Content Assessment: Raid into Russia? Russo-Ukrainian War Update (May 16-22, 2023)
Information - 93%
Insight - 94%
Relevance - 92%
Objectivity - 94%
Authority - 96%
A short percentage-based assessment of the qualitative benefit of the post highlighting the recent Ukraine conflict assessments in maps from the Institute for the Study of War.
Editor’s Note: The discipline of eDiscovery, which involves the identification, preservation, and analysis of electronic data, is increasingly being used in investigations and litigation relating to war crimes. In the case of the Russo-Ukrainian War, eDiscovery tools and techniques can be used to identify and collect electronic evidence of war crimes, such as emails, social media posts, and other digital communications that may provide valuable insights into the actions of individuals and organizations involved in the conflict. This evidence can then be used in investigations and legal proceedings to hold perpetrators of war crimes accountable for their actions. Additionally, eDiscovery can help to efficiently and effectively manage the vast amount of electronic evidence that may be relevant to war crimes cases, allowing investigators and legal teams to quickly and accurately analyze the data to identify key pieces of information. This weekly update may be useful for cybersecurity, information governance, and legal discovery professionals as they consider investigations and litigation resulting from war crimes committed during the war.*
Background Note: One of the most accurate and detailed sources for ongoing updates on the Ukraine crisis is the Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment from the Institute for the Study of War. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a 501(c)(3) organization and produces strictly non-partisan, non-ideological, fact-based research. ISW seeks to promote an informed understanding of war and military affairs through comprehensive, independent, and accessible open-source research and analysis. ISW’s research is made available to the general public, military practitioners, policymakers, and media members. Providing a daily synthesis of key events related to the Russian aggression against Ukraine, ISW updates may benefit investigators and litigators as they follow the business, information technology, and legal trends and trajectories impacted by and stemming from the current Russo-Ukrainian conflict.
Assessment and Maps**
Russo-Ukrainian Conflict Assessments – An Overview in Maps
- Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Russia Team
- Critical Threats Project (CTP), American Enterprise Institute
General Assessment Background Info
- ISW systematically publishes Russian campaign assessments that include maps highlighting the assessed control of terrain in Ukraine and main Russian maneuver axes.
- These maps augment daily synthetic products that cover key events related to renewed Russian aggression against Ukraine.
The Russian Offensive Campaign Assessments
- May 22, 2023
- By Karolina Hird, Grace Mappes, Nicole Wolkov, Layne Philipson, and Frederick W. Kagan
- Elements of the all-Russian pro-Ukrainian Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK) and Freedom of Russian Legion (LSR) conducted a raid into Belgorod Oblast on May 22.
- Ukrainian officials noted that they are aware of the attack but denied any direct involvement by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The raid prompted a slate of responses from local and federal Russian officials.
- The Russian information space responded with a similar degree of panic, factionalism, and incoherency as it tends to display when it experiences significant informational shocks.
- Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed that Wagner forces will withdraw from the entire frontline in Ukraine after June 1 in order to reconstitute and train for about two months.
- Ukrainian officials stated that limited fighting continued in and around Bakhmut on May 22.
- The Russian informational response to the capture of Bakhmut has thus far focused on competing for responsibility for the victory rather than discussing the resulting military situation. The hyperfocus on claiming victory in Bakhmut distracts from the precarious Russian military situation in and around Bakhmut, underscoring the weight of Prigozhin’s influence in the information space.
- Russian forces launched another large-scale drone and missile strike against Ukrainian infrastructure on the night of May 21-22.
- Russian forces continued limited ground attacks in the Kupyansk direction.
- Russian forces made marginal gains in the Avdiivka area and did not conduct any confirmed or claimed ground attacks in western Donetsk Oblast.
- The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant reportedly lost power for the seventh time since the beginning of the war.
- The Russian military is reportedly lowering the length of training for convicts in order to compensate for heavy losses.
- Russian occupation authorities announced that preliminary voting for the ruling United Russia Party has commenced in occupied territories.
- May 21, 2023
- By Kateryna Stepanenko, Riley Bailey, George Barros, and Frederick W. Kagan
- Wagner Group mercenaries likely secured the western administrative borders of Bakhmut City while Ukrainian forces are continuing to prioritize counterattacks on Bakhmut’s outskirts.
- ISW previously forecasted that Wagner offensive operations would likely culminate after months of attritional urban combat, and it is unlikely that Wagner will continue fighting beyond Bakhmut at its current depleted state.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated the Wagner Group and the Russian military on May 21 for capturing Bakhmut.
- Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin predictably claimed the victory over Bakhmut City entirely for himself and his forces.
- Russian reactions to the claimed capture of Bakhmut illustrate an increasingly growing divide between the Kremlin’s domestic presentation of the war and the ultranationalist milblogger community’s coverage of Russian operations in Ukraine.
- US President Joe Biden stated on May 21 that the US will train Ukrainian pilots on fourth-generation aircraft, including F-16s, to augment Ukraine’s defense capabilities in the long term.
- Former Russian officer Igor Girkin’s “Club of Angry Patriots” social movement opened a St. Petersburg chapter with an inaugural event on May 21.
