Today marks the 100th day of Russia's war in Ukraine and the country's President Volodymyr Zelensky has reprised the "we are still here" address he made after the first day of fighting, declaring that "our team is much larger" and that "victory will be ours." This comes a day after he announced that Russian forces now control around 20 percent of all Ukrainian territory, including areas that have been occupied since 2014.
Zelensky, speaking remotely to legislators in Luxembourg, also said that mines and unexploded ordnance now litter nearly half of the country as a result of the fighting. Around 12 million Ukrainians have been displaced by the conflict, with approximately five million fleeing the country entirely, he added.
Thousand of military personnel on both sides, as well as innocent civilians, have died or been wounded in the fighting so far, though determining accurate casualty figures is extremely difficult. For instance, the Ukrainian government says that at least 30,000 Russian service members have died in the conflict, while the U.K. Ministry of Defense has assessed that total to likely be closer to 15,000, according to a piece today from the AP.
Separately, Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's top spokesperson, told reporters today the Kremlin has no intention of halting its operations in Ukraine “until all the goals” are met. At the same time, exactly what the Russian government's overall objectives are at this point are somewhat nebulous. The Russian military's primary focus remains on securing the eastern Donbas region, but it's unclear whether officials in Moscow would be content to try to freeze the conflict after achieving sufficient success on that front.
Ukrainian officials have said their ultimate endgame is the complete removal of Russian and Russian-backed forces from the entire country, but it's not clear if this would preclude a deal to freeze the conflict in some way in the near term. There is also much debate now about whether or not Ukraine's international partners are willing or able to support the country's clear desire to shift from defensive operations to more offensive efforts to liberate captured territory, especially if the conflict drags out for months or even years.
"We are supportive of Ukraine’s efforts to defend their sovereignty and territorial integrity," U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Anton Semelroth, a Pentagon spokesperson, had told The War Zone in a statement late yesterday. "This Administration has been clear that Russian-occupied territory, including Snake Island and Crimea, is Ukraine."
What is clear is that the Russian military absolutely failed in its initial thrusts, which were aimed at securing lightning-quick victories that would topple the Ukrainain government, and has now been forced to refocus its efforts on more limited objectives. Only time will tell how the nature and scope of the conflict will now continue to evolve.
WARNING: Some of the updates below contain graphic material.
Before diving into the newest updates below, The War Zone readers can get themselves up to speed first on how the conflict in Ukraine has been progressing already through our previous rolling coverage here.
POSTED: 6:25 PM EST—
“Today, about 20 percent of our territory is under the control of the occupiers,” Ukrainian President Zelensky said in his address to members of Luxembourg's Chamber of Deputies yesterday. He added that this total area, approximately 48,262.5 square miles (125,000 square kilometers), was “much greater” in size that the total national territory of Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands, combined.
“Nearly 300,000 square kilometers," or just over 115,830 square miles, has been “polluted” with mines and unexploded ordnance, Zelensky added. For weeks now, pictures have been emerging showing various kinds of Russian mines, including multiple types designed to be scattered across wide areas using artillery systems, in various parts of Ukraine. Photographs and videos showing Ukrainian explosive ordnance disposal teams at work have also underscored the dangers posed by unexploded munitions and other hazardous material now strewn about the country.
As a result of the fighting so far, “twelve million Ukrainians are displaced and more than five million have gone abroad,” the Ukrainian President said.
"The most difficult situation is in [the] east of Ukraine, in Severodonetsk, in Lysychansk," Zelensky had said in an interview with Newsmax. "This is [sic] the names of cities in the regions in the east of Ukraine, and the situation in the east of Ukraine is very difficult."
"We are losing 60 to 100 soldiers per day killed in action and something around 500 people as wounded in action," he continued.
Russian forces currently occupy nearly all of Severodonetsk (Sieverodonetsk), which has been a key focus of the fighting in Donbas recently. This city occupies an important position on one edge of the last remaining pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the Luhansk region, which makes up roughly one-half of Donbas.
