It has been 140 days since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. On Thursday, the situation on the ground has largely remained unchanged as the two sides take advantage of the lull in combat.
A tour around the battlefield
In the Donbas, the Russian military launched ground assaults in the direction of Bakhmut and in the north of Slovyansk, which will most likely be the next target once major offensive operations restart.
Russian forces continued to use long-range fires and airstrikes to target Ukrainian positions behind the frontlines in the Donetsk province in an attempt to harass incoming Ukrainian reinforcements or units that are resting and degrade their combat capabilities.
On the northern front, the Russian military launched limited ground assaults north of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, but failed to achieve any gains.
On the southern front, the Ukrainian military is steadily pressing on with its counteroffensive in the direction of Kherson. Over the past few weeks, the Ukrainian forces have made slow and deliberate gains in the area and are now within reach of Kherson. However, the Russians have dug in and are waiting for the Ukrainian push. It remains to be seen whether the Ukrainian military has the capabilities to launch a successful combined arms offensive and retake the strategically important Kherson.
Western-supplied weapons, such as the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), however, are proving devastating on the hands of the Ukrainians and are helping them target Russian ammunition depots and command and control centers tens of miles behind enemy lines.
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 800 Russian tanks (which amounts to more tanks than the combined armor capabilities of France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom) and more than 4,500 military vehicles of all types; 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 Thursday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is claiming the following Russian casualties:
- 37,870 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 3,852 armored personnel carriers destroyed
- 2,720 vehicles and fuel tanks
- 1,667 tanks
- 840 artillery pieces
- 681 tactical unmanned aerial systems
- 219 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 247 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 188 attack and transport helicopters
- 155 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
- 109 anti-aircraft batteries
- 67 special equipment platforms, such as bridging equipment
- 15 boats and cutters
- four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems
Over the past weeks, the rate of Russian casualties has slowed down 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. 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 May, 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 and weeks went on, most of the heavy fighting shifted toward the direction of Bakhmut, southeast of Slovyansk, around Severodonetsk, Lyman, and Lysychansk.
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 Thursday, Ukrainian forces inflicted the heaviest casualties in the vicinity of Avdiivka and Bakhmut.
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.