- Russian forces continued limited offensive operations northeast of Kupyansk and south of Kreminna.
- Russian forces continued offensive operations on the Donetsk City-Avdiivka frontline but have not made any verifiable territorial gains.
- Ukrainian forces reportedly conducted a deep strike against a Russian headquarters at an airfield in Berdyansk, Zaporizhia Oblast, with a Storm Shadow missile.
- Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov claimed that seven regiments and four battalions from Chechnya are operating in Ukraine as of May 20.
- Russian occupation authorities are reportedly intensifying filtration measures in occupied Ukraine to find Ukrainian partisans.
- May 20, 2023
- By Kateryna Stepanenko, Riley Bailey, Grace Mappes, George Barros, and Frederick W. Kagan
- Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin declared victory in Bakhmut City on May 20 and announced his intent to withdraw from the city on May 25.
- Prigozhin’s claimed victory over the remaining areas in Bakhmut is purely symbolic even if true.
- Ukrainian forces continue pressuring Bakhmut’s northern and southern flanks.
- Wagner forces are unlikely to successfully conduct a controlled withdrawal from Bakhmut while in contact with Ukrainian forces within five days without disrupting the Russian MoD’s efforts to prepare for planned Ukrainian counteroffensives.
- Russian conventional forces likely will still need to transfer additional forces to the Bakhmut direction even if Wagner mercenaries remain in Bakhmut.
- Russian forces targeted Kyiv Oblast with Iranian-made Shahed drones on the night of May 19 to 20.
- US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated on May 20 that the United States may agree to transfer modern combat aircraft to Ukraine, including the F-16, on the condition that Ukraine does not use them to strike Russian territory.
- Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar reported that Russian sources are falsely alleging that high-ranking Ukrainian military commanders have recently died, likely to demoralize Ukrainian forces and to portray Russian forces as constraining Ukrainian counteroffensive capabilities.
- Russian forces continued limited ground attacks in the Kreminna area.
- Russian forces continued to conduct ground attacks on the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
- The Washington Post reported on May 19 that a Ukrainian commander stated that Ukrainian Special Operations forces conduct raids in east (left) bank Kherson Oblast but that Ukrainian forces do not hold stable positions there.
- The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) is incorporating mobilized and conscripted personnel into its own “Veterany” private military company (PMC), leading to discrimination and conflict.
- A Lithuanian official publicly accused Russia of attempting to hold international children hostage in occupied Crimea as “human shields” against a future Ukrainian counteroffensive.
- May 19, 2023
- By Riley Bailey, Grace Mappes, Nicole Wolkov, Karolina Hird, Layne Philipson, and Mason Clark
- A Ukrainian official stated that Russian forces have concentrated most of their available reserves to the Bakhmut area and slowed Ukrainian counterattacks in the past 24 hours.
- Ukrainian counterattacks near Bakhmut have notably likely eliminated the threat of a Russian encirclement of Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut and forced Russian troops to allocate scarce military resources to defend against a limited and localized offensive effort, as Ukrainian command likely intended.
- Russian forces conducted another series of drone and missile strikes across Ukraine on the night of May 18 to 19.
- President Joe Biden reportedly informed G7 leaders on May 19 that Washington will support a joint effort to train Ukrainian pilots on F-16s and other fourth generation aircraft.
- The Kremlin reportedly spent 3.1 trillion rubles (approximately $38.7 billion) in an undisclosed section of the Russian budget in 2023, likely to on fund the war and maintain occupied territories in Ukraine.
- Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin announced that he will run for reelection as a member of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party for the first time, prompting criticism from select Russian ultranationalists.
- A Ukrainian source reported that elements of two brigades of the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (GRU) have deployed to border areas of Kursk Oblast in order to conduct counter-sabotage activities and provocations.
- Russian sources claimed that Russian troops continued offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove line.
- Russian forces continued to conduct ground attacks in the Bakhmut area and slightly increased their tempo of ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
- Ukrainian officials stated that Russian forces are preparing defenses by flooding fields in Russian occupied Zaporizhia Oblast.
- Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev claimed that the Russian military has recruited 117,400 contract personnel in volunteer formations since January 1, 2023.
- The Russian State Duma adopted the final reading of a draft law authorizing regional elections under martial law.
- May 18, 2023
- By Grace Mappes, Kateryna Stepanenko, Nicole Wolkov, Layne Philipson, and Frederick W. Kagan
- Ukrainian forces have seized the tactical initiative and made tactically significant gains around Bakhmut in counter-attack operations on May 18.
- Ukrainian officials indicated that Ukrainian forces have seized the battlefield initiative in the Bakhmut area.
- Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin admitted on May 18 that Wagner mercenaries are unable to encircle the Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut due to the loss of stable flanks north and south of Bakhmut.
- Prigozhin and Wagner-affiliated milbloggers are blaming Russian conventional forces for military failures in and around Bakhmut.
- Prigozhin’s efforts to blame the Russian military for failures around Bakhmut are causing some ultranationalists to accuse him of using the Battle for Bakhmut to satisfy his personal ambitions.