The Russian military has said that securing all of Donbas, which includes the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, is one of its primary objectives in the conflict at present. In the lead-up to Russia's all-out invasion of Ukraine in febraury, Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized two self-declared separatist "republics" in this part of Ukraine as independent countries.
"Russia is now achieving tactical success in the Donbas. Russian forces have generated and maintained momentum and currently appear to hold the initiative over Ukrainian opposition," an assessment that the U.K. Ministry of Defense released publicly today said. However, "Russia has achieved these recent tactical successes at significant resource cost, and by concentrating force and fires on a single part of the overall campaign. Russia has not been able to generate maneuver or movement on other fronts or axes, all of which have transitioned to the defensive."
Russian forces have relied heavily on massed artillery fires to support its recent advances in Donbas. "The main road into the Sieverodonetsk pocket likely remains under Ukrainian control but Russia continues to make steady local gains, enabled by a heavy concentration of artillery," according to another public assessment released yesterday by the U.K. Ministry of Defense. "This has not been without cost, and Russian forces have sustained losses in the process."
Pictures and videos that have emerged of scenes on the road that British assessment references only underscore the severity of the fighting now going on in the area.
"Russian ground operations remain tightly focused, with the weight of fire power concentrated within a small sector of Luhansk Oblast," a separate British military assessment released earlier this week said. "Over 30-31 May, fighting intensified in the streets of Sieverodonetsk, with Russian forces pushing closer to the town center."
Ukrainian defenders have been making similarly heavy use of artillery to hold the line in Donbas, as well as support their own counterattacks elsewhere. Amid Russian advances in Donbas, Ukraine's forces have made their own pushes into areas in the northeast Kharkiv region and across the Inhulets River in the southeastern Kherson region.
Zelensky has now shared details on multiple occasions about the hardships that Ukrainian forces are facing, often as part of pleas for additional military aid, as well as further sanctions and other pressure on Russia. Artillery, as well as armored vehicles, have been important factors in the recent advances on both sides of the conflict. Ukrainian officials have especially focused on pressing the country's foreign partners to send longer-range and otherwise more capable artillery and surface-to-surface systems in recent weeks.
There certainly are signs that Ukraine's international partners are stepping up their military assistance efforts in terms of size and scope. Yesterday, the Swedish government announced plans to transfer some number of Robot 17 coastal defense missile systems, man-portable launchers that fire anti-ship derivatives of the U.S.-made AGM-114C Hellfire missile. This is the latest example of a country being willing to send more advanced weaponry to Ukraine.
This week, the U.S. government detailed the contents of a new military aid package of its own valued at approximately $700 million in total, which includes at least four M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and some number of 227mm precision-guided rockets to go with them. Ukrainian personnel have already begun training on those systems at an undisclosed location. A separate report said that American officials could approve a sale of MQ-1C Gray Eagle armed drones to the Ukrainian military.
Germany had also announced that it will transfer MARS II tracked rocket artillery systems, a variant of the U.S.-made M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) that can fire the same guided rockets as the M142, as well advanced IRIS-T surface-to-air missile systems, to Ukraine. The United Kingdom is now reportedly considering turning over some of its M270s to the Ukrainian armed forces, as well.
Pictured emerged this week of what appear to be ex-Norwegian M109A3GN self-propelled 155mm howitzers now in Ukrainian service. A Soviet-era 1V13 artillery battery fire control vehicle, which is based on the MT-LBu chassis, was seen accompanying them, an indication of how they have been integrated into the Ukrainian military's existing fire support networks. The M109A3GNs are among the latest examples of a growing number of Western-supplied 155mm self-propelled and towed howitzer types that have now been transferred to Ukraine's armed forces.
Pictures seen below that appear to show a pickup truck modified to fire S-8 80mm unguided rockets, typically fired from aircraft, in use in Ukraine underscores the high demand for any and all additional artillery capacity.
