Good evening everybody!
For the start, I would recommend the reader who still doesn’t understand I’m from AUSTRIA (that’s why there’s a note ‘Mozart, NO Kangaroos’ within my ‘introduction’) to pay attention about that detail. I know, there are people who can’t associate ‘Mozart’ with Austria’, and I understand, it’s still coming as a major shock for many (not only in Europe, but especially in the USA), but: after 11,000-14,000 years of what is known as ‘globalisation’, meanwhile, one really can’t gauge origins of people by their names alone…
Otherwise, that with my absences (no ‘vacation’: haven’t had any in something like 10+ years), and this war in Ukraine is really becoming ‘suspect’, to say the least. Seems I can’t put one big toe outside my office, without something of importance happening. In this case, it was even something about air warfare (and then closely reminiscent of 2-3 March the last year, when it was ‘raining Russians in Ukraine’; this time it was ‘raining Russians - in Russia’).
Cannot keep myself back from observing that, after months of bad, and then worse news in this regards, this was a sort of ‘pleasant’ surprise – so much so, I’ll come back to that topic with more details in the coming days.
Early on 12 May, Ukrainians delivered a tremendous strike on the Machine Building Plant No. 100, in Luhansk. This was hit by two ‘weapons’, and really smashed to pieces. I’m talking about ‘weapons’ because it’s not yet 100% sure what was deployed for this - AFAIK - first-ever, Ukrainian strike on Luhansk: apparently, most of Ukraine is convinced, it was ‘Storm Shadow’. The Russian media promptly ‘confirmed’ it was two Storm Shadows, but some in the Russian social media claimed it was two of Ukrainian Hrim-2 ballistic missiles (see: slightly improved OTR-21 Tochka, aka SS-21). Gauging by photos of pieces of wreckage released later during the day, the strike was supported by the release of US-made ADM-160 MALD: these are decoys, mimicking operations of manned aircraft. They’re used to attract attention of enemy air defences, and prompt it to open fire (I’m going to explain that in the coming days, too).
Later during the day, a Mi-28N of the VKS crashed near the village of Svitle, in the occupied Crimea. Supposedly, during a training flight. The crew of two was killed – thus joining an already long list of crews of the 36th Helicopter Aviation Regiment that experienced similar fate - all in this ‘special military operation’, since 24 February 2022…
Of course, there ‘had to be a revenge, “God” wills it’ – and thus Gerasimov ordered an additional missile- and LPGM-strike on Ukraine. Early on 13 May, the Russians launched a stream of 21 Shahed-131/136 in direction of Kyiv. 17 of these were claimed as shot down by 06.00hrs in the morning (plus one Orlan-10 and several Lancets)…but, one or two Shaheds hit ‘critical infrastructure in the Khmelnytskyi Oblast’, wounding an unknown number of people.
Shortly later (i.e. early on 13 May), ‘something’ hit the old building of the Luhansk Academy of Internal Affairs – used by the VSRF already since 2015 (see: Russian military base). The building was completely shattered but the number of victims is unknown. According to the Russian media, this time they claim to have found wreckage of a Storm Shadow missile at the site of this attack:
Later during the day, the Keystone Cops in Moscow claimed to have shot down a MiG-29 and Su-24 of the PSU. Of course, and as usually, no evidence was provided in support of such claims at all. And yes, I know, I know…. By their accounts, they’ve shot down almost 400 Ukrainian aircraft, which would mean something like three times as many as the PSU actually used to have at the start of the war, plus everything Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia might have sent by now. Because, they’re fighting all of NATO, you know. Thus, sure: ‘blessed who trusts this’, but (and foremost): It was only a start, then through the following hours ever more reports about losses of the Russian Air-Space Force (VKS) emerged.
As first, two helicopters came down: one over the town of Klintsy, another outside the village of Suretskii Muravei.
They were followed by one Su-34 and then a Su-35 of the VKS. By the evening – and as announced (with quite some satisfaction) by official Kyiv, the total was at two jets (Su-34 and Su-35 each), and three helicopters, and that nearly all came down in the Bryansk Oblast.
What is known by now is that one of downed Mi-8s was no ‘vanilla’ version, but a Mi-8MTPR: an electronic warfare variant, only some 20 of which ware in service. Which is making at least one theory about the weapon used ‘quite interesting’. But, more about this in the coming days: in this place, sufficient to say that while the area where the two fighter jets and two of the reported three helicopters were shot down is known, there are lots of versions about the circumstances and reasons of these losses. Early on, most of claims stressed ‘own goals’: i.e. that they were shot down by Russian air defences. Then, many Russians claimed them as shot down by ‘saboteurs’ (apparently using MANPADs?). Meanwhile, some went as far as to claim that US-made electronic warfare systems confused the Russians, causing them to open fire at their own aircraft and helicopters. Others claim at least one of kills (one of helicopters) – if not ‘both the Su-34 and one of Mi-8s’ – was (were) scored by PSU’s Su-27s, using US/Western-made air-to-air missiles.
….I think that, for the time being, it’s good there’s that much confusion…
Finally, sometimes later on 13 May, the ZSU claimed a 2S6 Tunguska CIWS as destroyed by one of its Caesar SPHs. Not sure this was on the 13th, but ultimately, doesn’t matter that much. What does matter is that the VKS is experiencing at least as many problems with acquiring replacements for such weapons as the (Army/Ground Forces of the) VSRF is experiencing with getting replacement T-90s…
Early today (14 May), the Russians released a combination of 18 Shahed-131/136, four air-launched cruise missiles, four UAVs, and a number of Lancets upon Ukraine. Ukrainians claimed all 18 Shahed, three cruise missiles, and two Orlans as shot down. What was hit by those projectiles that came trough… no idea.
