Since early June, Kyiv has maintained a large-scale counteroffensive in the Donbas and southern Ukraine. The extensive Russian defenses have stalled the Ukrainians, who have made tactically considerable but strategically limited gains.
However, the Russian military has suffered heavy losses and is forced to create new formations to address the situation on the ground.
A New Army Staffed with Old Units
According to British Military Intelligence, the Russian Ministry of Defense has “highly likely” established the 18th Combined Arms Army to address the dire situation in the south of Ukraine.
“The formation is likely to be an amalgamation and uplift of other units currently operating in Kherson Oblast, including 22nd Army Corps, the force which usually constitutes Russia’s garrison in occupied Crimea,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in a recent estimate on the conflict.
“[The] 18 CAA is likely to consist mostly of mobilised personnel and to focus on defensive security operations in the south of Ukraine. Russia likely aims to free up more experienced units to fight on key axes,” the British Military Intelligence added.
The Ukrainian military has been using special operations forces to pin down Russian units in Kherson while it attacks with the majority of its conventional heavy brigades in the neighboring Zaporizhzhia Oblast and the Donbas.
“There is a realistic possibility that this has led to the recent re-deployment of airborne forces from Kherson to the heavily contested Orikhiv sector,” the British Military Intelligence stated.
Faced with serious force generation issues, the Russian Ministry of Defense has had to repeatedly “mix the pot” and find solutions with its current units. Several elite units, such as the VDV paratroopers, have been acting as firefighters, redeploying where the fighting is the heaviest and the threat of a breach the most serious.
But the Kremlin doesn’t have unlimited mobile reserves—and it definitely doesn’t have unlimited elite units to redeploy to threatened sectors. Kyiv understands these limitations and has adjusted its strategy accordingly to attrite and wear down the Russian reserves, thereby increasing the chances of success of an operational breakthrough.
Russian Casualties in Ukraine
Meanwhile, the Russian forces continue to suffer significant losses on the ground. On day 545 of the conflict, the Russian military and pro-Russian separatist forces lost a little over 400 men killed, wounded, or captured.
Although the Kremlin hasn’t been suffering the extremely heavy losses of previous months—at some points during the winter and spring, the Russian forces were losing upwards of 800 and 900 men a day—the daily attrition of even 400 and 500 men piles up and, over the long term, takes a toll.
Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Tuesday, Ukrainian forces have killed and wounded approximately 258,340 Russian troops, destroyed 322 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets, 316 attack and transport helicopters, 4,362 tanks, 5,295 artillery pieces, 8,476 armored personnel carriers, and infantry fighting vehicles, 721 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 18 boats and cutters, 7,722 vehicles, and fuel tanks, 491 anti-aircraft batteries, 4,312 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 797 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 1,406 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 and a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from the Johns Hopkins University, an MA from the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and is pursuing a J.D. at Boston College Law School. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.
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