It has been 303 days since the Russian invasion began. On Friday, the Ukrainian forces are holding the line in the town of Bakhmut, preventing Moscow from capturing the town and achieving an important political victory.
The fighting goes on
In the Donbas, the Russian forces have been making some headway in the outskirts of Bakhmut but have failed to breach the Ukrainian defenses in any serious way.
The strategic significance of Bakhmut has certainly been reduced since the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the east. Initially, the Russian military had planned a two-pronged assault from the north and south of the Donbas in order to trap the Ukrainian forces in a cauldron. However, the Ukrainian surprise counterstroke in the east in September destroyed the Russian forces in the north of the Donbas, thus reducing the importance of the Russian southern thrust toward Bakhmut. But the town remains a political goal for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In the south, the Russian military continues to bolster its defensive posture in anticipation of further Ukrainian counteroffensive operations.
In the east, the Ukrainian and Russian militaries have been attacking and counterattacking with Kreminna, which leads to the key logistical hub of Svatove, as the price.
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:
- 100,950 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 5,986 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles destroyed
- 4,622 vehicles and fuel tanks
- 3,005 tanks
- 1,984 artillery pieces
- 1,698 tactical unmanned aerial systems
- 283 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 414 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 267 attack and transport helicopters
- 653 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
- 212 anti-aircraft batteries
- 178 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, which is located in the south of the Donbas, and Lyman, which is located in the northeast 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: A Ukrainian soldier fires from a trench in eastern Ukraine, 2015. (Photo by Noah Brooks/Ministry of Defense of Ukraine)
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