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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 463: Russia holds 27,000 Ukrainian civilians captive

Chechen forces to begin offensive operations after the withdrawal of Wagner from Bakhmut. Russian forces continue to concentrate in southern Ukraine. Russia holds 27,000 Ukrainian civilians captive.

Daily overview — Summary report, June 1

Source: War Mapper.

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 18.00 pm, June 1, 2023 is in the dropdown menu below:

Situation in Ukraine. May 31, 2023. Source: ISW.

Day 463 of the russian full-scale military aggression against Ukraine has begun.

The russian federation continues to wage its war of aggression at the cost of heavy losses. Russia is using terror tactics to intimidate Ukrainian civilians, launching strikes and shelling military and civilian targets indiscriminately.

Last night, the adversary once again employed Iskander short-range missiles against civilian and critical infrastructure in Kyiv oblast. According to preliminary information, 10x out of 10x missiles have been destroyed by the Ukrainian Air Force.

During the day of May 31, the adversary launched 3x missile, 29x air strikes, 49x MLRS attacks at the positions of Ukrainian troops and various settlements. Unfortunately, the attacks have caused civilian casualties, damaged private residential buildings other infrastructure.

The likelihood of missile and air strikes across Ukraine remains very high.

The enemy continues to focus its main efforts on attempts to fully occupy Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts. During the day of May 31, Ukrainian Defense Forces repelled 21x enemy attacks.

Volyn and Polissya axes: no changes or signs of the formation of offensive groups were found.

Luhansk Battle Map. May 31, 2023. Source: ISW.

Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: the adversary continues to maintain military presence in the areas of russia bordering Ukraine. During the day of May 31, the invaders launched an air strike near Pletenivka (Kharkiv oblast), fired mortars and artillery at the settlements of Karpovychi, Tymonovychi, Yanzhulivka, Halahanivka (Chernihiv oblast), Seredyna-Buda, Prohres, Fotovyzh, Studentok, Hirky, Atyns’ke, Shpyl’, Uhroidy, Velyka Pysarivka (Sumy oblast), Udy, Hoptivka, Lyptsi, Strilecha, Zelene, Ternova, Starytsya, Hatyshche, Vovchans’k, Pletenivka, Vovchans’ki Khutory, Ohirtseve, Mala Vovcha, Varvarivka, Chuhunivka, Ambarne, and Hryhorivka (Kharkiv oblast).

Kup’yans’k axis: the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensives west of Masyutivka (Kharkiv oblast), and towards Novoselivs’ke and Stel’makhivka (Luhansk oblast). Russian forces launched an air strike in the vicinities of Kyslivka and Kotlyarivka (Kharkiv oblast). The adversary fired artillery and mortars at Krasne Pershe, Fyholivka, Novomlyns’k, Zapadne, Masyutivka, Kyslivka, Berestove (Kharkiv oblast), and Novoselivs’ke (Luhansk oblast).

Donetsk Battle Map. May 31, 2023. Source: ISW.

Lyman axis: the adversary conducted offensive operations south of Bilohorivka, to no success. The invaders launched air strikes in the vicinities of Terny and Sivers’k (Donetsk oblast). Nevs’ke, Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast), Novosadove, Tors’ke, and Spirne (Donetsk oblast) were shelled with artillery.

Bakhmut axis: the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensives towards Orikhovo-Vasylivka and Bila Hora during the day of May 31. Kramatorsk, Vasyukivka, Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Novomarkove, Hryhorivka, Chasiv Yar, Ivanivske, Predtechyne, Bila Hora, Dyliivka, Zalizne, and New York (Donetsk oblast) suffered from enemy artillery shelling.

Avdiivka axis: the adversary did not conduct any offensive operations. Russian forces launched an air strike in the vicinity of Avdiivka. The occupant forces fired artillery at the settlements of Novokalynove, Orlivka, Avdiivka, Tonen’ke, Sjeverne, Netaylove, Karlivka, Pervomais’ke, and Nevel’s’ke (Donetsk oblast).

Mar’inka axis: Ukrainian defenders repelled all enemy attacks in the vicinity of the city of Mar’inka. The enemy also launched an air strike there. Kurakhove, Maksymil’yanivka, Heorhiivka, Mar’inka, Pobjeda, Yelyzavetivka, Katerynivka, Kostyantynivka, and Novomykhailivka (Donetsk oblast) came under artillery fire.

Shakhtars’ke axis: the enemy launched air strikes in the vicinity of Vuhledar and Prechystivka. The invaders shelled the settlements of Bohoyavlenka, Vuhledar, Novoukrainka, Prechystivka, Zolota Nyva, Shakhtars’ke, and Velyka Novosilka.

Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. May 31, 2023. Source: ISW.

