Ukraine War Update – On day 112 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian military is pushing hard for a breakthrough in the Donbas. Russian forces are now in control of most of Severodonetsk, but the fighting rages on.
Severodonetsk another Mariupol?
In its daily estimate of the war, the British Ministry of Defense focused on the situation in Severodonetsk.
The Russian forces are now in control of most of the city, and they have also destroyed the bridges that linked Severodonetsk to the Ukrainian positions in the West. However, reports indicate that the Russian military hasn’t managed to encircle the Ukrainian city yet, and the Ukrainian forces in the city are able to receive reinforcements and supplies, albeit they are restricted by the lack of readily available routes.
“After more than a month of heavy fighting, Russian forces now control the majority of Sieverodonetsk. Russia’s urban warfare tactics, which are reliant on heavy use of artillery, have generated extensive collateral damage throughout the city,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.
Moreover, hundreds of Ukrainian troops and civilians have found refugee [sic] in the Azot Chemical Plant that is located in Severodonetsk’s industrial zone.
“Elements of Ukrainian Armed Forces, along with several hundred civilians, are sheltering in underground bunkers in the Azot Chemical Plant, in the city’s industrial zone. Russian forces will likely be fixed in and around Azot whilst Ukrainian fighters can survive underground. This will likely temporarily prevent Russia from re-tasking these units for missions elsewhere,” the British Ministry of Defense added.
For those who paid close attention to the battle of Mariupol, the situation in Severodonetsk seems like an ugly repeat. It remains to be seen whether the Ukrainian military will be able to break through the Russian perimeter and create a corridor for the trapped troops and civilians to escape. Or whether a truce between the two sides would facilitate an evacuation.
“It is highly unlikely that Russia anticipated such robust opposition, or such slow, attritional conflict during its original planning for the invasion,” the British Military Intelligence stated.
In terms of casualties, the Russian losses continue to pile up, though the rate of casualties has slowed down significantly. This is most likely the result of better Russian tactics on the ground, especially by employing more long-range fires, and Ukrainian shortages.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Wednesday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 32,750 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number), destroyed 213 fighter, attack, and transport jets, 179 attack and transport helicopters, 1,440 tanks, 722 artillery pieces, 3,528 armored personnel carriers, 230 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 13 boats and cutters, 2,485 vehicles and fuel tanks, 96 anti-aircraft batteries, 591 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 55 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 129 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.
Annexation of Ukraine?
The Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin have longed signaled their intention to annex the occupied regions of Ukraine in a scheme straight out of the 2014 invasion and annexation of nearby Crimea.
In Kherson, Melitopol, and Mariupol, Russian officials have begun issuing Russian passports to interested civilians. In addition, Moscow has been hatching sham referenda in order to apply a veneer of political legitimacy in the process.
“Russian authorities may be accelerating plans to annex occupied areas of Ukraine and are arranging political and administrative contingencies for control of annexed territories. Advisor to the Mayor of Mariupol Petro Andryushchenko additionally outlined a series of indicators that he claimed suggest that Russian authorities are planning to annex occupied Donetsk Oblast as soon as September 1, 2022. Andryushchenko stated that the leadership of occupied Donetsk has entirely passed from authorities of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) to Russian officials and that Russian educational authorities are already referring to Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia, and Kherson as regions of Russia,” the Institute for the Study of War stated in its latest update of the conflict.
Such plans, of course, are legally bogus and are geared more toward the Russian population rather than an international audience.
“Despite the apparent lack of a Kremlin-backed mandate concerning the condition of occupied areas, Russian authorities are likely pushing to expedite a comprehensive annexation process in order to consolidate control over Ukrainian territories and integrate them into Russia’s political and economic environment. However, the Kremlin retains several options in occupied Ukrainian territory and is not bound to any single annexation plan,” the Institute for the Study of War assessed.
However, the Ukrainian forces can counter these plans by pushing toward the occupied areas, especially Kherson, from which the Ukrainian military isn’t far.
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.