Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks in Ukraine on May 2. The April 30 Ukrainian artillery strike on the Russian command post in Izyum may be continuing to disrupt Russian efforts on the Izyum axis. Russian troops on the Donetsk-Luhansk frontline and Southern Axis continued to regroup, likely in preparation for renewed offensives or to resist or reverse Ukrainian counter-offensives.
Further Russian reinforcements to the Izyum axis are unlikely to enable stalled Russian forces to achieve substantial advances. Elements of unspecified Eastern Military District units and several air-defense assets are reportedly deploying from Belgorod to the Izyum front to support likely degraded Russian units attempting to advance south of the city. These forces are unlikely to enable Russian forces to break the current deadlock, as Russian attacks remain confined to two major highways (toward Slovyansk and Barvinkove) and cannot leverage greater numbers. Several successful Ukrainian counterattacks out of Kharkiv city in the last 72 hours have additionally recaptured a ring of suburbs north and east of the city and may additionally force Russian forces to redeploy units intended for the Izyum axis to hold these positions. Russian forces appear increasingly unlikely to achieve any major advances in eastern Ukraine, and Ukrainian forces may be able to conduct wider counterattacks in the coming days.
Russian forces made limited advances west of Severodonetsk on April 29 but remain stalled south of Izyum. Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine are likely successfully conducting a maneuver defense rather than holding static positions, redeploying mechanized reserves to resist attempted Russian advances. Concentrated Russian artillery is enabling minor Russian advances, but Ukrainian positions remain strong. Limited Ukrainian counterattacks around Kharkiv city may additionally force Russian forces to redeploy units intended for the Izyum axis to hold these positions.
Russian forces have adopted a sounder pattern of operational movement in eastern Ukraine, at least along the line from Izyum to Rubizhne. Russian troops are pushing down multiple roughly parallel roads within supporting distance of one another, allowing them to bring more combat power to bear than their previous practice had supported. Russian troops on this line are making better progress than any other Russian advances in this phase of the war. They are pushing from Izyum southwest toward Barvinkove and southeast toward Slovyansk. They are also pushing several columns west and south of Rubizhne, likely intending to encircle it and complete its capture. The Russian advances even in this area are proceeding methodically rather than rapidly, however, and it is not clear how far they will be able to drive or whether they will be able to encircle Ukrainian forces in large numbers.
Russian forces conducted precision missile strikes against five Ukrainian railway stations in central and western Ukraine on April 25 in a likely effort to disrupt Ukrainian reinforcements to eastern Ukraine and Western aid shipments. A series of likely coordinated Russian missile strikes conducted within an hour of one another early on April 25 hit critical transportation infrastructure in Vinnytsia, Poltava, Khmelnytskyi, Rivne, and Zhytomyr oblasts. Russian forces seek to disrupt Ukrainian reinforcements and logistics. The Kremlin may have additionally conducted this series of strikes—an abnormal number of precision missile strikes for one day—to demonstrate Russia’s ability to hit targets in Western Ukraine and to disrupt western aid shipments after US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s surprise visit to Kyiv over the weekend. However, Russian precision strike capabilities will remain limited and unlikely to decisively affect the course of the war; open-source research organization Bellingcat reported on April 24 that Russia has likely used 70% of its total stockpile of precision missiles to date.
Russian offensive operations in eastern Ukraine made minor advances around Severodonetsk on April 24, seizing several small towns and establishing a pontoon bridge across the Krasna River west of Severodonetsk. Russia’s offensive in eastern Ukraine continues to follow the pattern of their operations throughout the war, using small units to conduct dispersed attacks along multiple axes rather than taking the pauses necessary to prepare for decisive operations. Russian forces continued to bombard the remaining Ukrainian defenders in Mariupol’s Azovstal Steel Plant and may be preparing for renewed assaults on the facility, which would likely lead to high Russian casualties. The military situation in southern Ukraine did not change in the last 24 hours.
Russian forces continued offensive operations along multiple axes even as they completed moving reinforcements drawn from the retreat from Kyiv into the east and continued redeploying some forces from Mariupol to the north. The Russians have not taken time to refit troops moving from Kyiv or Mariupol before recommitting them to combat operations. They are not pausing offensive operations to wait until they have concentrated overwhelming combat power, and they do not appear to be massing forces on a few decisive axes of advance. They are continuing the pattern of operations they have followed throughout the war: committing small collections of units to widely dispersed attacks along multiple axes and refusing to accept necessary operational pauses to set conditions for decisive operations.
A briefing by the Russian Deputy Commander of the Central Military District on April 22 reiterated standing Russian objectives in eastern and southern Ukraine and did not announce any new operations. Deputy Commander of the Central Military District Rustam Minnekaev gave a speech to the annual meeting of the Union of Defense Industries on April 22 that has been misinterpreted as the announcement of a new Russian campaign. Minnekaev said Russian forces began a new phase of the war two days ago, an unsurprising confirmation of the new phase of the Russian offensive announced by both Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ukrainian officials on April 19. He stated the primary objective of Russian forces is to capture the entirety of the Donbas region and southern Ukraine to provide a land bridge to Crimea; as ISW has previously assessed, Russian forces seek to capture the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts and retain control of the Kherson region.
Russia and Ukraine are unlikely to resume negotiations in the coming weeks. Both sides await the outcome of Russia’s ongoing offensive in eastern Ukraine as they attempt to build leverage for future negotiations. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced that the second phase of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on April 19 and that its objective is the “complete liberation” of the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, which are claimed by Russia’s proxies in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on April 17 that he “[doesn’t] trust the Russian military and Russian leadership” to not attempt to take Kyiv again if they win the battle for eastern Ukraine and re-emphasized that Ukraine is unwilling to give up its territory to end the war.
The Kremlin declared victory in the battle of Mariupol. Russian forces will attempt to starve out remaining Ukrainian defenders in the Azovstal Steel Plant rather than clear it through likely costly assaults. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu declared victory in the battle of Mariupol on April 21 despite the continued presence of Ukrainian forces in Mariupol’s Azovstal Steel Plant. In a staged, televised meeting, Putin ordered Shoigu to halt assaults on the plant to limit Russian casualties, claiming Russian forces have already captured the entirety of the city. The Kremlin will spin the (still incomplete) capture of Mariupol into a major victory in Ukraine to compensate for stalled or failed Russian offensives elsewhere.