It has been 109 days since the Russian invasion began. On Sunday, the Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk is once more at the center of attention as the fierce fighting between the two sides continues.
The battle for Severodonetsk
The Ukrainian forces have been reduced to the industrial part of Severodonetsk and control approximately one-third of the strategic Ukrainian city. Intense street fighting between the two sides has turned Severodonetsk into a pile of rubble.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the southern part of Ukraine has resumed, with Ukrainian forces advancing northwest of Kherson.
“Russian forces continued to conduct ground offensives within the Severodonetsk area, but Ukrainian defenders retain control of the industrial area of the city as of June 11. Russian forces continued assaults on settlements southwest and southeast of Izyum in an effort to resume drives on Slovyansk,” the Institute for the Study of War assessed.
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 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.
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 Sunday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is claiming the following Russian casualties:
- 32,150 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 3,484 armored personnel carriers destroyed
- 2,455 vehicles and fuel tanks
- 1,430 tanks
- 715 artillery pieces
- 582 tactical unmanned aerial systems
- 212 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 226 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 178 attack and transport helicopters
- 125 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
- 96 anti-aircraft batteries
- 53 special equipment platforms, such as bridging equipment
- 13 boats and cutters
- four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems
Over the past weeks, 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. 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.
The Ukrainian military is also more focused on withdrawing from unattainable positions around Severodonetsk, which also might be the reason why the Russian casualty rates have slowed down.
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, and Lyman.
Then 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 in and around the area.
On Sunday, Ukrainian forces inflicted the heaviest casualties in the vicinity of Severodonetsk, reflecting their heavy fighting in the region that has been going on there for the past weeks.
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.