Ukraine's armed forces are gearing up for a long-anticipated counteroffensive in eastern Ukraine, and Russian forces are digging in to try and defend the remaining territory they seized since invading in February 2022. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Ukrainian TV Monday night that the military is "reaching the finish line" in counteroffensive preparations, and commanders will decide "how, where, and when."
Meanwhile, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Monday that, according to declassified U.S. estimates, "Russia has suffered more than 100,000 casualties, including over 20,000 killed in action," since December. About half the casualties were Wagner Group mercenaries "thrown into combat and without sufficient combat or combat training, combat leadership, or any sense of organizational command and control," especially in the ruined city of Bakhmut, he added.
Russia's average daily casualty rate fell in April, following "exceptionally heavy Russian casualties over January-March 2023," Britain's Ministry of Defense assessed last week. "Figures released by the Ukrainian General Staff suggest a reduction from a daily average of 776 Russian casualties in March, to an average of 568 so far in April," as Russia's "attempted winter offensive has failed to achieve its objectives."
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"Russia's attempt at an offensive in the Donbas largely through Bakhmut has failed" and even "backfired," Kirby told reporters Monday. "Russia has been unable to seize any real strategic and significant territory," and after months of "extraordinary losses, Russia continues to be focused on a single Ukrainian city with limited strategic value."
Logistics problems "remain at the heart of Russia's struggling campaign in Ukraine," Britain's Ministry of Defense said Monday night. "Russia does not have enough munitions to achieve success on the offensive."
Russia and its Wagner paramilitary forces have made incremental gains in Bakhmut over nearly a year of attritional battle, and they now control most of the city. But the battle is fluid, and Ukraine has been able to push Russian forces back in some parts of Bakhmut, Ukrainian military spokesman Serhii Cherevatyi said Monday. Russia still does not "completely" control Bakhmut, so "we are conducting a successful defense operation and are achieving our main goal: destroying the enemy's military potential, personnel, and equipment to the maximum extent possible," he added. "In particular, Wagner is close to being completely destroyed."
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