It has been 126 days since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. On Wednesday, the Ukrainian military is trying to slow down the Russian offensive in and around Lysychansk.
The battle for Lysychansk
Since capturing Severodonetsk over the weekend, the Russian forces have advanced toward Lysychansk, which is located right next door. The fighting is mainly taking place on the southern and southwestern outskirts of the Ukrainian city. The Russian advances have set the conditions for a topical encirclement of the Ukrainian forces, which suggests that the Ukrainian military might opt for another orderly withdrawal while trying to impose as heavy a cost on the Russian forces as possible.
In the south front, the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the vicinity of Kherson continues. On Tuesday, Ukrainian forces reportedly recaptured two settlements in the north of Kherson. The Ukrainian offensive operations in the south resemble those of the Russian military in the Donbas: Progress is slow and deliberate, frustrated by enemy fortifications. The Russians are playing defense in the south and continue to reinforce their positions there with men and weapon systems.
On the north front, in the vicinity of Kharkiv, the two sides are still embroiled in positional battles and no one has made any significant gains. The Russian forces are primarily trying to push the Ukrainians outside of artillery range of their supply lines that feed the Russian advance in the Donbas farther south.
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 Wednesday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is claiming the following Russian casualties:
- 35,450 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 3,720 armored personnel carriers destroyed
- 2,598vehicles and fuel tanks
- 1,572 tanks
- 781 artillery pieces
- 640 tactical unmanned aerial systems
- 217 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 246 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 185 attack and transport helicopters
- 142 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
- 103 anti-aircraft batteries
- 61 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 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 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 Wednesday, Ukrainian forces inflicted the heaviest casualties in the vicinity of Bakhmut, where the Russian forces are trying to advance and cut off Lysychansk 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.