Your tactical update on Ukraine (July 3)

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Soldiers with the Ukrainian Land Forces conduct training utilizing the Boyevaya Mashina Pekhoty 2 infantry fighting vehicle Dec. 16, 2015, during a mounted machine gunnery range as part of Fearless Guardian II at the International Peacekeeping Security Center near Yavoriv, Ukraine. Soldiers with the Ukrainian Army will learn fundamentals on individual and collective firing and the skills needed to perform during a wartime mission. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Adriana M. Diaz-Brown, 10th Press Camp Headquarters)

It has been 130 days since the Russian invasion began. On Sunday, the Russian military captured Lysychansk.

The fall of Lysychansk

In the early hours of Sunday, the Ukrainian forces started withdrawing from Lysychansk as the Russian military pressed on with its offensive on the southern outskirts of the city. The decision to abandon the last major urban center of the Luhansk province to the advancing Russian forces was most likely made to prevent a total encirclement (and destruction) of the Ukrainian forces in the vicinity. For days now the Russian military had been threatening the Ukrainian forces with an encirclement from the rear.

The situation in the Donbas. (ISW)

“Russian forces will likely establish control over the remaining territory of Luhansk Oblast in coming days and will likely then prioritize drives on Ukrainian positions in Siversk before turning to Slovyansk and Bakhmut. A Ukrainian withdrawal to Siversk would allow Ukrainian forces [to] reduce the risk of immediate encirclement, but Ukrainian forces may continue a fighting withdrawal to a line near the E40 highway from Slovyansk to Bakhmut,” the Institute for the Study of War assessed in its latest operational update.

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 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.

Armored vehicles are key in the fighting. (

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

  • 35,970 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)
  • 3,744 armored personnel carriers destroyed
  • 2,618 vehicles and fuel tanks
  • 1,584 tanks
  • 801 artillery pieces
  • 654 tactical unmanned aerial systems
  • 217 fighter, attack, and transport jets
  • 246 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)
  • 187 attack and transport helicopters
  • 143 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses
  • 105 anti-aircraft batteries
  • 64 special equipment platforms, such as bridging equipment
  • 15 boats and cutters
  • four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems

Over the past weeks, 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. 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.

Russian soldiers in formation. (Russian Ministry of Defence)

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 Sunday, Ukrainian forces inflicted the heaviest casualties in the vicinity of Bakhmut, where the Russian forces are trying to advance and cut off Severodonetsk from the rear, and Kurakhove, near Donetsk.

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.

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.