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The War for Eastern Ukraine: Can Putin Really Conquer Donbas?

Ukraine Russia
Ukrainian tank firing. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

On day 48 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian forces continue to reorganize for their renewed assault on eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military is also preparing to counter the anticipated Russian assault offensive by moving troops and weapons to the east.

The Eastern Offensive 

Ukraine is bracing for the renewed Russian offensive in the Donbas, where the fighting promises to be different from what took place in the north of Kyiv. But the offensive hasn’t started yet.

“We do not assess that a new offensive has started, although it has been—I hasten to remind that for eight years, there’s been a hot war in the Donbas, and there is actual conflict, armed conflict, going on as you and I are sitting here talking. But we don’t assess that that represents the beginning of a new offensive in the Donbas region. We still assess that while there is fighting going on, they are working to reinforce their capabilities and to add to it,” a senior U.S. defense official said in a press briefing.

The Russian military has launched more than 1,500 ballistic and cruise missiles against Ukrainian targets, averaging about 50 launches a day.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Tuesday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 19,600 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number), destroyed 157 fighter, attack, and transport jets, 140 helicopters, 732 tanks, 349 artillery pieces, 1,946 armored personnel carriers, 111 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), seven boats, 1,406 vehicles, 76 fuel tanks, 63 anti-aircraft batteries, 124 unmanned aerial systems, 25 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems.

The war has been particularly tough on the Russian officer corps, especially for field grade and senior officers. More than 20 percent of the Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine are officers. And of them, there are at least seven flag officers, ten colonels, 20 lieutenant colonels, 31 majors, and 155 company-grade officers.

Foreign Military Aid 

The foreign military aid to Ukraine continues. According to the German news reports, the German Rheinmetall military equipment manufacturer is getting ready to send Ukraine up to 50 used Leopard 1 battle tanks.

But the Germans aren’t the only ones considering and sending military aid to Ukraine. A few days ago, the United Kingdom greenlighted another shipment of anti-tank weapons, anti-aircraft missiles, suicide drones, and armored vehicles.

“Ukraine’s Armed Forces continue to put up a tenacious fight against the illegal and unprovoked invasion by Putin’s forces. We’re proud that they’re doing so with weapons provided by and through the United Kingdom,” British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said.

Ukrainian officials traveled to the U.K. to list their needs.

“But the Ukrainian job is far from done and the Prime Minister has directed that the UK provides even more in support of this next phase of the conflict. It was an honour to show Minister Havrylov and his generals the kit the UK hopes to provide next and to discuss some new weapons that have been trialled recently with UK forces,” Heappey added.

The Horrors of Putin

The atrocities committed by the Russian military continue to appall the world. In Bucha alone, the toll of killed civilians is almost 400 so far, with local estimates putting the actual numbers close to 1,000 dead.

“The images we are seeing out of Bucha and other areas of Ukraine as Russian troops withdraw are horrifying. The signs of people being raped, tortured, executed—in some cases having their bodies desecrated—are an outrage to our common humanity. Russia’s lies are no match for the undeniable evidence of what is happening in Ukraine. That’s why nations in every region condemn Russia’s unprovoked and brutal aggression against Ukraine and support the brave people of Ukraine in their fight for freedom,” President Joe Biden said after the United Nations voted to suspend Russia from its human rights council.

Ukrainian officials from the city of Mariupol have estimated that at least 5,000 civilians have been killed by the Russian invasion, but warned that that number might actually be in the tens of thousands. Mariupol has been under siege for several weeks.

“And we will continue to work with responsible nations around the world to gather evidence to hold Russia accountable for the atrocities being committed, increase the pressure on Russia’s economy, and isolate Russia on the international stage,” President Biden 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 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.