Key developments on May 22:
- Attacks involving anti-Kremlin fighters reported in Russia's Belgorad Oblast
- Russia announces ‘counter-terrorist operation’ in Belgorad Oblast
- Ukrainian military reports small advance on Bakhmut flanks
Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of Russia's Belgorod Oblast, announced a "counter-terrorist operation" in the region on May 22 amid reported attacks by Russian anti-government groups.
"The situation in the Grayvoron district remains tense, a sabotage and reconnaissance group entered the territory, the majority of the population left the district," Gladkov said.
Since early morning, Russian officials have reported fighting within the country's region bordering Ukraine.
On May 22, a group of armed men calling themselves the Free Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps recorded a video saying they had crossed into Russia and took hold of bordering villages.
"The Legion returns home," armed men in one of the videos said, alleging it was shot within Russia.
According to Russian officials, the fighting is ongoing near the town of Grayvoron, located 7 kilometers north of the Ukrainian border. So-called Free Russia Legion announced that it had taken the village of Kozinka, located next to the border.
Ukrainian officials have issued mixed signals about the reported incursion.
Armed Russian anti-government groups allegedly fighting on Ukraine's side have started a combat operation in Russia's Belgorod Oblast, spokesperson for Ukraine's military intelligence Andrii Yusov told Suspilne news outlet on May 22.
Senior Ukrainian officials have refrained from commenting on the situation.
The number of people involved in the fighting remains unknown, with Russia's Gladkov saying midday that eight people were injured.
Back in March 2023, the so-called Russian Volunteer Corps said it crossed into Russia's Bryansk Oblast, neighboring Ukraine.
The attack was inconclusive, leading to no territorial gains.
The Free Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps claim they employ Russian citizens fighting against the Russian regime.
Battle of Bakhmut
Three days after Russia claimed victory over Bakhmut, a city in Donetsk Oblast destroyed after more than ten months of heavy fighting, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said that the situation “has not significantly changed” over the past day.
Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said that Ukraine still controlled certain areas in the city’s southwestern part near the destroyed MiG-17 aircraft monument.
While Kyiv has not officially admitted it, Russian forces have effectively captured Bakhmut. Fighting continues for the outskirts of the city.
The Ukrainian military reported on May 22 that it advanced from 200 to 400 meters in some areas over the past day and that it is working on launching counterattacks against Russian forces on the flanks of the city.
Speaking on television, Eastern Operational Command spokesman Serhiy Cherevaty reported that Russian forces were trying to capture Ukraine’s last holdouts in Bakhmut – a row of buildings and fortifications in the city’s southwest.
International observers, including the Institute for the Study of War, appeared to have confirmed Russia’s capture of Bakhmut.
“Wagner Group mercenaries likely secured the western administrative borders of Bakhmut City while Ukrainian forces are continuing to prioritize counterattacks on Bakhmut’s outskirts,” the Washington-based ISW said in its May 21 report.
Brief electricity outage at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant
Ukraine reported on May 22 that early morning Russian shelling near the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant caused a blackout at the facility for the seventh time since Moscow seized the plant in March 2022.
The incident resulted in the last remaining high-voltage power line temporarily being disconnected from Ukraine’s energy system, Ukraine's nuclear energy company Energoatom reported.
A few hours later, Ukraine's state energy operator Ukrenergo said the power line was reconnected to the Ukrainian energy system.
The incident occurred as Ukrainian authorities continued to call for a buffer zone around the Russian-occupied plant to avoid what could develop into an irreversible accident.
Ukraine's State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate reported in May, citing information from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), that Russian troops have placed military equipment, weapons, and explosives in the turbine department of unit four of the Zaporizhzhia plant.
On May 22, Ukraine called for “urgent action by the entire international community” for Energoatom to regain full control of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant, located in the Russian-occupied town of Enerhodar in southeastern Ukraine.
Rafael Grossi, the director of the IAEA, called the nuclear safety situation at the plant “extremely vulnerable.”
“We must agree to protect plant now; this situation cannot continue," said Grossi, who traveled to the Russian-occupied plant in March during a second monitoring trip.