Northeast – Kharkiv Area of Operations
- Russian Federation Armed Forces (RFAF) continue to maintain front-line positions, protecting its ground lines of communication (GLoC) towards the Russian border.
- No notable Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) gains in the last reporting period.
- RFAF made several unsuccessful attempts to regain control of Ternova.
- RFAF reported to have repaired a railway bridge near Kupiansk, enabling logistics resupply to the Izyum front.
- Defensive reinforcement activities observed near Kozacha Lopan, including deployment of engineering equipment.
- RFAF reported to have launched Iskander missiles from Belgorod, towards Kharkiv city on 28 & 29 May 22. Increased bombardment activity also observed in Ruski Tyshky, Ruska Lozova, Pytomnyk, and Peremoha areas.
Video reported to show UAF on patrol in Kharkiv region; destroyed RFAF Main Battle Tank (MBT) shown. Source: @herooftheday10
East – Donbas Area of Operations (assessed RFAF Main Effort)
- RFAF initiated ground assaults on Sievierodonetsk on 27 May 22. As at 31 May 22, RFAF forces have advanced to the north-east of the city. Novoaydar and Starobilsk have been reported as the two main avenues of approach.
- Ukrainian state TV claims that now one half of the city is now under RFAF control.
- Unconfirmed reporting suggesting that the UAF have established defensive positions on the western bank of the Siverskyi Donets river.
- Ongoing fighting has been reported in Toshkivka, Borivske, Ustynivka, to the south of Sievierodonetsk.
- RFAF continue to push towards urban settlements east of Bakhmut, with the aim to cut-off UAF supply lines. Attempted advances have been reported in Novoluhanske (south-east of Bakhmut) and Berestov (north-east of Bakhmut) – but currently remain under UAF control.
- On the Izyum front, Lyman fell under RFAF control on 26 May 22. On 30 May 22, RFAF attempted to assault Kurulka village, situated to the north-east of Slovyansk. No RFAF gains were reported.
- Throughout the reporting period, UAF repelled RFAF efforts to assault Dovhenke. The town, however remains under intense artillery bombardment. Slovyansk was also subjected to an RFAF missile strikes on 31 May 22.
- On 26 May 22, bus evacuations took place from Slovyansk. Buses are reported to be leaving daily. End destinations are reported to be Dnipro and Rivne.
- On 30 May 22, the Tolyatti-Odessa ammonia pipeline was damaged, causing ammonia clouds which are reported to have reached Traverne village.
- On 27 May 22, RFAF airstrikes were reported in Avdiivka, Vesele, and Kamyanka in the Donetsk Oblast. UAF repelled RFAF assaults on Vesele and Kamyanka on 30 May 22.
Sky News report showing footage from Russian state TV claiming to show RFAF in Sievierodonetsk. Source: @SkyNews
Image showing UAF soldier scoping RFAF artillery positions near Lyman for counter-battery fires. Source: @NeilPHauer
South – Kherson and Black Sea Coast Area of Operations
- Reporting continues to highlight that RFAF priority is on fortification of its defensive positions along the current line of contact. This includes RFAF defensive formations being observed in Komstranka, 10km from the Kherson-Mykolaiv region border.
- On 30 May 22, UAF broke through RFAF defensive lines in Davydiv Brid, pushing units back to Komstranka. RFAF also reported to have withdrawn from Mykolaivka.
- In Melitopol, local officials stated up to 30 x T-62 MBTs have arrived to support RFAF defensive efforts in northern Zaporizhia region. Air defence systems continue to be delivered across the axis to support the RFAF defensive reinforcement.
- UAF reported to have conducted counteroffensives in northern Kherson, near Bilohirka; and in urban settlements to the south-east of Mykolaiv Oblast. Fighting is still reported in this area on 31 May 22.
- Ukrainian officials also reported that they aim was to disrupt RFAF supply lines using bridges on the Dnipro River.
- Missile strike reported in Kryvyi Rih on 28 May 22; target unknown.
- A reported vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) detonated in Melitopol on 30 May 22. Reporting indicates that the explosion occurred next to the building of the pro-Russia administration. The target was reported to be the pro-Russian governor.
- In Odessa, RFAF again damaged the Zatoka Bridge following missile strikes on 29 May 22.
Image showing smoke following reported explosion in civic-military administration zone, Melitopol. Source: @ukraine_world
Image showing destroyed bridge in Davydiv Brid, following UAF counterattack. Source: @novakakhovka_ua
- On 29 May 22, Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited troops situated in Kharkiv region, which marked his first public appearance outside of Kyiv since the start of the invasion. During his visit, Zelenskyy awarded commendations and medals to those UAF involved in operations on the Northeast Axis. Zelenskyy also removed the SBU chief for the Kharkiv region from his post due to performance. Zelenskyy stated the official is now subject to a police investigation, amid claims that the official was acting in self-interest.
- US President, Joe Biden, announced on 30 May 22 that his administration would not approve the delivery of heavy weapons which have the capability to strike into Russian territory. This follows calls from Ukrainian officials requesting weapons to stall, or disrupt RFAF advances into Sievierodonetsk and along the line of contact. An advisor to Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Oleksiy Arestovych, said that Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) that can strike up to 70km would “be more than enough for us”.
