It has been 134 days since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. On Thursday, the Russian military has halted its advance in the Donbas after recent successes. The operational pause comes after weeks of fighting to take Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.
Tactical pause in the Donbas
The Russian military has halted large-scale offensive operations in the Donbas, most likely in an attempt to reorganize its forces for the next phase of the war. But not all activity has stopped as the Russian military conducted limited offensive operations toward the direction of Bakhmut and Slovyansk, which is set to become its next target.
Meanwhile, the fronts in the north (Kharkiv) and south (Kherson) have largely remained stable.
In Kharkiv, the two sides are embroiled in a back and forth as they try to harass each other. The Ukrainians are mainly going after the Russian logistical lines that run through the east of Kharkiv, and the Russians are trying to prevent that.
In the south, the Ukrainians have been steadily advancing toward Kherson, reaching settlements within eyesight of the occupied Ukrainian city.
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 800 Russian tanks (which amounts to more tanks than the combined armor capabilities of France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom) and more than 4,500 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. 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:
- 36,650 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 3,797 armored personnel carriers destroyed
- 2,665 vehicles and fuel tanks
- 1,602 tanks
- 815 artillery pieces
- 667 tactical unmanned aerial systems
- 217 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 247 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 187 attack and transport helicopters
- 155 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
- 153 anti-aircraft batteries
- 66 special equipment platforms, such as bridging equipment
- 15 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 May 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 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.
On Thursday, Ukrainian forces inflicted the heaviest casualties in the vicinity of Avdiivka and Bakhmut.
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.
Featured Image: Russian air assault exercise in 2019. (Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
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