The Russian military is preparing defensive lines all across Ukraine in an attempt to fend off further Ukrainian counteroffensives. After months of high losses during its invasion, Moscow is prioritizing defense.
Russian Casualties in Ukraine Update
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Monday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 84,600 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number); destroyed 278 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets; and further destroyed 261 attack and transport helicopters; 2,892 tanks; 1,870 artillery pieces; 5,822 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles; 393 multiple launch rocket systems; 16 boats and cutters; 4,378 vehicles and fuel tanks; 209 anti-aircraft batteries; 1,537 tactical unmanned aerial systems; 161 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems; and 480 cruise missiles, which have been shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.
The Russian Situation
Ever since achieving a great breakthrough in the east in early September, Ukrainian forces have been trying to reach the key logistical hub of Svatove. If the succeed, the loss of the city would further hamstring Russian offensive and defensive operations in the east and in the northern part of the Donbas.
Over the past week, the two sides have been exchanging intense artillery fire in the area. Despite the general disarray that characterizes Russian forces, Moscow still has a potent artillery capability. Indeed, going back all the way to World War Two, the Russian way of war is very much centered around heavy artillery fires.
“With Russia’s south-western front line now more readily defendable along the east bank of the Dnipro River, the Svatove sector is likely now a more vulnerable operational flank of the Russian force,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in its latest estimate of the war. “As a significant population centre within Luhansk Oblast, Russian leaders will highly likely see retaining control of Svatove as a political priority.
“However, commanders are likely struggling with the military realities of maintaining a credible defence, while also attempting to resource offensive operations further south in Donetsk. Both Russian defensive and offensive capability continues to be hampered by severe shortages of munitions and skilled personnel.”
In other parts of the contact line, the Russian military is constructing defensive positions in order to stop future Ukrainian counteroffensives. However, the fortifications are largely manned by mobilized reservists and are thus an easy target for the battle-hardened Ukrainian forces.
The Russian military is severely lacking in manpower, especially skilled manpower, and that makes the job of Russian commanders on the ground that much harder. Right now, there is no realistic scenario in which the Russian military is able to conduct successful offensive operations. Moscow has been sending any reserves the partial mobilization generated to the frontline in a piecemeal fashion in an attempt to plug critical gaps. But a large-scale offensive operation would require fresh reserves that are adequately equipped and that have trained together.
Expert Biography: A 19FortyFive 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. He is currently working towards a Master’s Degree in Strategy and Cybersecurity at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.