Ukraine “cuts off” the flanks of the Russians around Bakhmut, the city is almost completely captured. But the UAF can surround the invaders. The situation at the front on the 450th day of the full-scale war

Oleksiy Yarmolenko
Yevhen Spirin
Ukraine “cuts off” the flanks of the Russians around Bakhmut, the city is almost completely captured. But the UAF can surround the invaders. The situation at the front on the 450th day of the full-scale war

A Ukrainian military man fires a grenade launcher during exercises in Donbas, May 8, 2023.

Getty Images / «Babel'»

Ukrainian troops launched serious attacks for the first time since November last year. They simultaneously advance on the northern and southern outskirts of Bakhmut in order to collapse the flanks of the "Wagnerians" who are storming the city itself. They only had to capture a dozen high-rise buildings and a small part of the private sector in order to completely occupy Bakhmut. But at the same time, the Ukrainian army is trying to break through the Russian defense around Bakhmut and, if successful, surround it. In all other directions, the front line does not change — the Russians are getting increasingly exhausted and preparing for the Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Sabotage continues in the Russian rear. The local authorities of the regions bordering Ukraine report almost every day about the downing or downfall of unknown drones. Over the past 10 days, there have been no reports of serious drone strikes. But Russian channels wrote that on May 10, drones hit a training ground in the Voronezh region — 14 Russian soldiers were wounded. Also, on May 18, a railway exploded in Crimea — eight wagons with grain derailed. The railway in Crimea is strategically important, as Russians use it to transfer troops to the south of Ukraine. But the network on the peninsula is not extensive — there is a line from Kerch to Dzhankoy. And already from it, a line to Simferopol and Sevastopol, and two others — to mainland Ukraine.

On May 13, several helicopters and airplanes crashed in the Bryansk region of Russia. The Russian Ministry of Defense did not comment on the incident at all, the local authorities announced the downing of at least one helicopter and one plane. Russian Telegram channels, with reference to sources, wrote that four aircraft had fallen. Two days later, the self-proclaimed president of Belarus, Oleksandr Lukashenko, announced that four Russian aircraft had fallen in the Bryansk region.

There are four versions of what happened. The first — the least possible — is that an accident occurred on all four aircraft at the same time. The second — Russian anti-aircraft defense mistakingly worked on them. The third version is that it was the work of a saboteur group. The fourth — the aircraft were shot down by Ukrainian air defense. Since then, the Russians have stopped dropping guided aerial bombs on the northern regions of Ukraine.

Almost every night, the Russians attack Kyiv with missiles and drones. On the night of May 16, the Russians launched aeroballistic and cruise missiles, as well as drones, over Kyiv. The Air Force of the Ukrainian Armed Forces reported that they had shot down as many as six Kinzhal aeroballistic missiles. Later, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation announced that it had hit the Patriot anti-aircraft system with this missile. CNN, citing US officials, initially confirmed damage to the system, but said it had not been destroyed. Then it turned out that the Patriot received minimal damage.

On May 15, The Washington Post published another article based on leaked Pentagon documents. They said that at the end of January, the owner of the Russian Wagnerʼs PMC Yevgeniy Prigozhin allegedly offered the Ukrainian leadership data on the positions of Russian troops in exchange for the retreat of Ukrainian units from Bakhmut. He proposed storming the regions in the south in order to reach the annexed Crimea. Prigozhin said that the Russian military faced a shortage of ammunition and had poor morale. Prigozhin allegedly spoke with Ukrainian GUR officers and personally met with some of them in one of the African countries. Another document says that Kyiv guesses about the Kremlinʼs knowledge of GURʼs contacts with Prigozhin. It was also noted there that Prigozhinʼs proposals were not trusted by Ukraine and by the West.

Prigozhin recorded several sarcastic audio messages when asked about his contacts in the GUR, and the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense refused to comment on this information. In fact, Prigozhin could probably be in contact with Ukrainian intelligence in order to fulfill his task of capturing Bakhmut. On the other hand, because of his conflict with the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, Prigozhin is interested in the failure or defeat of the regular Russian army, which is why he could offer such things to Ukraine.

In the Kharkiv region, the frontline almost does not change. The Russians still control a small area in the northeast, near the Russian-Ukrainian border. The occupiers are trying to advance in the direction of Kupyansk and along the Oskil River in order to push the Ukrainian army behind it.

The occupiers announced that they had captured the village of Masyutivka on the eastern bank of the Oskil River. It is located opposite the village of Dvorichna. They also published a video of strikes on the village. Before the war, 22 people officially "lived" in Masyutivka, although satellite images show that there are only a few buildings there.

In the Luhansk region, the Russians are not advancing either. The biggest battles continue in the area of the village of Dibrova and in the forests south of Kreminna. The main goal of the Russians is to push Ukrainian troops away from the cities of Kreminna and Svatove, as well as from the road between them.


On May 12 and 13, explosions rang out at Russian military facilities in occupied Luhansk. During the entire time of the full-scale invasion, the Ukrainian military reached the outskirts of the city only a few times, as they did not have such long-range weapons. On May 12, the workshop of Machine-building plant #100 [Polypack] exploded, and then the buildings of the Luhansk Institute of Internal Affairs and the Higher Military Aviation School of Navigators. The occupiers turned all these objects into their warehouses and barracks. The Russians immediately announced that Luhansk was hit with Storm Shadow cruise missiles, which Great Britain handed over to Ukraine the day before.

