It has been 108 days since the Russian invasion began. On Saturday, the fighting in and around Severodonetsk rages hot for yet another day.
The strategic city is seeing some of the fiercest fighting in the entire war with both sides are engaged in bitter street combat.
The Russian artillery advantage
For yet another day most of the fighting is taking place in and around Severodonetsk. The Russian military controls most of the city, but the Ukrainian forces are holding on tightly to their last positions. Intense street-to-street fighting is taking place with heavy use of long-range fires from both sides. And yet here is where the Russian military has a distinctive advantage: the Russians enjoy a long-range fires advantage, due to their superiority in artillery, and use it to push the Ukrainian forces back and negate their proven anti-tank and urban fighting skills.
“Russian forces are continuing ground assaults within Severodonetsk but have yet to secure full control of the city as of June 10. Russian forces are preparing to renew offensive operations toward Slovyansk [in the north] and made minor gains to the north of the city,” the Institute for the Study of War assessed in its latest update on the war.
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 600 Russian tanks, a statement that has been reaffirmed by the British Ministry of Defense.
Same independent verification exists for much of the rest of the Ukrainian claims. Only 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.
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 Saturday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is claiming the following Russian casualties:
- 32,050 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 3,466 armored personnel carriers destroyed
- 2,448 vehicles and fuel tanks
- 1,419 tanks
- 712 artillery pieces
- 579 tactical unmanned aerial systems
- 212 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 222 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 178 attack and transport helicopters
- 125 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
- 96 anti-aircraft batteries
- 53 special equipment platforms, such as bridging equipment
- 13 boats and cutters
- four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems
Over the past weeks, the rate of Russian casualties has slowed down significantly 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 over three 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.
The Ukrainian military is also more focused on withdrawing from unattainable positions around Severodonetsk, which also might be the reason why the Russian casualty rates have slowed down.
For most of the last weeks, 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 went on, most of the heavy fighting shifted toward the direction of Bakhmut, southeast of Slovyansk, around Severodonetsk, a key Ukrainian town, and Lyman.
In recent days, the location of the heaviest casualties shifted again westwards toward the area of Zaporizhzhia — where one of Europe’s largest nuclear plants is located — as a result of a Ukrainian counteroffensive there. On Saturday, Ukrainian forces inflicted the heaviest casualties in the vicinity of Severodonetsk, reflecting their heavy fighting in the region.
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.
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