Ukraine Situation Report: Kyiv Retakes Ground On Bakhmut’s Flanks

After months of fighting in and around the besieged city of Bakhmut, Ukrainian forces have retaken ground on the city’s flanks as a Russian unit made a hasty retreat.

In its latest assessment, the Institute for the Study of War (@TheStudyOfWar ) noted signs indicating local Ukrainian counterattacks to the northwest and southwest of the city, retaking about 17 square kilometers. In the north, Ukrainian forces advanced along the Berkhivka reservoir. At the same time, Ukrainians pushed south out of Ivanivske.

The British Ministry of Defense confirmed the Russian 72nd Motor Rifle Brigade’s retreat from areas on Bakhmut’s southern flanks. Their retreat over the previous four days led to Ukrainian gains and further criticism of Russia’s Ministry of Defense from Wagner PMC boss Yevgeny Prigozhin. 

Prigozhin’s complaints have only grown louder and more damning in recent weeks, culminating in an alleged call for rebellion. In an audio recording with subtitles tweeted by Anton Gerashenko, Adviser to the Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs, it is claimed that Prigozhin can be heard calling the “special military operation” a “stupid war” and that Russian soldiers have been abandoned in the tragedy.

The War Zone cannot independently confirm the authenticity of Prigozhin’s remarks.

Russian Telegram channels meanwhile have attributed the losses to a total lack of coordination and communication between Wagner PMC forces and regular Russian units. 

Prigozhin’s remarks aside, discontent among Russian mil-bloggers and the country’s pro-war faction continues to grow. At a meeting of the “Angry Patriot’s Club,” a hardline Russian nationalist group formed in April, founding member Igor Girkin and others on the Russian far-right, spoke of revolution, holy war, and “cleansing” when discussing the situation. 

The incredible human toll notwithstanding, the Bakhmut ‘meat grinder’ may well have also exhausted the patience and the relationship between various factions within Russia’s war effort. In particular, time and the looming Ukrainian counterattacks will reveal precisely how big a split there is between the Kremlin’s own military and its Wagner mercenaries. 

Before we head into the latest from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage here

The Latest

New imagery adds to evidence of the Storm Shadow cruise missile’s use against a target in Luhansk this week, with debris supposedly showing markings consistent with the British standoff weapon. Damage from the strike is extensive, with the targeted building having partially collapsed.

The Storm Shadow further found its way into the Wagner-MoD dispute, with the Wagner-aligned Telegram channel Grey Zone (@grey_zone) calling B.S. on Moscow’s claim that it shot down the Ukrainian aircraft launching the missiles. 

More explosions rocked Luhansk on Saturday, with some reporting a repeat of the previous day’s strike using Storm Shadow missiles and potentially ADM-160B MALD decoys. It has not been confirmed what weapon was used in Saturday’s strikes.

Across the Russian border in Bryansk Oblast, four Russian Air Force aircraft were shot down. It remains unclear exactly what brought down two Mi-8 “Hip” helicopters, a Su-34 “Fullback” and a Su-35 “Flanker-E,” and you can read our in-depth coverage on that story here

A series of huge explosions rocked the western Ukrainian city of Khmelnitsky, with towering mushroom clouds rising above the regional center. Our coverage of the explosion and its similarities to the strike on Pavlohrad last week can be found here

There are incredible videos of two Ukrainian Air Force fighters making low passes at an airfield. By “uncomfortably” we mean “duck if you don’t want to get a high-speed haircut” low. The Su-27 seen in the clips is also armed with a pair of AGM-88 HARM anti-radar missiles.

The Washington Post has an incredible scoop about Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s behind-the-scenes discussions on operations against Russia. The story, citing leaked intercepts from U.S. intelligence agencies, says Zelensky is often equal parts moderate and hawk when it comes to Ukraine’s war effort. While sometimes urging restraint against advisers’ wishes, Zelensky has at times expressed interest in bold, aggressive attacks within Russia himself.

Among highlights, Zelensky reportedly suggested occupying several Russian border towns as leverage in diplomatic negotiations with Moscow, alongside strikes against Russian targets. Zelensky also reportedly wanted to strike the Druzhba pipeline connecting NATO member Hungary to Russian oil, no doubt related to Zelensky’s icy relationship with Russian-aligned Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The Belarusian opposition claims President Alexander Lukashenko was hospitalized and remains out of the public eye after skipping out on much of the May 9 Victory Day celebrations in Moscow. 

Lastly, there is another member of Ukraine’s four-legged combat team, with a badger doing a routine inspection of a trench encampment. Together, we’d say the badger, pole cat, beaver, and mole rat would make an interesting fireteam at the front. 

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

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