Key Takeaways

  • Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin declared victory in Bakhmut City on May 20 and announced his intent to withdraw from the city on May 25.
  • Prigozhin’s claimed victory over the remaining areas in Bakhmut is purely symbolic even if true.
  • Ukrainian forces continue pressuring Bakhmut’s northern and southern flanks.
  • Wagner forces are unlikely to successfully conduct a controlled withdrawal from Bakhmut while in contact with Ukrainian forces within five days without disrupting the Russian MoD’s efforts to prepare for planned Ukrainian counteroffensives.
  • Russian conventional forces likely will still need to transfer additional forces to the Bakhmut direction even if Wagner mercenaries remain in Bakhmut.
  • Russian forces targeted Kyiv Oblast with Iranian-made Shahed drones on the night of May 19 to 20.
  • US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated on May 20 that the United States may agree to transfer modern combat aircraft to Ukraine, including the F-16, on the condition that Ukraine does not use them to strike Russian territory.
  • Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar reported that Russian sources are falsely alleging that high-ranking Ukrainian military commanders have recently died, likely to demoralize Ukrainian forces and to portray Russian forces as constraining Ukrainian counteroffensive capabilities.
  • Russian forces continued limited ground attacks in the Kreminna area.
  • Russian forces continued to conduct ground attacks on the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
  • The Washington Post reported on May 19 that a Ukrainian commander stated that Ukrainian Special Operations forces conduct raids in east (left) bank Kherson Oblast but that Ukrainian forces do not hold stable positions there.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) is incorporating mobilized and conscripted personnel into its own “Veterany” private military company (PMC), leading to discrimination and conflict.
  • A Lithuanian official publicly accused Russia of attempting to hold international children hostage in occupied Crimea as “human shields” against a future Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Authors: Kateryna Stepanenko, Riley Bailey, Grace Mappes, George Barros, and Frederick W. Kagan.

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