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Your daily tactical update on Ukraine (May 24)

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It has been 90 days since the Russian invasion began. On Tuesday, the Russian military is focusing its main combat power around the Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk. Three months into the war, the Russian forces have failed to achieve their main objectives.

The Battle for Severodonetsk

In its daily estimate of the war, the British Ministry of Defense focused on the situation in the Donbas and the likely next steps of the Russian high command. The Russian forces are putting heavy pressure on the Ukrainian defenses, but the latter seems to be holding on for the time being.

The battlefield on Tuesday according to the British Ministry of Defense. (UK MoD)

“Russia has increased the intensity of its operations in the Donbas as it seeks to encircle Severodonetsk, Lyschansk, and Rubizhne. At present the northern and southern axes of this operation are separated by approximately 25 km of Ukrainian-held territory. There has been strong Ukrainian resistance with forces occupying well dug-in defensive positions,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.

One reason for the stiff and effective Ukrainian defense in the Donbas is that the area has been a battlefield for the past eight years, since when Moscow invaded and annexed Crimea and launched a proxy war in the Donbas.

“Ukraine’s long-established Joint Force Operation likely retains effective command and control of this front. Russia has, however, achieved some [localized] successes, due in part to concentrating artillery units. Russia’s capture of the Severodonetsk pocket would see the whole of Luhansk Oblast placed under Russian occupation,” the British Ministry of Defense added.

However, if the Russian military succeeds in Severodonetsk and pushes the Ukrainian forces farther west, this will create additional logistical problems.

“While currently Russia’s main effort, this operation is only one part of Russia’s campaign to seize the Donbas. If the Donbas front line moves further west, this will extend Russian lines of communication and likely see its forces face further logistic resupply difficulties,” the British Military Intelligence added.

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.

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 600 Russian tanks, a statement that has been reaffirmed by the British Ministry of Defense. Same independent verification exists for the rest of the Ukrainian claims.

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

  • 29,350 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
  • 3,194 armored personnel carriers destroyed
  • 2,213 vehicles and fuel tanks
  • 1,302 tanks
  • 606 artillery pieces
  • 476 tactical unmanned aerial systems
  • 205 fighter, attack, and transport jets
  • 201 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
  • 170 attack and transport helicopters
  • 112 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
  • 93 anti-aircraft batteries
  • 43 special equipment platforms, such as bridging equipment
  • 13 boats and cutters
  • four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems

For most of last week, the latest 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 Bahmut, southeast of Slovyansk. However, now the heaviest fighting is taking place around Severodonetsk, a key Ukrainian town that the Russian military is trying to surround.

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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.