May 1, 2023
Russian forces conducted another large-scale missile strike against Ukraine on the night of April 30 to May 1. Ukrainian sources reported that nine Tu-95 and two Tu-160 strategic bombers took off from Murmansk Oblast and near the Caspian Sea and launched 18 Kh-101/555 cruise missiles at Ukraine. Ukrainian air defense shot down 15 of the missiles. Geolocated footage from Pavlohrad, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, shows that one of the missiles struck the Pavlohrad Chemical Plant and caused a massive explosion on impact. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed on May 1 that the strikes targeted Ukrainian military-industrial objects and successfully disrupted the production of military resources. The Russian MoD has recently shifted its rhetoric and is actively describing strike campaigns, likely in an effort to portray a proactive approach to growing concerns in the Russian information space regarding a Ukrainian counteroffensive. Russian milbloggers claimed that the missiles struck Ukrainian air defense systems and a transportation hub in Pavlohrad. Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat noted that the fact that both the Tu-95 and Tu-160s carried far fewer missiles than their maximum load suggests that Russia continues to struggle with adequate production of such munitions.
The White House assessed on May 1 that Russian forces have suffered 100,000 causalities—80,000 wounded and 20,000 killed—in fighting for Bakhmut since January 2023.US National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby announced that half of the 20,000 killed in action were Wagner Group fighters. Kirby also assessed that Russia’s offensive on Bakhmut has failed.
Ukrainian officials continue to signal Ukraine’s readiness for potential counteroffensive operations. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov stated on May 1 that Ukraine is “reaching the finish line” in terms of when it will be ready to launch counteroffensive actions. Reznikov noted that the ratio of available ammunition still does not favor Ukraine but stated that Russian capabilities continue to be limited. Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Head Kyrylo Budanov emphasized on April 30 that the main goal of the Ukrainian counteroffensive remains the liberation of all Ukrainian territory and stated that he hopes Ukraine will be able to improve its positions along the entire frontline in order to effectively threaten Russian logistics in occupied Crimea and Donbas.
Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin is likely using his rehabilitated standing with Russian leadership to amplify his self-promotion efforts and his longstanding issues with the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD). Russian sources began circulating an alleged letter from the MoD to Prigozhin on April 30 responding to Prigozhin’s Apil 29 interview wherein he threatened to withdraw Wagner forces from Bakhmut if the Russian military fails to provide more ammunition to Wagner. The letter, dated April 23, lists all the artillery ammunition and equipment that the Russian MoD provides to Wagner. A Russian official may have released the letter to stop Prigozhin from using the issue of artillery shortages to criticize the MoD as he has done in the past. Prigozhin responded by stating that the figures provided by the unverified document are still not sufficient for what Wagner needs to complete its assigned tasks. Prigozhin then claimed on May 1 that Wagner is in possession of large stocks of weapons it captured from Ukrainian forces during the seizure of Soledar in January 2023, and Prigozhin rhetorically boasted that he has enough arms to support a million-strong army. Prigozhin suggested that he would offer to exchange these stocks of weapons for the resources that Wagner requires. Prigozhin will likely continue to rely on his existing informational lines of attack to promote himself and seek further privileges from the Russian military as he retains a rehabilitated standing with Russian leadership.
The Russian MoD confirmed on April 30 the replacement of Russian Deputy Minister of Defense for Logistics Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev with Colonel General Aleksey Kuzmenkov. The MoD provided no justification for the replacement nor did it specify whether Mizintsev has a new role. Russian milbloggers began speculating about the replacement of Mizintsev with Kuzmenkov, who was then Deputy Head of the Russian National Guard (Rosgvardia), on April 27. Regular changes to the Russian military command have resulted in increasingly factionalized Russian military and disorganized command structures that degrade Russia’s military capability, as ISW has recently assessed.
The Russian MoD opposition faction is likely attempting to remove select MoD officials by publicly criticizing their war efforts. Russian milbloggers complained that Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Yunus-bek Yevkurov visited the Kherson direction months ago and did not fulfill his promise to allocate 140 to 150 boats to Russian forces to defend the islands in the Dnipro River Delta. One milblogger claimed that the lack of watercraft prompted Kherson Oblast occupation head Vladimir Saldo to order his administration in mid-April to start commandeering civilian boats for Russian military use. Milbloggers’ criticism of Yevkurov follows the dismissal of the Russian Deputy Defense Minister for Logistics Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev on April 27. Mizintsev was reportedly dismissed after Commander of the Russian Airborne (VDV) forces and Wagner affiliate Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky’s inspection of the Northern Fleet troops revealed significant issues with supply provisions. Teplinsky reportedly assumed command of Russian forces in southern Ukraine in mid-April and may be using his new appointment to remove Russian MoD officials with the justification that they are failing to adequately supply troops. ISW assessed on April 30 that Teplinsky likely gained Russian President Vladimir Putin’s favor in late March, and the milbloggers’ criticisms against Yevkurov is likely an ongoing effort to weaken or remove a group of Russian military commanders and officials who are loyal to Russian Chief of General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov.
- Russian forces conducted another large-scale missile strike against Ukraine on the night of April 30 to May 1.
- The White House assessed on May 1 that the Russian offensive against Bakhmut has failed.
- Ukrainian officials continue to signal Ukraine’s readiness for potential counteroffensive operations.
- Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin is likely using his rehabilitated standing with Russian leadership to amplify his self-promotion efforts and his longstanding issues with the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD).
- The Russian MoD confirmed the replacement of Russian Deputy Minister of Defense for Logistics Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev with Colonel General Aleksey Kuzmenkov.
- The Russian MoD opposition faction is likely attempting to remove select MoD officials by publicly criticizing their war efforts.
- Russian forces conducted ground attacks along the Svatove-Kremmina line.
- Russian forces continued ground attacks in and around Bakhmut and on the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
- Ukrainian officials indicated that Wagner Group and other Russian forces are struggling to maintain their pace of offensive operations in Bakhmut.
- Russian sources continue to claim that Ukrainian forces are conducting raids across the Dnipro River.
- The recent increased prevalence of Russian private military companies (PMCs) operating in Ukraine may be necessitating certain changes in the overall command structure.
- Russian officials and occupation authorities continue efforts to integrate occupied territories into the Russian socio-economic system.