Zaporizhzhia and Kherson axes: the adversary stays on the defensive. The occupant forces shelled the settlements of Vremivka, Vil’ne Pole, Novosilka, Zelene Pole, Novopil’, Temyrivka (Donetsk oblast), Ol’hivs’ke, Malynivka, Hulyaipole, Zaliznychne, Huliaipilske, Mala Tokmachka, Novodanylivka, Novoandriivka, Stepove, Kam’yans’ke (Zaporizhzhia oblast), Beryslav, Kozats’ke, Ivanivka, Antonivka, Komyshany, Dniprovs’ke, Kizomys, Shyroka Balka (Kherson oblast), and the city of Kherson.

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. May 31, 2023. Source: ISW.

Despite numerous appeals from the IAEA and world leaders, the occupiers continue to turn the temporarily seized Enerhodar (Zaporizhzhia oblast) into a military and logistics base. Thus, the “Custom-Made Equipment and Pipelines” plant is used by the invaders to repair their military equipment, while “Special Structures” plant and “Housing Construction Works” have been turned into a warehouse for military equipment, weapons, and ammunition.

During the day of May 31, the Ukrainian Air Force launched 15x air strikes on the concentrations of enemy troops and military equipment, including 2x air strikes on the anti-aircraft missile systems.

The Ukrainian defenders intercepted 5x reconnaissance UAVs of the enemy.

During the day of May 31, Ukrainian missile and artillery troops hit 1x command post, 1x artillery unit at its firing position, 2x ammunition depots, and 2x electronic warfare stations.

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Russia’s MoD inflates Ukrainian casualties likely to conceal high Russian losses – ISW. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) is likely attempting to conceal the high Russian losses in Ukraine by artificially inflating Ukrainian casualties in the war, according to the US-based think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

Russian actions show reactive approach, hinder reserve generation – UK intel. In its latest intelligence update, the UK Defense Ministry says Russia’s recent actions show a reactive approach as its attempts to generate reserves in areas where the anticipated Ukrainian offensive may occur have been undermined by “uncommitted forces instead being sent to fill gaps in the front line around Bakhmut.”

Russian saboteur group defeated after cross-border incursion – Ukraine’s General Staff. On 30 May 2023, a Russian saboteur and reconnaissance group attempted to cross the state border of Ukraine in the Kharkiv Oblast from Russia’s Belgorod region, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported.

Frontline report: Alleged Ukrainian drone strike targets Moscow, sparks mixed reactions

According to British Defence Intelligence , (last 48 hours):

British Intelligence map.

Losses of the Russian army 

Losses of the Russian Army. Source: Euromaidan Press.

Humanitarian 

Survey reveals majority of Ukrainians in Poland plan to return to Ukraine. According to the sociological survey “Citizens of Ukraine on the Polish labor market. New challenges and perspectives,” 62% of Ukrainians in Poland plan to return to Ukraine, while 30 % prefer to stay in Poland, as per UkrInform. The poll’s authors stated that 60% of the respondents had arrived in Poland before the outbreak of the war, and 40% fled Ukraine after 24 February 2022.

Russian shelling kills one Ukrainian civilian in Kharkiv Oblast. On May 31, the Regional Military Administration reported that Russian forces shelled the city of Vovchansk in Kharkiv Oblast. Local authorities said that a 60-year-old man was killed, and a 52-year-old woman sustained shrapnel injuries in the attack.

Russia carried out more than 1,000 attacks on Ukrainian health care facilities – W.H.O. Russia’s bombardment of Ukrainian cities over the past 15 months of the full-scale invasion included more than 1,000 strikes on healthcare facilities and services, UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) said on 30 May, according to The New York Times. The Organization has verified 1,004 Russian attacks on Ukrainian health facilities since February last year, which surpassed any other humanitarian emergency and resulted in the deaths of 101 individuals, including medical staff and patients, while causing numerous injuries.

Legal 

Russia holds 27,000 Ukrainian civilians captive, ombudsman says. The Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, Dmytro Lubinets, has said Russia holds 27,000 Ukrainian civilians captive on its territory, UkrInform reported. According to him, Russian authorities also hold Ukrainian journalists in detention, including Dmytro Khiliuk from the UNIAN media outlet.

Support

US to provide another USD 300 million in new military aid for Ukraine. The US has announced a new $300 million military aid package, which includes munitions for the Patriot missile defense system and ammunition for HIMARS artillery rocket systems for Ukraine. In addition, the latest assistance includes AIM-7 missiles for air defense, Avenger air defense systems, mine clearing equipment, Stinger anti-aircraft systems, over 30 million rounds of small arms ammunition, and AT-4 anti-armor systems.

