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Ukraine’s Nightmare: Can Putin Conquer Both Donbas and Mariupol?

T-90 tank from Russia. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

On day 56 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Russian forces are trying to cut off the Ukrainian troops in the Donbas, while the Ukrainian military is putting up fierce resistance.

The Ukrainian defenders of Mariupol are fighting a last stand against the Russian forces.

The Battle for Donbas 

In its daily estimate of the war, the British Ministry of Defense assessed that the Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine is hampered by a combination of logistical issues and fierce Ukrainian resistance.

“Russian shelling and strikes on the Donbas line of control continue to increase, with the Ukrainians repelling numerous attempted advances by Russian forces. Russia’s ability to progress continues to be impacted by the environmental, logistical and technical challenges that have beset them so far, combined with the resilience of the highly-motivated Ukrainian armed forces. Russia’s inability to stamp out resistance in Mariupol and their indiscriminate attacks, which have harmed the resident civilian populace, are indicative of their continued failure to achieve their aims as quickly as they would like,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Wednesday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 20,900 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number), destroyed 171 fighter, attack, and transport jets, 150 helicopters, 815 tanks, 391 artillery pieces, 2,087 armored personnel carriers, 136 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), eight boats, 1,504 vehicles, 76 fuel tanks, 67 anti-aircraft batteries, 165 unmanned aerial systems, 27 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems.

Moreover, the Pentagon assesses that even after 55 days of the war, the Russian Aerospace Forces has failed to achieve air dominance over the skies of Ukraine. Although the Ukrainian Air Force only flies a few sorties every day, the Ukrainian air defense capability is still credible and potent enough to restrict or even prevent Russian aircraft from flying over certain areas of the country.

To bypass that constrain, the Russian military has been using increasingly more long-range fires, including ballistic and cruise missiles. Since the invasion began on February 24, the Russian military has launched almost 1,700 ballistic or cruise missiles against Ukrainian targets, for an approximate rate of 30 launches per day.

In addition, reports about an imminent nuclear strike in Ukraine are baseless as the Pentagon has no indications of such a move, a senior U.S. defense official said. Also, the U.S. doesn’t believe that the ballistic missile cruiser Moskva, the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet flagship that was sunk last week, was carrying nuclear weapons.

More Weapons and Faster 

On Tuesday, the Czech Ministry of Defense announced that Czech companies would repair and service Ukrainian tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers, and other vehicles damaged in the war. This will allow the Ukrainian military to sustain more defensive, and even offensive, operations against the Russian forces. The Ukrainians have captured a lot of hardware from the Russians, including tanks, armored personnel carriers, and infantry fighting vehicles, and now they can put them into use faster with some Czech help.

Finland is also sending another round of security aid to Ukraine, according to the Finnish government. This would be the third round of military aid to Ukraine from Finland, which most likely will seek to join the NATO military alliance soon.

“President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. hosted a videoconference today with Allies and partners to discuss international support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression, including the ongoing provision of security, economic, and humanitarian assistance. The leaders affirmed their solidarity with the Ukrainian people and condemned the humanitarian suffering caused by Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion. They also discussed their coordinated efforts to impose severe economic costs to hold Russia accountable. They committed to continued close consultation, including working with and through the G7, EU, and NATO,” the White House said in a press statement.

In response to the renewed Russian offensive, the U.S. Department of Defense is prioritizing the shipment of the 155mm howitzers to Kyiv and the training of the Ukrainian military on the weapon system. In the latest package of security aid, the U.S. is sending 18 155mm Howitzers and 40,000 155mm artillery rounds to Ukraine.


155mm Howitzer. Image Credit: Creative Commons.


Soldiers assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, fire a M777 towed 155 mm Howitzer on Qayyarah West Airfield, Iraq, Aug. 10, 2019. The Soldiers conducted a fire mission to disrupt known enemy positions. As long as Daesh presents a threat, Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve remains committed to enabling its defeat. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Spc. DeAndre Pierce)


U.S. Army Spc. Colton Davis, an infantryman assigned to Company C, 2nd Battalion, 198th Armor Regiment, 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team, Mississippi Army National Guard, fires a Javelin shoulder-fired anti-tank missile during a combined arms live fire exercise as part of Exercise Eastern Action 2019 at Al-Ghalail Range in Qatar, Nov. 14, 2018. The multiple exposure photo demonstrates the multiple stages the missile goes through after it is fired by Davis. This is a multiple-exposure photo. (U.S. Army National Guard photo illustration by Spc. Jovi Prevot)

The U.S. is expected to send another package of security aid to Ukraine in the next few days.

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.