April 28, 2024

Institute for the Study of War: Russian forces suffered 450,000 casualties since Ukraine invasion began, says U.K. government 

Institute for the Study of War

Recent Russian gains northwest of Avdiivka have prompted Ukrainian forces to withdraw from other limited tactical positions along the frontline west of Avdiivka, although these withdrawals have yet to facilitate rapid Russian tactical gains. Russian forces remain unlikely to achieve a deeper operationally significant penetration in the area in the near term. Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi reported on April 28 that Ukrainian forces withdrew from Berdychi (northwest of Avdiivka) and Semenivka (west of Avdiivka) to positions further west in order to preserve Ukrainian personnel. Syrskyi acknowledged that Russian forces are making tactical advances northwest of Avdiivka, and Ukrainian officials reported that Russian forces have deployed up to four brigades to their tactical penetration in the Ocheretyne (northwest of Avdiivka) area. Russian forces have committed roughly a reinforced division’s worth of combat power (comprised mainly of four Central Military District [CMD] brigades) to the frontline northwest of Avdiivka to stabilize a small salient in the area and pursue a wider penetration of the Ukrainian defense along the frontline west of Avdiivka. Russian forces have not made relatively rapid tactical gains west of Ocheretyne, Solovyove (northwest of Avdiivka), Berdychi, and Semenivka following Ukrainian withdrawals from limited tactical positions in the area, however, suggesting that Ukrainian forces maintain positions and capabilities in the area that are slowing further westward Russian advances for the moment. Russian forces will likely continue to make tactical gains in the Avdiivka direction in the coming weeks, and Ukrainian commanders may decide to conduct additional withdrawals if Russian forces threaten other Ukrainian tactical positions in the area. The next line of defensible settlements in the area is some distance from the Ukrainian defensive line that Russian forces have been attacking since the seizure of Avdiivka in mid-February 2024, although Ukrainian forces may be able to use defensible windbreaks in fields immediately west of the current frontline to slow future Russian attacks. The complete Ukrainian withdrawal to reportedly fortified positions further west of Avdiivka would likely allow Russian forces to make relatively rapid advances through these fields, although the advances would likely be rapid only if Ukrainian forces do not try to hold positions in the fields.

Syrskyi added that Ukrainian forces are committing elements of brigades that have undergone rest and reconstitution to stabilize the situation in the Avdiivka direction. The arrival of reconstituted Ukrainian reinforcements will likely allow Ukrainian forces to slow Russian tactical gains and possibly stabilize the front. Ukrainian forces have struggled with under-resourcing and are facing a reported one-to-three manpower disadvantage northwest of Avdiivka, but have nonetheless prevented more than a division’s worth of Russian combat power from making the types of advances that these force and materiel disparities should in principle have allowed Russian forces to achieve. The arrival of Ukrainian reinforcements and additional materiel will force the Russian command to either accept that a near-term wider or deeper penetration is unlikely or commit additional reserves to the area to continue pursuing tactical gains. Russian forces currently have opportunities to achieve operationally significant gains near Chasiv Yar and are preparing reserves to support a large-scale offensive effort expected this summer. The immediate commitment of additional Russian reserves to an opportunistic tactical penetration in the Avdiivka area, where Russian forces are far away from operationally significant objectives, may consume manpower that otherwise could support operationally significant gains in the Chasiv Yar area or that were intended for use in summer 2024. Russian forces will likely have to replenish and reinforce attacking units and decrease the tempo of offensive operations west of Avdiivka if they do not commit additional reserves, which would likely constrain Russia’s ability to make additional rapid tactical advances in the area.

Key Takeaways

  • Recent Russian gains northwest of Avdiivka have prompted Ukrainian forces to withdraw from other limited tactical positions along the frontline west of Avdiivka, although these withdrawals have yet to facilitate rapid Russian tactical gains. Russian forces remain unlikely to achieve a deeper operationally significant penetration in the area in the near term.
  • The continued Russian stabilization of their salient northwest of Avdiivka presents the Russian command with a choice of continuing to push west towards its reported operational objective in Pokrovsk or trying to drive northwards to conduct possible complementary offensive operations with the Russian effort around Chasiv Yar.
  • Syrskyi also noted that the threat of a possible future Russian offensive operation against Kharkiv City is causing Ukraine to allocate additional forces and equipment to defending the city, although ISW continues to assess that the Russian military lacks the forces necessary to seize the city.
  • The Ukrainian 47th Mechanized Brigade denied a recent report that Ukrainian forces had pulled US-provided M1A1 Abrams tanks from the frontline.
  • Recent Russian efforts to increase control over migrants in and entering Russia following the March 22 Crocus City Hall terrorist attack appear to be straining relations between Russia and Tajikistan.
  • Russian authorities arrested several Russian journalists working for Western publications in Russia within the past several days, likely as part of an ongoing effort to limit Western and independent Russian media’s ability to reliably report on Russia.
  • Russian forces recently marginally advanced near Svatove.
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