It has been 244 days since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. On Tuesday, the two adversaries are preparing for the big fight for Kherson City in the south of the country.
The fight for Kherson
Over the past few days, the Russian military has been withdrawing its forces from the western bank of the Dnipro River in anticipation of a Ukrainian counteroffensive.
The Ukrainian forces have been seriously pushing in the south since the late summer, mixing up offensive ground operations with a long-range fires interdiction campaign that has targeted everything and anything related to the Russian military. The Ukrainian forces have been using the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), M270 Multiple Rocket Launch System (MLRS), and the M-777 155mm howitzer with M982 Excalibur precision-guided munition to target and take out Russian lines of communication and lines of supply.
In the face of this pressure, the Russian forces, which can’t counter the Ukrainian long-range fires, have been withdrawing their forces to the eastern bank of the Dnipro River through makeshift pontoon bridges. But now it looks like the Russian military will stand its ground in Kherson City and fight for the largest Ukrainian urban center it has captured.
“Russian forces are likely preparing to defend Kherson City and are not fully withdrawing from upper Kherson Oblast despite previous confirmed reports of some Russian elements withdrawing from upper Kherson,” the Institute for the Study of War assessed in its latest operational update.
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 1,400 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 up to 50,000 casualties (killed and wounded) in the war so far.
In the summer, Sir Tony Radakin, the British Chief of the Defence Staff, recently 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.
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 Tuesday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is claiming the following Russian casualties:
- 68,420 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 5,321 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles destroyed
- 4,054 vehicles and fuel tanks
- 2,611 tanks
- 1,674 artillery pieces
- 1,372 tactical unmanned aerial systems
- 271 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 377 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 248 attack and transport helicopters
- 350 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
- 190 anti-aircraft batteries
- 149 special equipment platforms, such as bridging equipment
- 16 boats and cutters
- four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems
For most of May, the Russian military suffered the greatest casualties around the Slovyansk, Kryvyi Rih, and Zaporizhzhia areas, reflecting the heavy fighting that was going on there. As the days and weeks went on, most of the heavy fighting shifted toward the direction of Bakhmut, southeast of Slovyansk, around Severodonetsk, Lyman, and Lysychansk.
Then the location of the heaviest casualties shifted again westwards toward the area of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia — where one of Europe’s largest nuclear plants is located — as a result of a Ukrainian counteroffensive in and around the area.
Then, the concentration of casualties once more shifted back to the Donbas, especially in and around Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, the two urban centers the Russians managed to capture in July. For most of August, the heaviest fighting took place in the Donbas, where the Russian forces unsuccessfully tried to breach the Ukrainian defenses and capture the Donetsk province. But lately, most of the fighting has shifted to the south where the Ukrainian military is mounting a major counteroffensive to recapture Kherson. It is now there, on the southern front, that the Russian military is suffering the heaviest casualties.
On Tuesday, Ukrainian forces continued to inflict the heaviest in the direction of Bakhmut, which is located in the south of the Donbas, and Kramatorsk, which is located in the central 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: Russian MLRSs firing. (Creative Commons)
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