Live updates from Ukraine: As Russia gains territory, grim losses take their toll

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

It has been two months since the Kremlin launched its full-scale assault on Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, directing the force of its vast arsenal along a 300-mile front and inflicting heavy casualties on Ukrainian forces as its fighters fought their way through grueling trials. earnings.

But the campaign was expensive. After weeks of bloody battles and persistent defense by outgunned Ukrainian soldiers, the Russian forces are likely severely depleted in manpower and equipment.

An entire Russian regiment – which when full could number several thousand troops – has been forced to withdraw from the eastern front “to restore its combat capability” after suffering heavy casualties, the military said on Saturday. Ukrainian army. The Ukrainians also said they destroyed “30 units of various enemy equipment and weapons” within 24 hours from Friday morning. Russia “continues to suffer significant losses”, the Ukrainians said on Saturday evening.

The claims could not be independently verified, but if confirmed, they would be signs that the battle for control of Donbass is taking a heavy toll on Russian forces already battered in the early months of the war as They tried in vain to seize Kyiv, the capital, and other towns and cities in the north.

“The Russians probably lost between 20 and 30 percent of their armored forces,” Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week. “It’s huge. So the Ukrainians are fighting a very effective fight tactically with both shooting and maneuvering.

General Milley said “the numbers are clearly in favor of the Russians” on weapons, making critical the extra billion dollars the White House has promised Ukraine for more artillery, systems rockets, coastal defense weapons and ammunition.

As Ukraine eagerly awaits the arrival of weapons, Russian forces are killing up to 200 Ukrainian soldiers every day, officials say. The Ukrainians desperately tried to hold their ground in the ruined city of Sievierodonetsk, as they also defended themselves against a wider encirclement of their forces in the region by the Russians advancing from the north, south and east.

Yet the Ukrainians are making the Russians pay a heavy price for every mile they seek to advance.

The British Army Intelligence Agency said last week that Russian combat forces in the Donbass “most likely operated in increasingly ad hoc and severely undermanned groupings”.

“For both sides fighting in contested towns, front line combat is likely to increasingly devolve to small groups of troops generally operating on foot,” according to the British analysis.

Unable to dislodge the Ukrainians from Sievierodonetsk after weeks of heavy shelling and urban fighting, Russia was trying to improve its “tactical situation” by carrying out assault operations outside the city, the army said on Saturday. Ukrainian. He said the Russians were failing to break through and were suffering heavy casualties as they tried to take the last piece of land under Kyiv control in Luhansk province of Donbass.

“Now the fiercest battles are taking place near Sievierodonetsk,” said Serhii Haidai, Luhansk’s regional military commander, saying Ukrainian soldiers had recently shot down a Russian fighter jet and taken prisoners.

Michael Kofman, director of Russia studies at CNA, a research group in Virginia, said in a recent analysis that if the Russians break through in Sievierodonetsk, their ongoing labor struggles could further harm their ability to support any progress.

“The Russian military has spent months trying to hire additional contract servicemen, deploying reservists and now organizing additional battalions based on the existing force structure,” Kofman wrote. “These are piecemeal efforts that keep the Russian military going in the war, but don’t solve the fundamental manpower deficit.”

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