Will Russia Take Advantage of Ukrainian Weak Spots Near Donetsk?

Will Russia Take Advantage of Ukrainian Weak Spots Near Donetsk?

On Tuesday, there was heavy fighting on the ground in the Donbas as the Russian forces tried to take advantage of Ukrainian weak spots and achieve a breakthrough.

It has been 342 days since the Russian invasion began. On Tuesday, there was heavy fighting on the ground in the Donbas as the Russian forces tried to take advantage of Ukrainian weak spots and achieve a breakthrough.

Fighting in the Donbas

There is heavy fighting to the southwest of Donetsk City around the towns of Pavlivka and Vuhledar.  A Russian brigade-sized force is trying to push the Ukrainian forces back from the Kashlahach River, a small water obstacle that had been the frontline for several months. 

The Russian forces had been conducting probing assaults in the area for weeks now, but now there are throwing more units into the fray. Russian commanders have tried to achieve a breakthrough in the area before. The Russian 155th Naval Infantry Brigade suffered extremely heavy casualties trying to capture Pavlivka back in November.

In the east, the Russian forces are trying to regain lost ground around the town of Kreminna, while the Ukrainian military is conducting counteroffensive operations to the northwest toward Svatove, a key logistical hub. The two towns have been at the center of the fighting in the region since September.

The situation in the south has remained unchanged.

Russian casualties

Every day, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is providing an update on its 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 close to 1,700 Russian tanks (which amounts to more tanks than the combined armor capabilities of France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom) and more than 8,300 weapon systems 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 way 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:

* 127,500 Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)

* 6,378 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles destroyed

* 5,048 vehicles and fuel tanks

* 3,201 tanks

* 2,197 artillery pieces

* 1,951 tactical unmanned aerial systems

* 796 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses

* 454 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)

* 293 fighter, attack, and transport jets

* 284 attack and transport helicopters

* 221 anti-aircraft batteries

* 200 special equipment platforms, such as bridging equipment

* 18 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 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.

This article was first published by Sandboxx.

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a 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.

Image: Dredger/Shutterstock.com.