Artillery itself is, of course, just one part of a larger picture. As the video seen below illustrates, the ability to quickly find enemy forces, including their own artillery, using assets like counter-battery radars and small drones, so they can be targeted is extremely important.
Both sides of the current conflict have been very actively employing commercial-type unmanned aircraft, along with drones built specifically for military use, for surveillance reconnaissance missions, as well as to perform limited strikes using improvised munitions.
The video below shows Russian BMPT Terminator armored vehicles currently supporting operations in the Donbas region. The person taking the video appears to say, or at least tries to say, as-salamu alaykum, an Arabic greeting, which has also become a common salutation among Muslims around the world. This could indicate the presence of personnel from Russia's semi-autonomous republic of Chechenya, who are predominantly Muslim and have been heavily involved in the fighting in Ukraine.
In the occupied city of Mariupol, Russian forces have reportedly been clearing hazards in an effort to reopen the port there, sometimes startling bystanders nearby, as seen below.
This week, Turkish firm Bayraktar announced that they would be donating one of its TB2 armed drones to the Lithuanian government, which will then be transferred to the Ukrainian armed forces. This came after Lithuanian authorities announced plans to buy the unmanned aircraft with money garnered through a crowdfunding campaign. Bayraktar says that with its donation those funds can instead be used for humanitarian aid.
A meeting this week between Ukrainian President Zelensky and Palantir CEO Alex Karp in Kyiv has highlighted that the company is providing unspecified "data analytics technology" to support the country's war effort against Russia, according to Politico's Lara Seligman.
An interesting video, stills from which are seen in the Tweets below, has emerged reportedly showing the view from the cockpit of a Russian Su-35S Flanker-E fighter jet engaging a target with R-77 missiles over Ukraine.
The video below gives a rare look at a Ukrainian S-300PT surface-to-air missile system in action. It is unclear when this video was taken and it may be from earlier on in the conflict.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has released its own video footage recently that it said shows an S-300PM2 surface-to-air missile system in use in the conflict.
The video below shows a DP-27 machine gun, a pre-World War II design, still in service with Ukrainian forces, having now been modified with an optical sight and a sound suppressor. DP-27s are among a number of dated small arms and other weapons still in use on both sides of the conflict, especially by Ukrainian volunteer units and pro-Russian separatists.
Conflict Armament Research (CAR), an independent organization that investigates arms trafficking and use in various conflicts around the world, released a new report this week on the use of western made computer chips and other components in Russian weapon systems and other military equipment, such as cruise missiles, drones, and radios. The War Zone has also recently explored this issue thanks to information provided to us by Ukrainian intelligence, as you can read more about here.
CAR's new report also noted that one of the only items they inspected that turned out to include entirely Russian-made components was a decoy called the 9B899. The existence of these decoys, which are loaded into 9M723 Iskander-M short-range ballistic missiles, only emerged publicly in March after examples were recovered in Ukraine.
The pictures and video below show the remains of a Russian Mi-24/35 Hind attack helicopter recently recovered from a reservoir near the capital Kyiv.
U.S. Army Gen. Paul Nakasone, head of U.S. Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) and Director of the National Security Agency (NSA), disclosed this week that the U.S. military had conducted unspecified offensive cyberwarfare operations targeting Russia in response to the invasion of Ukraine.
Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko is reportedly open to the idea of allowing Ukrainian grain shipments to make their way to western European ports via his country. Not surprisingly, he appears to be trying to trade this access for relief from crippling Western sanctions. A total Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports has prompted concerns about a global food crisis given that cargo ships were the primary mode of transport for Ukrainian grain exports prior to the conflict. Before Russia's all-out invasion, the country was the source of 12 percent of the entire world's wheat and 15 percent of global corn production.
We will continue to update this post with new information until we state otherwise.
Contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org