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Weighing symbolic and strategic significance The threat of a Ukrainian counteroffensive is affecting the situation at the front, but it remains unclear whether liberating Bakhmut is worth the AFU’s manpower. Meduza’s updated combat map shows the latest developments in the war.

Source: Meduza

Since the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Meduza has adopted a consistent antiwar position, holding Russia responsible for its military aggression and atrocities. As part of this commitment, we regularly update an interactive map that documents combat operations in Ukraine and the damage inflicted by Russia’s invasion forces. Our map is based exclusively on previously published open-source photos and videos, most of them posted by eyewitnesses on social media. We collect reports already available publicly and determine their geolocation markers, adding only the photos and videos that clear this process.

Meduza doesn’t try to track the conflict in real time; the data reflected on the map are typically at least 48 hours old.

Key updates as of 8 a.m. GMT (4 a.m. EDT) on May 20, 2023

The Ukrainian counteroffensive is still affecting the situation at the front simply because it appears to be inevitable:

  • Russian troops have stopped attacks on practically the entire line of contact;
  • Back-and-forth heavy artillery and kamikaze drone attacks have intensified;
  • Video footage has recently appeared showing equipment, recently supplied to Ukraine from the West, being moved in unidentified locations;
  • Ukraine’s Armed Forces are testing new long-range weapons, likely Anglo-French Storm Shadow cruise missiles, on targets that were previously unreachable. 

However, Ukraine’s Armed Forces (AFU) have not yet carried out real offensive actions anywhere except in the vicinity of Bakhmut.

The battle for the city itself has come to an end: the AFU have lost nearly all their positions there, though they are likely now planning to take revenge. Doing so won’t be easy — a full-scale offensive on Bakhmut with far-reaching goals will require deploying reserves that Ukrainian command marshaled for the spring–summer campaign. At the same time, it seems that even a decisive victory on this part of the front, like liberating Bakhmut and the surrounding settlements, would have more symbolic than strategic significance. It’s also true, though, that Russian forces’ capture of the city has exactly the same purely symbolic significance. 

The red dots show recent events, and the gray dots show earlier events. Black indicates the approximate contact line as of the last update; the red and blue areas mark places occupied (since early September) by Russian and Ukrainian forces. Clicking on them will provide additional information. Air strikes are marked with a special icon, ground operations with dots. Click on the point on the map to pull up source links.


  • Wagner Group detachments stormed Ukrainian holdouts in the western part of the city. Wagner founder Evgeny Prigozhin’s complaints about ammunition deficits notwithstanding, Wagner Group artillery literally wiped several apartment blocks off the face of the earth, forcing AFU detachments to leave them for garages and fields on the outskirts of the city. According to Wagner Group reports, the residential neighborhood beyond Yubileynaya Street has been captured in its entirety. Ukrainian sources haven’t reported on the situation in that part of town. There is currently no video evidence that Russian forces have full control of the area.
  • An area with several damaged multi-story buildings on Tchaikovsky Street, at the south-west exit from the city, remains under AFU control. The battle for that neighborhood has been ongoing since February, when Wagner forces approached the buildings from the east. Despite constant assaults and artillery attacks, Wagner Group has not been able to breach AFU’s defenses. Only now have Wagner fighters approached the area from the north (specifically from Tchaikovsky Street), which will make it easier for them to attack AFU positions. Apart from its real symbolic significance as the last citadel of the “Bakhmut fortress,” the region has tactical value: the high-rise buildings stand on a tall rise, which the city’s residents call Bugor. The hill rises over the village of Ivanivske (formerly known as Krasne), through which runs the Bakhmut–Kostiantynivka highway. You can see how this area looked before the war here. (Some of the apartment buildings pictured no longer exist.)
  • If Wagner Group uses the same level of artillery fire on this area that it did on the buildings on Yubileynaya Street, it’s probable that these buildings, too — or whatever remains of them — will also be captured.

The surrounding area

  • The AFU started attacking along the entire front line to Bakhmut’s northwest and southeast in early May, when Wagner forces abandoned the area. The Russian forces who replaced them (mostly volunteers with the 3rd Army Corps, which was created in June 2022 for the war in Ukraine, as well as draftees, who were sent to fight with forces from the self-proclaimed Donetsk “people’s republic”) quickly retreated. Judging by the direction of Ukrainian strikes, their chief goal is to expand the corridor between the main Ukrainian positions in the city of Chasiv Yar and the Bakhmut garrison. Ukrainian military sources insist that the ultimate goal is to surround and liberate Bakhmut. AFU have in fact unblocked the roads between Khromove and Ivanivske, though Wagner artillery fire continues as before, making travel on both main roads and country routes difficult. However, the majority of the Bakhmut garrison wasn’t around for this development, since Wager Group forced them from the city.
  • The AFU offensive removed the threat that Russian troops would break through at Chasiv Yar. That city is located in the hills, about 100 meters (328 feet) higher than the center of Bakhmut. In late winter and early spring, Wagner Group took positions in those hills near Khromove and Stupochek. Theoretically, this could have given them the chance to break through at Chasiv Yar from both the south and the east. Without that advantage, it was doubtful that Wagner Group could mount a new offensive in the near term. Many Wagner fighters died in the months-long battle for Bakhmut, and many of the former prisoners recruited to fight in Ukraine concluded their six-month contracts. Wagner Group does not appear to be able to recruit new prisoners at the moment.
  • What Wagner Group can do after capturing Bakhmut (and, especially, the city’s artillery) is to defend the city and its surrounding area.
  • The prospects for a Ukrainian offensive will become clear in the coming days, when AFU attack well-fortified Russian positions in Klishchiivka, southwest of Bakhmut. Judging by the fact that the pace of the Ukrainian offensive has slowed after initial successes, it’s not likely to be powerful enough to break through Russian defenses. And those defenses may become stronger after Russian forces complete the assault on Bakhmut.
  • In order to give the operation to encircle Bakhmut a chance at success, Ukrainian command will likely have to transfer reserves from the newly formed brigades intended for a large summer offensive. Doing so will weaken the AFU’s offensive potential in other directions, which may be more important from a strategic point of view.
The data reflected on the map are typically at least 48 hours old. Meduza is careful in working with data, but mistakes are still possible, and perhaps even inevitable. If you spot one, please let us know by sending an email to [email protected]. Thank you!
Ukraine’s counteroffensive looms

The shape of things to come The imminent Ukrainian counteroffensive in four scenarios (and four maps) from Meduza’s military analysts

Ukraine’s counteroffensive looms

The shape of things to come The imminent Ukrainian counteroffensive in four scenarios (and four maps) from Meduza’s military analysts

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