It has been 343 days since the Russian invasion began. On Thursday, the war continues on the ground as the Russian military is getting ready to launch its large-scale offensive operation.
Fighting on the ground
In the Donbas, the Russian forces keep pushing in the area around Bakhmut. Russian commanders have been focusing their attacks to the northeast and southwest of the town in an attempt to cut the Ukrainian lines of communication and supply that lead to Bakhmut. The Ukrainian defenses are still holding, but the Ukrainian military has been taking heavy casualties.
In the south, the situation remains fairly similar. The two sides have been exchanging long-range fires and also conducting raids with special operations units.
In the east, the two militaries continue to fight it out along the Svatove-Kreminna line of contact with daily attacks and counterattacks but scant progress either way.
Moreover, according to the Institute for the Study of War, Russian President Vladimir Putin is considering cross-border raids from Belarus and Russia to northeastern Ukraine.
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Every day, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is providing an update on its 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 close to 1,700 Russian tanks (which amounts to more tanks than the combined armor capabilities of France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom) and more than 8,300 weapon systems 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 way 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 Thursday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is claiming the following Russian casualties:
- 129,030 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 6,382 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles destroyed
- 5,064 vehicles and fuel tanks
- 3,211 tanks
- 2,212 artillery pieces
- 1,951 tactical unmanned aerial systems
- 796 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
- 458 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 293 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 284 attack and transport helicopters
- 222 anti-aircraft batteries
- 200 special equipment platforms, such as bridging equipment
- 18 boats and cutters
- four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems
On Thursday, Ukrainian forces continued to inflict the heaviest in the direction of Bakhmut, which is located in the south of the Donbas, and along the Kreminna-Svatove line in the east.
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: Russian special operation forces during training in 2016. (Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation)
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