There have been few developments in northern Ukraine, the risk of a Russian or Belarusian ground invasion of the area remains low; however, Russian missile attacks still occur and the area is unsafe. Furthermore, in Sumy, the Russian army continues to shell from across the border, causing instability.
In eastern Ukraine, Russian forces have been able to hold their new positions around Kharkiv and the Ukrainian counteroffensive has come to a standstill. Russia continue to fire on the city, and the towns and villages surrounding the city. However, Russia has not been able to conduct a ground offensive regaining its lost territories around Kharkiv.
Russia is starting to rebuild damaged infrastructure in occupied areas in eastern Ukraine, facilitating the movement of troops and logistical issues. South of Izyum, Russian troops made minor assaults towards Sloviansk and Barvinkove; however, it is unknown if these assaults were successful or not. Russia’s renewed interest in the area south of Izyum suggest that Russia might attempt to encircle greater Donbas; however it is too early to determine if this is Russia’s ambition. A key indicator would be if Russia seizes Velyka Novosilka in southern Donbas, and move northwards towards Bernikove; however, it is unlikely that Russia would be able to conduct such an extensive operation at the moment. Russian forces are consolidating their positions in and around Lyman and reports suggest that fighting is ongoing in Raihorodok – six kilometres northeast of Sloviansk. Although Russian troops are close to the city, and although Russia will most likely launch an assault on the city in the near future, it is unlikely that Russia will be able to mount an offensive on Sloviansk until Russian troops have successfully seized Severdonetsk. Russia is yet to fully encircle Severodonetsk, however, reports suggest that Russian forces are already in the city centre. Russian forces continue to, albeit at a slow pace, gain territory east and south of Bakhmut; however, as with Sloviansk, it remains unlikely that Russia will be able to launch an offensive on the city until its operations in Severodonetsk are successfully completed.
In southern Ukraine, Ukrainian troops successfully launched counteroffensives and regained territory north of Kherson, however, it is believed that Russian troops later retook these areas. Thus, there have been no major territorial changes. At large, the situation in the south remains unchanged, Russia continue to consolidate its occupied territories by setting up additional defence mechanisms and strengthening its bureaucratic control. Although the risk of Russian ground advances towards Mykolaiv and Odesa remain low, sporadic Russian missile attacks occur and the area remains dangerous.
There have been no major developments in western Ukraine.
Developments in Russia
The RBC a large Russian media outlet stated in their report, gold reserves in Russian banks fell by 20 percent in February-March period.
Gazprom has announced that it will stop supplying natural gas to the Netherlands on 31 May. The reason is Gasterra’s refusal to pay for gas in rubles. Gasterra explained that they were rejecting Russia’s demands for payment because it would violate EU sanctions against Russia.
According to a study by the Ukrainian Institute of the Future, Russia is experiencing a shortage of electronics and semiconductor products. Against the background of sanctions, Russia has lost supplies from the United States, Taiwan, Japan, and the EU. The lack of technological equipment is planned to be compensated by more expensive supplies of used equipment under the ”parallel import” program.
Western companies continue to cease their operations in Russia. Netflix has formally announced that the service is leaving Russian market and they were waiting for the end of the payment cycle. The company has official left the country and blocked its serviced in the Russian market. German professional cosmetics manufacturer Wella has also announced that it ceases to operate in Russia after 28 years. In 2021, the company had a revenue amounted to 1.7 billion rubles. According to the Association of Entrepreneurs of the beauty industry, the company’s exit is expected to be a serious blow to the beauty industry, as Wella products occupied 40% of the market.
Late on 30 May, the EU signed an agreement to ban most of Russian oil imports by 2023, as part of a sixth package of sanctions against Rusia. After weeks of negotiations, the ban covers oil and petroleum imports by sea and Poland and Germany to stop oil imports from the Druzhba pipeline, which together will cover 90 percent of Russian oil imports. However, it is an exemption for oil delivered by pipeline with the aim of provide extra time to Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic to diversify its oil imports. This ban is likely to lead to distortion of competition in the EU oil market. In addition, Bulgaria has been exempted from the European Union embargo on Russian oil until the end of 2024 according to Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov.
The EU first proposed the embargo on Russian oil purchases in early May, highlighting the difficulties in finding a way to increase sanctions against Russia without damaging the European economy. However, further sanctions are expected if Russia continues military operations in Ukraine. The measures are expected to include a ban on the re-export of Russian crude arriving by pipeline and a ban on the resale of products refined from Russian crude, as part of efforts to minimize market distortions.
Poland has announced that they will be handing to Ukraine over 18 Krab AHS self-propelled howitzers, and the Czech Republic is providing an additional 30 million US dollars in security assistance.
The focus of the war is likely to remain in the Donbas for the foreseeable future. It is likely that Russia will continue to assault Severodonetsk in the near future and will continue to push westwards once Severodonetsk, the last Ukrainian controlled city in Luhansk, falls. It is likely that Russia will attempt to seize Ukrainian cities along the M-03 highway in the Donbas, most importantly Sloviansk and Bakhmut. Once Russia has successfully seized the Donbas (Luhansk and Donbas regions), it is likely that Russia’s second objective will be to push westwards from Kherson and seize Mykolaiv and finally Odesa. However, it is unlikely that Russia will be able to conduct such an operation in the near future – seizing the Donbas has proven to be harder than predicted. However, Ukrainian resistance is slowly being worn down and, unless Ukraine receive substantial military aid from the West, it is likely that Russia will eventually be successful and seize the Donbas.
According to the intelligence sources, next week, the White House will announce a decision to grant Ukraine ML2 M270-multiple launch rocket systems. The main reason for the lengthy consideration of the Ukrainian request was for the U.S. National Security Council to weigh in on the possibility of escalating the situation, and Moscow reading it as a confrontation with Washington. Earlier, the American side reportedly provided the Ukrainian military with intelligence on Russian Federation forces and assets throughout Ukraine, including Crimea, and deliberately did not supply anything that affected Russian territory. The announced provision of anti-ship missiles, the probable supply of MLRS M270 and some other items could be part of a military-diplomatic strategy to eliminate threats to Odesa and other cities and unblock the supply of Ukrainian grain by sea. This could make it possible to avoid the global food crisis that is resulted by the Russia-Ukraine war. In addition to the actual humanitarian catastrophe, the famine could create favorable conditions for various terrorist groups in different parts of the world, according to the commander of the U.S. military in Europe.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described the ”liberation” of the Donbas as an ”unconditional priority” for Russia during an interview on French television TF1 on May 29. This statement once again highlights the military strategic shift to focus on the conquest of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces. Lavrov also stated that ”other Ukrainian territories should decide their own future,” referring to the provinces of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, although it was unclear whether his statement refers to a referendum in these territories regarding independence or annexation to Russia.
The Ukrainian and Turkish presidents held a phone call on May 30, during which Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his desire to hold direct talks with President Vladimir Putin, according to the Turkish foreign minister. However, Putin is unlikely to agree to this. Turkey continue to facilitate indirect communications between both government leaders.