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Who wins in Donbas? On day 119 of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the war of attrition in eastern Ukraine continues. The Russian military is pushing hard for a breakthrough in the Donbas but has thus far failed to achieve any major territorial gains. Instead, the Russian forces have been advancing slowly and deliberately under the cover of long-range fires.
Force Generation in Donbas and the Future of the War
In its daily estimate of the war, the British Ministry of Defense touched on the fighting on the Donbas but mostly focused on the Russian casualties and the force generation issues that both sides are dealing with.
“Heavy shelling continues as Russia pushes to envelop the Sieverodonetsk area via Izium in the north and Popasna in the south. Russia is highly likely preparing to attempt to deploy a large number of reserve units to the Donbas,” the British Military Intelligence assessed.
“The Russian authorities have not released the overall number of military casualties in Ukraine since 25 March. However, the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) publishes casualty figures for DPR forces. As of 16 June, the DPR acknowledged 2128 military personnel killed in action, and 8897 wounded, since the start of 2022. The DPR casualty rate is equivalent to around 55 per cent of its original force, which highlights the extraordinary attrition Russian and pro-Russian forces are suffering in the Donbas,” the British Ministry of Defense stated.
“It is highly likely that DPR forces are equipped with outdated weapons and equipment. On both sides, the ability to generate and deploy reserve units to the front is likely becoming increasingly critical to the outcome of the war,” the British Military Intelligence added.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Wednesday, Ukrainian forces have killed approximately 34,230 Russian troops (and wounded approximately thrice that number), destroyed 216 fighter, attack, and transport jets, 182 attack and transport helicopters, 1,496 tanks, 752 artillery pieces, 3,614 armored personnel carriers, 239 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 14 boats and cutters, 2,543 vehicles and fuel tanks, 99 anti-aircraft batteries, 614 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 60 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 137 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.
Ukraine and the European Union
In his daily speech to the Ukrainian people, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy talked about his country’s candidacy for the European Union and how he is trying to achieve that.
“Today was a day of extremely active foreign policy activity – almost a marathon of phone conversations. We are increasing the number of those who stand for Ukraine’s candidacy and adding confidence that the decision on Friday will be positive,” the Ukrainian leader said.
“In all negotiations, I always emphasize that the seventh package of the European Union sanctions is needed as soon as possible. Russia must feel a constant increase in pressure for the war and for its aggressive anti-European policy. Another Russian threat to Lithuania, another wave of energy pressure, another batch of lies from Russian officials about the food crisis are all arguments to agree on the seventh package of sanctions,” Zelensky added.
Ukraine Unlike NATO, joining the European Union won’t have any direct military benefits for Ukraine. NATO’s Article 5 on mutual assistance guarantees that if a member state of the transatlantic alliance is attacked by a third state or non-state actor, then all other members are obligated to come to its aid. The European Union has no such clause. But a European Union membership has many other benefits that could help Ukraine and especially its economy.
The Ukrainian leader also talked about the fighting in eastern Ukraine.
“The situation on the frontline is without significant changes. With the help of tactical moves, the Ukrainian army is strengthening its defense in the Luhansk region, which is really the toughest area right now. The occupiers are also putting serious pressure on the Donetsk direction,” the Ukrainian president said.
“In the Kharkiv region there is brutal and cynical Russian artillery shelling. It will not give anything to the occupiers, but the Russian army is deaf to any rationality. It simply destroys, simply kills – in this way it shows its command that it is not standing still. In the south we defend our Mykolaiv region, our Zaporizhzhia, and gradually liberate the Kherson region,” Zelensky added.
1945’s New 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 Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.