Ukraine war latest: Wagner Group 'broken' by Bakhmut fight - as Russia warns NATO over F-16 jets (2023)

Key points
  • Zelenskyy says Bakhmut is not occupied by Russia| But Putin says battle for city is over and praises Wagner fighters
  • Will fall of Bakhmut be a turning point in the war? |Alex Rossi
  • Watch: Mercenaries raise Russian flag in Bakhmut
  • Russia's efforts in Bakhmut have 'handicapped' its preparations against counteroffensive - and Wagner 'broken'
  • 'Highly likely' Russia creating a new 'elite' attack aviation group
  • Got a question about the war? Ask our experts
  • Live reporting by Olive Enokido-Lineham


Why the battle for Bakhmut could be blown wide open within days

While the exact picture in Bakhmut remains unclear, Sky's military analyst Sean Bell explains why capturing the city would mark a "rare battlefield victory" for Vladimir Putin - but also could leave Russian forces vulnerable.

He says: "Whatever actual situation on ground, Wagner was always expected to announce victory 'early'.

He adds that Wagner Group forces will withdraw from the city in the coming week, to rest and be replaced by Russian army soldiers who he says have been responsible for defending flanks of city.

He says they have been pushed back by Ukrainian forces over the past few days and that there is potential for Ukrainian forces to capitalise on the Russian transition to encircle the city.

"That would leave Russian forces very vulnerable - as limited infrastructure was left to support forces in the city."

He adds that we have "probably not yet heard the last of the battle for Bakhmut".

Ukrainian officials say Kyiv still controls a small part of the city, which has been obliterated following months of fierce fighting with huge losses on both sides.


External power restored to Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant has been reconnected to its external power supply, Ukraine's national grid has said.

The plant, the biggest in Europe, was switched to standby this morning after it was "completely" disconnected from its power source after a reported fire at an electricity facility in the city.

Back-up diesel generators had earlier kicked in at the plantin southern Ukraine to ensure nuclear fuel was kept cool andprevent a potential disaster.

Both sides blamed the other for the power outage.

ARussia-installed local official said Ukraine had disconnected apower line and Energoatom, the Ukrainian state nuclear energy company, said the problem was caused by Russian shelling.

Russia captured the plant in the early days of the war, but it was put on emergency generators today after Ukraine disconnected a power line it still controls.

The outage prompted concerns in the West, with the UN's nuclear watchdog chief warning that the situation at the plant was "extremely vulnerable".


Denmark wants to host peace summit in July

Denmark would like to host a summit in July to work out how to bring peace to Ukraine, its foreign minister has said.

"If Ukraine finds that the time has come to have such a meeting, that would be fantastic," Lars Lokke Rasmussen said, according to Danish news agency Ritzau.

As the war rages on, more and more countries have suggested meetings or peace plans to Ukraine and Russia in an attempt to bring fighting to an end.

China has called for a ceasefire in a 12-point paper, Pope Francis has hoped to send personal peace envoys and, most recently, South Africa arranged to send a mission of African leaders to meet Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Vladimir Putin to discuss a resolution.


Nuclear safety situation is 'extremely vulnerable' after power plant put on standby

The nuclear safety situation around the Zaporizhzhia power plant is "extremely vulnerable" and "cannot continue", the head of the UN nuclear watchdog has warned.

Raphael Grossi's comments come after the plant was disconnected from external power and switched on to emergency supply generators this morning.

The plant "lost all external electricity for the seventh time during the conflict" this morning, Mr Rossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said.

Russia captured the six-reactor nuclear plant, which is Europe's biggest, in the early days of the war, and concerns have been raised about its safety on several occasions.


Bakhmut is a 'mouse trap' for Russian forces and Kyiv has not let Moscow 'go deeper'

A Ukrainian MP has described Bakhmut as a "mouse trap" for Russian forces and said Kyiv has done well to prevent Moscow's forces from going "deeper" into Ukrainian territory.

Andrii Osadchuk, MP for the Golos party, told Sky News that from the beginning, Ukraine understood that from a "technical point" Bakhmut is a regular city, but claimed it was important for the Kremlin.

He said: "From the very beginning of the war the Kremlin was desperately needing victories, they don't have victories at all, they only had losses. They created this myth about Bakhmut like it's something extremely important for them.

"From the very beginning we understood that on a technical point Bakhmut is a regular city which is not a big one.

"At the end of the day, Bakhmut is a mouse trap for Russian forces in Ukraine's southeast and definitely Ukraine's military will continue its operation because our target is very simple - we need to liquidate their forces as much possible."

He added that while defending Bakhmut, Ukrainian forces "didn't let Russians go deeper" into Ukrainian territory to other cities like Kramatorsk.

