It has been 280 days since the Russian invasion began. On Wednesday, the Russian military is making slight gains around Bakhmut in the Donbas.
Fighting in the Donbas
Over the past few days, the Russian forces have made some marginal gains on the north and south of Bakhmut. A city under siege for more than four months, Bakhmut is a fixation for the Kremlin after a string of humiliating defeats in the east and south of Ukraine. However, the Ukrainian defenses in the city continue to hold, and it is highly unlikely that the Russian forces have the capabilities or the reserves to surround Bakhmut.
In the east, the Ukrainian military continues with its counteroffensive against Kreminna and Svatove, but its progress has been slow due to the Russian resistance. The two sides exchange heavy artillery barrages every day, and the weather is unfavorable to mobile offensive operations.
In the south, the Russian military continues to bolster its defenses in anticipation of a Ukrainian counteroffensive on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River.
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Every day, the Ukrainian military is providing an update on their claimed Russian casualties. These numbers are official figures and haven’t been separately verified.
However, Western intelligence assessments and independent reporting corroborate, to a certain extent, the Ukrainian casualty claims. For example, the Oryx open-source intelligence research page has visually verified the destruction or capture of more than 1,500 Russian tanks (which amounts to more tanks than the combined armor capabilities of France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom) and more than 5,300 military vehicles of all types; this assessment has been confirmed by the British Ministry of Defense.
The same independent verification exists for most of the other Ukrainian claims. Recently, the Pentagon acknowledged that the Russian military has lost thousands of combat vehicles of all types, including over 1,000 tanks, and dozens of fighter jets and helicopters.
Furthermore, more recent reports that are citing Western intelligence officials indicate that the Russian military has suffered more than 100,000 casualties (killed and wounded) in the war so far.
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In the summer, Sir Tony Radakin, the British Chief of the Defence Staff, had told the BBC that the West understands that more than 50,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded in the conflict thus far. If we were to take the Ukrainian figures as accurate, the number mentioned by Sir Radakin is on the low side of the spectrum.
In November, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley shared the U.S. military’s assessment that the Russian military has lost more than 100,000 troops so far in the war.
Yet, it is very hard to verify the actual numbers unless one is on the ground. However, after adjusting for the fog of war and other factors, the Western official numbers are fairly close to the Ukrainian claims.
As of Wednesday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is claiming the following Russian casualties:
- 88,880 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 5,872 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles destroyed
- 4,429 vehicles and fuel tanks
- 2,914 tanks
- 1,902 artillery pieces
- 1,562 tactical unmanned aerial systems
- 280 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 395 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 261 attack and transport helicopters
- 531 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
- 210 anti-aircraft batteries
- 163 special equipment platforms, such as bridging equipment
- 16 boats and cutters
- four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems
On Wednesday, Ukrainian forces continued to inflict the heaviest in the direction of Bakhmut, Pavlivka, and Avdiivka, which are all located in the south of the Donbas.
The stated goal of the Russian military for the renewed offensive in the east is to establish full control over the pro-Russian breakaway territories of Donetsk and Luhansk and create and maintain a land corridor between these territories and the occupied Crimea.
Feature Image: Soldiers from the Azov Battalion take up positions near an infantry fighting vehicle from the National Guard of Ukraine in 2014. (Photo by Carl Ridderstråle)
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