It has been 118 days since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. On Tuesday, the Russian military is ramping up the pressure on Severodonetsk in an attempt to capture the strategic Ukrainian city by the end of the week.
A race with time
According to Ukrainian officials, the Kremlin has set June 26 as the deadline for the capture of the Luhansk province. Right now, the Russian military controls approximately 95 percent of the province. Only a few villages and Severodonetsk, the last major urban center in Luhansk, are not in full Russian control, are still in Ukrainian hands, or contested.
The Russian forces control most of Severodonetsk but have failed to dislodge the Ukrainian troops from the Azot Chemical Plant in the city’s industrial zone. Moreover, despite destroying the bridges that lead to the city from the west, they have failed to encircle Severodonetsk and cut off the Ukrainian supply and communications lines.
“Ukrainian sources stated that the coming week will be decisive for Russian forces to complete the capture of Severodonetsk and that Russian forces will focus troops and equipment on the area. Ukrainian sources confirmed that Russian forces control all of Severodonetsk with the exception of the Azot industrial zone, where fights are ongoing. . . Russian forces are likely intensifying operations to interdict Ukrainian lines of communication along the T1302 Bakhmut-Lysychansk highway in order to support escalating operations in Severodonetsk-Lysychansk,” the Institute for the Study of War assessed in its latest operational update on the conflict.
Meanwhile, in the south, the Ukrainian forces are pressing on with the counterattack in the direction of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia but have failed to gain any significant momentum. Across the battlefield, the war is now one of slow and deliberate advance and of attrition.
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 Tuesday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is claiming the following Russian casualties:
- 34,100 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 3,606 armored personnel carriers destroyed
- 2,537 vehicles and fuel tanks
- 1,496 tanks
- 752 artillery pieces
- 611 tactical unmanned aerial systems
- 216 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 239 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 181 attack and transport helicopters
- 137 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
- 98 anti-aircraft batteries
- 59 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 Tuesday, 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, and in the direction of Avdiivka, close to Donetsk.
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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