It looks like that the long-anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive has finally begun.
After a long period of waiting, Kyiv is making its move that could shorten the Ukraine war by months, if not years.
The Ukrainian Counteroffensive
Over the past hours, there has been heavy fighting in the Donbas.
The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed on Monday that Ukrainian units are pushing hard across five sectors of the frontline in the south of the Donbas. On the other end, the Ukrainian military stated that it has transferred forces to the front and has started “offensive actions.”
U.S. intelligence assessments based on satellite imagery show large concentrations of troops and an uptick in artillery fire, both indications of a large-scale offensive operation in the works.
“Over the last 48 hours there has been a substantial increase in fighting along numerous sectors of the front, including those which have been relatively quiet for several months,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in its latest estimate of the war.
Kyiv hasn’t committed all of its forces yet and is likely waiting for the initial waves to achieve a breakthrough before it pours in the reserves to take advantage of the local success and turn it into an operational breakthrough.
Kyiv has kept a tight lead on its upcoming counteroffensive. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense released a video urging troops and civilians alike to maintain operational security around the upcoming counteroffensive. In general, the Ukrainians have been very good at maintaining a shroud of secrecy around their operational planning.
Deception is a core element of Ukrainian (and Russian) warfighting. The Ukrainians used it to the fullest last fall when they feigned an attack in the south but struck in the east instead. The Pentagon leaks in April jeopardized the Ukrainian operation, and that is probably why there was a delay.
Russian Casualties in Ukraine
The increase in fighting can be gauged by the number of casualties as well. On day 467 of the war, the daily rate of Russian casualties doubled compared to previous days.
Whereas in previous weeks, the average number of daily casualties hovered between 400 and 500 troops killed, wounded, or captured, in the past 24 hours, the Russian forces lost more than 800 men.
Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Tuesday, Ukrainian forces have killed and wounded approximately 211,150 Russian troops.
Destroyed equipment includes: 313 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets, 299 attack and transport helicopters, 3,860 tanks, 3,603 artillery pieces, 7,543 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 590 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 18 boats and cutters, 6,332 vehicles and fuel tanks, 351 anti-aircraft batteries, 3,212 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 489 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.
The Russian military has kept forces in reserve for exactly this contingency. However, their level of training and skill is doubtful. Moreover, the extremely heavy Russian losses in weapon systems mean that units are often equipped with obsolete weapon systems that are no match with Ukraine’s Western arsenal.
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.