Following reports of failed Russian advances and stalled invasion efforts across Ukraine, the Russian forces are now reportedly being repelled and pushed back by the Ukrainians in several key cities and areas as they suffer from frostbite due to not having cold-weather gear.
“They [the Ukrainians] are now able and willing to take back territory the Russians have taken. It’s notable. Not only are the Ukrainians defending well, they’re making efforts to take back territory the Russians have taken in recent days,” said an unnamed US senior defense official.
“Some of their [Russia’s] soldiers are suffering from frostbite because they lack the appropriate cold-weather gear. We don’t think they properly planned.”
An unnamed NATO official has recently stated that casualties based on intelligence and Ukrainian estimates indicate the number of Russian dead to be in the 7,000-15,000 range with as many as 30,000-40,000 wounded, missing or captured. A significant number of the missing could be desertions by conscript troops.
We have also seen reports of prisoner repatriations between Russia and Ukraine which suggests significant numbers of troops on both sides may have been captured. In early March in the town of Sumy, a Russian military police officer was exchanged for 5 members of Ukraine’s territorial guard.
According to The Kyiv Independent defense correspondent Illia Ponomarenko, who had been closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine, the Russian troops were wearing Ukrainian combat boots, which can be hypothesized to be looted off dead Ukrainian soldiers. This may indicate that their own boots were subpar and could not withstand the cold weather and muddy terrain. Other reports have also surfaced that the Russian troops were only wearing rubber boots. However, we could not independently verify this.
Fascinating claimed intercepted call from Russian officer near Mykolaiv to superiors in Russia. He says:
– This is worse than Chechnya
– 50% of troops have frostbite
– They can’t evacuate the dead
– Don’t have enough tents
– RU plane dropped a bomb on their own position 🧵 pic.twitter.com/3KjGrqD5jZ
— Dmitri Alperovitch (@DAlperovitch) March 23, 2022
An alleged intercepted phone call from a Russian soldier stuck in Mykolaiv revealed him saying that over 50% of his squadron was suffering from frostbite and that there were no proper amenities and medical supplies. However, the authenticity of the audio could not be verified as well despite it being published by Dmitri Alperovitch from the Silverado Policy Accelerator.
“Even Chechnya wasn’t this F***** bad,” the commander said after they were “bombed by our own plane.” He further cursed the invasion saying, “This is a f***** circus, not a ‘military operation’… this is f***** b*******.”
Russian troops have been spotted wearing Ukrainian combat boots Talan.
Apparently, they prefer Ukrainian products over their own items manufactured amid their gargantuan military budgets. pic.twitter.com/UfPjupM2GU
— Illia Ponomarenko 🇺🇦 (@IAPonomarenko) March 22, 2022
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) March 15, 2022
Ukrainians Taking Back Their Territory
According to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, the Ukrainian forces have taken back the Kyiv suburb of Makariv. The Russian forces were reportedly chaotic, with most of them not having a military specialty. They also recaptured several crucial highways and roads that prevented Russian troops from completely surrounding Kyiv. Makariv is an important key area to defend from Russian troops as it prevents them from surrounding Kyiv from the northwestern side.
A US senior defense official reported that the Russians were about 15 kilometers northwest of Kyiv, which is where they were last week reportedly. With the recapture of Makariv, they are said to be further from capturing the capital city. This has led them to retreat to areas they hold more control.
— 🇺🇦 Ukraine Weapons Tracker (@UAWeapons) March 22, 2022
Fighting in the city of Izyum was said to be largely successful for the Ukrainian forces as they were able to take the Russians head-on since they captured the city last week. Additionally, Russian forces were seen to be forced to retreat and reposition themselves during their siege of Mykolaiv in Southern Ukraine, which the Russians have been trying to capture to move toward the major port city of Odesa located near the Black Sea. Reports were also discovered that the Ukrainians have been trying to take back the city of Kherson. However, there were no updates as to whether they had successfully regained the city or not.
Perhaps the most noteworthy of all, the Russians have still failed to capture the city of Mariupol despite it being bombed to ashes. The Mariupol council has stated that around 80% of its housing infrastructures have been destroyed, with 30% beyond repair due to constant bombings. It was in this city that the Russians had been widely accused of bombing evacuees, civilians, hospitals, schools, and shelters. Residents of the city describe it as a ghost town where everything had been on fire.
Despite the bombings in Mariupol, the Ukrainian Armed Forces were reportedly able to capture a Russian patrol boat and an electronic warfare complex after Moscow had demanded them to surrender. Furthermore, nine humanitarian corridors are expected to open on March 23, evacuating people from Mariupol and other cities in Donetsk and Luhansk as per Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.
Russian Loss Of Morale, Usage of Conscripts
It’s important to recall that Russia had allegedly been using conscripts to fight their invasion, many of which had no combat experience. This may be the reason behind the Russian troops’ chaotic behavior, which some analysts have said to be a “lacking of leadership.”
It’s also been reported that young Russian soldiers were lied to by their superiors, with numerous videos circulating online showing surrendered Russian soldiers calling their families, revealing that they were only told they were going to military exercises. However, it’s also important to note that this may be part of Ukrainian propaganda despite rules of war stating that POWs are not to be used for propaganda purposes.
Furthermore, last Monday, a US senior defense official stated that he believed the Russians were having logistics and sustainment issues and that they were not prepared for the intensity of the Ukrainian resistance.
He also saw the intensified bombings of civilian areas as a desperate attempt to gain some momentum back to the invasion. They had been suffering from the loss of morale, notably from losing food supplies and fuel. Russia has reportedly asked for aid from China to send them MREs to feed their troops, amidst numerous videos of Russian troops in Ukraine foraging and looting stores and farms, which is also against the rules or armed conflict.
“They haven’t achieved anything, in terms of what we assess to be their objectives, which is population centers so that they could occupy and take over Ukraine,” he said. “What we’re seeing now at — with these increased long-range fires, missile strikes, artillery bombardments, in trying to encircle cities so that you can lob more long-range fires into those cities, is a reflection of their — of what some people believe is a desperate attempt by them to gain some momentum.”
On the targeting of Ukrainian civilians, he alleges that these were because the long-range fires of the Russian army are not known for precision, thus hitting more civilian areas. However, he did not mention whether the Russians were deliberately targeting civilians. These bombings reportedly motivated the Ukrainians to fight and defend their territory more, which contradicts Russian statements about being there to protect Ukraine’s civil population from its allegedly Nazi government.
“And rather than demoralizing the Ukrainians, I think you’ve all seen that this kind of violence has only motivated them more, which means that they’re resisting more, which means the Russians continue to get frustrated and flummoxed and kind of stuck where they are.”
This motivation is largely seen to be effective as the Ukrainian Armed Forces claim that the Russian military had suffered 15,300 deaths. Despite Russia trying to hide this number, a pro-Kremlin newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda inadvertently revealed that 10,000 Russian soldiers had been killed in Ukraine.
However, it has since been deleted as they claim a “hacker” had controlled their system and published inaccurate information. Before it was deleted, the newspaper stated that 9,861 Russian soldiers had been killed and 16,153 were wounded during the invasion of Ukraine.