- Russian forces conducted another large-scale missile strike across Ukraine on the night of May 17 to 18, targeting Kyiv for the ninth time since the beginning of May.
- The Kremlin continues to strengthen domestic repression measures likely to encourage self-censorship and prepare Russian society for a prolonged war.
- NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated that NATO may discuss the possible provision of Western fighter jets to Ukraine at the June Defense Ministers meeting.
- Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks northeast of Kupyansk and along the Svatove-Kreminna line.
- Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks on the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
- Unknown actors, possibly Ukrainian partisans, attacked a Russian rail line in Crimea.
- The Russian Supreme Court ruled on May 18 that Russian military personnel who voluntarily surrender on the battlefield will be prosecuted under treason charges.
- Russian occupation authorities continue to announce patronage programs with Russian federal subjects to support infrastructure projects in occupied territories.
- May 17, 2023
- By Grace Mappes, Kateryna Stepanenko, Nicole Wolkov, Layne Philipson, George Barros, and Frederick W. Kagan
- Russian and Ukrainian officials acknowledged continued limited Ukrainian counterattacks near Bakhmut on May 17.
- Ukrainian officials reported that terrain features constrain Ukrainian offensive operations across the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast.
- US officials reported that a Patriot air defense system is operational after the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian missile strikes on Kyiv destroyed the system on May 16.
- The Kremlin reportedly accused three hypersonic missile scientists of treason.
- Select Russian strongmen (siloviki) are likely attempting to signal to Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin that he must cease his political ambitions in Russia.
- The Russian siloviki may be intimidating Russian officials affiliated with Prigozhin to discourage their cooperation with Wagner but appear to be unsuccessful in their attempts to scare Prigozhin into obedience.
- Russian authorities continue to crack down against domestic anti-war dissent in an effort to strengthen domestic repressions and prepare Russian society for a long-term war effort.
- Russian authorities are likely forcefully integrating Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) dioceses in occupied Zaporizhia Oblast as part of a wider religious persecution campaign in occupied Ukraine.
- Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks northeast of Kupyansk and along the Svatove-Kreminna line.
- Russian forces continued to make incremental gains in Bakhmut and conducted limited ground attacks on the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
- Russian forces continued to target west (right) bank Kherson Oblast and islands at the Dnipro River delta out of fear of planned Ukrainian counteroffensives.
- The Kremlin continues crypto-mobilization efforts by recruiting regional volunteer battalions and criminals.
- The Russian State Duma adopted amendments to the martial law on May 16 that authorize the forced and controlled movement of citizens from territories under martial law to territories without marital law.
- Russian ultranationalists are speculating about the fate of Belarus’ independence in the case of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s severe illness or death.
- May 16, 2023
- By Riley Bailey, Kateryna Stepanenko, Karolina Hird, Nicole Wolkov, and Frederick W. Kagan
- Russian forces have likely committed to reinforcing their tactical offensive effort in the Bakhmut area despite Ukraine’s apparent focus on limited and localized counterattacks.
- The reported Russian reinforcements to the Bakhmut area suggest that Russian forces are continuing to concentrate offensive capabilities there despite an assessed wider effort to reprioritize operations to prepare for potential Ukrainian counteroffensives.
- Russia conducted another large-scale drone and missile strike on the night of May 15 to 16.
- Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin attempted to downplay his reported cooperation with Ukrainian intelligence on May 15.
- The Wagner Group’s continued glorification and normalization of violence is evident in a widely circulated video purportedly showing a killed American volunteer in Bakhmut.
- Russia and Iran continue efforts to strengthen bilateral military-economic cooperation.
- The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) proposed a draft regulatory act that would allow FSB officers to conduct searches without a court order, likely to support the Kremlin’s ongoing efforts to strengthen domestic repression.
- Russian forces reportedly shut down another Ukrainian evangelical Christian church in Mariupol likely as part of a systematic religious persecution campaign in occupied Ukraine.
- Russian forces are reportedly deploying additional manpower and equipment from Belarus to reinforce their positions in Luhansk Oblast.
- Russian forces continued unsuccessful offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kremmina line.
- Russian forces have made marginal gains within Bakhmut as of May 16 and continued limited ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
- Russian forces are continuing to panic about maintaining their positions in the east (left) bank Kherson Oblast ahead of anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensives.
- The Kremlin continues to pass legislation that provides benefits to participants of the war and their families in order to incentivize military service.
- Russian authorities continue efforts to consolidate the economic subordination of occupied areas of Ukraine into the Russian economy.
We do not report in detail on Russian war crimes because those activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We will continue to evaluate and report on the effects of these criminal activities on the Ukrainian military and population and specifically on combat in Ukrainian urban areas. We utterly condemn these Russian violations of the laws of armed conflict, Geneva Conventions, and humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.
Chronology of Maps from May 16 – 22, 2023 – Mouseover to ScrollUkraine Conflict Maps – 051623 – 052223
See the Institute for the Study of War Interactive Map of the Russian Invasion
Read the latest Ukraine Conflict updates from the Institute for the Study of War
* Shared with direct express permission from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
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