F-16 fighters will not dramatically change situation in war – Pentagon

Providing Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets is essential in the medium term, but it will remain the same situation in the war unleashed by the Russian Federation.

According to US Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, the provision of the F-16s "will create intermediate capabilities that Ukrainians do not yet have, but this will not change the situation dramatically" because "so far, aviation force has not been a decisive factor" in the war.

Kendall also noted the effectiveness of the air defence systems in service with Ukraine.

"The F-16s will help the Ukrainians, but they will not change the balance fundamentally," the official added. He also stressed that the US had "other much higher priorities" in helping Ukraine, which is why the US did not start delivering the aircraft earlier.

"I think it was rational to make this decision now... We need to start thinking ahead for the longer term," Kendall said.

Russian information space incoherent after reports of fighting in Belgorod Oblast

The Russian information space experienced "panic, factionalism, and incoherency" after reports of fighting in Russia's Belgorod Oblast, the Institute for the Study of War said in its latest report.

Following Russia’s announcement of "counter-terrorist operation" in Belgorod Oblast, the military bloggers speculated about the purpose guiding the raids reportedly led by Free Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps.

The lack of the united response, according to the D.C.-based think tank, "indicates first and foremost that the attack took Russian commentators by surprise."

At the same time, the information space emphasized the military victory following Russia’s occupation of Bakhmut, omitting comments on its strategic implications or the possibility of Ukrainian forces encircling the city.

Wagner Group's withdrawal from front on 1 June will allow Ukraine's Armed Forces to launch counterattacks

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the financier of the Wagner Group, said that after 1 June, his mercenaries would not be present along the entire contact line in Ukraine for at least two months. The Institute for the Study of War believes that the Wagner private military company (PMC) may miss the main stages of Ukraine's counteroffensive.

On 20 May 2023, Prigozhin recorded a video against the backdrop of the ruins of Bakhmut, in which he declared the complete capture of the city by mercenaries of the Wagner PMC. According to Prigozhin, his mercenaries had been storming Bakhmut for 224 days, and in total they had been "fighting" for 427 days, so by 25 May they would "inspect" Bakhmut and then leave the city, handing it over to the Russian Ministry of Defence.

On 21 May, Prigozhin's press service shared his response to the LIVE24 outlet regarding further assaults in the vicinity of Bakhmut.