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CDS Daily brief (26.05.23) | CDS comments on key events

Snapshot of the day:

General, humanitarian:

  • During the night, the Russian occupiers launched a massive attack on Ukraine using combat drones and cruise missiles. The Ukrainian Air Force reported that they shot down 25 UAVs and ten missiles.
  • The number of injured civilians due to today’s Russian missile attack on the Dnipro hospital increased to 31; among the victims are children. Two people died. 
  • 128 children have been forcibly evacuated from the towns and villages in Donetsk Oblast, where active combat operations are ongoing. However, there are still eight children remaining in these areas.
  • In Melitopol, the Russian occupation authorities are resorting to blackmail and threats to pressure residents into obtaining Russian passports.


  • The enemy is intensifying defensive operations on all fronts. They continue to try to capture Avdiivka and Maryinka and locally improve their tactical position in Kupyansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Maryinka. 
  • The Wagner PMC has started transferring its positions to the regular Russian forces and withdrawing to the rear areas. Replacing of forces began on May 25th and is expected to be completed by June 1st. 
  • Russian forces have shifted their attention to the T0504 Chasiv Yar – Bakhmut and O0506 Khromove – Bakhmut highways.

“The Grain Initiative” 

  • The movement of grain caravans to the ports of Odesa is gradually resuming. Currently, there are nine dry cargo vessels in the ports of Odesa and Chornomorsk, which arrived after difficult negotiations in Istanbul between Ukraine, Turkey, the UN, and Russia, resulting in an extension of the Grain Initiative for another two months until mid-July of this year.


  • Japan and the U.S. condemned Russia’s transfer of tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus. The U.S. warned that any chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons use in Ukraine would be met with “severe consequences.”
  • While Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister accused the West of escalating nuclear rhetoric regarding Ukraine, denying any intentions to [nuclear] bomb the country, a former Russian President warned about a potential preemptive nuclear strike if the U.S. were to deploy nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Russia combines bizarre accusations of Ukraine and the U.S. and nuclear saber-rattling.
  • The Ukraine Defense Contact Group has shown the partners’ “shared determination to ensure that a sovereign and secure Ukraine can deter any future aggression and defend itself against future attacks.”
  • The U.S. reiterated that their support for Ukraine includes the restoration of the country’s territorial integrity, including Crimea. “Russia cannot win this war militarily. At the same time, Ukraine’s strategic goals are to liberate all of Ukraine occupied by Russia… This can be achieved militarily, but probably not in the near future,” the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said. Sergey Lavrov has interpreted General Mark Milley’s words as the U.S. acknowledgment that “Ukraine could not count on the return of all its territories within the 1991 borders in the foreseeable future.”

Russian attacks

Overnight, the Russians launched another massive attack on Ukraine using combat drones and cruise missiles. In total, 17 enemy missiles and 31 combat drones were detected:

  • 10 cruise missiles X-101/X-555 launched from Tu-95MS aircraft in the Caspian Sea region. 
  • 7 guided anti-aircraft missiles S-300/S-400 launched from the Tokmak area (presumably, Zaporizhzhia region). 
  • 31 combat UAVs of Iranian production, “Shahed-136/131,” from the southern and northern directions.

The Ukrainian air defense successfully intercepted and shot down 10 cruise missiles, 23 kamikaze drones, and 2 reconnaissance UAVs.

Consequences of the Russian attacks:

  • On the morning of May 26, Russian forces launched a missile attack on Dnipro, hitting a medical facility and a veterinary clinic. According to the latest information, thirty-one people were injured, and two died. Among the victims are children. A fire broke out, covering an area of 1.2 thousand square meters, but it has since been extinguished. On May 27, a day of mourning was declared in Dnipro for the victims of a missile strike on the city’s hospital. Also, due to the nighttime attack on Dnipro, two private enterprises, two houses, and a fuel station suffered damage. One employee of the fuel station was injured. Serious damage was also inflicted on a transportation company. Additionally, the enemy targeted drones at the Marhanets community. No casualties were reported. In total, five cruise missiles and six “Shahed” drones were shot down in the region.
  • In the Obolon district of Kyiv, debris caused damage to the roof of a shopping mall and vehicles in another area of the district. In the Shevchenkivskyi district, debris fell on a private house, damaging the roof and windows. No casualties have been reported.
  • In Kyiv Oblast, debris from the destroyed targets has caused damage to seven private houses in two communities. 
  • The Russian occupants also targeted drones at Merefa and Izyum in Kharkiv Oblast. In Merefa, a civilian enterprise was damaged; in Izyum, an educational institution and a garage with agricultural machinery were affected. Preliminary reports indicate no casualties.
  • At dawn, air defense forces shot down a kamikaze drone over Cherkasy Oblast. No casualties or destruction were reported.
  • On May 26, the Russian military dropped a FAB-250 aerial bomb on New York, Donetsk Oblast. One person was injured, and three multi-story buildings, a nursery, an outpatient clinic, a cinema hall, and a sports hall were destroyed. The Russians also carried out a missile airstrike on Avdiivka, hitting a residential building. Preliminary reports indicate no casualties.


