Ukraine Update: On day 113 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian military is still looking for the breakthrough in the Donbas that will give Russian President Vladimir Putin the political victory he so desperately wants.
Although slowly and with many losses, the Russian forces have been taking and holding ground in eastern Ukraine over the past few weeks. And now they seemed poised to capture Severodonetsk, a key Ukrainian city.
In its daily estimate of the war, the British Ministry of Defense focused on the situation in and around Severodonetsk. A smaller version of Mariupol begins to unfold in the eastern Ukrainian city as the bridges linking the city to the Ukrainian positions in the West have been destroyed.
However, the Russian forces haven’t encircled the city, and the Ukrainians are still able to transport ammunition to and evacuate troops and civilians from the city, though at a much slower rate given the lack of a land corridor.
“All of the main bridges over the Siverskyy Donets River, which link the contested town of Sieverodonetsk and Ukrainian-held territory, have now highly likely been destroyed. Ukraine has probably managed to withdraw a large proportion of its combat troops, who were originally holding the town. The situation continues to be extremely difficult for the Ukrainian forces and civilians remaining east of the river,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.
In the absence of advance in the northwest and southwest, to cross the Siverskyy Donets River, the Russian military would have to resort to river crossing operations. But the Russian forces have a poor record in such operations, losing approximately 80 tanks, armored personnel carriers, and infantry fighting vehicles over three days of failed river crossings a few weeks ago.
“With the bridges highly likely destroyed, Russia will now likely need to either conduct a contested river crossing or advance on its currently stalled flanks to turn tactical gain into operational advantage. Russia’s combat force in the Donbas is highly likely operating in increasingly ad hoc and severely undermanned groupings,” the British Ministry of Defense stated.
One of the major issues for the Russian military is a lack of experienced troops. The war has taken a toll on the professional core of the Russian forces.
“As claimed by the Ukrainian authorities, some Russian Battalion Tactical Groups (BTGs) – typically established at around 600 to 800 personnel – have been able to muster as few as 30 soldiers. For both sides fighting in contested towns, front line combat is likely increasingly devolving to small groups of troops typically operating on foot,” the British Military Intelligence stated.
“Some of Russia’s strengths, such as its advantage in numbers of tanks, become less relevant in this environment. This is likely contributing to its continued slow rate of advance,” the British Ministry of Defense added.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Thursday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 32,950 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number), destroyed 213 fighter, attack, and transport jets, 179 attack and transport helicopters, 1,449 tanks, 729 artillery pieces, 3,545 armored personnel carriers, 233 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 13 boats and cutters, 2,494 vehicles and fuel tanks, 97 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.
Weapons and Admiration
In his daily address to the Ukrainian people, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shared the admiration of foreign heads of state for the grit and warfighting skills of the Ukrainian soldier. No one expected Ukraine to hold on for almost four months, or to frustrate the Kremlin’s plans and push the Russian forces back.
“We are defending Donbas. And, by the way, in all international contacts I hear admiration for the actions of our defenders. The world really wants to learn from Ukrainians how to fight and how to win. During the 112 days of this war, the Ukrainian army proved that courage and wisdom on the battlefield, together with the ability to tactically defeat the enemy, give significant results, even despite the significant advantage of the Russian army in the number of soldiers and equipment,” the Ukrainian leader stated.
Ukraine is receiving yet another package of security and humanitarian aid from the U.S. that is worth approximately $1.25 billion combined.
1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is an experienced 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.