It has been 98 days since the Russian invasion began. On Wednesday, the Russian forces are gaining ground in the Donbas, having entered in force the key Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk.
The Ukrainian military, on the other hand, is pushing with its counteroffensive toward the direction of Kherson, in the southeast.
Severodonetsk is falling
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense signaled that the Ukrainian defenders of Severodonetsk are withdrawing from the city, which explains the rapid Russian advance. Russia now controls most of the key urban center.
Severodonetsk is the last major city in the Luhansk province and controlling it offers Russian President Vladimir Putin a concrete political victory, although one of dubious strategic gain.
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.
To achieve that, the Russian forces have had to alter their tactics on the ground, focusing on slow, deliberate advances behind walls of artillery.
Using barrage after barrage of long-range fires, the Russian military has been pounding Ukrainian positions before it sends its armor and mechanized infantry units. Furthermore, the Russian commanders have concentrated a lot of troops in a small area, thus giving them a considerable numerical advantage over the Ukrainians. Last week, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense acknowledged that in some locations the Russian forces outnumbered Ukrainian units by seven to one.
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.
The same independent verification exists for much of the rest of the 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.
As of Wednesday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is claiming the following Russian casualties:
- 30,700 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 3,343 armored personnel carriers destroyed
- 2,290 vehicles and fuel tanks
- 1,361 tanks
- 659 artillery pieces
- 519 tactical unmanned aerial systems
- 208 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 207 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 175 attack and transport helicopters
- 120 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
- 94 anti-aircraft batteries
- 49 special equipment platforms, such as bridging equipment
- 13 boats and cutters
- four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems
Over the past few days, 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.
For most of the last weeks, 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 that the Russian military is trying to surround, and Lyman, where the Russian military suffered casualties.
In recent days, the location of the heaviest casualties shifted again westwards toward the area of Zaporizhzhia—where there is one of Europe’s largest nuclear plants—as a result of a Ukrainian counteroffensive there. On Wednesday, the Ukrainian forces inflicted the heaviest casualties in the regions of Kryvyi Rih and Bakhmut.
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