Military

Northeast – Kharkiv Area of Operations

  • Russian Federation Armed Forces (RFAF) main effort has been to secure its defensive positions west of Vovchan’sk, protecting its ground lines of communication (GLoC) into Belgorod region.
  • Elements of the DPR and LPR – including 1
  • RFAF attempted to retake Ternova on 24 May 22, following Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) gaining control earlier in the month. Conflicting reporting on 24 May 22 is being circulated on its success. RFAF also reported to be mounting ground assaults in Rubizhne, Lytpsi, and Vesele without success.
  • On 21 May 22, UAF liberated the town of Dementiivka, north of Kharkiv along the E105 route. This success followed a period of heavy RFAF artillery in this area.
  • Throughout the reporting period, RFAF continued to shell locations across Kharkiv city and its suburbs. Heavy shelling also reported in Merefa, approximately 30km south-west of Kharkiv, targeting possible UAF logistics hubs.
  • Potential Russian saboteurs were arrested in Kharkiv city on 20 May 22; 10kg on TNT was reported to have been seized as part of this operation.

Image of reported captured BTR-82A near Dementiivka, Kharkiv region. Source: @666_mancer


East – Donbas Area of Operations (assessed RFAF Main Effort)

  • RFAF made a series of incremental gains along the Sievierodonetsk front in the last 7-days, pushing west through UAF defences in Popasna.
  • Reporting suggests that UAF units tactically withdrew from its positions west of Popasna to defend its GLoC situated in Bakhmut. Heavy fighting reported on 23 May 22 in Lypove and Trypillya. Lypove remains under UAF control.
  • RFAF have also made gains as they push north of Popasna towards Lysychansk, and UAF are under intense bombardment from RFAF ground and air units in Toshkivka.
  • On 20 May 22, RFAF destroyed a bridge near Pavlograd, linking the main supply route from Sievierodonetsk to Lysychansk. In Donetsk, UAF also reported to have destroyed bridges near Svitlodarsk, following RFAF advances into Myronivskyi on 22 May 22.
  • RFAF also made several gains in the vicinity of Lyman, including Shandryholove, Novoselivka, and Drobysheve. As at 24 May 22, RFAF are reported to have advanced to the outskirts of Lyman city.
  • To the northwest of Lyman, RFAF are also advancing toward Yarova in an attempt to link-up with supporting units near the Siverskyi Donets river.
  • Limited RFAF offensive operations on the Izyum front in the reporting period. On 24 May 22, UAF repelled ground assaults on Dovhenke.
  • On 19 May 22, UAF reported to have conducted an airborne operation into an RFAF forward base north of Izyum, resulting in damaged RFAF equipment.
  • Reporting from Russian social media channels also indicated that RFAF elements have abandoned plans to mount offensive operations towards Slovyansk and Barvinkove to support the encirclement effort.
  • Despite the limited RFAF offensive operations near Izyum, UAF positions continue to be targeted with heavy air and artillery strikes. On 25 May 22, Ukrainian officials reported that 25 airstrikes were carried out in a 24-hour period across the line of contact, damaging residential properties, hospitals, railway infrastructure, and industrial hubs.

UAF positions under fire from RFAF attack helicopters in Toshkivka. Source: @RALee85

Video reported to show destroyed bridge linking Sievierodonetsk to Lysychansk. Source: @PaulJawin

Image of bridge destroyed by UAF near Svitlodarsk. Source: @GirkinGirkin


South – Kherson and Black Sea Coast Area of Operations

  • Reporting indicates that RFAF focus is on fortification of its defensive positions along the current line of contact in preparation for UAF counterattacks, and also to enable a build-up of RFAF personnel.
  • Separate reporting suggests that RFAF are building unit groupings south of Zaporizhia city, in Vasylivka, and Kamyanske ahead of potential offensive operations. Up to three BTG-sized units have been reported across news and social outlets.
  • Air defence systems are also reported have been strengthened along this axis.
  • Two battalions of S-400 anti-aircraft systems are reported to have been deployed into southwest Crimea. This may go some way towards reinstating the Air Defence bubble over the Black Sea Coast and Snake Island which was lost with the sinking of the Moskva.
  • UAF positions continued to be shelled across Kherson and Mykolaiv regions. On 22 May 22, multiple missile strikes also reported to have targeted railway infrastructure near Pavlohrad and Synelnykove in Dnipropetrovsk region.
  • On 25 May 22, RFAF conducted multiple airstrikes into Zaporizhia city. Local officials stated that a shopping centre and 62 homes were damaged in the strikes.
  • Ukrainian resistance continues to be reported in both Enerhodar and Melitopol, including a protest of Ukrainian firefighters and targeting of pro-Russian officials.
  • On 23 May 22, Russian currency (the ruble) was introduced in Kherson.

Media outlet reporting on Ukrainian partisan attack targeting pro-Russia administration official in Enerhodar. Source: @KyivPost

Post showing image of reported damage to shopping centre in Zaporizhia on 25 May 22. Source: @francis_scarr

Post citing local officials highlighting increased presence of RFAF in Vasylivka. Source: @AlchevskUA


Strategic/Political

  • On 23 May 22, senior Russian diplomat, Boris Bondarev, resigned from his post as the Russia representative at the UN, in a scathing letter condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Bondarev’s letter contained several criticisms of the Kremlin and its foreign policy, stating that it is resulting in Russia’s political degradation. Bondarev also accused Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, of running a department which has been reduced to disseminating lies and propaganda.

