May 8, 2023

Institue for the Study of War: Big Russian drone strike fails in Kiev

Institute for the Study of War

May 8, 2023

Russian forces conducted another large-scale missile and drone strike against Ukraine on the night of May 7 to 8. The Ukrainian General Staff reported on May 8 that Russian forces launched 16 missiles at Kharkiv, Kherson, Mykolaiv, and Odesa oblasts, and that Ukrainian forces shot down all 35 launched Shahed drones. Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klitschko stated that Ukrainian forces shot down 36 Russian drones targeting Kyiv out of a 60 total launched against Ukraine, however. Klitschko did not specify how many total drones Ukrainian forces shot down elsewhere in Ukraine. Klitschko’s report is more likely accurate as it was posted nearly four hours after the initial round of Ukrainian reporting on the Shahed strike. The Ukrainian Red Cross stated that one Russian missile destroyed an entire Red Cross warehouse in Odesa Oblast. Russian milbloggers celebrated claims that Russian forces intensified strikes against Kyiv, with one milblogger claiming that Russian forces conducted the largest strike campaign against Kyiv since the start of the war. Russian sources are likely overcompensating for ineffectiveness of the drone strikes by playing up the size and scale of the effort.

Senior Ukrainian officials indicated that Ukrainian forces may be preparing to conduct counteroffensive operations in May or June. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated on May 7 that Ukrainian forces are preparing for “new events” in May or June 2023. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Volodymyr Havrylov stated in a May 8 interview that the timing and location of a Ukrainian counteroffensive is not significant because Russian forces and leadership will panic regardless, but that he would not be surprised if “something,” possibly alluding to Ukrainian counteroffensive operations, occurred in May or June. The Ukrainian Defense Forces Military Media Center stated that Russian forces continue to transfer military equipment, ammunition, and supplies to Ukraine to prepare for a defensive operation against a Ukrainian counteroffensive push.

Russian-occupied Transnistria asked Russia to increase its peacekeeping contingent in the region, likely to support the Kremlin’s efforts to destabilize Moldova. A Transnistrian occupation representative to Moscow, Leonid Manakov, asked Russia to increase the number of peacekeepers in Transnistria due to claims of increasing security and terrorist risks. Manakov proposed that Transnistria increase the number of peacekeepers by involving the Russians living in Transnistria in the peacekeeping operations. Manakov’s statement follows reports of Moldovan prosecutors detaining and cracking down on the members of the pro-Russian “Shor” party in mid-April and May. Chisinau detained 27 protestors from the “Shor” party on May 7. Kremlin’s Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov did not comment on Manakov’s proposals. White House officials warned in March that individuals linked with Russian intelligence were planning to stage protests against the Moldovan government in order to install a pro-Russian administration. Manakov’s statements are likely a continuation of the Kremlin’s effort to destabilize Moldova. Russia remains unlikely to deploy additional forces to Transnistria given its ongoing need for forces in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is attempting to use the Moscow Victory Day parade to show Russia’s continued influence in Central Asia. Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, and Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon are reportedly attending the Victory Day parade in Moscow on May 9. Kremlin-affiliated news outlet Vedemosti reported Japarov’s visit to Moscow for Victory Day on April 23, while Russian media reported Tokayev’s, Mirziyoyev’s, and Rakhmon’s visits on May 8, only one day before the Victory Day parade in Moscow. Russian independent news outlet SOTA reported that Rakhmon’s press service initially announced that Rakhmon would celebrate in Dushanbe, but later stated that Rakhmon had arrived in Moscow for Victory Day. Kremlin newswire TASS reported that Putin also invited Turkmen President Serdar Berdymukhamedov but he did not confirm his attendance. No foreign leader attended Moscow Victory Day in 2022, and Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan did not hold Victory Day parades in 2022 with some citing health risks from the coronavirus pandemic. The late announcement of Central Asian leaders’ attendance likely indicates their reticence to show direct and public support of the war despite Kremlin efforts to project power. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Armenian President Nikol Pashinyan reportedly also flew to Moscow to attend the Victory Day parade.

Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces conducted another large-scale missile and drone strike against Ukraine on the night of May 7 to 8.
  • Senior Ukrainian officials indicated that Ukrainian forces may be preparing to conduct counteroffensive operations in May or June.
  • Russian-occupied Transnistria called on Russia to increase its peacekeepers in the region likely to support the Kremlin’s efforts to destabilize Moldova.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin is attempting to use the Victory Day parade to show Russia’s continued influence in Central Asia.
  • Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks on the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line.
  • Russian forces have made marginal advances within Bakhmut as of May 8 amid reports of intensified Wagner Group forces offensive operations and continued ground attacks along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
  • Russian forces continued defensive operations in southern Ukraine.
  • Russian authorities have reportedly escalated their campaign targeting ethnic minorities for contract service in the Russian military.
  • Russian occupation authorities continued to forcibly evacuate civilians in rear areas in Kherson and Zaporizhia oblasts.
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