There have been may developments in Ukraine over the last week, with significant progress made by Russia in East Donbas. Let’s recap where we were this time last week, and work out which predictions and developments came true, and which didn’t.
Last Week: Recap
On Monday 16th May, there were two competing narratives around the conflict, concerning the two fronts on which developments were happening: East Donbas, and Kharkiv. In Kharkiv, the Russians were being pushed back by what was billed as a ‘Ukrainian counteroffensive’, and many West-leaning analysts speculated that a complete collapse of the Russian position around Belgorod might follow. In East Donbas, the Russians had finally seized Popasna and were continuing to make advances on multiple fronts, despite an apparently disastrous river crossing attempt.
The last week has seen several successes for the Russian offensive. After capturing Popasna, it appears the Russians have broken out in all directions, shelling the town of Soledar and the approaches from the Sieverodonetsk direction. Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk are seriously in danger of encirclement. Despite these advances, respected OSINT channels continue to describe the Russian offensive as ‘stalled’. While it is likely that Russian-leaning sources may have overstated the speed and/or significance of the Popasna breakthrough, the fact remains that Russia is continuing to make gains across the East Donbas front.
Conversely in the vicinity of Kharkiv, there has been no additional progress made since last week’s update, with speculation of a continued Ukrainian offensive or Russian collapse in this sector proving unfounded.
Predictions such as the one above have not come to pass, with a noticeable lack of reporting from the Kharkiv front this week.
On May 21st, Russia declared an end to the siege of Mariupol, after all remaining defenders of the Azovstal industrial plant surrendered. Meaningful resistance appears to have ended on May 18th. Western media universally avoided the word ‘surrender’ in their coverage of this event, stating that the Azov fighters were ‘evacuated’ to Russia-controlled territory, with other outlets stating that a prisoner exchange had been agreed. In actual fact, the surrender appears to have been unconditional. POWs from the Avozstal complex have since been filmed being searched for weapons, exposing ‘neo-Nazi’ tattoos, and being treated for wounds. Several Russian lawmakers have called for Azov POWs and ‘Nazi war criminals’ to be exempted from prisoner swaps.
Russia captured the area south of Oskil Lake this week, though a sizeable Ukrainian force that was alleged to be trapped there appears to have escaped capture. This region is important for operations around Izyum, since it allows Russia to connect its supply operations at Izyum with the rest of the front north of the East Donbas pocket.
Overnight between May 22nd-23rd, the Russians allegedly launched a night attach on Avdiivka, a well-fortified Ukrainian town in the East Donbas salient that has been subject to repeated bombardment since the beginning of the war.
On May 23rd, Russian troops attacked Lyman, the surrounded Ukrainian town on the north bank of the Seversky Donets river. Just after noon, reports on the ground indicated that Russian troops were entering the city after a lengthy bombardment with MLRS, airstrikes, and other artillery systems. Whether this assault succeeds or not, it appears that Lyman is likely to be surrendered within the coming days, due to its exposed position on the north bank of the river. Various pro-Ukraine accounts have reported ‘huge casualties’ among the defenders from today’s battle around this town.
As always, many thanks for your continued support. Due to a general reduction in the pace of the conflict since the first months, as well as other commitments, we will henceforth be moving to a weekly update schedule (with interim updates as and when major developments occur).