Even so, May 5 felt like a day when something changed. From early in the day there was word that Ukrainian troops near Izyum had gone on the offensive, with Ukrainian artillery lighting up Russian positions all along the extensive salient and Ukrainian troops pressing back on Russian forces at multiple points. Then later in the day, Russia seem to be pressing an attempt to recapture towns that Ukraine had recently liberated both in the area near Kherson and around Kharkiv. As the day ends in Ukraine, it seems that Russia failed at every point.
In the area north of Kharkiv, NASA’s FIRMS data made it clear that some heavy exchanges of artillery were underway on Thursday along the road between Kharkiv and Staryi Saltiv. However, when Russia tried to follow shelling with a direct assault, it did not go well. This may have been near the village of Fedorivka, where destruction of Russian forces were reported, though it’s not certain.
Near Kherson, there were reports that Russians again attempted an airborne landing, moving troops into the area near Vysokopillya by helicopter. Unverified reports state that at least two helicopters were destroyed and the attempt failed, mirroring earlier failures of such tactics at Hostomel and Kharkiv.
There are also reports that four villages were recaptured by Ukrainian forces, but the villages are not named. One Telegram report indicated that Ukrainian forces had entered Tomyna Balka, a village barely 15 miles west of Kherson … but the location seems unlikely based on the last known status of surrounding towns and villages.
Down in Mariupol, three days of Russia attempting to dig the remaining defenders out of the Azovstal factory resulted in the destruction of a huge number of buildings and some hard fighting. As of midday, Russia was once again dangling the promise of a humanitarian corridor if the resistance would just please leave. Then it promptly violated an offered truce. Fighting rages on.
Russian forces surrounded Mariupol and laid siege to the city starting on March 2, a week after the invasion began. By April 12, Russian troops moved into the city in force, even as Ukrainian resistance fought a desperate holding action in the streets, parks, and factories. On April 22, most of the Ukrainian forces remaining in the city—both Azov Regiment and other Ukrainian units—took refuge in the Azovstal complex; 64 days after Russia surrounded Mariupol, they are still there.
That doesn’t mean they’re not suffering from terrible conditions. When a small number of people were allowed to be removed from the hospital there earlier this week following a visit from U.N. representatives, they didn’t allow any wounded soldiers to be taken out. Those remaining in Azovstal report that some of these men are now dying from simple infections, because there are no antibiotics left.
Elsewhere in eastern Ukraine, Russia damaged an older T-64 tank, forcing the crew to pop out and run for it (they seem to have made it) while Ukraine at least damaged, if not eliminated, an artillery battery.
At the end of the day, there aren’t any big Ukrainian gains to talk about, no new Staryi Saltiv or other bold stroke. But there were absolutely a lot of Russian defeats—including in the latest efforts to capture Popasna.
But there seems to be a new attitude in the Ukrainian military—one that holds it’s no longer time to sit back and let Russia fritter away forces at Putin’s pace. Instead they’re pressing Russian positions, going on the offensive, and bringing the fighting to places that Russia likely felt were safe. That may or may not be a turn of the tide, but it seems like a wave starting to build.
Note: I’ll provided updated maps when I have some confirmations on villages that have changed hands. There are a number of scattered reports today, but little information from familiar and trusted sources. Hopefully that will be corrected soon.
Co-founder of Sister District, Gaby Goldstein, joins The Downballot to discuss what Democrats in the states are doing to protect abortion rights
Following Wednesday’s revelation that the U.S. helped Ukraine locate Russian generals, comes this news that Putin is going to love… and which everyone pretty much knew from the outset.