The Russian-occupied Azov Sea port city of Berdyansk in Zaporizhzhia Oblast was struck by a Ukrainian missile on Friday, an occupation official said. Located about 60 miles from the front lines, Berdyansk is the latest example of long-distance targets Ukraine can now hit thanks to donated weapons. This is at least the fourth attack on the port city in the past few weeks. In the wake of this latest attack, a Russian-installed occupation official said the strike was likely carried out by U.K.-provided Storm Shadow air-launched cruise missiles.
"Apparently, these were Storm Shadow missiles but we are waiting for more detailed information from our Defense Ministry,” occupation official Vladimir Rogov said in a live broadcast on Komsomolskaya Pravda radio, according to the official Russian TASS news agency.
“The militants of the Armed Forces of Ukraine struck at peaceful Berdyansk at about 12.00,” Rogov said Friday on his Telegram channel. “The hit was on the territory of the seaport. According to preliminary information, there were no casualties or damage. According to preliminary data, there were three explosions in total. Ukrainian Nazis tried to launch a rocket attack on the city.”
Rogov later updated his Telegram channel to say that there were at least nine people wounded and taken to the hospital as a result of the strike.
“Information about the dead is being specified,” he said.
Contrary to what Rogov said, such a strike is likely to cause damage. While the extent is unknown at this time, the Ukrainian Berdyansk City Military Administration Telegram channel claims that several Russian ships docked at the port made a hasty departure as a result of the attack.
“According to preliminary data, ships that recently entered to steal Ukrainian grain and scrap metal are fleeing from the Berdyansk port,” that channel claimed.
Throughout the war, Ukraine has shown the ability to strike deep into Russia and Russian-held territory with aerial drones and uncrewed surface vessel drones as well as sabotage raids. There have also been several cross-border incursions of late by self-proclaimed anti-Putin partisans, which you can read more about later in this story.
But a weapon like the Storm Shadow provides far more punch than drones and is far easier and less dangerous for Ukraine to launch than a sabotage raid or cross-border incursion, for which its role is unclear at the moment. The Storm Shadow is a combat-proven advanced precision strike weapon with an officially stated range of over 155 miles in its export configuration and much farther in its standard configuration. And, as far as we know, this is the longest-range standoff weapon to be delivered to Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion.
By comparison, the vaunted Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (GMLRS) munitions provided by the U.S. and allies fired by M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, and M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) launchers have a range of about 50 miles.
In addition to Storm Shadows, Ukraine has its own domestically produced guided artillery rocket that has the range to strike Berdyansk.
Called the Vilkha-M, it is a modified 7.6 meter (25-foot) long Soviet BM-30 Smerch multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) artillery rocket with a range of nearly 70 miles. You can read more about it in our deep dive here.
For the Russians, capturing Berdyansk in the early days of this all-out conflict was a huge win. In addition to seizing about a dozen ships from Ukraine’s Navy at the time, it is also an important logistics and supply hub, providing materiel for Russian troops in the region.
This is far from the first time Berdyansk has been attacked since Russia captured it. Back in March, 2022, the Project 1171 Alligator class landing ship Orsk was destroyed in an attack initially reported to be by a Ukrainian Tochka-U short-range ballistic missile. However, it is unclear what destroyed the ship. You can read more about it in our story from the time here.
Berdyansk was also hit several times last month.
It is believed at least one of those attacks was carried out by a Storm Shadow.
It is unknown how many Storm Shadows the U.K. provided Ukraine, which has produced only about 100 Vilkha-M rockets.
But this is likely not the last time Berdyansk and other key logistic and supply nodes far from the front lines will be attacked by weapons now in the hands of Ukraine as it continues to shape the battlefield ahead of its looming counteroffensive.
We will report on any future such strikes.
Before we head into the latest updates from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage here.
Asked about that counteroffensive, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told reporters Friday that it's "not a movie" and it was difficult to describe in advance to the public how it will proceed, according to the Kyiv Independent.
"The main thing is for Russia to see it, and not only see it, but feel it. Specifically, we are talking about the forces that have occupied our territory," Zelensky added.
According to Zelensky, liberating Ukrainian territories is the main goal of the upcoming counteroffensive, and when that starts to occur, "you will understand what is happening."
Anti-Putin partisans claimed on Friday that they are still fighting in Russia’s Belgorod Oblast.
