It has been 127 days since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. On Thursday, most of the fighting is taking place in the outskirts and around Lysychansk as the Russian military is trying to take advantage of its success in Severodonetsk and build some momentum.
Lysychansk and Snake Island
The fighting in and around Lysychansk continues. The Russian military has reached the Lysychansk oil refinery, which is located 6 miles southwest of the city’s center, but the Ukrainian forces have the advantages of defense and of occupying the higher ground.
Farther to the southwest of Lysychansk, the Russian military has made some marginal gains in the direction of Bakhmut and they are attempting to cut the Ukrainian lines of communication and force them to withdraw from the Donbas.
In the north, in the vicinity of Kharkiv, there is a relative stalemate as both sides are investing resources but not enough to achieve anything significant.
“Russian forces are continuing to engage in offensive operations north of Kharkiv City, indicating that the Kremlin has territorial ambitions beyond the Donbas that will continue to attrit manpower and equipment, potentially at the cost of offensive power on more critical axes of advance,” the Institute for the Study of War assessed.
In the south, the Ukrainian counteroffensive is making small gains every day, forcing the Russians to commit men and weapons to the defense of Kherson, the largest and most important Ukrainian city Moscow has captured after four months of war.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainians scored a small victory on Snake Island.
Snake Island is a small piece of land in the Black Sea that became famous after its small Ukrainian garrison had defied a Russian flotilla that was trying to capture it in the opening days of the war. Eventually, the Ukrainian garrison surrendered, and the Russian military tried to fortify Snake Island with long-range anti-aircraft and anti-ship missiles in order to deny the Ukrainians the territory.
However, the Ukrainians didn’t let it go and kept harassing the Russian forces on the island with long-range missile strikes, airstrikes, and drone strikes. In the end, the Ukrainian pressure bore fruits, and on Thursday the Russian military announced that it has withdrawn its force from Snake Island.
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 almost 800 Russian tanks; this assessment has been confirmed by the British Ministry of Defense.
The same independent verification exists for most of the other Ukrainian claims. Only 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 20,000 fatalities in the war so far.
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:
- 35,600 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 3,726 armored personnel carriers destroyed
- 2,602 vehicles and fuel tanks
- 1,573 tanks
- 790 artillery pieces
- 641 tactical unmanned aerial systems
- 217 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 246 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 185 attack and transport helicopters
- 143 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
- 104 anti-aircraft batteries
- 61 special equipment platforms, such as bridging equipment
- 14 boats and cutters
- four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems
Over the past weeks, the rate of Russian casualties has slowed down despite continuous pressure and offensive operations in the Donbas. This suggests two things: First, the Russian commanders are taking a more cautious approach to their offensive operations, fully utilizing combined arms warfare to achieve their goals; and second, the Ukrainian forces are running out of combat power or ammunition — and this is expected after over three months of war against the Russian military. Recent reports from the ground suggest that both of these factors are true, and that the fatigue of warfare is catching up on both sides.
For most of the last month, 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 went on, most of the heavy fighting shifted toward the direction of Bakhmut, southeast of Slovyansk, around Severodonetsk, a key Ukrainian town, and Lyman.
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.
On Thursday, Ukrainian forces inflicted the heaviest casualties in the vicinity of Bakhmut, where the Russian forces are trying to advance and cut off Severodonetsk from the rear, and Kurakhove, near Donetsk.
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.
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