source @journalist_Inr
- Russian progress on all fronts remains slow. It is likely that reinforcements to both the Northeast front and key areas of the Eastern and Southern Fronts will be slow and the cycling/redeployment of troops will be key to short term maintenance of momentum. Another sustained operational pause could be significant.
- Efforts to reinforce the frontline will be the uppermost priority of the Kremlin as they attempt to balance the sentiment of the domestic audience against the need to reassure military capability.
- Secondary objectives to secure Russian controlled areas and prepare for integration or independence will also serve as a pre-prepared propaganda tool if Russia needs to reduce their military ambition. It is possible that his will become the main effort if success is not forthcoming in key operational directions. The current limit of exploitation is likely to be considered flexible. It is likely that Russia will reinforce success and although there is no time limit to the campaign there is a limit on resource and public support.
- Snake island is demonstrative of the risk to sustained Russian presence in the long term. Although defeating the Russian A2AD bubble on the border of their sovereign territory will certainly be more difficult, the TB2 allows for windows to be opened - thus enabling key activity. This will present a significant risk for Russia in the long term, recognising this RFAF will likely increase targeting operations against such capabilities.
Operationally the focus will be the consolidation of Mariupol, the seizure will likely be complete within the next 7 days. Troops released from operations here will be redeployed to other fronts. Current key areas are south of Izyum from where RFAF aim to progress and enable a joint front from Donetsk, encircling southern Kharkiv. Operations in Zaporizhia and Kryvyi Rih will begin in the short term and are likely to be the recipient of additional force presence.
Ukraine’s counteroffensive is likely to continue to succeed until they reach RFAF reinforcements and defensive positions. This will be evident in reporting as Russian troops move out of staging areas in Belgorod, and this will likely occur in the short term. Once the retreat is stopped, RFAF will consolidate and allow troops to redeploy to other front lines.
Strategically, further evidence is likely to emerge of Russian efforts to annex the Donbas and other controlled territories. In the mid-term this will become a priority and as such we will likely see further occupation forces and governmental support to these areas which will include, Russian diplomatic and governance measures, reconstruction, and firm defences including permanent A2AD.
A Ukrainian soldier pointing to shelling near the front line in Donbas on May 5.Lynsey Addario for The New York Times