May 10, 2023
Pervasive issues with Russian combat capability, exacerbated by continued attritional assaults in the Bakhmut area, are likely considerably constraining the ability of Russian forces in this area to defend against localized Ukrainian counterattacks. The 72nd Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade itself is emblematic of many of the endemic force generation issues constantly faced by the Russian military. ISW reported on August 7, 2022, that the 72nd Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade was forming in Orenburg Oblast as part of the 3rd Army Corps, a new formation created in 2022 and largely comprised of volunteer battalions. Forbes reported in September of 2022 that the 3rd Army Corps deployed to Kharkiv Oblast and that the Ukrainian Kharkiv Oblast counteroffensive largely destroyed the corps’ constituent elements, likely including the 72nd Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade. Ukrainian media suggested that the surviving elements of the 72nd Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade may have redeployed to Mykolaiv Oblast following the Kharkiv Oblast counteroffensive, where they once against suffered losses during Ukraine’s southern counteroffensive in October 2022. ISW cannot confirm where the 72nd Brigade deployed to following the withdrawal of Russian forces from the west (right) bank of the Dnipro River, but it is highly likely that whatever elements of the 72nd Brigade that deployed to the Bakhmut area more recently are not operating at anywhere near full strength. The Russian military command’s apparent commitment of elements of a formation that has suffered two successive defeats to the Bakhmut axis alongside already attrited Wagner elements likely offer Ukrainian forces opportunities to exploit with limited counterattacks. A Russian milblogger, citing a Wagner commander active in the Bakhmut area, additionally reported that the alleged withdrawal of the 72nd Brigade was the result of severe miscommunication between command of the 72nd Brigade and the Wagner Group. Issues with the ad hoc commitment of various depleted force groupings to the Bakhmut axis, alongside apparent command and control failures, are likely preventing Russian forces in the area from conducting sound defensive operations.
Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces struck a command center where high-ranking Ukrainian military commanders and officials were located, likely to support an ongoing effort to frame Russian operations as constraining Ukrainian capabilities to launch a counteroffensive. Russian milbloggers claimed on May 10 that Russian forces struck the command post near Chasiv Yar (12km west of Bakhmut), killing Ukrainian Chief Advisor to the Directorate for Domestic and Humanitarian Policy Alexei Titarenko. Russian milbloggers speculated that the strike may have killed other high-ranking Ukrainian commanders and officials and stated that the strike has prompted completely unsubstantiated rumors, which Ukrainian officials have explicitly denied, that it killed Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Valery Zaluzhnyi. Milbloggers acknowledged that the strike likely did not kill Zaluzhnyi but argued that it may be affecting his decisions to attend certain events. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar stated that all the Ukrainian commanders in question are alive and that claims about the killing of Ukrainian commanders are a part of a Russian information operation aimed at degrading Ukrainian morale. ISW assessed that Russian ultranationalists recently claimed that Russian forces struck a vehicle carrying Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces Commander General Ihor Tantsyura to frame Russian operations as limiting Ukrainian abilities to conduct counterattacks in the Bakhmut area. Russian sources have also largely framed increasingly routine series of Russian air and missile strikes as similarly constraining potential upcoming Ukrainian counteroffensive operations. There is no evidence to support these Russian claims.
The US Department of Defense (DoD) confirmed on May 9 that Ukrainian forces successfully used the Patriot missile defense system to shoot down a Russian missile for the first time. Ukrainian Air Force Commander Mykola Oleshchuk had reported that Ukrainian forces used the Patriot system to shoot down a missile in the air over Kyiv Oblast at night on May 4. The Biden administration also announced a new $1.2 billion military aid package to Ukraine on May 9. The package includes additional air defense systems, 155-mm artillery rounds, and equipment to integrate Ukrainian air defense systems with Western-supplied equipment.
- Ukrainian forces conducted successful limited counterattacks around Bakhmut on May 9.
- Pervasive issues with Russian combat capabilities, exacerbated by continued attritional assaults in the Bakhmut area, are likely considerably constraining the ability of Russian forces in this area to defend against localized Ukrainian counterattacks.
- Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces struck a command center where Ukrainian military commanders and officials were located, likely to support an ongoing effort to frame Russian operations as constraining Ukrainian capabilities to launch a counteroffensive.
- The US Department of Defense (DoD) confirmed that Ukrainian forces successfully shot down a Russian missile using the Patriot missile defense system. The Biden administration also announced a new $1.2 billion military aid package to Ukraine.
- Russian forces conducted ground attacks in the Kupyansk and Kreminna areas.
- Russian and Wagner Group forces continued offensive operations in and around Bakhmut on May 10, despite Wagner financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s previous threat that Wagner would withdraw from the area at midnight.
- Russian forces continued limited offensive operations along the Avdiivka-Donetsk front.
- Russian forces conducted airstrikes on Ukrainian positions in Kherson and Zaporizhia oblasts.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an annual decree calling up citizens from reserves for military training.
- Russian occupation authorities are continuing the removal of Ukrainian residents from their homes in occupied areas under the guise of humanitarian evacuations.