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Putin Has Big Plans to Try and Conquer Eastern Ukraine

Tu-22M3M from the Russian Air Force. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

On day 53 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian military is getting close to capturing Mariupol after almost a month of fighting. The Ukrainian military is preparing for the incoming renewed Russian attack on eastern Ukraine.

Preparation and Casualties

In its daily estimate of the war, the British Ministry of Defense assessed that the Russian military is still repositioning its forces for the imminent offensive in the Donbas while using long-range fires to “soften” Ukrainian targets in the region.

“Russian forces continue to redeploy combat and support equipment from Belarus towards eastern Ukraine. This includes locations close to Kharkiv and Severdonetsk. Russian artillery continues to strike Ukrainian positions throughout the east of the country, where Russia plans to renew its offensive activity. Though Russia’s operational focus has shifted to eastern Ukraine, Russia’s ultimate objective remains the same. It is committed to compelling Ukraine to abandon its Euro-Atlantic orientation and asserting its own regional dominance,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Sunday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 20,300 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number), destroyed 165 fighter, attack, and transport jets, 146 helicopters, 773 tanks, 376 artillery pieces, 2,002 armored personnel carriers, 127 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), eight boats, 1,471 vehicles, 76 fuel tanks, 66 anti-aircraft batteries, 148 unmanned aerial systems, 27 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems.

Not much has been said about the casualties that the Ukrainian military has suffered so far. But on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shed some light on the cost that the Ukrainian has paid thus far for its incredible feat, stating that approximately 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and 10,000 wounded. But, as is always the case with official figures, these numbers are bound to be a bit off.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and the West continue to supply Ukraine with a steady stream of weapons systems, triggering Moscow’s anger. Russian officials stated that any shipment of weapons inside Ukraine is fair game and that they will be targeted.

But whether the Russian military is capable of following up on its threat is questionable as Western Ukraine, where the weapon systems enter the country, is covered by a robust anti-aircraft umbrella that prevents the Russian air force from operating effectively. And any long-range fires, such as ballistic or cruise missiles, that the Russians might launch depend on accurate and timely intelligence to hit their targets, especially if they are on the move. Russia has largely failed to display such targeting and strike capabilities thus far.

“The steady supply of weapons the United States and its Allies and partners have provided to Ukraine has been critical in sustaining its fight against the Russian invasion. It has helped ensure that Putin failed in his initial war aims to conquer and control Ukraine. We cannot rest now. As I assured President Zelenskyy, the American people will continue to stand with the brave Ukrainian people in their fight for freedom,” U.S. President Joe Biden said about the weapon systems in a press release.

Russian Maritime Strategy 

In an estimate of maritime war, the British Ministry of Defense assessed that the sinking of the Moskva guided-missile cruiser would force the Russian military to reappraise its maritime strategy. The Ukrainians have shown that although they lack a large naval force, they can inflict serious damage with well-placed missiles.

“Russia has admitted that the Slava-class cruiser Moskva has sunk. As flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, the Moskva served a key role as both a command vessel and air defence node. The Soviet-era vessel was one of only three Slava-class cruisers in the Russian navy. Originally commissioned in 1979, the Moskva had completed an extensive refit designed to improve its capability and only returned to operational status in 2021. This incident means Russia has now suffered damage to two key naval assets since invading Ukraine, the first being Russia’s Alligator-class landing ship Saratov on 24 March. Both events will likely lead Russia to review its maritime posture in the Black Sea,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.

The Ukrainians grasped at the propaganda opportunity that the sinking of the Moskva gave them, and poked fun at the Russian Navy.

“The Ministry of Defence of Ukraine reminds the russian [sic] navy that the Black Sea straits are closed for entry only. The part of your fleet that remains afloat still has a way out,” the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said on Twitter.

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.