Ukraine Situation Report: U.K. Confirms Combat Use Of Storm Shadow Missiles

The U.K. Ministry of Defense has confirmed that Ukraine has launched Storm Shadow cruise missiles to hit Russian targets in the country. The U.K. Defense Minister Ben Wallace announced today that an undisclosed number of the long-range weapons had already been used but didn’t provide any more details of when and where they were employed, or even how they were delivered.

“All I can say is it is my understanding that it has been used since we announced its deployment to Ukraine, but I’m not going to go into further details,” Wallace said, during a joint press conference today with Norway’s defense minister Bjoern Arild Gram.

Only last week did the United Kingdom confirm that it was supplying Ukraine with Storm Shadow, a combat-proven weapon with an officially stated range of over 155 miles in its export configuration. This makes it, as far as we know, the longest-range standoff weapon to be delivered to Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion.

An infographic on the Storm Shadow missile prepared by the U.K. Ministry of Defense. (Note that the missile was never cleared for use by the F-35 stealth fighter). Crown Copyright

At that point, Wallace said that the missiles “are now going into, or are in, the country itself,” suggesting that at least some of the missiles were already in Ukraine at the time of that announcement, something that has now been confirmed.

In the meantime, the Russian Ministry of Defense has claimed that Ukraine used Storm Shadows to attack targets near the city of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine. Photos purporting to show debris from at least one of the missiles have been circulating online.

While we don’t know what platform is being used to launch the Ukrainian Storm Shadows, in the past we have pointed out that the Su-24 Fencer strike aircraft and/or the Su-27 Flanker fighter jet would be the most likely candidates due to the size and weight of the weapon.

Earlier this week, French President Emmanuel Macron said that his country will provide Kyiv with SCALP-EG, which is nearly the same weapon as Storm Shadow.

The British Storm Shadows have apparently been supplied with Kyiv’s assurance that they won’t be used against targets in the Russian Federation.

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

The Latest

In his latest verbal salvo aimed at the Russian Ministry of Defense, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the boss of the Wagner Group private military company, has said that a withdrawal of Russian Army troops from the besieged city of Bakhmut has left his own soldiers dangerously exposed.

“Unfortunately, units of the Russian defense ministry have withdrawn up to 570 meters [0.3 miles] to the north of Bakhmut, exposing our flanks,” Prigozhin said in a voice message. “I am appealing to the top leadership of the Ministry of Defense — publicly — because my letters are not being read,” he added.

Prigozhin then addressed the Russian defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, and the chief of the general staff, Valery Gerasimov, requesting that they “Please do not give up the flanks.”

While the withdrawal of Russian regular troops from the eastern city of Bakhmut cannot be independently confirmed, this is the latest in a long line of invective from Prigozhin, whose troops have been spearheading the 10-month long campaign to take the city, an offensive that has cost tens of thousands of lives on both sides and left the city in ruins.

Russian regular units have provided increased support to the offensive in recent months, although Prigozhin has continued slamming the Russian Ministry of Defense for its perceived failings.

In particular, Prigozhin has hit out at Kremlin officials for the lack of ammunition being provided to his mercenary fighters. This has even led to his previous threat to withdraw his troops from the city. He later stepped back from that, stating that his soldiers would be considered “traitors” if they abandoned their positions.

In an audio statement last week, however, Prigozhin said: “We’re not receiving enough shells, we’re only getting 10 percent.”

A Ukrainian YPR-765 armored infantry fighting vehicle heading to the front line south of Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, on May 17, 2023. Photo by Vincenzo Circosta/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The situation on the ground in Bakhmut remains finely balanced, according to reports.

In recent days, Wagner has claimed that it now controls most of the now-ruined city, while Ukraine has said that its forces have retaken territory around Bakhmut.

Serhiy Cherevatyi, a spokesperson for Ukrainian troops in the east, has spoken of Ukrainian troops advancing in parts of Bakhmut by more than a mile, Reuters reports.

In comments broadcast by Ukrainian television, Cherevatyi said: “Despite the fact that our units do not have an advantage in equipment … and personnel, they have continued to advance on the flanks, and covered a distance of 150 to 1,700 meters [500 feet to 1 mile].”

Another claim of recent Ukrainian advances came from Petro Podaru, the commander of a Ukrainian artillery unit, who said that his troops had made progress in the face of Russian shelling.

“Now, for the most part, as we have started to advance,” Podaru said. “They are shelling all the routes to front positions, so our armored vehicles can’t deliver more infantry, ammunition, and other things.”

The Russian Ministry of Defense announced today that it has undertaken its latest round of missile attacks against what it described as “Ukrainian military targets.” The claim followed reports from Ukrainian authorities of another barrage of missiles directed at the capital, Kyiv, overnight.

In Kyiv, authorities reported several explosions early this morning and that falling debris had caused a fire at a business located in the city’s Darnytskyi district.

“The attack on the capital continues,” Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said on Telegram. “Do not leave the shelters during the air alert!”

According to Serhiy Popko, the head of the Kyiv Military Administration, preliminary information indicated that all the enemy missiles were destroyed by Ukrainian air defenses. Popko added that the attack was launched by Russian long-range bombers, which released cruise missiles over the Caspian region.

The latest missile assault is part of a wave of strikes that have targeted the capital, this being the ninth raid of its kind this month. This represents a major uptick over previous months, suggesting a concerted effort to degrade Ukraine’s resolve ahead of a long-awaited Ukrainian counteroffensive and perhaps also reflecting the growing urgency behind the Russian hunt for Ukrainian-operated Patriot air defense systems.