Norway announces USD 6 bn additional security assistance package for Ukraine. According to Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, Norway will provide military, humanitarian, and civilian support to Ukraine worth over $6,3 bn in the next five years. “Norway and other allies have supported Ukraine in its legitimate fight for independence and freedom from the outset. Military support from Norway and other Western countries is essential to the Ukrainian war effort, and we will support Ukraine for as long as is necessary,” said the prime minister of Norway during the meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. On 30 May, Stoltenberg and Støre met in Oslo to discuss NATO cooperation with Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Ukraine.

Ukraine to receive CV90 infantry fighting vehicles from Sweden – Ukrainian Defense Ministry. The Armed Forces of Ukraine will receive CV90 infantry fighting vehicles from Sweden, according to a Telegram post by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, Ukrinform reports. The ministry says Ukrainian crews are already completing training to master these vehicles, which are in service with some NATO member states.

New Developments

Macron calls for ‘tangible’ NATO security guarantees for Ukraine. French President Emmanuel Macron has for the first time called for Ukraine to be granted a NATO membership “path” at the GLOBSEC Bratislava Global Security Forum in Slovakia, The Financial Times reported. Asked at the conference in Bratislava if he would support the accession of Ukraine to the Alliance, Macron said talks were taking place and would resume at the NATO summit in Lithuania this year. Ukraine will need “tangible security guarantees,” Macron stressed.

“Supernatural” Star Misha Collins, Zelenskyy discuss mine clearance in Ukraine. The Ukrainian leader thanked Misha Collins for becoming an ambassador of the official UNITED24 fundraising platform in the area of humanitarian demining. He also emphasized that Ukraine needed equipment to clear explosives from more than 200 thousand square kilometers of its territory.

US debt-limit deal won’t restrict US ability to provide more aid for Ukraine – Bloomberg sources. The US bipartisan deal to avert a debt default won’t constrain the Biden administration’s ability to provide more aid for Ukraine, a White House official told Bloomberg on condition of anonymity. According to the anonymous official involved in internal discussions, any extra military aid would be included in a supplementary measure that would not be constrained by the spending limits outlined in the deal, and would require approval from Congress.

Mariupol refugees across Ukraine plan and prepare for city’s liberation from Russia. A year after the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol was occupied by Russians, 200,000 refugees from that city remain scattered all over Ukraine. Hoping to return to a free Mariupol, they are uniting around 17 “I Mariupol” centers in different cities, helping each other and recalling the horrible experiences of escaping the Russian siege.

Assessment 

  1. On the war.

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of May 31, 2022:

The Russian military command has likely ordered Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov’s forces to begin offensive operations in Ukraine following the withdrawal of Wagner Group forces from Bakhmut. Kadyrov claimed on May 31 that Chechen forces received a new order and assumed responsibility over the Donetsk Oblast frontline.[1] Kadyrov claimed that Chechen units need to start “active combat activities” and “liberate a series of settlements.” Kadyrov added that Chechen “Akhmat” Special Forces (Spetsnaz) and the “Sever-Akhmat” Special Purpose Regiment transferred to the Marinka direction southwest of Donetsk City. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) also claimed that assault detachments of the 5th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade of the 1st Army Corps and Akhmat Spetsnaz conducted offensive operations in the Marinka direction.[2] Kadyrov noted that the Russian military command ordered Russian, Rosgvardia (Russian National Guard), and Chechen Akhmat forces to begin offensive actions along the frontline in Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblasts as well.[3] Kadyrov claimed that these units have already begun tactical preparations for these offensive actions and claimed that “Akhmat” units’ offensive operations began before Ukrainian forces launched a counteroffensive. ISW has observed no indications of Chechen offensive operations in Zaporizhzhia or Kherson as of this writing.

The claimed return of Chechen forces to offensive operations would break Kadyrovites from a nearly yearlong hiatus from participating in high-intensity combat operations. Chechen forces have been largely operating in the rear after participating in the battles for Mariupol, Sievierodonetsk, and Lysychansk – with the exception of some offensive activities around Bilohorivka, Luhansk Oblast.[4] ISW also observed Kadyrov’s forces operating as a police force in the rear in southern Ukraine and performing localized reconnaissance-in-force operations in Zaporizhzhia Oblast.[5] Kadyrov also claimed that 3,300 personnel of the “Sever-Akhmat” Regiment were in Chechnya as of May 8, and ISW assessed that Kadyrov may have been conserving his forces instead sending them to the frontlines.[6] Chechen units’ limited participation on the frontlines alongside Kadyrov’s heavy emphasis on recruitment may suggest that Kadyrov is hesitant to commit his forces to grinding offensive operations in Ukraine despite his ultranationalist narratives.[7]