A total of 128 children have been forcibly evacuated from the towns and villages in Donetsk Oblast, where active combat operations are ongoing. However, there are still eight children remaining in these areas, with four in Bakhmut, one in Avdiivka (where the parents are hiding the child), two in Krasnohorivka, and one in Keramik (where the parents vehemently refuse evacuation), according to Oleksandr Vdovenko, the Head of the Department for Interaction with Law Enforcement Agencies of the Department of Civil Protection, Mobilization, and Defense Work. The data is current as of May 23, and the mandatory evacuation of children and their parents or legal representatives was commenced on April 7, 2023. This forced evacuation effort has covered a total of 21 towns and villages in the region but might be expanded.

Return of the fallen Ukrainian soldiers 

The Office of the Commissioner for Missing Persons under Special Circumstances has conducted an examination of approximately 150 liberated settlements to identify burial sites and has carried out over 500 search operations in demilitarized territories, resulting in the recovery of more than 1,500 bodies of fallen soldiers, said Commissioner Oleg Kotenko during a briefing at the Ukraine-Ukrinform Media Center. Seven search groups have been established under the Office of the Commissioner. “All seven groups are operating on the front line. Currently, as we demilitarize the territory, we are making progress near the flanks of Bakhmut,” stated Kotenko. He mentioned that the search groups are active in Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv, and Kherson Oblasts. The group members engage in daily search missions. Kotenko emphasized the high risks associated with this work due to mined territories, and there have been instances where individuals lost their lives during search operations.

Occupied territories: 

In Melitopol, the Russian occupation authorities are resorting to blackmail and threats to pressure residents into obtaining Russian passports, as stated by Ivan Fedorov, the legitimate mayor of Melitopol, on the air of a national telethon. According to Fedorov, the Russian occupiers have enforced a requirement for residents to transfer their electricity supply contracts, but only if they possess a Russian passport. Furthermore, beginning on June 1, the occupiers will deny free medications to those without a Russian passport. Fedorov emphasized that the occupiers are aware of Ukrainians’ reluctance to become citizens of the Russian Federation, and as a result, they are employing various coercive tactics to force compliance.

Operational situation

General conclusion: 

  • The enemy is concentrating its main efforts on defensive operations on all fronts. They are trying to complete the capture of Avdiivka and Maryinka, and locally improve their tactical position on the Kupyansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Maryinka directions.
  • The Wagner PMC has begun relinquishing its positions to the Russian Ministry of Defense and withdrawing to rear areas. The replacement of forces started on May 25th and will be completed by June 1st.
  • Russian forces have shifted their focus to the T0504 Chasiv Yar – Bakhmut and O0506 Khromove – Bakhmut highways.

Change in the line of contact (LoC):  

  • There were 22 combat clashes on various fronts. 
  • On the Kupyansk direction, the enemy continues its attempts to improve its tactical position. Russian forces launched unsuccessful attacks near Masyutivka in Kharkiv Oblast. 
  • On the Lyman direction, the enemy conducted unsuccessful offensivs near Bilohorivka in Luhansk Oblast. The Defense Forces regained previously lost positions on the eastern outskirts of Spirne.
  • On the Bakhmut direction, the enemy continues its offensive actions in the area of Bakhmut. Russian forces carried out local attacks around Bakhmut, unsuccessfully trying to advance towards Bakhmut and Ivanivske. Attempts to capture Ivanivske and Khromove also failed. Intense battles are ongoing on the flanks of Bakhmut.
  • On the Avdiivka direction, the enemy conducted unsuccessful offensive actions towards Krasnohorivka. Russian forces carried out several failed attacks in the areas of Avdiivka, Novokalynove, and near Krasnohorivka. The Defense Forces maintain positions south of Avdiivka near Opytne. Positional battles took place in the areas of Avdiivka, Novobakhmutivka, and Novokalynove.
  • On the Maryinka direction, the Defense Forces repelled numerous enemy attacks. Russian forces launched several unsuccessful attacks and made minor progress towards Polihrafichna Street in the western part of Maryinka.
  • On the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson directions, the enemy continues the defensive actions.

