May 14, 2023
Russian forces conducted another series of drone and missile strikes against Ukraine on the night of May 13 to 14. Ukrainian sources reported that Russian forces launched an unspecified number of drones of varying models at Ukraine and that Ukrainian forces destroyed 25, including 18 Shahed 131/136s. The Ukrainian General Staff noted that Russian forces launched 23 Shahed-136/131 drones in total. The Ukrainian General Staff also reported that Russian forces launched an unspecified number of Kalibr missiles from the Black Sea as well as an unspecified number of Kh-101/555/55 cruise missiles, and that Ukrainian forces shot down three Kh-101/555/55 missiles. Ukrainian sources reported that Russian forces struck civilian infrastructure in Ternopil and Mykolaiv cities as well as Kharkiv City and Zolochiv in Kharkiv Oblast with S-300 missiles. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian forces struck a Ukrainian ammunition depot in Khmelnytskyi City and Ukrainian military facilities and deployment areas near Ternopil and Petropavlivka, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast.
Increasingly regular series of Russian drone and missile strikes are likely a part of a new Russian air campaign in Ukraine aimed at degrading Ukrainian abilities to conduct counteroffensive offensive operations in the near term. Russian forces have conducted at least 10 series of strikes throughout Ukraine, particularly in rear areas, since April 19. Russian forces have used significantly fewer high precision missiles in these latest series of strikes in comparison to their failed campaign against Ukrainian critical infrastructure from the fall of 2022 through the winter of 2023. ISW previously assessed that Russian forces likely expended a significant proportion of their precision missiles in the previous air campaign, and the current Russian air campaign may be using far fewer of these missiles in an effort to conserve the limited remaining stocks. Russian forces have instead relied heavily on launching large numbers of Iranian-made Shahed drones to overwhelm Ukrainian air defenses, although Ukrainian forces have been more effective in shooting down Russian precision systems than during the previous Russian air campaign. The new Russian air campaign appears to be focused on Kyiv and alleged Ukrainian military industrial and logistics facilities in deep rear areas. The more limited air campaign has so far been more regular than the previous wider Russian campaign against critical infrastructure, and ISW has previously assessed that Russian forces may be attempting to conduct almost daily series of strikes to portray themselves as successfully constraining potential upcoming Ukrainian counteroffensive operations. The alleged targets and limited nature of this campaign indicates that Russian forces are immediately concerned with current Ukrainian capabilities to launch counteroffensive operations, although the diminished effectiveness of these strikes are likely not significantly constraining Ukrainian capabilities writ large.
Ukrainian forces continued counterattacking around Bakhmut on May 14. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar reported that Ukrainian forces captured over 10 Russian positions on the northern and southern outskirts of Bakhmut over the course of the day on May 14. Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian troops attacked towards Berkhivka, Klishchiivka, and Kurdiumivka and took up new unspecified positions near the settlements and additionally advanced towards Yahidne from the direction of Bohdanivka. Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed that Ukrainian forces did not conduct any attacks on the night of May 13 to 14, however. ISW has not observed visual confirmation of new Ukrainian positions around Bakhmut. Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty emphasized on May 14 that Ukraine’s main goal in Bakhmut is to destroy Russian concentration areas and encircle the city, not to conduct frontal assaults. Cherevaty noted that Ukrainian forces have recently advanced up to 300m in some areas, and Malyar reported that Ukrainian forces are advancing in two directions in the suburbs of Bakhmut.
The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) is attempting to distract from recent Ukrainian successes near Bakhmut by praising Russian defensive efforts against the Ukrainian counterattacks. The Russian MoD praised the defensive efforts of the Russian 4th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade (2nd Luhansk People’s Republic Army Corps) south of Ivanivske, 200th Separate Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade (14th Army Corps, Northern Fleet) east of Bohdanivka, and the 6th Guards Motorized Rifle Division (20th Guards Combined Arms Army, Western Military District) in an unspecified area on the Soledar-Bakhmut line. The Russian MoD claimed that Russian forces repelled all Ukrainian counterattacks and that the 4th Brigade Commander Colonel Vyacheslav Makarov and Deputy Commander for the likely 2nd Luhansk People’s Republic Army Corps of Political-Military Work Colonel Yevgeny Brovko died while leading their respective defense efforts. The Russian MoD noted that it presented combat medals and state awards to defending Russian personnel at their combat positions, and later posted footage of Russian military leadership presenting over 120 personnel with various awards, including “For Courage,” “For Military Distinction,” and “For Military Valor.” The Russian MoD likely seeks to assuage information space criticism of the MoD’s failure to acknowledge Ukrainian battlefield successes in a timely manner without actually acknowledging the degree of these successes, which is consistent with recent Kremlin guidance to not downplay Ukrainian military successes. The MoD also notably highlighted the efforts of its regular forces over those of irregular forces, including Wagner Group forces operating in Bakhmut. Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin criticized reports on May 14 that Russian Airborne (VDV) forces are helping Wagner forces, instead claiming that VDV forces are failing to support Wagner’s offensive operations, defending captured positions, or recapturing positions recently lost to Ukrainian forces.
Former Russian officer and ardent nationalist Igor Girkin’s newly formed “Club of Angry Patriots” is continuing efforts to expand its presence and influence public discourse. The Club of Angry Patriots announced on May 14 that it is forming regional branches and called on experienced politicians, public opinion leaders, and heads of Russian organizations to participate. The Club of Angry Patriots also stated that it will hold a news conference in Moscow on an unspecified date in June, during which it will address how Russia can win the war in Ukraine.
- Russian forces conducted another series of drone and missile strikes against Ukraine on the night of May 13 to 14.
- Increasingly regular series of Russian drone and missile strikes are likely a part of a new Russian air campaign in Ukraine aimed at degrading Ukrainian abilities to conduct counteroffensive offensive operations in the near term.
- Ukrainian forces continued counterattacking around Bakhmut on May 14.
- The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) is attempting to distract from recent Ukrainian successes near Bakhmut by praising Russian defensive efforts against the Ukrainian counterattacks.
- Former Russian officer and ardent nationalist Igor Girkin’s newly formed “Club of Angry Patriots” is continuing efforts to expand its presence and influence public discourse.
- Russian forces conducted ground attacks northeast of Kupyansk and along the Kupyansk-Svatove line.
- Russian forces have not made additional confirmed gains in or around Bakhmut and continued limited offensive operations on the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
- Russian forces continued to fire on areas west of Hulyaipole in southern Ukraine.
- Russian forces continue efforts to replenish manpower losses using prisoners.
- Russian officials and occupation authorities continue to prepare for the September 2023 elections in occupied territories.