It has been 296 days since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. On Friday, the Russian military continues to focus its offensive power and efforts on the Donbas, desperately trying to breach the Ukrainian defenses around the town of Bakhmut.
The fighting goes on
The war is about to enter its tenth month, but the Russian forces are still trying to advance in the Donbas. Moscow has been trying to take Bakhmut since early summer. But despite the loss of thousands of troops and weapon systems, the Russian military has failed to achieve anything more than advance a few miles and capture a handful of small settlements in the vicinity of the Ukrainian town.
An important logistical hub in the south of the Donbas, Bakhmut has become a political goal for the battered credibility of Russian President Vladimir Putin. From a strategic point of view, the capture of Bakhmut doesn’t make sense — or at least, it doesn’t have the same strategic value it had during the summer when the Russian forces were attacking from the north too in an attempt to encircle and destroy the Ukrainian forces in the Donbas.
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.
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 Friday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is claiming the following Russian casualties:
- 97,270 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 5,952 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles destroyed
- 4,563 vehicles and fuel tanks
- 2,980 tanks
- 1,946 artillery pieces
- 1,648 tactical unmanned aerial systems
- 281 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 410 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 264 attack and transport helicopters
- 592 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
- 211 anti-aircraft batteries
- 172 special equipment platforms, such as bridging equipment
- 16 boats and cutters
- four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems
On Friday, Ukrainian forces continued to inflict the heaviest in the direction of Bakhmut, which is located in the south of the Donbas, and Lyman, which is located in the northeast 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.
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