It has been 117 days since the Russian invasion began. On Monday, the Russian advance in Severodonetsk has stalled, while the Ukrainian military is pressing on with its counteroffensive in southern Ukraine.
A stalled advance
Severodonetsk remains contested despite the Russian military’s overwhelming superiority in long-range fires. In the renewed offensive in eastern Ukraine, the Russian military altered its tactics and is now using barrages of artillery to “soften up” targets before it commits armor and mechanized infantry units. That tactic has largely been successful, allowing the Russian forces to slowly and deliberately capture Ukrainian territory in a piecemeal fashion. But now in Severodonetsk, the tactic has hit a wall, as understrength Russian ground units are unable to break the Ukrainian defenses even with the support of long-range fires.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military is pressing on with its counteroffensive in southern Ukraine, and the Russian forces are trying to patch up their defenses there.
“Russian forces are focusing on strengthening defensive positions along the Southern Axis due to recent successful Ukrainian counterattacks along the Kherson-Mykolaiv Oblast border. Successful Ukrainian counterattacks in the Zaporizhia area are forcing Russian forces to rush reinforcements to this weakened sector of the front line,” 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 almost 800 Russian tanks; this assessment has been confirmed by the British Ministry of Defense.
The same independent verification exists for most of the other 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 Monday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is claiming the following Russian casualties:
- 33,800 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 3,588 armored personnel carriers destroyed
- 2,527 vehicles and fuel tanks
- 1,477 tanks
- 749 artillery pieces
- 601 tactical unmanned aerial systems
- 216 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 238 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 181 attack and transport helicopters
- 130 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
- 98 anti-aircraft batteries
- 55 special equipment platforms, such as bridging equipment
- 14 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.
For most of the last month, 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.
Then 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 in and around the area.
On Monday, Ukrainian forces inflicted the heaviest casualties in the vicinity of Bakhmut, where the Russian forces are trying to advance and cut off Severodonetsk from the rear, and in the direction of Zaporizhzhia, where the Ukrainian forces are mounting a counteroffensive.
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.