Ukraine Situation Report: Kyiv Claims Russian Brigade “Seriously Damaged” In Bakhmut

Ukraine says it inflicted heavy losses on one Russian brigade in the fierce fighting for the eastern city of Bakhmut.

byThomas Newdick|
Photo by DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images


Amid rumors of a possible Ukrainian breakthrough in the bloody battle for the eastern city of Bakhmut, the Ukrainian military claimed today that they have inflicted heavy losses on a Russian brigade there. After 10 months of fighting and tens of thousands of casualties on both sides, the city remains a key objective for Moscow, although its strategic significance has long been debated.

“Unfortunately, they have not destroyed the whole [Russian] brigade yet, two companies have been seriously damaged there,” said Serhiy Cherevatyi, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the east of the country. The brigade he was referring to is the 72nd Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade, which had only recently been formed to take part in the offensive in Ukraine and is now reported to have fled from the city.

According to a report from Suspilne, Ukraine’s state broadcaster, on its official Telegram channel: “In Bakhmut, fighters of the 3rd Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine advanced 2.6km [1.6 miles] during the storming of Russian positions for two days and defeated two companies of the 72nd Brigade of the Russian Federation, said the commander of the Azov Regiment.”

Despite the claimed partial destruction of this Russian brigade, Cherevatyi admitted that the overall situation around Bakhmut remained “difficult.” It is notable, however, that Russia appears to now be relying more heavily on regular army units (and not necessarily very experienced ones) in the fighting in this area, likely reflecting the heavy losses that have been sustained by the Wagner Group, the private military company that had been spearheading the offensive there, but the leadership of which has increasingly clashed with the Kremlin in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, and speaking further to the divisions between Wagner and the Russian Armed Forces, the boss of the mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, confirmed today that the Russian 72nd Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade had abandoned its positions in Bakhmut. Cherevatyi, for his part, accused Prigozhin of “trying to create … white noise,” while Bakhmut itself still remains Moscow’s “main coveted target” in the east, in his opinion.

In related news, Wagner Group boss Prigozhin has once again hit out at the Kremlin for the lack of ammunition being provided to his mercenary fighters. This has been a regular complaint from Prigozhin and even led to his threat to withdraw his troops from the city. He later stepped back from that, stating that his fighters would be considered “traitors” if they abandoned their positions.

Despite this, calls from Wagner for more ammunition have been relentless.

“We’re not receiving enough shells, we’re only getting 10 percent,” Prigozhin said in an audio statement, as reported by Reuters.

“We’re scraping by with a minimal quantity of shells,” Prigozhin said, before adding that his mercenaries were continuing to advance in Bakhmut. Prigozhin said that the Russian Ministry of Defense had been holding long meetings to try and solve the issue of ammunition shortages, but that bureaucracy was holding up the process of achieving meaningful results.

A Ukrainian soldier receives mortar fire adjustment data in the suburbs of Bakhmut. Photo by Mykhaylo Palinchak/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Hitting out at the defense ministry is hardly a new development for Prigozhin, who last week posted a now-notorious video of him standing in a field apparently surrounded by Russian corpses. In that video, he accused officials of “getting fat” in their offices while his troops are dying.

Aside from the ammunition situation, the Wagner Group is also increasingly finding itself an international pariah, with various countries now moving to have it classified as a terrorist group.

According to the Times of London, the U.K. government is poised to designate Wagner as a terrorist organization, following similar moves made by Estonia, France, and Lithuania.

Such a decision from London would have mainly symbolic significance, although there are, according to the Times, official concerns that the group may have been involved in laundering money out of the United Kingdom, together with organized crime groups, after financial sanctions were imposed against Russian oligarchs and Putin allies following the launch of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

On a practical level, listing Wagner as a terrorist group would allow the European Union to freeze the assets of its members and prevent any European companies or individuals from dealing with the group. Prigozhin already had his assets in the European Union frozen in 2020, after Wagner fighters began to be involved in combat operations in Libya.

“Wherever they work, Wagner members spread instability and violence,” French legislator  Benjamin Haddad told the French parliament yesterday. “They kill and torture. They massacre and pillage. They intimidate and manipulate with almost total impunity.”

