On day 49 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the two sides are preparing for the heavy fighting that is coming in eastern Ukraine. The Russian military is moving troops to the east and south of Ukraine, while the Ukrainians are bolstering their defenses with new weapons from the West.
The Battle For the East Is Brewing
In its daily estimate of the war, the British Ministry of Defense assesses that the Russian offensive in the east is imminent as Moscow continues to reposition forces in the area.
“Fighting in eastern Ukraine will intensify over the next two to three weeks as Russia continues to refocus its efforts there. Russian attacks remain focused on Ukrainian positions near Donetsk and Luhansk with further fighting around Kherson and Mykolaiv and a renewed push towards Kramatorsk. Russian forces continue to withdraw from Belarus in order to redeploy in support of operations in eastern Ukraine,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Wednesday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 19,800 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number), destroyed 158 fighter, attack, and transport jets, 143 helicopters, 739 tanks, 358 artillery pieces, 1,964 armored personnel carriers, 116 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), seven boats, 1,429 vehicles, 76 fuel tanks, 64 anti-aircraft batteries, 132 unmanned aerial systems, 25 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems.
On Tuesday, the Ukrainian security services arrested Viktor Medvedchuk, a Ukrainian parliamentarian who has been openly pro-Russia. When the Russian invasion began, Medvedchuk was confined to his house, but now the Ukrainian authorities have arrested him for treason. The Ukrainian politician is very close to Putin—the Russian president is the godfather of Medvedchuk’s daughter—and might have been in line to succeed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky should the Russian plan had worked.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin arrested or fired 150 FSB internal security intelligence officers over the debacle in Ukraine.
The U.S. and its European allies and partners have provided Ukraine with more than 60,000 anti-armor systems. The U.S. alone has sent approximately 10,000 anti-armor systems, the majority of which was provided before the invasion; about 4,000 weapons have been delivered since the Russian troops entered Ukraine.
“Not all of them came from the United States. And that number goes back before the invasion, it’s fewer than that since the invasion but not much fewer than that. So there’s been a lot but it’s been other nations as well. Specifically on the anti-armor systems that [the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley] was referring to, the United States has provided more than 10,000 on our own and slightly less than half of that have been provided since the invasion,” a senior U.S. defense official said in a press briefing.
The battle for Mariupol continues as the Russian forces are trying to divide the city into two so they can divide and defeat the Ukrainian defenders. The Russians have resulted in indiscriminate shelling in order to achieve their goal, but that has resulted in thousands of killed civilians. And now, there is an indication that Moscow is willing to go even further.
On Monday, there were reports of a chemical attack against the Ukrainian forces in Mariupol. The U.S. couldn’t deny or verify the attack but it is monitoring the situation.
“We are aware of social media reports which claim Russian forces deployed a potential chemical munition in Mariupol, Ukraine. We cannot confirm at this time and will continue to monitor the situation closely. These reports, if true, are deeply concerning and reflective of concerns that we have had about Russia’s potential to use a variety of riot control agents, including tear gas mixed with chemical agents, in Ukraine,” Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said.
Over the past years, the Kremlin has shown a willingness to use biochemical warfare in order to achieve its aims.
“Clearly, [Putin] plays by different moral and legal rules. Far too many Ukrainians and Russians have already lost their lives. And beyond this toll, many, many more have had their lives shattered. The UN estimate that in just over a month, more than ten million people have already fled their homes. It’s a humanitarian crisis that need never have happened. And it’s not over yet,” Sir Jeremy added.
The GCHQ is signals intelligence agency of the United Kingdom and an equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).
According to Donetsk Region Military Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko, up to 22,000 people have been killed in the siege of Mariupol.
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.