It has been 238 days since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. On Wednesday, after many weeks on the defense, the Russian military conducted very limited attacks in the east.
Rusian attacks in the east
Russian forces in the northeastern part of the Kharkiv province (approximately 30 miles from the international border with Ukraine) conducted limited attacks. The Ukrainian forces repelled the Russian attempts to recapture a small settlement. But the attacks suggest that the Russian high command still retains some belief that not all is lost in the east.
In early September, a surprise Ukrainian counteroffensive around Kharkiv swept the Russian defenses and liberated thousands of square miles of territory. Since then, the Russian forces have been on the defensive.
The only other location across the entire battlefield where the Russian military continues to be on the offensive is the south of the Donbas around Bakhmut and Avdiivka. Russian forces have been battering their heads against the Ukrainian defenses around the two cities for months now, but with only a few miles of captured territory and thousands of casualties to show as a result.
In the south, the Ukrainian military is attacking across the contact line while using long-range strikes to target, degrade, and destroy the Russian lines of communication and supply throughout the Kherson province.
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 1,300 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 Wednesday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is claiming the following Russian casualties:
- 66,280 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 5,235 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles destroyed
- 3,999 vehicles and fuel tanks
- 2,554 tanks
- 1,637 artillery pieces
- 1,286 tactical unmanned aerial systems
- 269 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 372 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 242 attack and transport helicopters
- 323 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
- 189 anti-aircraft batteries
- 146 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 Wednesday, 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: Soldiers from the Ukrainian National Guard’s 3029th Regiment conduct checkpoint operations June 10, 2015, during a field exercise as part of Fearless Guardian in Yavoriv, Ukraine. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Alexander Skripnichuk, 13th Public Affairs Detachment).