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War in Ukraine: The Fight for Highway P66

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It has been 314 days since the Russian invasion began. On Tuesday, the two militaries are fighting hard for the control of a key highway in the east.

The battle for Highway P66

The fierce fighting in the east continues. The Ukrainian forces are trying to deny the use of the critical P66 highway from the Russians through artillery strikes. Located to the north of Kreminna, a Russian-occupied town, the highway is an important supply route for the Russian military in the east and also the Donbas.

For the past week, there is also heavy ground fighting for the control of the highway, with Ukrainian and Russian units conducting repeated attacks and counterattacks for its control. If the Ukrainian forces manage to capture the P66 highway, that will seriously undermine the defense of Kreminna. And if the town falls, the way to the town of Svatove, a key logistical hub further to the east, would be open for the Ukrainian military.

In the Donbas, the Russian assaults against Bakhmut are losing steam, while the Ukrainian military is shifting increasingly more reinforcements to the area to buttress its defenses.

Finally, in the south, the situation has remained unchanged.

Russian casualties

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 1,600 Russian tanks (which amounts to more tanks than the combined armor capabilities of France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom) and more than 5,300 military vehicles of all types; this assessment has been confirmed by the British Ministry of Defense.

The same independent verification exists for most of the other Ukrainian claims. 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 more than 100,000 casualties (killed and wounded) in the war so far.

In the summer, Sir Tony Radakin, the British Chief of the Defence Staff, had told the BBC that the West understands that more than 50,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded in the conflict thus far. If we were to take the Ukrainian figures as accurate, the number mentioned by Sir Radakin is on the low side of the spectrum.

In November, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley shared the U.S. military’s assessment that the Russian military has lost more than 100,000 troops so far in the war.

Yet, 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:

  • 108,190 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
  • 6,100 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles destroyed
  • 4,735 vehicles and fuel tanks
  • 3,036 tanks
  • 2,033 artillery pieces
  • 1,839 tactical unmanned aerial systems
  • 283 fighter, attack, and transport jets
  • 424 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
  • 270 attack and transport helicopters
  • 723 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
  • 214 anti-aircraft batteries
  • 181 special equipment platforms, such as bridging equipment
  • 16 boats and cutters
  • four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems

On Tuesday, Ukrainian forces continued to inflict the heaviest in the direction of Bakhmut, which is located in the south of the Donbas, and Lyman, which is located in the northeast of the Donbas.

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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Stavros Atlamazoglou

Greek Army veteran (National service with 575th Marines Battalion and Army HQ). Johns Hopkins University. You will usually find him on the top of a mountain admiring the view and wondering how he got there.