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Can Russia Salvage Its Special Military Operation Disaster in Ukraine?

War in Ukraine. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

On day 32 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian forces are focusing their efforts on eastern Ukraine in an attempt to salvage anything they can from the thus far failed “special military operation.”

From Kyiv to Donbas 

Last week, the Russian Ministry of Defense did an embarrassing about-face and stated that its primary objectives in Ukraine were focused on eastern Ukraine, where there are Russian separatists, rather than trying to capture large Ukrainian urban centers, such as Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Odesa.

In its daily estimate of the war, the British Ministry of Defense assessed that the Russian military is repositioning its forces in an attempt to encircle and destroy the Ukrainian forces that are facing Donbas and Luhansk.

“Russian forces appear to be concentrating their effort to attempt the encirclement of Ukrainian forces directly facing the separatist regions in the east of the country, advancing from the direction of Kharkiv in the north and Mariupol in the south. The battlefield across northern Ukraine remains largely static with local Ukrainian counterattacks hampering Russian attempts to reorganise their forces,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.

The Russian military is still relying on stand-off munitions, such as ballistic and cruise missiles, to suppress, degrade, and destroy the Ukrainian anti-aircraft umbrella. Thus far, the Russian military has launched more than 1,250 ballistic and cruise missiles in Ukraine. However, more than a month into the war, the Ukrainian Air Force is still flying sorties, while the Russian Aerospace Force has failed to achieve air dominance.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military has been counterattacking in several places, winning back lost territory near Kyiv and Kherson.

Moreover, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Sunday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 16,600 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number), destroyed 121 fighter, attack, and transport jets, 127 helicopters, 582 tanks, 294 artillery pieces, 1,664 armored personnel carriers, 93 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), seven boats, 1,144 vehicles, 73 fuel tanks, 52 anti-aircraft batteries, 56 unmanned aerial systems, 21 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems.

At least seven, and possibly 15, senior Russian officers have been killed in Ukraine thus far.

The Battle of Kharkiv 

Meanwhile, the battle of Kharkiv rages. Ukraine’s second-largest city, which is located close to the Russian border, was one of the primary targets of the invading Russian forces. However, more than four weeks into the war, and the Russian forces have failed to surround and capture the city.

“Kharkiv is not surrounded. So we are fighting and are actually doing okay on the front line. The Russians destroy the city because they cannot do anything else. They cannot occupy it on the ground. That’s why they are shelling the city and destroying it. What’s their final goal? I have no idea. Our biggest problem is rocket strikes. That is why we are asking our Western partners to close the sky. We can handle Russia’s land forces. The truth is on our side. Everything will be fine,” a Ukrainian member of the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Force fighting at Kharkiv told Vice News.

1945’s New Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.