Ukraine and Russia have fought for more than 20 months. Almost five months ago, Ukraine launched a large-scale counteroffensive to reclaim territory taken by the invaders. It has failed to achieve the intended results.
Now, the Russian military has launched a series of counterattacks.
Fierce but Inconclusive Fighting in Ukraine
Russian forces have worked for three weeks to breach Ukrainian defenses around the town of Avdiivka with a series of intense localized counterattacks. This fighting in Donetsk Oblast has been fierce but inconclusive. The Russians have failed to capture Avdiivka, despite some gains. They have suffered extremely heavy casualties in the process.
Over the weekend, British Military Intelligence assessed that the Russian military has committed significant forces to the effort.
“Russia has probably committed elements of up to eight brigades to the sector. These elements have likely suffered some of Russia’s highest casualty rates of 2023 so far,” British Military Intelligence assessed. “Russian nationalist ‘mil bloggers’ have been harshly critical of the military’s tactics in the operation. The nature of the operation suggests that Russia’s core military-political challenge remains the same as it has throughout most of the war.
“Political leaders demand more territory to be seized but the military cannot generate effective operational level offensive action.”
With national elections coming up next year, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin need some victories on the ground in Ukraine. Successfully fending off the large-scale Ukrainian counteroffensive is a significant success for the Russian military. And Moscow can win the war just by playing defense — Kyiv carries the burden of liberating the rest of its country. The Kremlin can just sit and wait, relatively safe in the knowledge that Crimea and large parts of Ukraine’s south and east are in its hands.
However, the Ukrainian military continues to inflict heavy losses on the invading Russian forces.
On day 614 of the Kremlin’s “special military operation,” the Russian military and pro-Russian separatist forces lost almost 900 men killed, wounded, or captured, as well as more than 70 heavy weapons systems, drones, and tactical vehicles.
The weekend was very deadly indeed for Russian forces. On Saturday and Sunday, they lost over 1,400 men killed, wounded, or captured in the fighting. Losses were similarly heavy in weapons systems. Moscow lost approximately 31 infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers, 30 main battle tanks, 26 artillery pieces and multiple launch rocket systems, and 19 tactical vehicles.
Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Monday, Ukrainian forces have killed and wounded approximately 299,940 Russian troops. They also claim they have destroyed 325 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets; 324 attack and transport helicopters; 5,190 tanks; 7,202 artillery pieces; 9,775 armored personnel carriers, and infantry fighting vehicles; 834 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems; 21 warships, submarines, boats, and cutters; 9,555 vehicles and fuel tanks; 559 anti-aircraft batteries; 5,419 tactical unmanned aerial systems; 1,014 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems; and 1,544 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defense.
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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