It has been 104 days since the Russian invasion began. On Tuesday, the fighting in and around Severodonetsk continued as both sides are trying to capture the key Ukrainian city.
Severodonetsk and the Donbas
In its latest tactical update of the war, the Institute for the Study of War focused on the fighting in the Donbas. Despite encouraging claims by some Ukrainian officials in the previous days, Severodonetsk is very much a contested city, in which the Russian military controls most of the ground. The Russian forces continue to enjoy a long-range-fires advantage, which they use to destructive results.
“Russian forces likely retain control over most of Severodonetsk as of June 6, though the exact situation in the city remains unclear. Control of terrain is likely changing hands frequently. Russian forces in the Izyum area did not make any confirmed advances, while forces advancing west from Lyman secured minor gains. Russian forces continued unsuccessful attempts to sever Ukrainian lines of communication northeast of Bakhmut,” the Institute for the Study of War stated.
The frontal attacks against Severodonetsk are just one of the Russian axes of advance in the Donbas. Farther to the northwest of the city, in the direction of Izium and Lyman, the Russian forces are trying to break the Ukrainian defenses and advance to the south to meet with a Russian grouping of forces that are attacking in the direction of Bakhmut. Should the Russian military manage to pull this off, it will encircle quite a chunk of Ukrainian territory, including Severodonetsk.
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.
As of Tuesday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is claiming the following Russian casualties:
- 31,360 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
- 3,416 armored personnel carriers destroyed
- 2,405 vehicles and fuel tanks
- 1,390 tanks
- 694 artillery pieces
- 553 tactical unmanned aerial systems
- 212 fighter, attack, and transport jets
- 207 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
- 177 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 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.
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.
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 Tuesday, Ukrainian forces inflicted the heaviest casualties in the vicinity of Severodonetsk, reflecting their heavy fighting in the region.
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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