It has been 135 days since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. On Friday, the Russian military halted major offensive operations in the Donbas, while the Ukrainians are pushing on with their counteroffensive in the south.
The war goes on
Despite the operational pause that was announced on Thursday by the Russian Ministry of Defense, Russian forces continue with limited offensive operations in the Donbas. Most of the fighting is taking place in the direction of Slovyansk, which is the next big target for the Russian military, and in the direction of Bakhmut, which is located further south in the Donbas.
In the south, the Ukrainian forces are pushing on with their counteroffensive and are successfully stopping any Russian counterattacks. The fighting on this front resembles the situation in the Donbas with the tables turned. The Ukrainians are making gains but rather slowly, using long-range fires to soften up targets before committing ground troops.
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 Friday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is claiming the following Russian casualties:
- 36,900 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 3,811 armored personnel carriers destroyed
- 2,685 vehicles and fuel tanks
- 1,637 tanks
- 828 artillery pieces
- 669 tactical unmanned aerial systems
- 217 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 247 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 187 attack and transport helicopters
- 155 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
- 153 anti-aircraft batteries
- 66 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 — and this is expected after over three months of war against the Russian military. Recent reports from the ground suggest that both these factors are true, and that the fatigue of warfare is catching up on both sides.
For most of May 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 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 Friday, 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.
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