On day 62 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian military is still trying to achieve a breakthrough in eastern Ukraine. Reports indicate heavy fighting in the area as the Ukrainian forces are trying to slow or stop the Russian advance, mainly through counterattacks.
The U.S. and the European Union continue to supply Ukraine with heavy weapons.
The Battle In the East
In its daily estimate of the war, the British Ministry of Defense assessed that the Russian forces are trying to encircle heavily fortified Ukrainian positions and create pockets. The Russian forces seem to have been making some limited progress.
“Russian forces are likely attempting to encircle heavily fortified Ukrainian positions in the east of Ukraine. The city of Kreminna has reportedly fallen and heavy fighting is reported south of Izium, as Russian forces attempt to advance towards the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk from the north and east. Ukrainian forces have been preparing defences in Zaporizhzhia in preparation for a potential Russian attack from the south,” the British Military Intelligence stated.
Mariupol still remains contested, with the last Ukrainian defenders and thousands of civilians holed up in the massive Azovstal steelworks plant. Although Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory in the southern Ukrainian port city, the Russian military is committing about 12 tactical battalion groups, or roughly between 8,000 to 12,000 men, to contain and defeat the last Ukrainian forces.
On Monday, Transnistria, a breakaway pro-Russian province in Moldova in the west of Ukraine, was shaken by several explosions. The Russian military has several hundred troops in the breakaway province, and the Ukrainian government claimed that the explosions were part of a false-flag operation to justify a Russian incursion from there. But a few hundred troops won’t be able to do any serious damage, and the Russian military can hardly support them while it is fighting a major offensive with hundreds of thousands of troops in the east.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Tuesday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 22,100 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number), destroyed 184 fighter, attack, and transport jets, 154 helicopters, 918 tanks, 416 artillery pieces, 2,308 armored personnel carriers, 149 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), eight boats, 1,643 vehicles, 76 fuel tanks, 69 anti-aircraft batteries, 205 unmanned aerial systems, 31 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems.
According to U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the training of the first 50 Ukrainian troops on the M-777 Howitzers is complete, and the next batch of 50 is soon to begin training. The Pentagon has already delivered 18 artillery pieces to Ukraine, with seven more underway; the rest 72 are soon to follow. Ukraine has also been given approximately $320 million in foreign military assistance to buy whatever military equipment it needs, including former Soviet weapon systems.
Moscow has repeatedly warned the U.S. and the European Union against sending weapons to Ukraine.
Degrade The Russian Military
The White House provided some clarity with respect to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s comments on his trip to Ukraine. The secretary of defense said that the U.S. wants to see the Russian military capabilities degrade to such a level that Moscow won’t be able to undertake similar campaigns of aggression against its neighbors.
“Well, I think what Secretary Austin in his press conference was referring to is the fact that if you go back about two months ago, remember President Putin gave a speech where he talked about the aspirations — his aspirations, the aspirations he had for the Russian military — which were to degrade Ukraine, of course; to subsume Ukraine, to take over their sovereignty, their territorial integrity,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a press briefing.
“Of course, they haven’t succeeded at that, but to go beyond that. So what Secretary Austin was talking about is our objective to prevent that from happening. Obviously, right now, the war is in Ukraine. They are — we’re proud of the Ukrainians’ success; their efforts to fight back, to push back on the Russian military, thanks to their bravery but also to our support. But, yes, we are also looking to prevent them from expanding their efforts and President Putin’s objectives beyond that, too,” Psaki 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.