“We have active battles on the outskirts of the village [of] New Tavolzhanka,” the Freedom For Russia Legion said on its Telegram channel Friday. “Unfortunately, there are wounded legionnaires, but freedom is won with blood. All the wounded have already been taken to the hospital.”
As a result of the incursion, Russian troops are firing on their own territory, threatening civilians, the group claimed.
“The troops of the regime, just like under Grayvoron, do not reckon with the civilian population,” the group said, referring to a previous incursion into Belgorod on May 22. “Artillery fire covers any points where they detect the movement of Legionnaires and RDK [the acronym for the far-right Russia Volunteer Corps, which has been fighting alongside the Freedom For Russia Legion]. Near Tavolzhanka, the enemy destroyed a Renault car with civilians, mistaking it for a car with our sabotage group. At least two civilians were killed and this is a direct consequence of the unprofessionalism of Putin's army.”
“We strongly recommend that civilians do not leave their hiding places and wait for the end of hostilities in your area. We'll bring home the world! Russia will be free!”
Unlike it did Thursday when it claimed to have “foiled” an incursion into Belgorod, Russia’s Defense Ministry on Friday made no mention of Belgorod or claims that it has been invaded once again.
Neither did the oblast’s governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov.
Gladkov, did, however, claim that his region had been under attack from Ukrainian forces firing artillery and mortars and flying drones across the border. There were deaths and several people injured. There was also scattered damage in the region and thousands of residents have had to be temporarily evacuated as a result, he claimed.
"More than 2,500 people are in temporary accommodation centers in the Belgorod region," Gladkov wrote. "It was also already at night, people were already almost all asleep, I drove and looked at how they settled down. Of course, the conditions are quite difficult. Not easy in that these are huge sports facilities, where there are hundreds of beds, where both adults and children, and the elderly, and the young sleep. Of course, now we will work on it, look for an opportunity, ways of placing them in more comfortable places of residence."
"In the middle of the night, the Russians struck Toretsk — they aimed at the school where the Point of Invincibility was located," Donetsk Oblast Gov. Pavel Kyrylenko said on his Telegram channel Friday. "This is not the first time this school has been hit - the occupiers are deliberately targeting the facility, which provides humanitarian aid and support to civilians."
In addition, "15 high-rise buildings, five private houses and seven administrative buildings were damaged in the city. Two people were injured.”
Speaking in Finland, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. and allies will help Ukraine build a "military of the future" with "modern combat aircraft."
"We’ve rallied a formidable team around this effort," he said. "With Secretary of Defense Austin’s leadership, more than 50 countries are cooperating through the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. And we’re leading by the power of our example, providing tens of billions of dollars in security assistance to Ukraine with robust and unwavering support from both sides of the aisle in our Congress."
"Today, America and our allies and partners are helping meet Ukraine’s needs on the current battlefield while developing a force that can deter and defend against aggression for years to come," he said. "That means helping build a Ukrainian military of the future, with long-term funding, a strong air force centered on modern combat aircraft, an integrated air and missile defense network, advanced tanks and armored vehicles, national capacity to produce ammunition, and the training and support to keep forces and equipment combat-ready."
Ukraine’s membership in NATO "will be a matter for Allies and Ukraine – not Russia – to decide," Blinken said.
Blinken also laid out Washington's thoughts about how any peace plan for ending this war should play out.
"A just and lasting peace must uphold the UN Charter and affirm the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence," he said.
"A just and lasting peace requires Ukraine’s full participation and assent – nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine."
"A just and lasting peace must support Ukraine’s reconstruction and recovery, with Russia paying its share."
"A just and lasting peace must address both accountability and reconciliation."
"A just and lasting peace can open a pathway to sanctions relief connected to concrete actions, especially military withdrawal. A just and lasting peace must end Russia’s war of aggression."
"Now, over the coming weeks and months, some countries will call for a ceasefire," said Blinken. "And on the surface, that sounds sensible – attractive, even. After all, who doesn’t want warring parties to lay down their arms? Who doesn’t want the killing to stop?"
"But a ceasefire that simply freezes current lines in place and enables Putin to consolidate control over the territory he’s seized, and then rest, re-arm, and re-attack – that is not a just and lasting peace. It’s a Potemkin peace. It would legitimize Russia’s land grab. It would reward the aggressor and punish the victim."
"If and when Russia is ready to work for true peace, the United States will respond in concert with Ukraine and other allies and partners around the world," said Blinken. "And along with Ukraine and allies and partners, we would be prepared to have a broader discussion on European security that promotes stability and transparency and reduces the likelihood of future conflict."
