Ukraine War Update: The fighting in the east and the Donbas continues in earnest on the 325th day of the war in Ukraine. The Ukrainian military is pushing hard in the east and defending fiercely in the Donbas.
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The Russian Casualties in Ukraine
Meanwhile, the Russian military continues to suffer very heavy casualties on the ground in Ukraine.
Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Saturday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 114,660 Russian troops (and wounded approximately twice to thrice that number), destroyed 286 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets, 276 attack and transport helicopters, 3,104 tanks, 2,090 artillery pieces, 6,173 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 437 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 16 boats and cutters, 4,846 vehicles and fuel tanks, 219 anti-aircraft batteries, 1,867 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 186 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 723 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.
VDV and the fighting in the east
The fighting in the east along the Kreminna-Svatove line of contact continues.
The Ukrainian forces have been pushing hard in an attempt to reach Kreminna to unlock the way to Svatove, a key logistical hub that supplies Russian forces not only in the east but in the Donbas further in the south.
The loss of the town would seriously restrict both Russian offensive and defensive operations.
The Russian forces have been spending a lot of time constructing fortifications around Svatove in an attempt to slow down any future Ukrainian counteroffensives. But Moscow is also relocating troops from other parts of the battlespace to bolster its defenses.
The retreat from the western bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson has given the Russian military the opportunity to pull some forces from that front and send them where there is a pressing need.
More specifically, the Russian military has been moving around its elite VDV airborne units, redeploying them from Kherson to Kreminna.
“Since the start of January 2023, Russia has almost certainly allocated elements of the 76th Guards Air Landing Division of the VDV (airborne forces) to reinforce the Kremina front line after assessing the sector was significantly vulnerable,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in a recent estimate of the war.
Up until November, the Russian military had dedicated almost all of its VDV units around Kherson to ground-holding duties.
“Now redeployed to the Donbas and southern Ukraine, commanders are likely attempting to employ VDV more in line with their supposed doctrinal role as a relatively elite rapid reaction force,” the British Military Intelligence added.
A separate branch of the Russian Armed Forces, the VDV was considered the strategic reserve. However, the invasion of Ukraine has dented the unit’s reputation after it suffered humiliating defeats around Kyiv and in Kherson.
Credible allegations that it was involved in war crimes, especially around Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv, have further hurt the elite unit’s reputation.
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.