Russian forces appear to have suffered more setbacks in Ukraine as Moscow is facing mounting accusations of war crimes committed from the start of its unprovoked invasion.
Ukrainian forces successfully prevented an attempted Russian river crossing in the Donbas, the British Ministry of Defense said in its regular intelligence update on May 13.
The Ministry said images suggest that Russia has lost armored equipment and the deployed pontoon bridging equipment while attempting to cross the Siverskiy Donets river west of Severodonetsk, the report said, adding that Russian forces have failed to make any significant advances in the area.
Russian commanders are therefore subjected to increasing pressure from their superiors and are employing increasingly risky strategies on the battlefield, the report indicated.
Ukraine also said it had damaged a Russian Navy logistics ship near Snake Island, a strategic outpost in the Black Sea.
Ukrinform, the Ukrainian national news agency, quoted Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesman for the regional military command that includes Odesa, as saying in a Telegram post that the ship had been set on fire.
The agency reported that the Russian Navy had “lost” the Vsevolod Bobrov in the purported strike off Snake Island.
The claim could not be independently verified, and there has been no confirmation by the Russian side of damage to any of its naval vessels in the Black Sea.
The FleetMon sea-tracking news website identifies the Vsevolod Bobrov as a 95-meter-long transport ship.
Throughout the 11-week conflict, Russian forces have been accused of committing atrocities that include the killing of unarmed civilians, torture and rape.
Documenting such atrocities, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on May 12 overwhelmingly approved a resolution to set up an investigation into allegations of abuses by Russian troops in areas of Ukraine they temporarily controlled.
The UNHRC’s resolution cited apparent cases of torture, shootings, and sexual violence, along with other atrocities documented by a UN team on the ground.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who heads the council, said earlier that thousands of corpses have been found in the region of Kyiv after the retreat of Russian forces in what may be evidence of war crimes.
“The scale of unlawful killings, including indications of summary executions in areas to the north of Kyiv, is shocking,” Bachelet said.
The UNHRC resolution coincided with the release by CNN and the BBC of purported security camera footage on May 12 showing a Russian soldier shooting two Ukrainian civilians in the back on March 16 on the outskirts of Kyiv.
One man died on the spot, the other shortly after, according to the outlets.
On May 12, previously neutral Finland made a seismic policy change, announcing that it will seek NATO membership “without delay,” as Moscow’s ongoing war in Ukraine, which President Vladimir Putin has said he launched to prevent the alliance’s expansion, reshapes Europe’s security architecture.
Finland, which shares a 1,340-kilometer border and a turbulent relationship with Russia, has stepped up its cooperation with NATO since Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014.
The announcement in Helsinki prompted Russia to warn that it would have to take “military-technical” steps in response.
Helsinki will announce a formal Finnish decision on a membership bid on May 15 as another Nordic country, the traditionally neutral Sweden, is also expected to announce its intention to join NATO in the coming days.
NATO officials have indicated that the accession protocols for Finland and Sweden could be signed when the alliance holds a summit in Madrid on June 28-29 if the formal applications landed on NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg’s desk by the end of this month.
Russian forces continue to pound a steel plant in the southern port city of Mariupol that is the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance, its defenders said.
Ukraine offered to release Russian prisoners of war in exchange for the safe evacuation of badly wounded fighters trapped inside the Azovstal steel plant.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that negotiations were under way to release the wounded. She said there were different options, but “none of them is ideal.”
Russia hasn’t confirmed any talks on the subject.
Officials said in recent weeks that about 100,000 residents could still be trapped in Mariupol, which had a prewar population of over 400,000.
Russian and Ukrainian authorities have agreed to cease-fires to evacuate residents, but then those efforts failed most of the time.
As fighting raged in southern and eastern Ukraine, Kyiv said it will not reopen the suspended Sokhranovka gas transit route from Russia to European customers until it obtains control over its gas transit system.
The flow of gas from Russia to Europe meanwhile fell, spurring fears for Germany and other economies heavily dependent on that source of energy.
Russian energy giant Gazprom announced it would stop supplying gas via the Polish part of the Yamal-Europe pipeline, while Kyiv said it would not reopen a pipeline route it shut this week unless it regains control of areas from Moscow-backed fighters.