And already on May 15 in Luhansk, the "minister of internal affairs of the “LNR" Igor Kornet was blown up in the barbershop. He was seriously injured, survived the operation, and is now in the hospital.

On the southern bank of the Siverskyi Donets River — the administrative border of the Luhansk and Donetsk Regions — the Russians continue to attack the village of Bilohorivka and the villages of Verkhnyokamyanske and Spirne. These settlements cover the flank of the Ukrainian military, which restrains the Russians behind Soledar and prevents them from reaching Siversk quickly and simultaneously from several sides. The occupiers will pay less attention to this direction until they capture Bakhmut.

In Bakhmut itself, the Russians are storming the blocks with high-rise buildings in the west of the city. A dozen high-rise buildings and a small part of the private houses remain under the control of Ukraine. The occupiers are gradually pushing the Ukrainian military out of the city.

However, the Russians had a problem on the flanks. In February and March, the invaders came close to surrounding Bakhmut and cutting the roads to the city. They managed to be restrained thanks to Ukrainian reinforcements, so the Russians got involved in urban battles. On May 9, the Ukrainian military began to counterattack north and south of Bakhmut. Earlier, the owner of Wagnerʼs PMV Yevgeny Prigozhin said that the "Wagnerians" handed over control of the flanks to personnel units of the Russian army, which are now "fleeing" from Ukrainian attacks. The defense forces of Ukraine have already been able to significantly repel the Russians from the roads Bakhmut—Kostyantynivka and Bakhmut—Chasiv Yar. They continue to advance on the northern and southern outskirts of Bakhmut, moving towards Berkhivka and Klishchiivka. In case of success, the Ukrainian troops can collapse the flanks of the “Wagnerians” and surround them themselves in Bakhmut.


Around Avdiivka, the Russians are trying to attack, but they are not advancing. A month ago, the Russians were able to capture several villages north of the city, but they have no more successes after that.

In all other directions in Donetsk region, the situation has hardly changed. Fighting continues in the town of Maryinka, but the Russians are unable to advance there. The defense of the city has been going on for 15 months, the occupiers have not been able to capture it since the very beginning of the full-scale invasion. In the Vuhledar area, the situation has also stabilized, so far the occupiers are not actively trying to advance there.


The front line does not change in the Zaporizhzhia region. Neither Russia nor Ukraine has yet attempted a large-scale attack in this direction, but they continue mutual shelling. The Russian army is preparing for defense in the Zaporizhzhia region: it is erecting fortifications and digging kilometers-long trenches.

After the announced "evacuation", the occupiers began to gradually return to the settlements near the front line. Russian troops increased in Enerhodar, as well as at the Zaporizhzhia NPP. The occupational authorities also returned.


In the Kherson region, the front line does not change either — it stabilized along the Dnipro River. Mutual shelling continues there across the river. Most likely, the front line along the Dnipro here will remain unchanged until the occupied territory of the Zaporizhzhia region begins to be liberated.


President Volodymyr Zelenskyi visited European countries on May 13-15 and brought new packages of military aid to Ukraine from there. Zelenskyi was in Italy, Germany, France and Great Britain.

On May 13, Germany announced the largest aid package to Ukraine for more than €2.7 billion. It will include 18 wheeled howitzers, 4 IRIS-T SLM systems + 12 IRIS-T SLS launchers along with missiles, artillery ammunition, 30 Leopard 1 A5 battle tanks, 20 Marder IFVs and more than 100 armored combat vehicles.

France later promised to hand over dozens of armored vehicles and light tanks, such as the AMX 10-RC, while Britain said it would provide hundreds of long-range attack drones, as well as air defense missiles.

Great Britain also announced that in the summer it will begin basic training of Ukrainian pilots to fly Western aircraft. Together with the Netherlands, they want to lead a “coalition of fighter jets” to help Ukraine obtain supplies of Western aircraft.

Most importantly, Ukraine received long-range cruise missiles for the first time. Great Britain transferred Storm Shadow missiles to Ukraine. And they began to be used literally a few days after the official confirmation. Storm Shadow missiles fly at a distance of up to 560 kilometers (or up to 290 kilometers in the export version), and their warhead weighs almost half a ton. These missiles will allow Ukrainian troops to reach targets deep in the Russian rear — almost anywhere in the occupied territory of Ukraine. Storm Shadow is launched from planes, they are compatible with western aviation. However, it is not known how Ukraine will launch them. Most likely, Ukrainian Soviet aircraft have been upgraded so that they can now also launch Storm Shadow.

Translated from Ukrainian by Anton Semyzhenko.

We monitor the situation at the front every day. You can support Babel anytime and now too: 🔸 in hryvnia 🔸 in cryptocurrency 🔸 via Patreon 🔸 or PayPal: [email protected].

Ukrainian military personnel learn to fly drones near Donetsk, May 11, 2023.

Getty Images / «Babel'»