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Watch: Ukrainian deception against Russia

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The heavy losses that both sides are suffering on the ground in Ukraine are forcing innovation.

Despite losing some ground, the Ukrainians continue to be innovative and continue to use deception at all levels. For example, a recent video shows a Russian Lancet loitering munition attacking what seems to be a Ukrainian 9K33 OSA air defense system somewhere in Kherson. In reality, however, the weapon system was a decoy intended to fool the Russians.

The war goes on

It has been 329 days since the Russian invasion began. On Wednesday, the Russian forces are most likely in control of Soledar in the Donbas and are now in a position to threaten Bakhmut from the north.

And yet, Russia’s tactical victory in Soledar is only just that — tactical. There is little operational value in capturing the small salt mining town in the Donbas. To be sure, it increases pressure on the Ukrainian defenders of Bakhmut, but it doesn’t cut the Ukrainian lines of supply and communications going into the town.

In the east, the Russian forces are conducting small-scale attacks along the Kreminna-Svatove line of contact in an attempt to push back the Ukrainian forces. Ukrainian officials are suggesting that Moscow is preparing for a large push in the area.

In the south, the Ukrainian forces continue to pursue their long-range fires interdiction campaign, seriously restricting the Russian lines of command and supply.

Related: UK intelligence says Russia’s Su-57 is involved in Ukraine war

The situation in the Donbas. (ISW)

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.

Related: Is Russia’s S-400 really better than America’s Patriot air defense system?

Ukrainian artillery during training exercises. (File photo)

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  Wednesday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is claiming the following Russian casualties:

  • 117,770 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
  • 6,225 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles destroyed
  • 4,889 vehicles and fuel tanks
  • 3,130 tanks
  • 2,108 artillery pieces
  • 1,876 tactical unmanned aerial systems
  • 749 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
  • 442 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
  • 287 fighter, attack, and transport jets
  • 276 attack and transport helicopters
  • 220 anti-aircraft batteries
  • 190 special equipment platforms, such as bridging equipment
  • 17 boats and cutters
  • four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems

On Wednesday, Ukrainian forces continued to inflict the heaviest in the direction of Bakhmut, which is located in the south of the Donbas, and along the Kreminna-Svatove line in the east.

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.

Feature Image: A Ukrainian soldier prepares to engage other Ukrainian soldiers acting as an opposition force during security operations training at Exercise Rapid Trident 16 July 3, 2016. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Hughes/114th Public Affairs Detachment)

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Stavros Atlamazoglou

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and national security. He is a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from the Johns Hopkins University, an MA from the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and is pursuing a J.D. at Boston College Law School.