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Blinken lambasted the Russian military, calling it "a case study in failure."
"President Putin spent two decades trying to build Russia’s military into a modern force, with cutting-edge weaponry, streamlined command, and well-trained, well-equipped soldiers," he said. "The Kremlin often claimed it had the second-strongest military in the world, and many believed it. Today, many see Russia’s military as the second-strongest in Ukraine. Its equipment, technology, leadership, troops, strategy, tactics, and morale, a case study in failure – even as Moscow inflicts devastating, indiscriminate, and gratuitous damage on Ukraine and Ukrainians."
"Russia is estimated to have suffered more than 100,000 casualties in the last six months alone, as Putin sends wave after wave of Russians into a meat grinder of his own making."
In an exclusive, Reuters, citing "two people familiar with the matter" reported that "the U.S. is seeking to secure supplies of TNT from Japan for 155mm artillery shells, as Washington rushes weapons and ammunition to Ukraine for a counteroffensive against Russian forces."
"For war-renouncing Japan, any procurement would test its willingness to court controversy to help Kyiv because export rules ban Japanese companies from selling lethal items overseas, such as the howitzer shells that Ukraine fires daily at Russian units occupying its southeastern regions."
A scathing report on the process of Russia's troubled mobilization efforts appeared online but then was quickly removed, according to The Insider investigative journalism organization.
"The head of the mobilization department of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation Evgeny Burdinsky revealed the details of the process of mobilization in Russia and the formation of new units," The Insider reported. "His report was published in the magazine of the Ministry of Defense, but it was soon deleted. The report remained in the web archive."
According to The Insider, highlights from the report include:
The Russian army is experiencing problems with "the unpreparedness of a part of society to perform military duties" and blames the "information pressure of the online blogging community" for this.
The RF Armed Forces have a problem with the provision of weapons and equipment, and state corporations and private companies help with the supply of equipment.
The Ministry of Defense began to involve employees of security companies in the war.
The military registration and enlistment offices also compiled a database of 31.6 million people, 2.9 million of whom are people of military age. The authorities also collect up-to-date mobile phone numbers and email addresses of those liable for military service.
The government's reserve fund allocated 5 billion rubles to "stimulate" military enlistment office employees working on mobilization and conscription.
Ukrainian troops fashioned an improvised weapon out of a Coca-Cola can, turning into a drone-dropped munition.
A Russian Pantsir-S1 air defense system moving slowly down a road was apparently hit by a Ukrainian drone, but as you can see in this video below how much damage was actually caused is unclear.
Expecting Ukrainian attacks through the territory it controls in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, Russian troops have been moving so-called dragon's teeth cement anti-tank barriers into the region.
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Security Council of Russia and the nation's former president, said the "regime that has developed in Ukraine is subject to extermination."
Ukraine's Ministry of Internal Affairs said it foiled a cigarette smuggling plot that could have created an international incident.
The plot involved flying cigarette-laden drones from Ukraine’s Transcarpathia region into Hungary, according to the ministry’s Telegram channel.
The smuggler was caught just before launching the drones, the ministry said.
Officials say they found four unmanned aircraft, three control panels, two laptops, 26 replacement batteries, 20 replacement screws, as well as a car. There were also 3,360 packs of cigarettes.
“The flight route to the territory of Hungary was laid out on the laptops,” according to the ministry.
And therein was the problem.
Images of the Ukrainian flag and coat of arms were painted on some of the drones.
“One can only imagine the consequences of an incident with a drone with Ukrainian symbols on the territory of Hungary,” the ministry noted.
Hungary and its prime minister, Victor Orban, have been staunch allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Sometimes in war, you just have to stop and smell the flowers. In this case, the sunflowers smell like "Crimea liberated in the future," said this Ukrainian soldier.
Between them, they have killed hundreds, if not thousands in action movies like Death Race 2000 and Terminator. But now old action movie stars Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger are fans of Ukraine.
Ukraine's SBU national security service recently arrested four "bloggers" in Kyiv for taking photos and videos of air defense systems during a May 16 raid on Ukraine's capitol.
And finally, speaking of ongoing Russian barrages on Kyiv, it's not just the people who are fed up.
Chloe the cat has had it with these attacks, another one which occurred overnight Friday according to the Ukrainian Air Force, with 15 missiles and 21 drones destroyed.
That's it for now. We'll update this story when there's more news to report about Ukraine.
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