It has been 334 days since the Russian invasion began. On Monday, the battlefield remains in a state of deadlock as both sides are massing forces and weapon systems for the upcoming offensive operations once the weather improves.
A ‘frozen’ battlefield
The winter has frozen the battlefield both literally and figuratively. The cold, sleet, and mud have prevented the two combatants from conducting large-scale offensive operations. As a result, the fighting has taken a localized character with attacks and counterattacks in specific sectors of the battlefield.
In the east, the Russian forces are conducting limited counterattacks in an attempt to regain lost territory along the Kreminna-Svatove line. The Ukrainians are trying to reach Kreminna but their effort is hindered by Russian resistance and the forested terrain.
In the Donbas, the Russian forces are throwing everything they have against Bakhmut, but the Ukrainian defense is holding fast. The Russian assault against the town is well over its peak after more than six months of combat.
In the south, the two sides have massed troops in the Zaporizhzhia province but have started any large-scale offensive operations yet.
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 1,600 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 Monday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is claiming the following Russian casualties:
- 121,480 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 6,276 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles destroyed
- 4,936 vehicles and fuel tanks
- 3,150 tanks
- 2,146 artillery pieces
- 1,894 tactical unmanned aerial systems
- 749 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
- 447 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 287 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 277 attack and transport helicopters
- 220 anti-aircraft batteries
- 193 special equipment platforms, such as bridging equipment
- 18 boats and cutters
- four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems
On Monday, Ukrainian forces continued to inflict the heaviest in the direction of Bakhmut, which is located in the south of the Donbas, and along the Kreminna-Svatove line in the east.
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: Ukraine’s 30th Prince Konstanty Ostrogski Mechanized Brigade during winter tank training, early February 2022. (30th Prince Konstanty Ostrogski Mechanized Brigade)
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