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Putin’s Nightmare: The Russian Military Still Can’t Win in Eastern Ukraine

Ukraine War
Ukrainian service members fire with a self-propelled howitzer 2S1 Gvozdika, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in unknown location in Kharkiv region, Ukraine May 7, 2022. REUTERS/Serhii Nuzhnenko

On day 84 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian military continues to search for a breakthrough in eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military persists with limited counterattacks in an attempt to frustrate the renewed Russian offensive.

Although the fighting in Mariupol ended, the southern Ukrainian port city remains in the headlines. 

Mariupol and the Azovstal Fighters 

The siege of Mariupol finally came to an end with the surrender of the last remnants of the Ukrainian garrison on Wednesday. 

According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, approximately 1,000 Ukrainian troops surrendered in Mariupol. Several of them were wounded, and the Ukrainian government indicated that it had given the green light for the capitulation with the option to swap the Azovstal fighters with Russian prisoners of war. However, the statements of Russian and pro-Russian officials, are raising questions on whether a prisoner swap will take place. 

In a recent estimate of the war, the Institute for the Study of War assessed that Moscow might refuse the alleged prisoner swap. 

“Some Russian State Duma members are petitioning to pass laws that would prohibit prisoner exchanges for individuals accused of ‘Nazism.’ Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin claimed that the Mariupol defenders must be charged with war crimes and cannot be exchanged for Russian prisoners of war. The Kremlin may ignore the Russian State Duma’s concerns or use them to sabotage negotiations with Ukraine,” the Institute for the Study of War stated. 

Russian Casualties 

The Russian military continues to suffer heavy losses, having lost almost 29,000 troops killed in action, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense. 

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Wednesday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 28,300 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number), destroyed 202 fighter, attack, and transport jets, 167 attack and transport helicopters, 1,251 tanks, 586 artillery pieces, 3,043 armored personnel carriers, 199 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 13 boats and cutters, 2,137 vehicles and fuel tanks, 91 anti-aircraft batteries, 441 unmanned aerial systems, 43 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 102 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.

As is always the case, official numbers are open to interpretation. The Ukrainian government has a vested interest in overestimating Russian casualties. But the Ukrainian claims are corroborated by independent open-source research and even by Western military and intelligence services.  

For example, the Oryx open-source tracking website has independently and visually verified the destruction of hundreds of Russian tanks, armored personnel carriers, and infantry fighting vehicles. Although not the same, the Oryx and official Ukrainian figures aren’t that far off from each other. 

Continuous Support for Ukraine

If it weren’t for the unprecedented level of security and economic aid Ukraine has received, the country would most likely have fallen to Russia. To be sure, the Ukrainian determination to fight to the end is a crucial factor in the “Ukrainian miracle,” but it has been well served by the billions of weapons that Kyiv has received. 

And so, the Ukrainian government continues to search for international support. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been constantly pushing for more aid—and he has been largely successful. 

“I had a conversation with President of France Emmanuel Macron. Substantive and long. We discussed the sixth package of sanctions being prepared in the European Union. We also discussed the negotiation process with Russia and evacuation of our heroes from Azovstal. The evacuation mission continues, it is overseen by our military and intelligence. The most influential international mediators are involved,” the Ukrainian president said.

“We also spoke separately and substantively with the President of France about our European integration steps and the consideration of Ukraine’s application for EU candidate status. I continue to gather the largest possible international audience for Ukraine. To support our state at all levels. And to put pressure on Russia at all levels,” Zelensky added.

France, and especially French President Emmanuel Macron, has been trying to play the “good cop, bad cop” with Russia. Macron is probably the Western leader who has spent the most time talking with Russian President Vladimir Putin since the war began. At almost every turn, Macron is trying to bring the tones down and advocates for giving the Kremlin an acceptable way out of the war. 

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.