Ukraine says it has foiled an attempt by Russian forces to cross a key river in the east, costing Moscow a sizable number of troops and important armored equipment in another setback for the Kremlin in its invasion of Ukraine as Germany urged President Vladimir Putin to agree to a cease-fire as soon as possible.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry on May 13 released pictures of what it said was a damaged Russian pontoon bridge over the Siverskiy Donets River, with several destroyed or heavily damaged Russian military vehicles nearby.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense confirmed in its daily intelligence bulletin on May 13 that Ukrainian forces successfully prevented an attempted Russian river crossing in the east.
It said that Russia lost “significant” elements of at least one battalion tactical group — about 1,000 soldiers — as well as equipment used to quickly deploy pontoon bridges, adding that Russian forces had failed to make any significant advances in the area.
“Conducting river crossings in a contested environment is a highly risky maneuver and speaks to the pressure the Russian commanders are under to make progress in their operations in eastern Ukraine,” the ministry said in its update.
Russian forces have struggled to advance even after diverting troops from other parts of the country to the Donbas, the ministry added.
Ukrainian officials also claimed another success in the Black Sea, saying their forces destroyed another Russian vessel, though there was no confirmation from Russia.
The Vsevolod Bobrov logistics ship was badly damaged but not thought to have sunk when it was struck while trying to deliver an anti-aircraft system to Snake Island, said Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the Ukrainian president.
In its daily operational note on May 13, the Ukrainian military said Russian forces continued to bombard the embattled port of Mariupol, where the last Ukrainian fighters are holed up in the Azovstal steelworks.
It said that in the Russian campaign in the east, villages were targeted near Donetsk, Lyman, Bakhmut, and Kurakhiv.
The Ukrainian military chief for the eastern Luhansk region said on May 13 that Russian forces fired 31 times on residential areas the day before, destroying dozens of homes, notably in the Hirske and Popasnyanska villages, and a bridge in Rubizhne.
On the diplomatic front, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to agree to a cease-fire in Ukraine as soon as possible during a telephone call on May 13, a German government spokesperson said.
During the 75-minute call — the first between the two leaders since March — Scholz reminded Putin of Russia’s responsibility for the global food situation, the spokesperson added.
Britain, meanwhile, added a dozen people to its sanctions list, this time targeting Putin and the network around him, including his ex-wife and cousins.
The list also includes Alina Kabayeva, a retired Olympic gymnast who is rumored to be the mother of two of Putin’s children.
Putin and Kabayeva have been pictured together on several occasions, but they have never publicly admitted to having a relationship.
In Stockholm, Sweden’s parliament concluded that NATO membership for the Nordic country would have a stabilizing effect and would benefit all Baltic Sea states, appearing to be ready to follow in Finland’s footsteps in pursuing membership in the Western military alliance.
“Swedish NATO membership would raise the threshold for military conflicts and thus have a conflict-preventing effect in Northern Europe,” Foreign Minister Ann Linde said on May 13 as she presented a parliamentary assessment on security.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced Sweden and Finland, which has a very long border with Russia, to reconsider their security arrangements after remaining neutral in the postwar era.
But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signaled a potential obstacle to the two Nordic countries’ accession into NATO, saying he opposed it because they were “home to many terrorist organizations.”
Turkey has repeatedly slammed Sweden and other Western European states for their handling of groups deemed terrorists by Ankara, including Kurdish militant groups and the followers of U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Erdogan says that “Gulenists” carried out a coup attempt in 2016. Gulen and his supporters deny the accusation.
Erdogan’s opposition could pose a problem for Sweden and Finland, given that new members need unanimous agreement.