The Kyiv City Regional City Administration, or KMBA, described the ongoing attacks as “unprecedented in their power, intensity, and variety.”

The KMBA said that the missiles used were of the Kh-101 and Kh-555 types, delivered by Tu-95MS and Tu-160 bombers.

“After launching the missiles, the enemy deployed its reconnaissance UAVs over the capital,” the KMBA added.

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the national security and defense council of Ukraine, described Kyiv as “Putin’s maniacal and unattainable goal” following the latest attacks.

“Symbolic places of Kyiv are the target of Russian missile attacks,” Danilov wrote on Twitter. “The Kremlin needs those senseless and super-expensive attacks for Russia on the capital to raise the degree of patriotic hysteria inside the country. In Russia, a process of despair and disappointment with the authorities is developing against the background of the unsuccessful offensive and failures at the front.”

Despite Ukrainian claims that all missiles directed against Kyiv were destroyed, Ukrainian targets were apparently hit outside of the capital.

Serhiy Bratchuk, a military administration spokesman, took to Telegram to announce that one person had been killed by a Russian missile strike on Odesa, and another two people injured. “Most of the enemy’s missiles were shot down over the sea by the air defense forces,” Bratchuk said. “Unfortunately, an industrial object was hit: one person died, two were injured.”

The central Vinnytsia region was also subject to overnight cruise missile attacks, according to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, while local media also reported explosions in Khmelnytskyi, about 60 miles further west. An air raid alert was also issued today for Mykolaiv, a city near the Black Sea in southern Ukraine.

In Russian-occupied Crimea, the derailment of a freight train carrying grain was blamed by the local rail provider on “interference by outsiders.” The Russian-installed governor of the region, Sergei Aksyonov, confirmed that rail traffic was suspended between Simferopol, the capital of the Crimean peninsula, and the city of Sevastopol, after the incident. Aksyonov said that no one was injured.

Earlier, the pro-Russian Baza Telegram channel had reported an explosion on a railway line.

Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Crimea has been hit by a steady flow of apparent attacks, directed against Russian military installations, key infrastructure, and local officials. Moscow has repeatedly blamed these on saboteurs, while, far less frequently, Ukraine has also claimed that certain attacks are the work of its elite military units.

As well as cruise missile strikes, Russia has reportedly again used its S-300 series surface-to-air missiles to attack ground targets.

Suspilne, Ukraine’s state broadcaster, posted to its Telegram channel for Donbas the following:

“On the night of May 18, the Russian army shelled Kostyantynivka in Donetsk region, one person was killed, the ministry of foreign affairs reported. According to preliminary findings, the shelling was conducted from the S-300 complex, several private and apartment buildings, a shop, and administrative buildings were destroyed and damaged.”

The results of the attack on Kostyantynivka are purportedly shown in the following video:

Following yesterday’s announcement that Belgium was ready to help teach Ukrainian Air Force fighter pilots to fly F-16s, the issue of providing training specifically tailored for these aircraft has again been addressed by the U.K. Ministry of Defense.

Speaking at a press conference in Berlin, Ben Wallace, the British defense minister, said: “What we can obviously contribute is training and support, again, within limits, because we don’t have F-16 pilots.”

Wallace also pointed out that the United Kingdom was willing to assist other countries that are able to supply the F-16 fighters that Kyiv wants, although how this help would manifest itself was not made clear.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky recently spoke about plans for “a coalition to train pilots on modern Western aircraft,” noting that the United Kingdom and Poland had both agreed to the proposal, with France likely to follow suit.

Meanwhile, Wopke Hoekstra, the Dutch foreign minister said yesterday there had been no further progress in international talks around the possible collaborative delivery of F-16s to Ukraine. “We haven’t reached a solution yet,” Hoekstra said.

Meanwhile, Norway’s defense minister Bjoern Arild Gram has said that Norway doesn’t currently plan to donate any of its now-retired F-16s to Ukraine.

“When it comes to F-16 … it’s not on the agenda now and I really don’t want to speculate on any possible future donations,” he said.

In the past, the Norwegian Ministry of Defense said it would try and sell its F-16s to allies once they were no longer needed. As well as an agreement to sell 32 of the jets to Romania, up to 12 more of the jets have been earmarked for Draken International, the adversary air contractor. With only 56 of the Norwegian F-16s having undergone the Mid-Life Update (MLU) that added new capabilities, including the AIM-120 AMRAAM missile, the number of suitable jets that Oslo could actually provide Ukraine is likely limited.

Next, the latest video showing what has become something of a trademark of Ukrainian mine-clearing operations: playing whack-a-mine with a stick or branch. While it looks extremely hazardous and replicating it is certainly not to be recommended, it appears that Ukrainian personnel regularly use this approach to deal with smaller anti-personnel mines. In this video, the mines are said to be Soviet-era PFM-1s: also known as the ‘Green Parrot’ or ‘Butterfly Mine,’ each of which contains around 1.4 ounces of liquid explosive.

Improvisation of a different kind, now, with a video that appears to show the worrying lack of basic medical supplies afflicting some Russian units on the front lines. In this footage, an injured Russian soldier is fitted with a splint crafted from an AK-series assault rifle and is apparently transported on a door in the absence of a real stretcher.

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

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Thomas Newdick

Staff Writer

Thomas is a defense writer and editor with over 20 years of experience covering military aerospace topics and conflicts. He’s written a number of books, edited many more, and has contributed to many of the world’s leading aviation publications. Before joining The War Zone in 2020, he was the editor of AirForces Monthly.