It has been 86 days since the Russian invasion began. On Friday, the Russian forces are intensifying their attacks in the Donbas in an attempt to break the Ukrainian defenses.
In the wake of Mariupol
In its daily estimate of the war, the British Ministry of Defense focused on the situation in Mariupol. The southern Ukrainian port city held against the Russian forces for almost three months. Through their admirable defense, the Ukrainian defenders tied down between 12 and 20 Russian battalion tactical groups (approximately, 12,000 to 20,000 men) that could have been used elsewhere in Ukraine.
“As many as 1,700 Ukrainian soldiers are likely to have surrendered from the Mariupol Azovstal steel factory. An unknown number of Ukrainian forces remain inside the factory. Once Russia has secured Mariupol, it is likely they will move their forces to reinforce operations in the Donbas,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.
And yet the Ukrainian defenders of Mariupol can still exact a price from the Russian forces even in defeat. Due to the vastness of the operational environment and the lack of troops, the Russian military doesn’t have the luxury to rest and refit the forces that fought in Mariupol for the appropriate time. As a result, it is highly likely that Russian commanders will redeploy the battalion tactical groups that fought in Mariupol to other combat areas in Ukraine sooner than they should have.
This was the case with the battalion tactical groups that fought in Kyiv and the north of Ukraine. Once the Ukrainian forces thwarted the Russian effort there, the Russian commanders redeployed their forces to eastern Ukraine with minimal time to rest and refit.
“Staunch Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol since the start of the war means Russian forces in the area must be re-equipped and refurbished before they can be redeployed effectively. This can be a lengthy process when done thoroughly. Russian commanders, however, are under pressure to demonstrably achieve operational objectives. This means that Russia will probably redistribute their forces swiftly without adequate preparation, which risks further force attrition,” the British Military Intelligence added.
Moreover, U.S. intelligence suggests that Russian commanders are afraid of the backlash caused by their forces’ actions in Mariupol, where they brutalize and terrorize the population.
The Institute of the Study of War also stated that Russian troops and proxy authorities in the Ukrainian port city are struggling to establish coherent administrative control of Mariupol.
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.
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 the rest of the Ukrainian claims.
As of Friday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is claiming the following Russian casualties:
- 28,700 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 3,090 armored personnel carriers destroyed
- 2,162 vehicles and fuel tanks
- 1,263 tanks
- 596 artillery pieces
- 460 tactical unmanned aerial systems
- 204 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 200 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 168 attack and transport helicopters
- 103 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
- 93 anti-aircraft batteries
- 43 special equipment platforms, such as bridging equipment
- 13 boats and cutters
- four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems
In the past few days, most of the latest Russian casualties took place around the Slovyansk, Kryvyi Rih, and Zaporizhzhia areas, reflecting the heavy fighting that is going on there. Now the heavy fighting has shifted in direction of Bahmut, which is located southeast of Slovyansk.
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