Ukraine Daily Summary - Friday, May 20

Ukrainian 14-year-old girl released from Russian captivity -- How Ukrainian air defense denies Russia air superiority -- Powerful explosions reported in Russian-occupied Mariupol -- Ukrainian counterattacks near Bakhmut likely eliminated threat of Russian encirclement -- Russia's special forces reportedly deployed near Ukraine's borders for diversion activities -- and more

Friday, May 20

Russia’s war against Ukraine

A couple stands in front of a damaged multistory residential building, where a Russian strike killed 23 people, in Uman, Cherkasy Oblast.

U.S. Air Force F16 fighter jets fly in formation during U.S.-Philippines joint air force exercises dubbed Cope Thunder at Clark Air Base on May 9, 2023, in Mabalacat, Philippines. On May 19, the U.S. announced it would allow the transfer of American F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine. (Ezra Acayan/Getty Images)

Kyiv air defenses shoot down all Russian drones launched overnight. Air defenses in Kyiv intercepted all of what the Kyiv City Military Administration said were Iranian-made Shahed drones according to preliminary information overnight on May 20.

Debris causes fire in Kyiv district. Debris that fell over Kyiv’s Dniprovskyi District, located on the east bank of the capital, caused a fire, Kyiv Mayor Vitalii Klitschko reported on Telegram at around 1:30 a.m. local time.

‘Powerful’ explosions reported in Russian-occupied Mariupol. Three “powerful explosions” occurred in the Russian-occupied city of Mariupol in the evening of May 19, the exiled Mariupol City Council reported on Telegram.

Ukraine’s military confirms gaining initiative near Bakhmut, makes further advances. Over the past day, Ukrainian troops have advanced up to 500 meters in some areas of the Bakhmut front line, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian military’s Eastern Operational Command said on May 19, as cited by Ukrainska Pravda news outlet.

ISW: Ukrainian counterattacks near Bakhmut likely eliminated threat of Russian encirclement. Ukrainian counterattacks near Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast in recent days have very likely eliminated the possibility of Russian encirclement in the area, even as Russia concentrates its reserves to the fight around the city, the Institute of the Study of War said in its latest update.

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Zelensky arrives in Saudi Arabia, scheduled to meet crown prince. President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on May 19. The president is expected to speak at the Arab League summit and to meet the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for bilateral talks.

Zelensky urges Arab leaders to support Ukraine ‘despite Russia’s influence’. “I hope that most of us are here for the sake of peace and justice,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said on May 19 at the Arab League summit. “Even if there are people here at the summit who have a different view on the war, on our land, calling it a conflict, I am sure we can all be united in saving people from the cages of Russian prisons.”

Russia’s special forces reportedly deployed near Ukraine’s borders for ‘diversion activities.’ Elite Russian troops have arrived in Tyotkino, Kursk Oblast, to conduct “diversion” and “anti-diversion” activities at the Russo-Ukrainian border, the National Resistance Center of Ukraine reported on May 19.

Financial Times: Wagner mercenaries procure equipment despite Western sanctions. The Russian Wagner mercenary company continues to use intermediaries to buy equipment in China for its activities in Ukraine and Africa. This reveals the inability of Western sanctions to successfully cut supply streams from the group, Financial Times reports.

Ombudsman: Ukrainian 14-year-old girl released from Russian captivity.

Fourteen-year-old Veronika, who was kidnapped to the Russian territory following the invasion of Ukraine, has been returned home, Ukraine’s Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets announced.

Read our exclusives

Ukraine war latest: Zelensky travels to Saudi Arabia, urges Arab leaders to support peace plan

President Volodymyr Zelensky, on May 19, made his first-ever visit to Saudi Arabia, where he called on Arab leaders – many of whom remain neutral or hold close ties with Moscow – to support his peace plan to end Russia’s brutal all-out war.

Photo by Bandar Aljaloud / Royal Court of Saudi Arabia / Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

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Human cost of war

Authorities: 3 killed in Russian shelling of Sumy Oblast. Three civilians were killed by Russian shelling in the Yunakivska community, Sumy Oblast, around noon on May 19, the regional military administration reported on Telegram.

General Staff: Russia has lost 201,760 troops in Ukraine.

The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported on May 19 that Russia has lost 201,760 troops in Ukraine since the beginning of its full-scale invasion, with an estimated 660 casualties on May 18.

International response

NBC: US, allies plan to supply Ukraine with F-16 jets, official says. Washington and its allies plan to provide Ukraine with U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets, but it’s still unclear which countries would send them, a senior Biden administration official told NBC News.

CNN: US to support F-16 training initiative for Ukrainian pilots. U.S. President Joe Biden informed G7 leaders about his decision at the Hiroshima summit on May 19, CNN reported, citing a senior U.S. official.

G7 leaders agree to step up sanctions against Russia. The leaders of G7 countries on May 19 agreed to tighten sanctions against Russia and expand financial aid to Ukraine at the summit in Hiroshima, Japan, as declared in their joint statement. However, the joint statement provided little information about their next steps.

Politico: Biden to announce $375 million in military aid to Ukraine at G7 summit in Japan. U.S. President Joe Biden is planning to announce $375 million in military aid to Ukraine after meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the Group of Seven (G7) summit in Japan this weekend, three U.S. and Ukrainian officials familiar with the matter told Politico.

Georgia resumes flights with Russia, hundreds protest in Tbilisi. Hundreds protested in Tbilisi’s streets and near the city’s airport after the flights between Russia and Georgia resumed on May 19.

This Week in Ukraine Ep. 8 –

How Ukrainian air defense denies Russia air superiority

How Ukrainian air defense denies Russia air superiority | This Week In Ukraine Ep. 8

In other news

Court seizes lucrative land owned by pro-Russian oligarch’s wife. A Kyiv court has ruled in favor of confiscating the land on the Dnipro River bank previously owned by Oksana Marchenko, wife of the pro-Russian oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk. According to the prosecution, the land was privatized illegally and will now be returned to the state.

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