It has been 115 days since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. On Saturday, the fighting in the Donbas continues unabated as the Russian military is pushing hard on three axes of advance.
However, the Ukrainians are holding fast and even counterattacking in places in an attempt to frustrate the Russian plans.
Fighting in the Donbas
Despite weeks of fierce fighting, the Russian military has failed to completely capture Severodonetsk. Pockets of Ukrainian resistance remain and continue to fight on, supplied from the west as the Russian forces have failed to encircle the Ukrainian city. Although the destroyed bridges make it harder to resupply the Ukrainian forces in Severodonetsk, but the lines of communications are still open.
Meanwhile, the Russian military is putting pressure on the northwest and southwest of Severodonetsk in an attempt to encircle the Ukrainian forces from the rear.
“Russian forces continued efforts to sever Ukrainian lines of communication to Lysychansk, both from the north toward Slovyansk and in the south near Bakhmut. Ukrainian forces are likely conducting a counteroffensive northwest of Izyum intended to draw Russian forces away from offensive operations toward Slovyansk and disrupt Russian supply lines and are making minor gains,” the institute for the Study of War assessed in its latest update of the war.
The Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south continues, with Ukrainian forces targeting Russian logistics and fortified positions with long-range fires and airstrikes.
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 almost 800 Russian tanks; 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 Saturday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is claiming the following Russian casualties:
- 33,350 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 3,573 armored personnel carriers destroyed
- 2,513 vehicles and fuel tanks
- 1,465 tanks
- 739 artillery pieces
- 595 tactical unmanned aerial systems
- 216 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 233 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 180 attack and transport helicopters
- 129 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
- 98 anti-aircraft batteries
- 55 special equipment platforms, such as bridging equipment
- 14 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.
For most of the last 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 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 one of Europe’s largest nuclear plants is located — as a result of a Ukrainian counteroffensive in and around the area.
On Saturday, Ukrainian forces inflicted the heaviest casualties in the vicinity of Bakhmut, where the Russian forces are trying to advance and cut off Severodonetsk from the rear.
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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