Post showing Bondarev’s resignation statement. Source: @HillelNeuer

  • Denis Pushilin, the leader of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), issued a statement on 23 May 22 which said that the UAF who surrendered from the Azovstal Steel Plant are going to be subject to a tribunal in its controlled territory. Pushilin stated that the documentation is being prepared, in addition to a written charter to support this process, during an interview with Russian state TV.
  • Russian officials stated that it is willing to open-up a humanitarian corridor enabling Ukrainian ships to export food supplies which have been stockpiled since the beginning of the invasion due to a Russian naval blockade. However, Andrey Rudenko, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, said that this was predicated on sanctions being lifted and the Ukrainian government de-mining the nearby waters. UK MOD in its latest analysis stated that this impasse will continue to drive up global food prices and their associated products.
  • Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, stated that the Kremlin would be focussing its efforts on strengthening its political and socio-economic ties with China. Lavrov accused the West of Russophobia and accused its leaders of adopting a dictators' position. As a result, Lavrov claims that this will help accelerate its relations with China, aimed at reducing Russia’s dependency on western products.
  • A Russian solider was sentenced to life imprisonment following the conclusion of his trial for war crimes committed in Sumy region in Feb 22. Sergeant Vadim Shishimarin had pleaded guilty to the killing of a Ukrainian citizen, claiming that he had been following orders from a ranking officer from within his battalion. Shishimarin’s legal representatives said that an appeal would be lodged against the verdict. This was the first trial and conviction for war crimes committed against Ukrainians by Russian service personnel since the invasion in February.

Image of Vadim Shishimarin at his sentencing hearing on 23 May 22. Post by Ukrainian Ministry of Defence. Source: @DefenceU


So What?

  • Sievierodonetsk is being subjected to ‘scorched earth’ tactics, as described by many Western media outlets over the last 7-days. RFAF gains have put their units within short to medium calibre artillery range, enabling persistent bombardment of the city. Many reporters are now running headlines highlighting that this is a critical phase of the conflict, and the Ukrainians are under the greatest pressure since the initial phase of the invasion. This is echoed in President Zelenskyy’s statements, encouraging the West to be unified and do more to disrupt the Russian military effort. Zelenskyy also stated that the UAF was losing between 50 – 100 fighters a day on the Eastern axis. This figure alone highlights the gravity and imminency of the situation as the RFAF are expected to make further gains in the next reporting period. The question for international observers is ‘can the UAF prevent the RFAF from completing the encirclement of Sievierodonetsk?’ Many commentators believe not, resulting in a situation which could have the same outcome as observed in Mariupol. Maintenance of momentum will be essential to the Russian offensive, and it remains to be seen whether they can reinforce and exploit success with sufficient reserves, or whether they will be forced into a tactical pause which may allow Ukraine to re-set in new defensive positions. The lack of movement by RFAF on the Izyum front is indicative of a Russian intent to fix UAF elements (predominantly through extensive use of fires) in order to prevent them from reinforcing defences against the Russian encirclement of Sievierodonetsk.
  • The conviction and sentencing of Sgt Vadim Shishimarin set a legal precedent which the Ukrainian authorities are highly likely to want to accelerate to bring those responsible for committing war crimes to justice. Further convictions will make it increasingly difficult for Russia to deny its responsibility for the atrocities. However, Russia is using the recent capture of the Azovstal defenders in Mariupol to deflect away from the Shishimarin case. The soldiers who surrendered in the past 14-days are a political pawn in the Kremlin’s attempts to justify its invasion through a series of trials that are likely to draw condemnation from all observers.
  • UN information highlights that Ukraine exports food supplies feed up to 400 million people and accounts for up to 10% of global wheat exports. However, only a fraction of this figure has been able to be exported using alternative transportation methods. Supply chain issues are driving up global food prices and many experts have highlighted that this could have a seismic effect on long-term food security, especially in some Asian and African nations who are reliant on Ukrainian wheat imports. In Iran, protests have been reported due to the rise in food prices, and it is likely that further social unrest will be observed in countries who are impacted by this situation. History has shown that there is a causal link between protest events and disruption to food commodity cycles, a trend which is likely to be amplified in the medium term without Russian buy-in to a solution. However, Russia continues to deny that it is weaponizing food supplies and its stance is unlikely to change unless assurances are given which make it more favourable for the Kremlin to allow exports. This includes removing sanctions on Russian food exports and giving it unrestricted access to the global market.

What Next?

RFAF will continue to prioritise the encirclement of Sievierodonetsk in the next 7-days. Further incremental gains in urban settlements in the vicinity of Popasna, Toshkivka, and Lysychansk are to be expected. To the west towards Bakhmut, UAF are likely to bolster its defensive positions to continue to protect its GLoC from future assaults. The bombardment of Sievierodonetsk will also continue, as will air and artillery strikes on UAF depth positions supporting the defence of this objective.

In Kharkiv, RFAF are likely to remain focussed on consolidating its position to prevent further UAF advances towards the Russian border and to protect supply lines from Russia to the Izyum front. This is already evident with the support of LPR and DPR proxy units, enabling the RFAF to continue to target Kharkiv city and its suburbs with artillery. Ternova is also likely to remain a key flashpoint over the next 48-72 hours, as RFAF attempt to maintain pressure on the UAF and fix them from being able to redeploy to other axes. Similarly, the UAF will require additional combat power to be able to make further advances along the eastern side of the Siverskyi Donets river and attempt to cut-off the RFAF GLoC near Vovchan’sk.

On the South Axis, no significant RFAF territorial gains are likely to be made, with further reports on RFAF build-up in Zaporizhia and Kherson Oblasts to be expected. Continued defensive preparations concurrent to occupation activity to the west of Kherson further indicate Russian intent to remain in the long-term. Ukrainian resistance is likely to persist across Enerhodar and Melitopol and other occupied towns.


A Ukrainian soldier with the Territorial Defense Forces in a trench on May 22 on the front line in the eastern Donetsk region.  Finbarr O'Reilly for The New York Times