Before we dive into the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get caught up on our previous rolling coverage here.

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A remarkable and seemingly recent video documenting the fighting around Bakhmut, the footage in the tweet below apparently shows a Russian soldier surrendering to a Ukrainian drone. After signaling his intention to surrender, the Ukrainian forces drop a note to him, telling him to follow the drone. After some hesitation, he follows, apparently despite gunfire from his own positions. The soldier is apparently now in Ukrainian hands:

Suspilne, Ukraine’s state broadcaster, has provided an update on the latest round of Russian air attacks on targets in Ukraine, on its official Telegram channel:

“Air defense forces destroyed three Russian drones over the Dnipropetrovsk region on the night of May 10. Also at night, the Russian Army shelled Kherson heavily. More than 350 projectiles were fired in Kherson oblast during the day: one person was injured. In Zaporizhzhia, the Russian Army shelled 19 settlements yesterday: a resident of the village of Mykilske was seriously injured.”

According to the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ media center, two Ukrainian civilians were killed and five were wounded in Russian attacks on Tuesday.

In a statement on Telegram, the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ media center said: “According to the information provided by the Situation Center of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, Russian troops shelled nine regions of Ukraine in the past day. In total, 126 settlements were shelled with various types of weapons (mortars, tanks, artillery, MLRS, air defense systems, UAVs, and tactical aircraft), and 153 infrastructure facilities were hit.”

These claims have not been independently verified.

Additional ground-based air defense systems are headed to Ukraine after President Petr Pavel of the Czech Republic announced that his country would deliver two batteries of the 2K12 Kub surface-to-air missile system. Known to NATO as the SA-6 Guideline, the Kub was previously promised to Ukraine by Slovakia.

The Kub is the predecessor to the Buk-M1 (SA-11 Gadfly) mobile medium-range surface-to-air missile system that is already used by Ukraine (and by Russia). Like the Buk, the Kub makes use of tracked missile launch vehicles, but unlike the later system, these carry three instead of four ready-to-fire missiles, while the fire-control radar is mounted on a separate vehicle.

Petr Pavel apparently also stated that the Czech Republic could move to provide some of its L-159 Advanced Light Combat Aircraft (ALCA) to Ukraine. The subsonic ALCA is fully optimized for combat missions and is available in single-seat L-159A and two-seat L-159B forms. Its advanced avionics are centered around an Italian-supplied Grifo multi-mode radar and the aircraft is also capable of using an array of NATO-standard weaponry.

Evidence of more immediate new weaponry for the Ukrainian Air Force emerged today, with a first known photo showing one of the service’s Su-25 Frogfoot attack jets armed with U.S.-supplied 5-inch Zuni rockets. Evidence that Zuni rockets pledged to Ukraine by the United States had begun to be delivered emerged at the beginning of the month, as you can read more about here.

As expected, the unguided rockets are in use with the Su-25 fleet, which is carrying them in four-round LAU-10 pods. The Frogfoot has so far been extensively used for attacks on Russian positions using Soviet-era rockets, supplies of which are apparently now running low.

Two more NATO countries have signed up for an initiative to train Ukrainian troops. Canada and Latvia will work together to train Ukrainian personnel on Latvian soil, beginning next week.

Canada is already training Ukrainian troops in Poland and the United Kingdom.

In Russia, too, efforts to get more troops to the front lines are being stepped up. The latest such measure is a decree signed by President Vladimir Putin that calls up military reservists for training this year. This was confirmed by an announcement published on a Russian government website today. Last September, Russia began a partial mobilization of its reservists, around 300,000 in all, as it sought to bolster troop numbers in the wake of a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Meanwhile, Russians who refuse to fight in Ukraine continue to be subjected to punitive measures. A report from the human rights group OVD-Info highlights the fates of two soldiers from Kamchatka in the Russian Far East, named as Alexander Stepanov and Andrei Mikhailov. The two were jailed for two and a half years for refusing orders to go into combat during wartime.

The Russian criminal code was amended last year by President Vladimir Putin and it’s now possible to give prison sentences of up to three years for those refusing to fight.

