Russia has made “incremental gains” in Bakhmut, but those gains and other actions have come at the tremendous cost of more than 20,000 Russian troops killed and 80,000 wounded across Ukraine since December, the White House National Security Council (NSC) said Monday.
Author's note: A previous version of this story included information from NSC spokesman John Kirby's Monday briefing in which he stated the casualty figures were from Bakhmut. This story has been updated to reflect corrections made by the NSC after the briefing to other media outlets that the casualties were for all of Ukraine, not just Bakhmut. We have reached out to the NSC and will update this again with any information provided.
Update: We heard back from the NSC, but they didn't add anything more substantive than the update to the story we previously made.
Those more than 100,000 casualties since December came as “Russians attempted an offensive in the Donbas that has failed,” Kirby told reporters, including from The War Zone, Monday afternoon. “Last December, the Russians initiated broad operations across multiple lines of effort including Vuldehar, Avdiivka, Bakhmut and Kreminna. Most of these efforts have stalled and Russia has been unable to seize any real strategic and significant territory.”
Even if Russia does capture all of Bakhmut - which has “little strategic value” to Moscow - “it would absolutely not alter the course of the war in Russia’s favor,” said Kirby. “Ukraine’s defenses in the areas surrounding Bakhmut still remain strong.”
Nearly half of the Russians killed “were Wagner soldiers, the majority of whom were Russian convicts that were thrown into combat in Bakhmut without sufficient combat or combat training, combat leadership or a sense of organizational control,” said Kirby.
"Intense fighting continues in Bakhmut," Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, the Ukrainian commander of ground forces, said Monday on his Telegram channel. "The enemy launched numerous attacks, trying to break through the defense of our positions in several directions. However, thanks to the steadfastness and courage of the defenders of the Fortress, the enemy's actions failed."
In order to move forward, "the enemy uses maximum efforts and does not count on anything," Syrskyi said. "Despite the significant losses of the enemy, new assault groups of Wagner, fighters of other private companies, and paratroopers are constantly rushing into battle. But the enemy fails to take control of the city."
"The situation is quite complicated. At the same time, in some parts of the city, the enemy was counterattacked by our units and left some positions."
Asked about Ukraine’s casualty figures, Kirby said he was not going to provide them.
“I reckon that's going to be up to the Ukrainians to speak to,” he said. “We wouldn't speak to their casualty rates or their losses. That's up to them to speak to. I'm not ever going to put anything out in the public domain that's going to make their job harder. They are the victims. Russia is the aggressor…I don't need to abide by that same sense of courtesy for the Russians and I ain’t gonna start now.”
Regardless of Kirby’s reluctance to specify Ukraine’s losses in Bakhmut, most indications are that they are quite high, both in terms of personnel and equipment.
When asked about suggestions from U.S. officials that Ukraine also has paid too dearly for Bakhmut, Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Defense Intelligence Directorate, offered a simple explanation in a recent interview.
“I personally do not accept these recommendations because we are talking about our people and our cities,” he told PBS. “And losing even an inch of our land is a big tragedy.”
As for the timing of the much anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive, Kirby said that was a decision for Kyiv to make.
“That's really a decision for President [Volodymyr] Zelensky to make,” said Kirby. “It's his military."
Current and future operations, “are only for him and his military commanders to decide,” said Kirby. “Based on our discussions with the Ukrainians about the kinds of material they needed for offensive operations that they want to conduct in the Spring, we have fulfilled nearly everything on that list. Nearly everything. I mean, it's almost 100%.”
And there’s more military aid to come, he added.
“You've seen over the last three, four Presidential Drawdown packages that we've announced that they're very much focused on ammunition and clearing capabilities to allow them to have what they need to break through Russian defenses. And you're gonna see continuing packages coming from us very, very soon.”
We will provide details about those future aid packages when we get them.
Before we head into the latest updates from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage here.
Days after a major attack on Sevastopol that set several fuel storage tanks ablaze at a large fuel terminal on the Black Sea port city's west end, Russian officials on Monday claim they downed a Ukrainian drone.
