It has been 190 days since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. On Thursday, the Ukrainian military continues to push with the counteroffensive in the south.
The advance toward the city
The Ukrainian forces continue to advance toward Kherson from five directions, in some places pushing the Russian forces back as much as six miles. The Ukrainian military has liberated several settlements in the outskirts of the strategic Ukrainian city and is also using long-range strikes to harass, degrade, and destroy the Russian lines of supply and communications across the two banks of the Dnipro River.
However, the push toward Kherson is likely to take several days and even weeks as the Ukrainian military lacks the robust offensive capabilities necessary for a quick kinetic strike to recapture the city.
Instead, as the Ukrainian General Staff has acknowledged, the Ukrainian forces will advance slowly and deliberately toward the city, using long-range strikes with M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) to make life harder for the Russian defenders.
Related: Why recapturing Kherson is so important to Ukraine?
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 are citing 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.
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 Thursday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is claiming the following Russian casualties:
- 48,350 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 4,345 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles destroyed
- 3,239 vehicles and fuel tanks
- 1,997 tanks
- 1,115 artillery pieces
- 849 tactical unmanned aerial systems
- 234 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 287 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 205 attack and transport helicopters
- 196 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
- 153 anti-aircraft batteries
- 104 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.
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 Thursday, Ukrainian forces continued to inflict the heaviest casualties in the direction of Donetsk City and Kurakhove.
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: A soldier with the Ukrainian Land Forces fires an 82mm mortar during a mortar live-fire exercise at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center near Yavoriv, Ukraine as part of Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine (JMTG-U), Apr. 5, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Adriana M. Diaz-Brown)
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