On day 36 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian forces are still struggling to meet any of their primary objectives. The Ukrainian military continues to be in control of most of Mariupol. Russian forces might be preparing for an all-out assault on eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned.
Meanwhile, peace negotiations between the two warring countries underway in Turkey have failed to produce any concrete results.
The Fighting Continues
In its daily estimate of the war, the British Ministry of Defense assessed that the Russian forces are still intending to assault the Ukrainian capital despite Moscow’s public claims of repositioning forces and focusing on eastern Ukraine and the Donbas region.
“Despite Russian statements indicating an intended reduction of military activity around Chernihiv, significant Russian shelling and missile strikes have continued. Russian forces continue to hold positions to the east and west of Kyiv despite the withdrawal of a limited number of units. Heavy fighting will likely take place in the suburbs of the city in coming days. Heavy fighting continues in Mariupol, a key objective of Russian forces, however Ukrainian forces remain in control of the centre of the city,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Thursday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 17,500 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number), destroyed 135 fighter, attack, and transport jets, 131 helicopters, 614 tanks, 311 artillery pieces, 1,735 armored personnel carriers, 96 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), seven boats, 1,201 vehicles, 75 fuel tanks, 54 anti-aircraft batteries, 83 unmanned aerial systems, 22 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems.
Focus on the Donbas
Last week, the Russian Ministry of Defense came out with an assessment of how the “special military operation” in Ukraine was going. Russian defense officials claimed that Moscow’s strategy was going according to plan and that now Russian forces would focus on the “liberation” of the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.
“We have seen, over the last 24 hours, the repositioning of a small percentage of the troops and the battalion tactical groups that Russia had arrayed against Kyiv, probably in the neighborhood of 20 percent of what they had, they are beginning to reposition. Some of those troops we assess are repositioning into Belarus,” Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said in a press briefing.
The Russian military continues to rely increasingly more on mercenaries to do most of the heavy fighting. According to the Pentagon, the notorious Wagner Group has deployed approximately 1,000 mercenaries into the region to support the Russian military.
“All I would tell you is that the Russians have said themselves they’re going to prioritize the Donbas region. We have seen them become much more active there in the last few days. For instance, we think that the Wagner Group now has about 1,000 people dedicated to the Donbas. We have seen an increase, I shouldn’t say in increase, we have seen them prioritize airstrikes in the Donbas area.,” the Pentagon press secretary added.
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 Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.