May 16, 2023 - Russia-Ukraine news

By Tara Subramaniam, Christian Edwards, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 12:04 a.m. ET, May 17, 2023
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8:56 p.m. ET, May 15, 2023

Heavy shelling but little movement on eastern front lines, Ukraine's military says 

From CNN's Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych

There’s been little change on the front lines in Ukraine over the past day, according to the Ukrainian military — but plenty of shelling.

In its daily report, the Ukrainian General Staff said there was heavy fighting around Bakhmut and that Russia had launched “unsuccessful offensive actions” in several locations to the west and southwest of the eastern city.

Russians also targeted other areas on the front lines in Donetsk, including Avdiivka, Mariinka and Vuhledar, with a mix of airstrikes and artillery fire. “There were 37 combat engagements. Bakhmut and Mariinka remain at the epicenter of the fighting,” it said.

“Ukrainian defense forces repelled numerous enemy attacks near the town of Mariinka,” it said. The town is in ruins and almost every civilian has left.

Yuriy Fedorenko, an officer in Ukraine’s 92nd Brigade, posted on Telegram that in Bakhmut Ukrainian defenders had managed not only to stabilize the situation but also to gain an advantage in some areas over the past three days.

“The enemy has been pushed away from the main routes of communication, which means that their intention to take Bakhmut in a vice grip has been thwarted,” Fedorenko said.

The General Staff said the Russians had launched more attacks with S-300 missiles against the town of Kostiantynivka, which lies west of Bakhmut.

Geolocated social media video also shows Russian attacks in the Kharkiv region, where the two sides are separated by the river Oskil in some areas.

The General Staff said that in Russian-occupied areas, civilians were still being pressured to take Russian citizenship.

In the Zaporizhzhia region, it said:

“People who agreed to cooperate with the Russian occupiers have been asked to renounce their Ukrainian citizenship in writing and accept Russian citizenship. Those who refuse are threatened by the invaders with dismissal from their jobs and further persecution.”

It also claimed that security checks on the civilian population had been stepped up in Crimea.

8:55 p.m. ET, May 15, 2023

31 US Abrams tanks have arrived in Germany for training of Ukrainian forces, Pentagon says

From CNN's Oren Liebermann

Thirty-one M1 Abrams tanks have arrived in Germany ahead of a training program for Ukrainian forces on the US tanks, the Pentagon said Monday. 

The Ukrainian crews are expected to begin training at Grafenwohr in Germany in the next couple of weeks, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said at a briefing Monday. The training program is expected to take several months, and the tanks are expected to be sent to Ukraine sometime in the fall. 

The tanks now arriving in Germany are specifically meant for training Ukrainian crews while the tanks that will ultimately be sent to Ukraine are going through refurbishment and preparation for shipment, Ryder said. 

“Because we’re doing this concurrently, we will be able to provide those tanks to them in the fall timeframe to get them into Ukraine before the end of the year,” Ryder said.
11:25 p.m. ET, May 15, 2023

Ukraine says Russian forces are no longer capable of large-scale offensive actions

From CNN's Tim Lister and Kostan Nechyporenko

The Defense Intelligence of Ukraine said Russian forces are no longer capable of large-scale offensive action and are mainly on the defensive — but Moscow is able to sustain the current rate of missile attacks.

Defense Intelligence spokesperson Andriy Yusov told Ukrainian television Monday that Russia "is on the defensive" when it comes to discussing "the entire front line" and they are without the resources "to repeat large-scale offensive actions."

"They have been preparing for defense all this time, and this is a serious factor that the Ukrainian command certainly takes into account when preparing for the de-occupation of Ukrainian territories," the official added.

Yusov said the goal of Russian missile strikes have changed and their intensity has lessened since the winter when there were high-volume attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.

The Russians had a shortage of some types of missiles, such as the Kalibr, he claimed.

“They are actively looking for ways to compensate for and change not only the Shaheds [Iranian-made attack drones] ...They are looking for weapons all over the world. So far, they have not been very successful," he said.

Despite this, Yusov said the Russians are "capable of sustaining the intensity of attacks,” at least for now. He estimated that they still have large stockpiles of S-300 missiles, which are capable of considerable destruction. The S-300 was designed as an anti-air weapon but the Russians have frequently used it in a ground-to-ground mode, in which it is not very accurate.

Yusov said that on Ukraine’s northern border, the Russians were increasingly using “subversive reconnaissance groups” that were trying to probe border regions. Some had shot at civilians in the northern region of Chernihiv, he alleged.

Belarus leader: The Ukrainian official also claimed that Kyiv was aware of the “health problems” of Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko, but said he would not elaborate on the topic "for various reasons." Lukashenko has not been seen in public since a recent visit to Moscow. On Sunday he did not appear at a national celebration in the capital Minsk to mark the annual Day of the State Flag, Emblem, and Anthem of Belarus.

8:45 p.m. ET, May 15, 2023

Wagner chief denies report he offered Russian intelligence to Ukraine in exchange for territory

From CNN's Kostan Nechyporenko, Victoria Butenko, Anna Chernova and Sana Noor Haq

Yevgeny Prigozhin has denied a report that he proposed sharing Russian intelligence with Kyiv in exchange for ceded territory around the besieged city of Bakhmut — a denial that came days after the Wagner chief issued a series of criticisms revealing deep fissures within Moscow over the war in Ukraine.

The Washington Post article was based on a trove of highly classified US intelligence documents leaked on social media in April, which revealed the degree to which the US has penetrated Wagner and the Russian Ministry of Defense.

The Post reported Sunday that Prigozhin offered to give the Ukrainian military information on Russian troop positions if Kyiv would pull back its forces from the area around Bakhmut, which remains a key battleground in the Kremlin’s attempted advance through eastern Ukraine.

Prigozhin made the offer to Ukraine’s military intelligence directorate, known as HUR, in January, the Post alleged. It quoted one leaked document as stating that Prigozhin met HUR officers in an unspecified country in Africa.

But the head of the Russian paramilitary group speculated the story could have been planted by his enemies, according to an audio message posted to his Telegram channel on Monday.

“I can say with confidence, if we’re being serious, that I have not been in Africa at least since the beginning of the conflict, but in fact a few months before the start of the SMO (Special Military Operation),” Prigozhin said, referring to Moscow’s euphemism for the war in Ukraine. “Therefore, I simply could not meet with anyone there physically.”

Read more here.