Putin’s Nightmare: Russian Army Still Can’t Win in Eastern Ukraine

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On day 84 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian army continues to seek a breakthrough in eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian army persists with limited counterattacks in an effort to thwart the new russian offensive.

Although the fighting in Mariupol has ended, the port city in southern Ukraine is still in the headlines.

Mariupol and the Azovstal fighters

The siege of Mariupol finally ended with the surrender of the last remnants of the Ukrainian garrison on Wednesday.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, about 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers have surrendered in Mariupol. Several of them were injured and the Ukrainian government indicated that it had given the green light to the capitulation with the possibility of exchanging the Azovstal fighters with Russian prisoners of war. However, statements by Russian and pro-Russian officials raise questions about whether a prisoner swap will take place.

In a recent war estimate, the Institute for the Study of War estimated that Moscow may refuse the alleged prisoner exchange.

“Some members of the Russian State Duma are calling for the adoption of laws prohibiting prisoner exchanges for those accused of “Nazism”. Russian State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin said Mariupol defenders should be charged with war crimes and cannot be exchanged for Russian prisoners of war. The Kremlin can ignore Russian State Duma concerns or use them to sabotage negotiations with Ukraine,” the Institute for War Studies said.

Russian casualties

The Russian military continues to suffer heavy casualties, having lost nearly 29,000 soldiers killed in action, according to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claims that on Wednesday Ukrainian forces killed an estimated 28,300 Russian troops (and wounded about three times that number), destroyed 202 combat, attack and transport aircraft, 167 attack and transport helicopters, 1,251 tanks, 586 artillery pieces, 3,043 armored personnel carriers , 199 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)13 boats and cutters, 2,137 vehicles and fuel tanks, 91 anti-aircraft batteries, 441 unmanned aerial systems, 43 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four Iskander mobile ballistic missile systems, and 102 cruise missiles shot down by Ukrainian air defenses.

As is always the case, official numbers are subject to interpretation. The Ukrainian government has every interest in overestimating Russian losses. But the Ukrainian claims are backed up by independent open-source research and even Western military and intelligence services.

For example, the open-source tracking website Oryx independently and visually verified the destruction of hundreds of Russian tanks, armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles. Although they are not identical, the Oryx and the official Ukrainian numbers are not that far apart.

Continued support for Ukraine

Without the unprecedented level of security and economic aid that Ukraine has received, the country would most likely have fallen into Russian hands. Certainly, the Ukrainian determination to fight until the end is a crucial factor of the “Ukrainian miracle”, but it has been well served by the billions of weapons that kyiv has received.

And so, the Ukrainian government continues to seek international support. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has consistently pleaded for more help, and he has largely succeeded.

“I had a conversation with the president of FranceEmmanuel Macron. Substantial and long. We discussed the sixth package of sanctions being prepared within the European Union. We also discussed the negotiation process with Russia and the evacuation of our heroes from Azovstal. The evacuation mission continues, it is supervised by our military and our intelligence services. The most influential international mediators are involved,” the Ukrainian president said.

“We also discussed separately and in depth with the French President our European integration steps and the consideration of Ukraine’s application for EU candidate status. I continue to gather the largest possible international audience for Ukraine. To support our state at all levels. And to put pressure on Russia at all levels,” Zelensky added.

France, and in particular French President Emmanuel Macron, has attempted to play “good cop, bad cop” with Russia. Macron is probably the Western leader who has spent the most time chatting with Russian President Vladimir Putin since the start of the war. At almost every turn, Macron tries to tone things down and pleads to give the Kremlin an acceptable outcome to the war.

[1945’sNewColumnofDefenseandNationalSecurity[1945’sNouveauchroniqueurdedéfenseetdesécuriténationaleStavros 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 graduate of Johns Hopkins University. His work has been featured in Business Intern, Sandboxand SOFREP.


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