The Kremlin may be attempting to reintroduce Kadyrovites as the main offensive force following the culmination of Wagner forces and their withdrawal from the frontlines. ISW had previously assessed that Russian President Vladimir Putin had been attempting to pressure Kadyrov into increasing the role of Chechen fighters in combat operations since at least Putin’s public meeting with Kadyrov on March 13.[8] Kadyrov also claimed on May 20 to have met with Putin in Pyatigorsk, Stavropol Krai, around the time of Wagner Group’s claimed victory in Bakhmut.[9] The Kremlin did not publish a readout from this meeting, and Kadyrov claimed that he boasted to Putin that there are seven Chechen regiments and four battalions operating in Ukraine.[10] Kadyrov later clarified on May 26 that there are 7,000 Chechen personnel in Ukraine.[11] The Russian MoD’s mention of “Akhmat” operations in the Marinka direction a day prior to Wagner’s initial claimed withdrawal date on June 1 indicates that Putin may have coerced Kadyrov into assuming an offensive role in the war to compensate for Wagner’s likely culmination.[12] The Kremlin may perceive Chechen units as an untapped assault force that can restore Russia’s ability to sustain simultaneous offensive efforts on multiple axes of advance. If Kadyrov’s claims that he has 7,000 troops in Ukraine are close to accurate his forces will not be able to mount multiple significant offensive operations successfully.

The Kremlin may also be attempting to sever Kadyrov’s relationship with Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin and re-emphasize federal authority over Chechen forces. Prigozhin responded on May 31 to reports of Chechen forces transferring to occupied Donetsk Oblast, stating that he is confident that Kadyrov’s forces will be successful in capturing some settlements in the region but emphasized that Kadyrov was not tasked with capturing the entirety of Donetsk Oblast.[13] Prigozhin also noted that he is not aware of Chechen units’ new positions as this information is secret. Kadyrov participated in Prigozhin’s blackmail attempt in early May aimed at coercing the Russian MoD to allocate additional military supplies to Wagner in Bakhmut.[14] Kadyrov claimed that his forces would relieve Wagner forces on May 6 and even directly asked Putin to authorize the transfer of Chechen forces from other directions to Bakhmut.[15] Putin may have perceived Kadyrov’s behavior as a threat to his control given that Kadyrov and Prigozhin had conducted a successful joint information campaign in early October 2022 to facilitate military command changes.[16] Putin or the Russian military command may have ordered Kadyrov to increase the presence of his units on the battlefield in retaliation for Kadyrov’s blackmail attempt.

The official Russian responses to recent attacks against Russia remain likely insufficient to satisfy the Russian ultranationalist information space’s desire for escalation in the war. Belgorod Oblast Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov called on Russian forces on May 29 to capture Kharkiv City and Kharkiv Oblast to create a barrier between Belgorod Oblast and Ukraine.[17] Gladkov later announced on May 31 the evacuation of children from the border areas of Shebekino and Grayvoron raions — including 300 children relocated to Voronezh Oblast — in response to the “deteriorating” border situation.[18] Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov refused to comment on Gladkov’s statements on May 29, igniting some ire in the Russian information space.[19] Former Russian officer and ardent nationalist Igor Girkin criticized Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu for their reluctance to address attacks against Russian territory.[20] Russian milbloggers have complained about the lack of Russian military escalation to secure border areas in Belgorod and Kursk oblasts since at least September 2022, often criticizing the Kremlin for underreacting to attacks against Russian territory and failing to fully dedicate itself to the war effort.[21] The evacuations and Peskov’s comments are largely consistent with Putin’s unwillingness and inability to meaningfully escalate the war short of full-scale general and economic mobilization, as ISW has previously assessed.[22]

Key Takeaways

  • The Russian military command has likely ordered Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov’s forces to begin offensive operations in Ukraine following the withdrawal of Wagner Group forces from Bakhmut.
  • The claimed return of Chechen forces to offensive operations would break Kadyrovites from a nearly yearlong hiatus from participating in high-intensity combat operations.
  • The Kremlin may be attempting to reintroduce Kadyrovites as the main offensive force following the culmination of Wagner forces and their withdrawal from the frontlines.
  • The Kremlin may also be attempting to sever Kadyrov’s relationship with Wagner financier Yevgeny Prigozhin and re-emphasize federal authority over Chechen forces.
  • The official Russian responses to recent attacks against Russia remain likely insufficient to satisfy the Russian ultranationalist information space’s desire for escalation in the war.
  • Russian forces conducted ground attacks northwest of Svatove and south of Kreminna.
  • Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks around Bakhmut and along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
  • Russian forces continue to concentrate in southern Ukraine.
  • The Russian State Duma appears to be considering measures to legalize the military recruitment of current or formerly incarcerated Russian men.
  • Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada Human Rights Commissioner Dmytro Lyubinets announced that Ukraine has a new avenue to repatriate Ukrainian children abducted to Russia.

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