"In the west of Crimea, air defense forces shot down a UAV," Crimean occupation governor Sergey Aksenov said Monday on his Telegram channel. "Our servicemen solve tasks clearly and efficiently. I ask everyone to remain calm and trust only trusted sources of information."
The U.S.-made Patriot air defense systems and the German-made IRIS-T air defense systems are helping Ukraine defend its skies, Col. Yuri Ignat, Kyiv's Air Force spokesman, said Monday, according to the official Ukrinform news agency.
"Believe me, all the Western weapons that are available now, to one degree or another, are working for our victory," Ignat said. "I mean those anti-aircraft missile systems that we are getting. But they are not enough. We understand that saying that IRIS-T and Patriot are in Ukraine is quite good news for us, but we still need much more of them."
Last week, Ukraine produced a video showing off one of its new Patriots, which you can see below.
Germany this week announced that it has delivered a second IRIS-T system to Ukraine as part of its ongoing aid to Kyiv.
Ukraine's State Emergency Services managed to recover a Kh-55 cruise missile near Kyiv, the Ukrainian OperativnoZSU Telegram channel reported Monday.
"The heavy-type rocket was transported and destroyed by controlled detonation at a special training ground," OperativnoZSU reported.
Ukrainian volunteers have started to develop a “people’s” missile called Trembita, according to the Ukrainian military.
"The work is conducted by the engineers from the PARS volunteer design bureau and with the participation of volunteers from the сivic movement Vidsich. Designers plan to create a small cruise missile with a pulsejet engine."
Russia, meanwhile, is apparently continuing to roll out ancient armor, in this case more T-55 and T-62M tanks in the Berdyansk area. You can read more about this back-to-the-future supply effort in our story here.
We've told you about the U.S.-provided AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles, or HARMs, provided to Ukraine that are being used on MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters. You can see them in action in this video below.
In the latest incident of apparent sabotage in Russia, the governor of Bryansk Oblast says a train derailed Monday because a section of track was blown up.
"An unidentified explosive device went off at 136 km (84 miles) of the Bryansk-Unecha railway in the Unechsky district, as a result of which a freight train locomotive derailed," Alexander Bogomaz wrote on his Telegram channel Monday. "There were no casualties. Emergency services are currently on the scene. Traffic on this section of the road has been suspended."
A U.S. Marine veteran was killed in the fighting near Bakhmut.
Cooper “Harris” Andrews, 26, was killed on the outskirts of Bakhmut late last week, CNN reported, citing interviews with his mother and colleagues in Ukraine.
"Andrews, from Cleveland, Ohio, was hit by a mortar, his mother, Willow Andrews said, likely on April 19 on the so-called 'Road of Life' – a rare access road into Bakhmut used by the Ukrainian military to resupply their forces but also evacuate civilians."
The New York Times took a deep dive into the fighting in Zaporizhzhia, spending time embedded with the 110th Territorial Defense Brigade.
"For the soldiers of the 110th Territorial Defense Brigade, to which the mortar unit is attached, this is a critical moment in the war," the newspaper reported.
"With fighting in the eastern Donbas region settling into a bloody stalemate, their patch of the Zaporizhzhia region of southeastern Ukraine could prove to be the next big theater, a focal point of a long-awaited counteroffensive. Ukraine is under pressure to show some measure of success in bolstering morale for soldiers and civilians, shoring up Western support and reclaiming stolen territory."
The German-provided Gepard short-range air defense system has been a very helpful weapon for Ukraine. Here's a look at its special 35mm ammo that makes it work.
Ukraine's Azov Brigade is now training on how to use the domestically produced "Punisher" light attack drone made by UA Dynamics. The drone, with a maximum combat range of 45 km, was first used by Ukrainian special operations forces in April 2022.
Thanks to modern technology, this war has produced some dramatic combat footage, like this video below, where you can see trench warfare vividly unfold.
There's an old adage that you get what you pay for. In the case of this Ukrainian soldier in the video below, it was quality gear that saved his life.
And finally, they may not have found the infamous trench beaver, but Ukrainian troops digging trenches did find something interesting - ancient pottery dating back thousands of years.
That's it for now. We'll update this story when there's more news to report about Ukraine.
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