The country's deputy defence minister, Hanna Maliar, has said Ukrainian troops continue to advance around the ruined city but added that the "intensity" of their movement has decreased.


Russian reactions to Bakhmut claims show 'growing divide' between Kremlin and milbloggers

Russian reactions to the claimed capture of Bakhmut illustrates an "increasingly growing divide" between the Kremlin and ultranationalist milbloggers, the US-based Institute for the Study of War says.

It cites key differences in the way a victory in Bakhmut has been portrayed by Russian state television and Russian ultranationalist milbloggers.

While Russia and the Wagner Group have claimed to have fully occupied Bakhmut - Ukraine contests this.

The ISW says Russian state television portrayed the alleged capture of the city as a "seminal historic event" which would facilitate its capture of surrounding territory including Kramatorsk and even Dnipro City.

"One Russian state media outlet outrageously comment[ed] that Wagner personnel in Bakhmut must feel like 'their grandfathers in Berlin'," the thinktank reports.

It adds that the Kremlin likely attempted to oversell the significance of the alleged capture of the city because of its lack of tactical success on the ground.

However, the institute says some prominent Russian milbloggers responded to the alleged capture of Bakhmut by focusing on possible imminent Ukrainian counteroffensive, shifting to more conservative expectations of Russian operations.

"Bakhmut is not Berlin", the sentiment appears to be, the ISW says.


At least eight people wounded in missile attack with '20 Shahed drones'

At least eight people were wounded in a Russian air attackovernight on the Dnipropetrovsk region, Ukraine has said.

The country's air force said the attack was carried out by 16 different types of missiles and Shahed drones.

It added that air defence systems destroyed 20 drones and fourcruise missiles.

Governor SerhiyLysak said on Telegram that at least one man was wounded in the attack on Dnipro cityand seven people were injured on an attack on Synelnykivskyidistrict of the Dnipropetrovsk region.

He added that scores of buildings, including private homes, apartmentblocks and administrative infrastructure were damaged ordestroyed.

Pictures of the aftermath show destroyed vehicles at a fire depot and crumpled cars.

Ukrainian security expert Maria Avdeeva claimed on Twitter that Moscow used "20 Shahed drones", adding that a new Russian tactic is to attack one city with a combination of weapons.


Russia's efforts in Bakhmut have 'handicapped' its preparations against counteroffensive - and Wagner 'broken'

Russia's efforts and use of ammunition in its fight for Bakhmut will have "handicapped" its preparations against Kyiv's upcoming counteroffensive, an expert claims.

General Sir Richard Barrons, former commander of Joint Forces Command, told Sky News that Moscow had to move its "precious reserves of people" to stop Ukrainian forces to the north and south of the city.

Speaking about the city, he said: "It's become an iconic battle between two sides where they have thrown thousands of people into the fight and the net result is essentially a draw - but the losses on both sides are phenomenal.

"Russia had to move precious reserves of people and ammunition to stop Ukrainian movement to the north and south of the city, so that will have handicapped their preparation for the offensive, but the next big thing is Ukraine's counteroffensive".

He added that the Wagner Group has been "broken" in the battle for Bakhmut.

He said: "The key thing that'scome out ofthis is that the Wagner Group is coming out of the fight at least for a while its been broken by Bakhmut."

The mercenary group has been heavily involved in fighting in the city but founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said his forces would leave the conflict zone later this week.

"As we stated yesterday. We are handing over our positions to (Russia's) Defence Ministry and on the 25th (of May) we are leaving the conflict zone."


Power outage at Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant due to Russian shelling - Energoatom

Ukraine's state nuclear company claims the power outage at theZaporizhzhia nuclear plant is due to Russian shelling.

Energoatom says the outage comes after shelling of an external power line.

Earlier, we reported that the plant was switched to standby and emergency power supply generators, citing a Russia-installed local official in the Moscow-controlled part of the region (see post at 06.25).

The plant was captured by Russia in the early days of Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.


'Highly likely' Russia creating a new 'elite' attack aviation group

The UK defence ministry says it is "highly likely" that Russia is creating a new attack aviation group to operate over Ukraine.

The ministry said the group, code-named "Shtorm", will likely consist of a mixture of aircraft types suggesting that it will have a primary role of ground mission attacks.

It added that Russian media reports suggest that the Russian defence ministry hopes to attract highly skilled pilots by offering large pay incentives.

It says the group highlights how Moscow assesses its regular air force squadrons as severely underperforming in their function of airstrikes on Ukrainian lines.

The ministry said the unit will likely consist of at least one squadron of Su-24 Fencer and Su-34 Fullback fighter bombers and a squadron of attack helicopters.

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