Key developments on May 1:
- Ukraine’s military forces Russian troops to ‘abandon some positions' in Bakhmut, commander says
- Infrastructure reportedly sabotaged in two Russian regions
- UK Defense Ministry: Russia’s defensive build-up suggests 'deep concern' over Ukrainian breakthrough, alleges
- Defense Minister 'confident' Ukraine to receive modern fighter jets
Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of Ukraine’s Land Forces, said that Ukraine launched counterattacks in Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast, forcing Russian troops to abandon some positions.
The situation near the embattled town of Bakhmut remains "quite complicated," and "intense" fighting continues as Russian troops try to break through Ukrainian defense lines "in several directions," Syrskyi reported on May 1.
Wagner Group, other Russian mercenary outfits, as well as airborne troops of the regular Russian army, are "constantly rushing into battle" despite "significant losses," Syrskyi said.
Ukraine’s forces repelled Russian attacks near Lyman in Donetsk Oblast, capturing 10 Russian soldiers "over the past few days," he added.
The Battle for Bakhmut has raged on for the past nine months, as Russian troops aim to capture the entire Donetsk Oblast, around half of which it currently occupies.
Aside from Bakhmut, Russia keeps focusing its main offensive efforts on Avdiivka, Lyman, and Marinka in Donetsk Oblast, where Ukraine's forces repelled over 30 Russian attacks on May 1, the General Staff reported in its evening update.
According to the military, Bakhmut and Marinka, a small industrial town north of Russian-occupied Donetsk, remain the epicenters of Russian attacks.
Apart from Donetsk Oblast, on May 1, Russian forces attacked Luhansk, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Sumy, and Chernihiv oblasts with missiles, guided bombs, and artillery, the military said.
Russian troops launched two guided bombs at Chernihiv Oblast’s village of Lyzunivka, killing a teenage girl and injuring two civilians, Ukraine’s Northern Operational Command reported.
The guided bombs partially destroyed a school and several houses, according to the report.
Russian forces also attacked Kizomys village in southern Kherson Oblast with two guided bombs, the regional military administration reported.
The regional authorities are to clarify details about the victims and the extent of the destruction, according to the report.
Sabotage in Russia
Russian officials reported explosions on May 1 on the power lines in Russia's Leningrad region and a railway in the Bryansk region that borders Ukraine.
A cargo train transporting fuel and construction materials was derailed in Bryansk region when "an unidentified explosive device" went off near the tracks, the regional governor Alexander Bogomaz claimed in a Telegram post.
No casualties were reported, but railway traffic in that direction has been suspended following the explosion.
An explosion also hit power lines in Leningrad region, which borders Finland, a newcomer NATO member.
Regional Governor Aleksandr Drozdenko said that Russian authorities found what was "presumably an explosive device."
Power supply to populated areas and civilian infrastructure was allegedly not disrupted, he said, adding that "complex operational search measures" were being taken to "identify” those responsible for the explosion.
Since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, there have been multiple reports about fires breaking out across Russia and other sabotage acts. Russian authorities claim these attacks were carried out by the Ukrainian military or local partisan groups.
Technically, operations carried out on foreign soil fall within the purview of Ukraine's military intelligence.
Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, Kyrylo Budanov, denied all the allegations. However, he told the Washington Post in January that “problems inside Russia” would happen “until the territorial integrity of Ukraine is restored.”
Russia’s concerns over Ukraine’s upcoming counteroffensive
Russian extensive military defensive setup suggests “deep concern” over a major Ukrainian breakthrough, the U.K. Defense Ministry said in its daily intelligence update on May 1.
Since last summer, Russian forces have built in the occupied Ukrainian territories and inside Russia "some of the most extensive systems of military defensive works seen anywhere in the world for many decades," according to the ministry.
Russia dug "hundreds of miles" of trenches both in occupied Ukrainian regions and "well inside" Belgorod and Kursk regions that border Ukraine, the ministry said.
In addition to fears of a Ukrainian breakthrough, the defensive measures are likely also "attempts to promote the official narrative that Russia is 'threatened' by Ukraine and NATO," according to the ministry.
Ukraine is expected to launch a major counteroffensive in the coming weeks. The long-awaited military campaign is seen as a critical juncture to liberate territories that Russian forces seized.
Russian failures during the ongoing offensive in Donetsk Oblast likely led to the division of the responsibilities between two Ministry of Defense blocs, the Institute for the Study of War said in its latest assessment, published on April 30.
The D.C.-based think-tank said that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s initial reluctance to appoint an overall commander led to “cascading effects on the Russian military, including fueling intense factionalization, disorganizing command structures, and feeding unattainable expectations.”
The report alleges reluctance could have derived from Putin’s fear that individual military commanders would amass too much power due to the appointment.
As Putin preferred to demote personnel instead of dismissing them, these rotations also prevented the creation of a stable command structure, according to the ISW.
Ukraine’s counteroffensive will likely inform Putin’s decision about the leaders of the Russian military, as it happened after the previous successful Ukrainian military actions to liberate occupied territories in the fall of 2022.
“The Russian commander who faces the main direction of the potential upcoming counteroffensive will either demonstrate resounding success in defeating the counteroffensive or notable failure,” according to the report.
The results will likely determine how favorably the commander will compare to the rest of the Russian military leaders.
Modern fighter jets for Ukraine
Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said he is ‘confident’ that Ukraine would receive modern fighter jets, which Kyiv has long been campaigning for.
Ukraine had already gone through the process of being told that receiving certain weapons was impossible to see it happen "several times," he said, citing received Patriot air defense systems, HIMARS, 155 mm caliber artillery, and other military hardware as examples.
Reznikov said partners of Ukraine have been "very practical” in the decision-making, and there is “a certain understandable meaning” in this approach.
"(Our allies) consciously and responsibly want to reach the finish line of this marathon, that is, the victory of Ukraine," Reznikov said on national television on May 1.
Ukraine has been requesting modern fighter jets, like the American-made F-16, for months to protect its skies and maximize the effectiveness of the military during the future counteroffensive.
However, multiple Western allies, most notably the U.S. and Germany, have ruled out sending fighter jets in the near term, while debates about their delivery are ongoing.
Critics argue that allies' reluctance to supply modern fighter jest as well as long-range ATACMS missiles could hinder Ukraine from liberating the rest of Russian-occupied territories, prolonging Russia’s war and resulting in thousands of deaths.