On day 72 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian military is conducting counterattacks in the east to frustrate the renewed Russian offensive. The Russian forces have yet to achieve a breakthrough despite the employment of tens of thousands of troops and thousands of artillery pieces.
Attacks and Counterattacks
The Ukrainian military is counterattacking in the vicinity of Kharkiv and Izium to stop a Russian attempt to surround Ukrainian forces further to the south and create a cauldron.
In its daily estimate of the war, the British Ministry of Defense assessed that the Ukrainian defenders at the Azovstal steelworks plant in Mariupol continue to fight. Yesterday, the Russian military launched an all-out assault on the industrial complex despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s public statements that the Russian military would only cordon the steelworks plant. The attack suggests that the Kremlin is looking for at least one victory to be cocky about in the May 9 Victory Day celebrations.
“Russian forces in Mariupol have continued their ground assault on the Azovstal steel plant for a second day, despite Russian statements claiming they would seek only to seal it off. The renewed effort by Russia to secure Azovstal and complete the capture of Mariupol is likely linked to the upcoming May 9 Victory Day commemorations and Putin’s desire to have a symbolic success in Ukraine. This effort has come at personnel, equipment and munitions cost to Russia. Whilst Ukrainian resistance continues in Azovstal, Russian losses will continue to build and frustrate their operational plans in southern Donbas,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.
But the Russian military has left only a fraction of the battalion tactical groups it had in Mariupol to continue with the siege. Last week, the Pentagon assessed that about 12 battalion tactical groups, or between 8,000 to 12,000 men, were committed to the fight. But now, it seems that there are only two or three Russian units in the city.
“I want to be careful a little bit here and because our knowledge of Russian force dispositions, you know, it isn’t perfect. . .I think in general we would assess that the majority of Russian forces, ground forces that were dedicated to Mariupol have left and have moved to the north away from Mariupol,” Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said in a press briefing.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Friday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 24,900 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number), destroyed 199 fighter, attack, and transport jets, 155 helicopters, 1,110 tanks, 502 artillery pieces, 2,686 armored personnel carriers, 171 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 11 boats and cutters, 1,926 vehicles and fuel tanks, 83 anti-aircraft batteries, 324 unmanned aerial systems, 38 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 90 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.
Humanitarian Aid to Ukraine
The U.K. will be donating to Ukraine a fleet 13 armored vehicles to help rescue civilians from besieged areas. The armored vehicles will also transport key personnel to rebuild vital infrastructure. The British government greenlighted the shipment following a request by its Ukrainian counterpart.
“The intentional targeting of innocent civilians is a war crime. This latest donation of armoured vehicles will help protect innocent Ukrainians attempting to flee Russian shelling and support Ukrainian officials carrying out vital work,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said.
In addition, the U.K. is sending a humanitarian package worth approximately $270 million that includes medical supplies, food, and basic good. The British government has committed to giving Ukraine up to 42 ambulances.
“The unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to have a massive human cost, including the murdering of innocent civilians and mass displacement of families, as well as the destruction to vital infrastructure including schools and hospitals. It is estimated that more than 12 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance with the actual figure likely to be much higher,” the British Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office stated.
The U.K. isn’t the only country providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Part of the massive $33 billion package President Joe Biden proposed to Congress contains humanitarian and economic aid and security assistance.
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.