Change in enemy disposition: 

  • The replacement of Wagner PMC detachments with the troops of the 1st Army Corps of the 8th Army is ongoing in Bakhmut.
  • Russian officials have created seven territorial defense battalions with a total strength of up to 3,000 personnel in the Belgorod Oblast.

Escalation indicators

  • Russian Defense Minister Shoigu and Belarusian Defense Minister Khrenin have signed documents on the placement of Russian non-strategic (tactical) nuclear weapons on the territory of Belarus.
  • The Russian Aerospace Forces continued to bomb the positions of the Defense Forces with FAB-500, and carried out two strikes with KAB-500 bombs near Beryslav in Kherson Oblast.

Possible operation situation developments: 

  • The enemy will seek to improve its tactical position ahead of the Ukrainian counteroffensive by conducting local offensive actions on selected directions.
  • The Defense Forces will continue to shape the operational space, preparing favorable conditions for the conduct of a counteroffensive operation.

Azov-Black Sea Maritime Operational Area: 

  • As of May 25 afternoon, there were 7 enemy ships at sea. They were patrolling areas near the coast of Crimea and Krasnodar Krai. There were no carriers of the “Kalibr” missiles at sea. 
  • In the Azov Sea, there were one enemy ship on patrol.
  • The enemy’s aviation continues its flights over the sea from the Crimean airfields of Belbek, Saky, Dzhankoy, and Hvardiyske. Eight fighter aircraft from Belbek and Saki Air Force Bases were deployed to monitor surface and air conditions in the northwestern part of the Black Sea. The A-50U and Il-22 AEW&C aircraft were responsible for overseeing the air situation and managing operational-tactical aviation activities over the waters of the Sea of Azov.
  • In the area where the Russian reconnaissance ship “Ivan Khurs” was attacked (the ship received one or two penetrations and lost propulsion due to hits from kamikaze drones), there has been increased involvement of NATO countries’ aviation in the past two days. On the morning of May 24, the U.S. strategic unmanned reconnaissance aircraft RQ-4B Global Hawk, which is a frequent visitor to the region, appeared from the direction of Bulgaria. This may be its first appearance since the recent incident where another American UAV was shot down by Russian fighter jets. Following the RQ-4B Global Hawk, its Italian counterpart, the RQ-4D Phoenix, conducted reconnaissance after taking off from the Sigonella airbase. Throughout the day on May 24, there was also activity by British reconnaissance aviation near the Crimean coast, including Boeing RC-135W aircraft from the Mildenhall airbase and Airbus KC2 Voyager from the Akrotiri base in Cyprus. They were accompanied by multirole fighter jets, including the “Tornado.”

“The Grain Initiative” 

  • The movement of grain caravans to the ports of Odesa is gradually resuming. Starting from May 21, vessels from the “Grain Agreement” have begun to approach the coastline of Odesa. Yesterday, on May 25, three large ships, each measuring over 200 meters in length, entered the port. The bulk carriers DIAS and YING HAO 02, both measuring 225 meters, will be loaded at the port of Odesa, while the 229-meter SEA COMMANDER and 180-meter DONNA JUDI will be loaded in Chornomorsk.
  • As reported in previous briefs, the Port of Pivdenny has been removed from the list of operators in the Grain Initiative. This decision was made after Russia presented an ultimatum to the UN Secretariat on May 13. One of the demands in the ultimatum is activating the Tolyatti-Odesa ammonia pipeline with its terminal in Pivdenny.
  • At present, there are nine dry cargo vessels docked at the ports of Odesa and Chornomorsk. These ships arrived following challenging negotiations held in Istanbul involving Ukraine, Turkey, the United Nations, and Russia. As a result of these negotiations, the Grain Initiative has been extended for an additional two months, lasting until mid-July of this year.
  • Overall, since August 1, 2022, a total of 30.3 million tons of Ukrainian agricultural products have been exported from the ports of Odesa.

