The large-scale Ukrainian counteroffensive is underway in the south. Kyiv is throwing significant forces in the southwestern part of the Donbas.
For the time being, the Russian forces are holding the line.
Probing and Waiting
The Ukrainian forces are attacking along multiple axes, searching for weak points on the Russian defensive line.
Once they have located these weak points, the Ukrainian forces will pour in reserves to try and achieve local superiority that could lead to an operational breakthrough.
Judging by the direction of the counteroffensive, it is likely that the Ukrainian military leadership is trying to cut off the land bridge that connects the Russian forces in southern Ukraine with occupied Crimea.
Creating this land bridge was one of Moscow’s main objectives going into Ukraine. The Crimean Peninsula plays a key part in the Russian defense strategy as it protects the country from the south. Leading up to the wholescale invasion of Ukraine, the Russian military had installed extensive anti-access/aerial-denial (A2/AD) systems on Crimea in an attempt to make it a “porcupine” fortress.
The Ukrainian forces are making progress and have advanced up to six miles in certain parts of the frontline. A push toward the Black Sea coast would bring the Ukrainian mechanized columns to towns like Melitopol and Mariupol.
In an attempt to distract the Ukrainian counteroffensive operation, the Russian military launched another salvo of long-range munition against Ukraine. In the latest attack, six Tu-95 Bear strategic bombers launched 35 Kh-101/555 air-launched cruise missiles over the Caspian Sea. The Ukrainian air defenses spotted and intercepted all 35 incoming munitions. The lack of an interactive targeting capability means that the Russian military can only reliably attack fixed targets.
Russian Casualties in Ukraine
On the second day of the Ukrainian large-scale counteroffensive, the Russian forces continue to take heavy losses. On day 468 of the war, the Russian military, Wagner Group private military company, and pro-Russian separatist forces lost almost 900 men killed, wounded, or captured. In just 48 hours, the Russian forces have lost almost 1,700 troops.
Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Wednesday, Ukrainian forces have killed and wounded approximately 212,030 Russian troops, destroyed 314 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets, 299 attack and transport helicopters, 3,873 tanks, 3,640 artillery pieces, 7,560 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 594 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 18 boats and cutters, 6,349 vehicles and fuel tanks, 352 anti-aircraft batteries, 3,219 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 492 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 1,171 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.
If the Ukrainian counteroffensive continues at this rate, the Russian forces will be nearing the 300,000 men casualty mark by the end of the summer. The Kremlin has had some serious force generation issues. The heavy fighting on the battlefield and projected additional casualties will only worsen the Russian position and make it harder for Moscow to achieve anything significant on the ground.
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.