It has been 219 days since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. On Friday, the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the east has likely encircled a sizeable Russian force in Lyman.
Surrounded and alone
The Ukrainian forces have managed to encircle Lyman after their two axes of advance linked up on the east of the occupied Ukrainian city, according to reports by Russian military bloggers who keep close tabs on the tactical and operational situation.
“Ukrainian troops have likely nearly completed the encirclement of the Russian grouping in Lyman and cut critical ground lines of communication (GLOCS) that support Russian troops in the Drobysheve-Lyman area,” the Institute for the Study of War assessed in its latest operational update that was published yesterday.
In the south, the Ukrainian military has been keeping tight operational security around its counteroffensive and hasn’t been sharing a lot of information about its progress. That, however, shouldn’t be taken as a sign of failure. The Ukrainians have maintained good operational security throughout the war and this practice was instrumental in their highly successful counteroffensive in Kharkiv earlier in September.
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 1,100 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 Friday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is claiming the following Russian casualties:
- 59,080 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 4,932 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles destroyed
- 3,768 vehicles and fuel tanks
- 2,338 tanks
- 1,391 artillery pieces
- 1,003 tactical unmanned aerial systems
- 264 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 333 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 225 attack and transport helicopters
- 246 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
- 176 anti-aircraft batteries
- 131 special equipment platforms, such as bridging equipment
- 15 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 Friday, Ukrainian forces continued to inflict the heaviest casualties north of Donetsk City, where the Russian military persists in launching futile assaults on the Ukrainian defenses, and in the direction of Kramatorsk, which is located in the central 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: Ukrainian soldiers observe a Russian tank during the battle of Mariupol. (Ukrainian Ministry of Defense)