Russian operational losses from 24.02.22 to 26.05.23

Personnel – almost 205,720 people (+460);

Tanks – 3,796 (+1);

Armored combat vehicles – 7,435 (+3);

Artillery systems – 3,384 (+25)

Multiple rocket launchers (MLRS) – 570 (0);

Anti-aircraft warfare systems – 328 (+1);

Vehicles and fuel tanks – 6,161 (+13);

Aircraft – 310 (+1);

Helicopters – 296 (0);

UAV operational and tactical level – 2,910 (+3);

Intercepted cruise missiles – 1,015 (0);

Boats/ships – 18 (0).

Ukraine, general news

The European Union has granted an extension of the duty-free regime for Ukrainian agricultural products until 2024. This decision ensures that Ukrainian farmers and producers can continue to export their agricultural goods to the European market without facing import duties or tariffs.

President Volodymyr Zelensky conducted a meeting of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief’s Staff to assess the current situation on the frontlines and the progress of equipping brigades with essential equipment. The Staff members also analyzed the potential for increasing domestic production of scarce ammunition. The Staff also discussed recent enemy airstrikes on Ukrainian cities and explored ways to enhance the effectiveness of defense against such attacks. Zelensky expressed that crucial steps are being taken in this regard.

International diplomatic aspect

“As the only country to have suffered atomic bombings during wartime, Japan never accepts Russia’s nuclear menace, let alone its use,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said, condemning Russia’s deployment of nuclear weapons to Belarus. Japan will place additional sanctions on Russia in line with Hiroshima G7 summit decisions. Russia’s move is “the latest example of irresponsible behavior that we have seen from Russia since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine over a year ago,” the U.S. State Department spokesperson said. Matthew Miller stated there was no need to “adjust our [that of the U.S.] strategic nuclear posture.” The diplomat warned that any chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons use in Ukraine would be met with “severe consequences.” 

“Our enemies are cynically speculating… trying to attribute to us the missing intentions to use nuclear weapons in connection with what is happening in Ukraine. There have been no changes in our approach to this complex and alarming issue for many,” Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Rybkov stated. “There are irreversible laws of war. If it comes to nuclear weapons, it will be necessary to launch a preemptive strike,” former President Dmitriy Medvedev elaborated on a fantastic scenario the U.S. would send nuclear weapons to Ukraine.

Russians have been pushing bizarre accusations against Ukraine that the country seeks to return nuclear weapons or engage in the production of biological weapons within U.S.-operated laboratories. The chief of Russia’s radiation, chemical, and biological protection forces went as far as accusing Ukraine of causing flu outbreaks in Russia, linking them to supposed “experiments that were carried out in the Askania-Nova nature reserve in Kherson, commissioned by the United States.”

The U.S. Defense Secretary defined the results of the 12th round of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group as a show of “our shared determination to ensure that a sovereign and secure Ukraine can deter any future aggression and defend itself against future attacks.” Since the last gathering, the U.S. has committed an additional $1.8 billion in security assistance to Ukraine. Since its launch, the Contact Group has committed nearly $65 billion in security assistance. Canada is expanding its presence under Operation UNIFIER, which has trained more than 36,000 Ukrainian military personnel since 2015. Canada will also donate forty-three AIM-9 missiles. The WSJ reported that South Korea secretly provides Ukraine with hundreds of thousands of artillery shells. 

“We believe that Ukraine has the ability and has the right, and we support Ukraine in defending its sovereignty and its territorial integrity. That includes the parts of Ukraine that Russia has illegally captured and occupied since its invasion in February of last year. It also includes Crimea, and we’ve made that clear,” the State Department spokesman replied to a question about whether the U.S. aid is aimed at restoring Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. 

“All wars end sooner or later. They end with the victory of one side or the other, or a settlement is reached through negotiations. Russia cannot win this war militarily. At the same time, Ukraine’s strategic goals are to liberate all of Ukraine occupied by Russia. There are several hundred thousand Russian troops in the occupied territories of Ukraine. This can be achieved militarily, but probably not in the near future,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said. 

His words resonated in Moscow, though in a distorted way. “For the first time, something was said from the lips of an office that is not a categorical support for the “peace formula of V. Zelensky.” “He said that, apparently, Ukraine could not count on the return of all its territories within the 1991 borders in the foreseeable future. This is a step forward towards understanding reality “on the ground,” Russia’s Foreign Minister elaborated.

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