It has been 72 days since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. On Friday, May 6, the Russian forces are trying to capture the whole of Mariupol, while the Ukrainian military has launched a two-pronged counterattack farther north in an attempt to frustrate the renewed Russian offensive.
From defense to offense
The Ukrainian military has launched a two-pronged counteroffensive in the vicinity of Izium and Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city which is located only a few miles from the border with Russia.
On Thursday, Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army General Mark Milley that the Ukrainian military has transitioned from defensive operations to offensive actions near Kharkiv.
The British Ministry of Defense has been publicizing a daily update on the war. Below is the latest map.
The goal of the Ukrainians seems to be to frustrate the Russian offensive farther south. The Russian military has created the conditions for encircling the Ukrainian troops in the Donbas: A combined Russian attack from Izium in the north and Donetsk in the south could create a cauldron and trap the Ukrainians inside.
But it is highly unlikely that the Russian military has the combat capability to pull that off. Despite 72 days of war, the Russian Aerospace Forces have failed to achieve air dominance over Ukraine. And the Ukrainian military is starting to incorporate the new weapon systems the U.S. and NATO have been sending. The M-777 155mm Howitzer, in particular, and counter-artillery radars will allow the Ukrainian military to conduct better counterattacks. According to the Pentagon, 80 M-777 155mm Howitzers are already in Ukraine with the rest 10 on their way to the eastern European country.
The Battle of Mariupol
The Pentagon assesses that approximately two Russian Battalion Tactical Groups (BTGs) are storming the Azovstal steelworks plant where the last Ukrainian defenders of Mariupol have barricaded themselves.
The steelworks plant is a vast industrial complex that occupies a big chunk of Mariupol. The Ukrainian forces have thoroughly prepared it for the Russian attack with bunkers and underground tunnels. For weeks now, the Russian military has been pummeling the Azovstal plant in an attempt to kill or force the Ukrainian defenders to surrender.
“On Mariupol, we still see Mariupol under siege from bombardment through airstrikes predominantly. We still assess that Ukrainian soldiers are still at that plant. They’ve said it themselves and are still resisting. So we again see the violence that’s being visited upon Mariupol and the destruction that’s being caused there as a continued bombardment by Russian airstrikes in Mariupol,” Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said a press briefing.
Only last week, the Pentagon assessed that there were approximately 12 BTGs or approximately 10,000 troops, committed to the siege of Mariupol. The majority of these forces have now been moved farther north to join the rest of the Russian forces in the Donbas.
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 500 Russian tanks.
As of Friday, the Ukrainian military is claiming the following:
- 24,900 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 2,686 armored personnel carriers destroyed
- 1,926 vehicles and fuel tanks
- 1,110 tanks
- 502 artillery pieces
- 324 unmanned aerial systems
- 199 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 171 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 155 attack and transport helicopters
- 90 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
- 83 anti-aircraft batteries
- 38 special equipment platforms, such as bridging equipment
- 11 boats and cutters
- four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems
The goal of the Russian military 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.