It has been 121 days since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. On Friday, the Russian forces are pushing hard on the southwest of Severodonetsk.
The noose is closing
The Russian forces are edging closer to Severodonetsk but from the southwest instead of the front. The last Ukrainian defenders in the city are still holding on in the Azot Chemical Plant, which is located in Severodonetsk industrial zone. On Friday morning, these troops were ordered to withdraw to the West and abandon the city to the Russian forces.
The Russian advance has reached the southern suburbs of Lysychansk, which is located directly west of Severodonetsk.
“Russian forces have likely reached the southern outskirts of Lysychansk and are reinforcing their grouping around Severodonetsk to complete the capture of both Severodonetsk and Lysychansk. These gains remain unlikely to provide Russian forces with a decisive edge in further operations in Ukraine and have further degraded Russian capabilities. . . Russian forces have likely successfully interdicted Ukrainian lines of communication along the T1302 highway and are using recent gains along the highway to reinforce assaults on Lysychansk,” the Institute for the Study of War assessed in its latest operational update on the conflict.
South of Lysychansk, the Russian military claims to have surrounded the Ukrainian settlements of Hirske and Zolote, trapping the Ukrainian force.
On the southern front, the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the direction of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia has largely stalled. The Russian military has moved men and hardware in the region and continues to build its defenses.
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 Friday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is claiming the following Russian casualties:
- 34,530 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 3,637 armored personnel carriers destroyed
- 2,553 vehicles and fuel tanks
- 1,507 tanks
- 759 artillery pieces
- 622 tactical unmanned aerial systems
- 216 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 241 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 183 attack and transport helicopters
- 137 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
- 99 anti-aircraft batteries
- 60 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 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.
On Friday, 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.
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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