It has been 203 days since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. On Wednesday, the Ukrainian military is still consolidating its unexpected gains in the east and the mountains of equipment that it seized from the fleeing Russians.
Meanwhile, in the south, the counteroffensive toward Kherson continues untroubled.
Mountains of gear
In the counteroffensive’s first five days, the Ukrainian military managed to liberate more territory than the Russian forces had captured in five months. In most places, the Russian troops just dropped their weapons, got up, and left, leaving behind them hundreds of tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers, artillery pieces, and vehicles of all types.
The numbers are still shrouded in the fog of war, but some early estimations by open-source intelligence suggest that the Russians abandoned two brigades worth of equipment, or more than 200 military vehicles and weapon systems.
In the south, the Ukrainian counteroffensive is still pushing from three directions, making incremental gains every day. The operational environment is quite different between the two fronts. The east has more open land, whereas the south is marked by farming plots and irrigation fields, thus making lightning advances like the one in Kharkiv more challenging.
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 1,000 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.
Related: Breaking out of a POW camp on a Russian helicopter
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 Wednesday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is claiming the following Russian casualties:
- 53,650 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 4,665 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles destroyed
- 3,501 vehicles and fuel tanks
- 2,180 tanks
- 1,290 artillery pieces
- 908 tactical unmanned aerial systems
- 246 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 311 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 215 attack and transport helicopters
- 233 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
- 167 anti-aircraft batteries
- 120 special equipment platforms, such as bridging equipment
- 15 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 casualties in the direction of Donetsk City and Kharkiv.
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 Ukrainian soldier posing in front of two captured Russian BTR-80 armored personnel carriers in the east. (Twitter via Ukraine Weapons Tracker)
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