- The RFAF have achieved greater localised success in the last two weeks than it has done in the previous two months of the invasion. However, despite its advances, an assault of the urban centre is highly likely to become attritional for both sides. To prevent overstretching, the RFAF are likely to have decided that the Izyum front should now be a supporting effort to the encirclement of Sievierodonetsk. It is likely that the UAF will conduct a tactical withdrawal under pressure from Sievierodonetsk via Lysychansk, to prevent encirclement/isolation and reinforce defensive lines towards Bakhmut. Such operational actions are likely to be affected by the extent of support provided by the West in the coming weeks, which feeds directly into President Biden’s concerns that Russia will view provision of heavy weapons as an escalation. If capabilities that would stall the RFAF (such as long-range precision strike system, such as MLRS/HIMARS) are not a viable option, then Western leaders will need to formulate an alternative strategy to support the Donbass effort.
- The deployment of T-62 MBTs to occupied areas of the Zaporizhia Oblast are indicative that it is a supporting effort. T-62s are an antiquated design and have reportedly been removed from long-term storage to be sent to Ukraine. Modern RFAF MBTs have been found wanting in the conflict thus far, and are vulnerable to most modern anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs), and the T-62 is likely to fare even worse. Depending on the level of additional reactive/applique armour applied, it is a realistic possibility that a T-62 is vulnerable to even old-generation RPG-7 warheads. Due to this, it is a realistic possibility that the T-62s will be used in static defensive positions to provide direct fires-support, rather than for a manoeuvre battle. It is therefore highly likely that there will be no renewed offensive north towards Zaporizhia City in the short term.
- The rise of a Ukrainian resistance force has caught the attention of international media outlets. In the last two weeks, there have now been two reported attempted assassinations of pro-Moscow officials, illustrating a deliberate targeting effort from the resistance which undermines Russian occupation authorities. Other forms of resistance include efforts to sabotage RFAF equipment and supply lines. The attacks also highlight the vulnerability of those Russian forces, and officials, situated in these locations and their ability to govern in the long term. Intercepted communications have highlighted the accumulative impact these attacks are having on morale, a destabilising factor for any occupying force. The Ukrainian population will be buoyed by the success of this campaign. It is almost certain that this activity will increase in intensity in the coming weeks; plus, a diversification in resistance tactics is likely to be observed, especially in the deployment of explosive devices and use of social media to expose Russia-sympathising collaborators.
- President Zelenskyy’s visit to Kharkiv region is likely to have been a much needed morale boost to UAF troops operating on the front-lines. Zelenskyy’s visit also served as an opportunity to highlight to Russia that he has greater freedom of movement than at any point in the invasion. It communicated that Ukraine is operating from a position of strength, despite the pressure the UAF is under in the Donbass region. However, these VIP visits are still negotiated with risk, especially when within range of RFAF artillery and other heavy weaponry. Future visits are calculated risks, but it is possible that Zelenskyy will seek to be more active along operational fronts to continue to galvanise his troops during a critical phase of the invasion.
RFAF are highly likely to continue to prioritise the encirclement of Sievierodonetsk in the next reporting period. Urban combat is likely to be highly attritional, as observed in Mariupol, slowing the RFAF rate of advance using small teams to disrupt and delay the RFAF clearance operation. Unlike Mariupol, the UAF are almost certain to seek to withdraw from the city prior to becoming isolated – likely by conducting a manoeuvre defence. This would allow the UAF to retain combat power for subsequent spoiling attacks, raids and an eventual counter-offensive. However, the RFAF is likely to make additional gains to the south near Lysychansk, and also west of Popasna towards Bakhmut. The UAF is likely to lose control of Toshkivka in the next 7-days, despite its earlier success. Similarly, the UAF are likely to come under continuing pressure in Ustynivka, and Borivske.
To counter its losses, expect further reporting of UAF reinforcement of defensive positions to prevent the RFAF from cutting off its GLoC towards Sievierodonetsk. Spoiling attacks along the Izyum front, and its areas of control in Luhansk are highly likely in order to disrupt the RFAF main effort. RFAF bombardment of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk will also continue, with indicators suggesting that this activity is becoming more indiscriminate, targeting both military and civilian locations.
In Kharkiv, the situation is unlikely to see any significant changes in the next reporting period. Ternova is likely to remain an area of contestation as RFAF seeks to prevent any further advances towards its GLoC. RFAF activity will continue to be supported with aerial bombardment to fix and harass UAF positions. Concurrently, it is expected that additional engineering equipment will be deployed to reinforce its defensive lines near Kozacha Lopan. Successful defence of this location appears to be a critical objective to preserving Russian interests near its borders.
On the South Axis, small-scale RFAF counterattacks are expected to continue in an attempt to retake territory ceded to the UAF in the last reporting period. However, limited UAF offensive activity is likely to continue to harass and disrupt RFAF operations. Much of this activity is likely to be focused south-east of Mykolaiv. Defensive reinforcement (of both equipment and personnel) activity in Kherson and Zaporizhia regions is likely to continue. This activity could present further opportunities for Ukrainian resistance forces to disrupt RFAF depth locations and prevent occupation forces from becoming effective in their provision of governance, thus further undermining their legitimacy.