Key developments on May 16:
- Defense Ministry: Ukraine liberates about 20 square kilometers on Bakhmut outskirts
- At the same time, Ukraine admits Russia has ‘somewhat’ advanced in Bakhmut
- Ukraine’s military reports downing 25 Russian missiles, including unprecedented 6 Kinzhal hypersonic missiles in night attack on Kyiv
- CNN: One of the two Patriot systems “likely damaged” by overnight Russian airstrike
Ukrainian forces liberated roughly 20 square kilometers (12 square miles) of land on the northern and southern outskirts of Bakhmut, but Russia has “somewhat” advanced in the city itself, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry reported on May 16.
Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar also said in a Telegram post that Russia is moving units of “professional paratroopers” into Bakhmut as Ukrainian forces test their limit to hold the defense.
Without commenting on Ukraine’s report, Moscow said Russian forces continue to conduct offensive on the western flanks of Bakhmut, the last Ukrainian holdouts in the largely-destroyed city in Donetsk Oblast.
Ukraine’s report of a gain in the Bakhmut sector comes as Ukraine appears to be continuing to launch counterattacks against Russian positions in the area. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry reported on May 14 that it recaptured more than 10 positions north and south of Bakhmut.
But amid Ukraine’s wave of first successful counterattacks in the Battle of Bakhmut, Russian forces continued to launch offensives in and around the city, according to a May 15 report by the Institute for the Study of War, a D.C.-based think-tank analyzing the war in Ukraine.
Nearly a year and a half into Russia’s all-out war, Bakhmut remains the epicenter of the war, with both Ukraine and Russia reportedly suffering heavy casualties.
Russia’s massive overnight airstrikes on Kyiv
In the early hours of May 16, Russian forces launched an airstrike on Kyiv that the Kyiv City Military Administration called “exceptional in its density.”
The Air Force initially said that it shot down all of the 18 Russian missiles targeting Ukraine overnight, including six Kinzhal ballistic missiles, in addition to six Iranian-made Shahed-136/131 kamikaze drones. The attacks were carried out from the north, east, and south, it added. Later in the day, the military updated the count to 25 missiles.
Russian forces launched the Kinzhal missiles from six MiG-31K jets, and the attack happened around 3:30 a.m., according to the Air Force’s report.
The State Emergency Service reported that the debris of the shot-down missiles caused fires and damages in five of Kyiv’s ten districts, but the city did not suffer significant damages.
The Kinzhal, an air-launched ballistic missile named after a dagger with a range of up to 2,000 kilometers, was previously difficult to shoot down before Ukraine received Patriot air defense systems in late April. It was hard for radar systems to detect it.
More than a week after the arrival of the U.S.-made Patriot air defense systems, the Air Force reported shooting a Kinzhal ballistic missile for the first time on May 4.
Russia’s latest attack came as President Volodymyr Zelensky was touring European capitals to raise support for his country and to campaign for a fighter jets coalition.
Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed in its daily briefing that the overnight airstrike that struck cities far from the battlefield was aimed at “points of deployment of the Armed Forces of Ukraine” and storage sites for Western-provided weapons and equipment. It claimed that all targets were hit.
However, there hasn’t been evidence of any hits in Kyiv.
The Ukrainian military has not reported any hits either. Buses and a garage were among the sites where the fire broke out in Kyiv, due to missile debris falling, according to the emergency service.
Later in the evening, CNN reported, citing an unnamed U.S. official, that one of the two Patriot systems provided to Ukraine “was likely damaged, but not destroyed,” due to the May 16 airstrike. It added that the degree of the damage is currently being assessed, and then a decision will be made on whether the system needs to be sent abroad for repair or it can be fixed in Ukraine.
Moscow claimed to have hit and “destroyed” a Patriot system with a Kinzhal missile overnight.
Kyiv has not reacted to the CNN report or Russia’s claims yet.