Ukraine War Update: On day 152 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian military is still looking for that elusive breakthrough in the Donbas as the Ukrainian forces are getting ready to retake a significant city.
Operational Conundrums and Tank Body Shops
In its daily estimate of the war, the British Ministry of Defense touched on the operational conundrums of the Russian military in Ukraine but also focused on the maintenance and availability issues the Russian forces are facing.
The Russian offensive in the Donbas is running out of steam, and the Russian forces cannot achieve any real progress in three different axes of advance there. Ukrainian long-range fires are successfully taking out the Russian ammunition and logistical depots, thus starving the Russian artillery, which had been pivotal in the limited Russian advances of the past few months (the Russian guns would fire up to 20,000 shells a day at some point).
Without the cover of a rolling barrage, the Russian tanks and mechanized infantry are faced with same problem they did in the opening days and weeks of the war: agile Ukrainian defenses equipped with modern anti-tank weapons, such as the FGM-148 Javelin and the Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapon (NLAW), who are able to take out advancing Russian armored columns.
And it seems that the Russian forces don’t have an answer to the Ukrainian High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) that are roaming well behind the frontlines, lobbing missiles with deadly accuracy, and moving so quickly after the fire mission that any Russian counter-battery fire is ineffective.
“Inconclusive fighting continues in both the Donbas and Kherson sectors. Russian commanders continue to face a dilemma; whether to resource the offensive in the east, or to bolster the defence in the west,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.
The Russian forces have lost more than 5,000 armored and unarmored vehicles in the war so far. And they are having trouble repairing those that could be salvaged.
“On 18 July 2022, intelligence identified a Russian military vehicle refit and refurbishment facility near Barvinok, in Russia’s Belgorod Oblast, 10km from the Ukrainian border. At least 300 damaged vehicles were present, including main battle tanks, armoured personnel carriers, and general support trucks,” the British Ministry of Defense added.
“In addition to its well documented personnel problems, Russia likely continues to struggle to extract and repair the thousands of combat vehicles which have been damaged in action in Ukraine,” the British Military Intelligence added.
After weeks of slow but steady advance, the Ukrainian military is finally getting ready to attempt to recapture Kherson on the southern front. A major Ukrainian city, Kherson was captured in the first days of the war by the advancing Russian forces. Since then, the Ukrainian city has served as an experiment of sorts by the Kremlin to determine how to better annex captured Ukrainian territories.
Reports suggest that the Ukrainian military is making progress toward Kherson and has captured an unspecified number of settlements in the outskirts of the city.
“Ukrainian forces are likely preparing to launch or have launched a counteroffensive in Kherson Oblast as of July 23, but open-source visibility on the progress and tempo of the counteroffensive will likely be limited and lag behind events,” the Institute for the Study of War assessed, highlighting that the Ukrainian military is emphasizing operational security and is asking Ukrainian civilians not to publicize the movements of Ukrainian troops.
The Russian military continues to suffer heavy casualties in Ukraine, and if Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Kremlin advisers don’t find a solution with respect to mobilizing large numbers of forces, the Russian forces on the frontline will simply be not enough to conduct any major offensive operation effectively.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Monday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 39,700 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number), destroyed 222 fighter, attack, and transport jets, 188 attack and transport helicopters, 1,730 tanks, 876 artillery pieces, 3,950 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 257 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 15 boats and cutters, 2,832 vehicles and fuel tanks, 116 anti-aircraft batteries, 719 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 73 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 174 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.
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.