On day 348 of the Ukraine war, the fighting on the ground continued as the Russian military is pouring increasingly more forces into the area around Bakhmut in the Donbas in an attempt to capture the defiant Ukrainian town.
The two sides are also getting ready for major offensive operations as the conflict looks ready to enter a new phase.
The Russian Offensive and Ukrainian Counteroffensive
The Ukrainians anticipate a Russian offensive on or around February 24, which will mark the one-year anniversary of the wholescale invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian military has created a reserve of approximately 150,000 men to participate in the attack.
But the Ukrainian forces are planning their own counteroffensive too. Major General Kyrylo Budanov, the chief of the Ukrainian Military Intelligence, recently reiterated that the goal is to liberate Crimea, which Russia invaded and illegally annexed in 2014, within 2023.
The Kremlin, meanwhile, is trying to legitimize its presence in occupied Ukraine with so-called regional elections.
The chair of the Russian Federation Council announced that regional authorities would hold elections in the Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia provinces on September 10.
However, it is up in the air if the Russian forces control these regions by then.
A Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south would pressure Russian forces in Kerson and Zaporizhzhia.
“Incorporating the elections into same day of voting which is scheduled across Russia highlights the leadership’s ambition to present the areas as integral parts of the Federation. This follows continued efforts to ‘Russify’ the occupied areas, which include revision of the education, communication, and transport systems,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in its latest estimate of the war.
“While meaningful democratic choices are no longer available to voters at even regional level elections in Russia, leaders will likely make the self-vindicating argument that new elections further justify the occupation,” the British Military Intelligence added.
Russian Casualties in Ukraine
The Russian forces continue to suffer extremely heavy casualties on the ground. Every day, Moscow loses approximately 700 killed or wounded. Despite the mobilizations that entered a good amount of troops, the Russian military will soon have a problem if it continues losing men left and right like it currently is. With a major offensive in the works, Russian casualties are expected to skyrocket in the immediate future.
Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Monday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 132,160 Russian troops (and wounded approximately twice to thrice that number),
Equipment destroyed includes: 294 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets, 284 attack and transport helicopters, 3,231 tanks, 2,231 artillery pieces, 6,415 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 461 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 18 boats and cutters, 5,104 vehicles and fuel tanks, 227 anti-aircraft batteries, 1,958 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 203 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 796 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.
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. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.