After an offensive operation that cost more than 100,000 men, Russia once more ceded Ukraine the strategic initiative.
With the war in its 16th month, Kyiv now has the opportunity to deliver a blow on the Russian forces.
Russia Has Ceded the Strategic Initiative
The year began full of promise for the Kremlin. In January, the Russian forces launched a large-scale offensive operation in the Donbas in an attempt to capture Bakhmut and achieve an operational breakthrough.
Despite losing more than 100,000 men killed, wounded, and captured in the span of a few weeks, the Russian forces failed to break the Ukrainian lines, though they captured Bakhmut after much blood and sweat.
The Russian offensive has ended, and with it, the Russian military has ceded the strategic initiative to Ukraine. Since the start of May, the Russian forces have done little to advance the Kremlin’s strategic objectives.
“Russia has had little success in its likely aims of neutralising Ukraine’s improved air defences and destroying Ukrainian counter-attack forces. On the ground, it has redeployed security forces to react to partisan attacks inside western Russia,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in its latest estimate of the war.
Moreover, on the operational level, Russian commanders are “likely attempting to generate reserve forces” in anticipation of the upcoming large-scale Ukrainian counteroffensive, the British Military Intelligence stated.
Kyiv indicated this week that the counteroffensive would take place soon after a delay of a few weeks. Naturally, the Russian Ministry of Defense would want to have a reserve force ready to enter the fray where needed and stall or stop any Ukrainian momentum. But there is a tradeoff in keeping much-needed units from the frontlines.
“However, this has probably been undermined by uncommitted forces instead being sent to fill gaps in the front line around Bakhmut,” the British Military Intelligence added.
The Russian military has resorted to a long-range fires strategy, using ballistic and cruise missiles and suicide drones to attack military and civilian targets throughout Ukraine. In May alone, Moscow launched more than 20 such attacks. Although costly and deadly, these attacks do little to stop the Ukrainian military on the ground.
Russian Casualties in Ukraine
On the ground, the Russian forces continue to lose men at a steady rate. On day 461 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian military, Wagner Group private military company, and pro-Russian separatist rebels lost approximately 400 men and dozens of heavy weapon systems.
Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Wednesday, Ukrainian forces have killed and wounded approximately 207,910 Russian troops, destroyed 313 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets, 298 attack and transport helicopters, 3,802 tanks, 3,460 artillery pieces, 7,472 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 575 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 18 boats and cutters, 6,230 vehicles and fuel tanks, 333 anti-aircraft batteries, 3,124 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 454 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 1,107 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.
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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, Cybersecurity, and Intelligence at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.