Meanwhile, ‘half the NATO’ was searching for an unknown flying object that entered the Polish airspace coming from within Belarus. Apparently, it was an observation balloon that crashed in the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship.
BATTLE OF DONBASS
Svatove-Kremina….it was all so nice and quiet there….until, on 13 May, the ZSU attacked and – according to Russian claims - breached the VSRF positions in the Kuzemovka area, about 15km north-west of Svatove. The Russian social media is full of related reports, even if not adding any kind of details. Ukrainian side is ‘zip-lip’ (that is: the Ukrainian social media is largely copy-pasting Russian reports). For its part, official Kyiv is merely reporting a failed Russian offensive in the Kupyansk area, supported by 27 air strikes…
Bakhmut…. For 11 and 12 May, the Russians claimed that the ZSU pushed back their lines in direction of Berkhivka, north of Bakhmut, by some 2-3 kilometres. As mentioned earlier, even the Keystone Cops in Moscow confirmed this. As far as I know, Ukrainians never confirmed anything at all, but if so: involved units should’ve been a battalion each of the 60th, 92nd and 93rd Mech. On 13 May, the Russians then reported additional Ukrainian attacks – and successes – west of Minkivka, west of Novomarkove, and west of Hryhorivka. In each case, it was something like ‘one field here, and another hedgerow there’, and this is something I can confirm (even if I’ve got no ‘links with evidence’ in support of this).
Meanwhile, on 13 May – and after, reportedly, absorbing a ‘vicious Russian counterattack by artillery’, the two previous days – the ZSU (apparently the 3rd and 5th Assault and the 80th Airborne), continued their attacks in direction of Klishchivka, south-west/south of Bakhmut. They started with artillery strikes, and went on with usual mechanised infantry attacks: in the wake of massive losses of the 72nd Motor Rifle Brigade, VSRF (some 200+ killed; two companies destroyed, and this according to Russian sources), the last week, the Russian positions in front of them were meanwhile occupied by the 4th (Separatist) Motor Rifle Brigade. The Ukrainians claim this was the ‘best’ VSRF-unit in the Bakhmut area and (even the official Kyiv said so), that they’ve captured ‘more than 10 Russian positions in the north and south of the outskirts of Bakhmut.
The Russians say the 4th was in the battle all the time since 24 February 2022, never withdrawn for rest, but re-built ‘on the fly’. According to the Russians, the 4th took over positions of the Wagner, which were incomplete: the ‘Musicians’ constructed only knee-deep trenches. Further according to the Russians, the ZSU deployed severe electronic countermeasures during this attack, blocking the work of the Russian drones. That’s where available reports are getting contradictive: according to Ukrainians the 4th collapsed and fled. When its commander, Colonel Makarov, and his staff attempted to stop their fleeing troops, they were hit by artillery (and that while in Klishchivka): Makarov and his chief of staff were killed, as was the commander of his 4th Motor Rifle Battalion, and Colonel Brovko sent from the HQ of the II Army Corps: the deputy commander of the 4th Motor Rifle Battalion was badly wounded.
Prigozhin’s statements are always following the same line: ‘columns of the Russian army fleeing’. However, according to other Russians, nobody fled. On the contrary, Ukrainians didn’t even press home their attack: whenever encountering resistance, they called for artillery support which then pulverised whatever was in their way… because nowadays, the ZSU is not lacking artillery ammo.
What is not certain is how far did Ukrainians get: as early as of 13 May, around noon, there were reports that Klishchivka was liberated. As of today, everybody is still zip-lip: guess, the 3rd, 5th, 56th, and 80th are meanwhile ‘outside Klishchivka’…
Well, one way or the other, at least one thing is sure:
Avdiivka… while the Russians did complete the occupation of (what is left of) Kamyanka, back on 10-11 May, three days later – i.e. on 13 May – the ZSU artillery hit the HQ of the 1st (‘Separatist’) Brigade, right at the time as the CO I Army Corps VSRF was around there – but, the Russians claim they’ve had no losses: just damaged equipment. Perhaps in the same attack (though this is anything else than sure), they also hit one of usual Russian ‘hideouts’ underneath the local sections of highways (probably the one between Kashtanove and Spartak), and blew it up.
Elsewhere…. Sumy, Nikopol and Kherson were repeatedly shelled – sometimes by BM-27 and BM-30 multiple rocket launchers – the last two days. Also heavily hit was the area of Kamyanske, south of Zaporizhzhya (City): seems, the Russians razed an entire village in that area to the ground…
From the rubric ‘Ah yes, and….’
1.) The PSU is now operating Swedish-made RBS-70 CIWS (close-in weapons system), supported by PS-70 Giraffe 40 low-altitude radars. Apparently, the first system is deployed in the Kyiv area.
2.) A growing number of Western observers is superimposing the extensive line of fortifications constructed by the Russians all the way from north-western Luhansk, down the Donetsk, through southern Zaporizhzhya to the Dnipro River. Some are even calling it the ‘Putin Line’. However, better-informed Russians seem to call it the ‘Faberge Line’: according to them, yes, the VSRF spent the entire winter to plant mines, position ‘dragon teeth’ (obstacles for vehicles), dig trenches and ramparts etc., but all of this is proving useless: Ukrainians are attacking where there are no such fortifications, forcing the Russians into makeshift positions, where (quote), ‘ZSU is on advantage and the Russians cannot retreat’. Moreover, there are yet more complaints about critical shortages of artillery, lack of drones, even lack of communication gear and electronic warfare equipment. With other words: people are expressing strong doubts this line might hold what it was ‘promising’ to hold. I’m ‘posting this for the records’: we’re going to see…
Looking forard to your next "holiday".
Thanks a lot Tom.