An oil pipeline within Russia has been attacked in what the state-run TASS news agency described as a “terrorist” incident. The pipeline filling point is located on the Europe-bound Druzhba pipeline in a border area between Russia and Ukraine.

“Early this morning there was an attempt to commit a terrorist act against the Druzhba oil pipeline system at the Bryansk filling station,” a spokesman for Russian oil pipeline operator Transneft told TASS.

“As a result, no one was hurt. The competent authorities are investigating the circumstances of the incident.” Transneft also said that there were no leaks.

Also today, reports on the pro-Russian Baza Telegram channel stated that three empty oil reservoirs at the Druzhba pipeline’s filling station had come under attack.

Exactly how the oil infrastructure might have been targeted is unclear at this stage. However, the alleged attacks certainly fit in with the pattern of targeting critical infrastructure on Russian territory, especially in the border areas and we have repeatedly reported numerous incidents of this kind in the past. Indeed, this is not the first time that the Druzhba pipeline has come under attack since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Other reported attacks on Russian territory announced today included an apparent attempted drone strike against an undisclosed military facility in the Voronezh region, which borders eastern Ukraine. This was announced by the regional governor, Alexander Gusev who noted that the attack, by two drones, had failed.

“As a result of intervention measures, one of them veered off course and went down, while the second was destroyed by gunfire,” Reuters reported that Gusev said on Telegram.

Another alleged drone strike was reportedly averted today in Russia’s Kursk region, which also borders Ukraine. According to a report from Reuters, Russia’s Air Defense Forces claim to have shot the drone, falling debris from which is said to have damaged a gas pipeline and a house.

“Debris fell in the village of Tolmachevo. No one was hurt,” the regional governor, Roman Starovoyt, said on the Telegram messaging app.

The state-run TASS news agency reports that the Russian Federation security service, or FSB, claims to have prevented an assassination attempt on a police chief in the occupied Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine.

According to TASS, the FSB provided the following statement:

“The FSB … prevented an attempt on the life of one of the leaders of the law enforcement agencies of the Zaporizhzhia region. The first victim of the attacker was to be the head of the police department in the village of Kirillovka [which is on the Sea of Azov coast, south of Melitopol]."

“When trying to detain the criminal, he offered armed resistance, but thanks to the professional actions of the special forces of the FSB of Russia, he was disarmed.”

The alleged suspect was described as a 31-year-old Ukrainian man who had arrived in the Zaporizhzhia region “to carry out sabotage and terrorist activities.” According to TASS, the FSB said he was found with “components for the manufacture of an improvised explosive device.”

These claims have not been independently verified.

Meanwhile, the FSB today did confirm reports of a sabotage attack against a Russian Su-24 Fencer strike or reconnaissance aircraft at an aircraft factory in Siberia. Accounts of the incident — as well as a video posted on YouTube — emerged yesterday but there was initial confusion as to whether they were legitimate, with the local emergency services apparently denying that the raid had taken place.

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Now, according to the Russian Telegram news channel Astra, the local branch of the FSB has confirmed that there was an arson attack on the Su-24 military plane at the Chkalov aircraft factory in Novosibirsk.

According to the Astra report, FSB officers visited the factory and discovered that a “mothballed Su-24 aircraft produced in 1990” showed signs of fire damage under its left rear fuselage. There was also said to be a hole cut in the factory fence.

This is not the first time that aircraft have been subjected to damage by saboteurs operating within Russian borders, with a previous incident last November in which attack helicopters were the targets of a raid against a Russian airbase in the Pskov region, in the far west of the country. You can read about that here.

In its regular intelligence update today, the U.K Ministry of Defense (MOD) has turned its attention to Russia’s Victory Day parade in Red Square, Moscow, yesterday, which we covered in this report.

The MOD pointed to the glaring lack of tanks or other tracked fighting vehicles in this year’s parade, noting that “A vintage T-34 from a ceremonial unit was the sole tank on parade. Despite heavy losses in Ukraine, Russia could have fielded more armored vehicles.”

All in all, the MOD considers that the pared-down Victory Day parade “highlighted the materiel and strategic communications challenges the military is facing 15 months into the war in Ukraine.”

That’s it for now. We'll update this story when there’s more news to report about Ukraine.

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