It has been 281 days since the Russian invasion began. On Friday, the fighting all across Ukraine continues unabated, with the Ukrainians holding fast in Bakhmut in the Donbas.
Fighting in the Donbas
Heavy fighting is taking place in the Donbas as the Russian forces are pushing hard against Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Pavlivka. The Russians are making incremental gains at the cost of hundreds of troops killed.
In the south, the Russian military is bolstering its defenses on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River as the Ukrainian forces are preparing the conditions for the eventual counteroffensive there.
Although the Kremlin has repeatedly stated that the partial mobilization that Russian President Vladimir Putin called in September has ended, reports indicate that that is not the case. The low morale of the Russian forces, coupled with the extremely heavy casualties, is causing high desertion rates. As a result, Russian frontline units still need troops even after more than 300,000 men were called up 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 1,500 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:
- 90,090 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 5,883 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles destroyed
- 4,464 vehicles and fuel tanks
- 2,916 tanks
- 1,905 artillery pieces
- 1,564 tactical unmanned aerial systems
- 280 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 395 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 262 attack and transport helicopters
- 531 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
- 210 anti-aircraft batteries
- 163 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, Pavlivka, and Avdiivka, which are all located in the south 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: Russian reservists in Yalta during the September 2022 partial mobilization called by Moscow. (Wikimedia Commons via Department of Information Policy of Yalta City Administation)
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