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Putin Is Smiling: What Is Holding Back Ukraine’s Counteroffensive?

Wagner Group vs. Ukraine. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Wagner Group vs. Ukraine

The Ukrainian counteroffensive is in full swing, and there is heavy fighting all across the contact line. 

Almost two months into the operation, the Ukrainian military is still looking for the breakthrough that could help end the war. 

Progress continues to be slow as the Russian military puts up a determined resistance. 

The Ukrainian Counteroffensive 

Although the Ukrainians are the ones carrying out a large-scale counteroffensive, the Russian military is counterattacking in places, especially in Eastern UkraineRussian units have pushed toward the west of the Kreminna-Svatove line, but the forested terrain is slowing any advance.

In the Donbas, Kyiv continues to prioritize the Bakhmut sector, committing large numbers of troops and weapon systems to unravel previous Russian advances.

“Here, Russian forces are likely fragile but holding for now. Further south in Donetsk Oblast, especially around Avdiivka, Russian forces continue to attempt local assaults, with little success,” British Military Intelligence assessed in its latest estimate of the war.

The front in Southern Ukraine remains one of the most important for both militaries. Were the Ukrainians to achieve an operational breakthrough here, they could reach Crimea and also cut the land bridge the Kremlin created when it captured parts of Eastern Ukraine. As a result, there is heavy fighting in the sector.

The Ukrainian counteroffensive is unfolding along two axes of advance, one in Zaporizhzhia and the other in Kherson. In the former, Ukrainian forces are attacking from the north and have made some gains. However, Russian defensive lines continue to hold.

“In this area, Russia has likely implemented a shell-rationing regime for artillery in an attempt to preserve its critical indirect fire capability,” British Military Intelligence stated.

In the neighboring Kherson Oblast, Ukrainian forces have managed to establish a small bridgehead on the left bank of the Dnipro River, close to where the Antonivsky Bridge was before it was destroyed. For now, the Ukrainians haven’t committed many forces in this sector, but the threat they pose probably keeps Russian commanders up at night.

Extensive minefields and supporting fortifications continue to be the main reason Ukrainian forces haven’t advanced faster.

Russian Casualties in Ukraine

The fierce fighting across the contact line is producing heavy casualties for both sides. On day 511 of the conflict, Russian forces lost approximately 700 men killed, wounded, or captured, as well as dozens of weapon systems. 

Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Tuesday, Ukrainian forces have killed and wounded approximately 239,010 Russian troops. They also claim they have destroyed 322 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets; 310 attack and transport helicopters; 4,119 tanks; 4,542 artillery pieces; 8.051 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles; 689 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems; 18 boats and cutters; 7,086 vehicles and fuel tanks; 428 anti-aircraft batteries; 3,839 tactical unmanned aerial systems; 677 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems; and 1,273 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. His work has been featured in Business InsiderSandboxx, and SOFREP.

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1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise 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.