The Ukrainian military is pushing hard in several directions across the contact line. There is heavy fighting in the Donbas and in Southern Ukraine.
With Kyiv’s counteroffensive about to enter its fourth week, Ukrainian forces are still looking for a breach that could lead to an operational breakthrough.
Now Slow, Later Fast
Admittedly, most observers would have expected the Ukrainian forces to advance faster than they already have.
The Ukrainian military set a high standard last fall when it liberated hundreds of square miles of territory in just a few days, first in the east around Kharkiv and then in the south, on the western bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson.
But this time around, the Russian forces are putting up a skillful, in-depth defense. Layers of extensive fortifications, hundreds of square miles of minefields, anti-tank obstacles, trenches, artillery fire, drones, and even suicide tanks are slowing down the Ukrainian forces.
Pressure is increasing on Kyiv to achieve something on the ground. But the counteroffensive is still in its very early stages, and there is time.
“Whatever some might want, including attempts to pressure us, with all due respect, we will advance on the battlefield the way we deem best,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an interview with the BBC.
The real question is what Russia does once the Ukrainians start to have some success.
“[Putin] will talk about the use of nuclear weapons; I don’t think he is ready to do it because he is scared for his life; he loves it a lot. But there is no way I could say for sure, especially about a person with no ties to reality, who, in the 21st Century, launched a full-scale war against their neighbor,” the Ukrainian leader added.
Meanwhile, on day 484 of the war, Moscow continues to take significant casualties on the ground. Almost 20 days into the Ukrainian counteroffensive, Russian forces have lost more than 11,000 troops killed, wounded, or captured. The rate of casualties in frontline units is so high that the Russian Ministry of Defense has had to relocate forces from other parts of the battlefield to fill gaps in the front.
The fierce artillery duel between the two militaries continues, and the intensity is reflected in the number of casualties. Over the last 24 hours, the Ukrainians claim to have destroyed 44 Russian artillery pieces. That doesn’t make it an unusual day. This week alone, the Russians have likely lost more than 130 artillery pieces.
In the absence of constant air superiority, whichever side manages to wrestle even a small advantage in artillery will have the upper hand. The war so far has proven that artillery remains one of the deadliest arms on the battlefield, having caused most of the casualties in the fighting.
Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Friday, Ukrainian forces have killed and wounded approximately 223,330 Russian troops. They also claim they have destroyed 314 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets; 307 attack and transport helicopters; 4,017 tanks; 3,985 artillery pieces; 7,798 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles; 617 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS); 18 boats and cutters; 6,708 vehicles and fuel tanks; 379 anti-aircraft batteries; 3,447 tactical unmanned aerial systems; 545 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems; and 1,214 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.
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.