It has been 191 days since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. On Friday, the Ukrainian military continues with its counteroffensive in the south.
Fighting in the south
Although the Ukrainian forces are making gains in the south, the Russian military is putting up stiff resistance. Reports from the ground indicate that the Russian forces have an abundance of weapon systems, including tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles, and artillery, at their disposal. However, reports also suggest that the Russian forces lack trained men to take advantage of their materiel fully.
On the other hand, the Ukrainian forces have the benefit of a long-planned counteroffensive with fresh reserves in hand to rotate frequently in the front. Those reserves coupled with NATO weapon systems, especially the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), give the Ukrainian military an advantage.
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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 1,000 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 cite Western intelligence officials indicate that the Russian military has suffered up to 20,000 fatalities in the war so far. 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.
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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:
- 48,700 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 4,366 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles destroyed
- 3,247 vehicles and fuel tanks
- 2,009 tanks
- 1,126 artillery pieces
- 853 tactical unmanned aerial systems
- 234 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 289 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 205 attack and transport helicopters
- 198 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
- 153 anti-aircraft batteries
- 105 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 six 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.
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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.
On Friday, Ukrainian forces continued to inflict the heaviest casualties in the direction of Donetsk City and Kurakhove.
Feature Image: Ukrainian soldiers in Sloviansk in eastern Ukraine, 2014. (Photo by Pryshutova Viktoria)
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