A weekend of fierce Russian assaults on multiple axes ended with some of the heaviest Kremlin personnel losses in the entire war, and a near-record number of destroyed or knocked out tanks, Ukrainian official sources said on Monday.
Ukraine’s Army General Staff (AGS) in situation estimates published over the previous 72 hours said military intelligence was confident Kyiv’s troops had killed or seriously wounded more than 3,000 Russian soldiers and put better than 75 tanks and nearly 100 armored personnel carriers out of action.
On Dec. 18 Russian forces deployed along the 2,000-kilometer fighting front lost 44 tanks to all causes, a one-day loss of tanks exceeded only once in the entire war, on Oct. 21 2023, reported Ragnar Gudmundsson, an Icelandic analyst tracking Ukraine war losses since the outset of Russia’s February 2022 invasion.
AGS spokesmen have stated the Ukrainian military estimates document Russian losses primarily through the analysis of drone video of successful strikes, destroyed military equipment, or killed or wounded Russian soldiers.
Russia says its losses are an order of magnitude less. Pentagon and British Defence Ministry analysts have said Ukrainian estimates claiming very heavy Russian casualties during the war are probably exaggerated by 10-20 percent, but generally accurate.
Both Russian and Ukrainian sources reported the eastern approaches of the Donbas city of Avdiivka, site of some of the war’s fiercest combat since the launch of a Russian local offensive there in early October, was likely the location on the front seeing the most intense and large-scale fighting in recent days.
Ukrainian military social media sites documented Russian armored vehicles at a time advancing in column before being cut to pieces with artillery, autocannon and guided missile fire. A Dec. 16 drone video reportedly recorded near the Adviivka outlying village of Krasnohorivka showed 13+ tank and armored personnel come under fire and seemingly stall under shell strikes.
At least three Ukrainian strike drone sections were, reportedly, operating in the Avdiivka sector with the missions of targeting Russian infantry that had taken cover, or setting on fire and destroying Russian armored vehicles that had been hit or were broken down.
⚡️🇺🇦Ukrainian soldiers from the 53rd separate mechanized brigade destroy a 🇷🇺Russian tank and other equipment in the Avdiivka direction pic.twitter.com/zbrw9OtHlm— 🇺🇦Ukrainian Front (@front_ukrainian) December 18, 2023
Околиці Авдіївки, Донеччина— Мисливець за зорями (@small10space) December 18, 2023
Знищення двох протитанкових ракетних комплексів за допомогою FPV-дронів
Відео від воїнів роти ударних БпЛА 47 ОМБр "Strike drones company" pic.twitter.com/Cxp4kHiCLD
Kyiv Post geolocated some of the video to the Avdiivka sector but was not able to determine, with accuracy, when exactly it was recorded.
However, heavy combat seemed to widen over the weekend, with numerous official and anecdotal reports documenting attempted Russian advances, led by armor and backed by artillery, at multiple locations along the fighting line.
Both Russian and Ukrainian mil-bloggers reported the weekend also saw substantial Russian attacks against Ukrainian positions in the northeastern Kupyansk sector, the southeastern Bakhmut sector, the southern Zaporizhzhia sector and the southwestern Kherson sector. Russian forces had the initiative and were attempting to advance in groups of 10-20 vehicles, or in some cases groups of dismounted infantry troops particularly vulnerable to kamikaze hobby drones and cluster munition strikes.
In the Kherson sector, where Ukrainian Marines have held a tenuous bridgehead over the Dnipro River since mid-October, both sides reported small-scale drones being operated in some of the highest densities of the war. Robert Brovdi, a leading drone commander in the area, said that hobby drones converted to carry explosions or drop grenades were probably responsible for one out of three Russian combat vehicles destroyed, for weeks.
In one such attack, operators from Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade took out a Russian TOS-1 heavy armored flame thrower, one of the Kremlin’s most powerful ground weapons, by dropping a pair of modified mortar rounds on the Russian vehicle’s roof. The engagement geolocated to the village of Krynky, in the Kherson sector, reportedly took place on Dec. 18 and the Ukrainian-military-published video credited the Sova (Owl) drone attack unit for the kill.
Ukrainian General Oleksandr Tarnavsky, Commander of the Zaporizhzhia sector Joint Forces Tavria, in comments published by the UNIAN news agency said Ukrainian forces were generally holding their ground against the multiple-axis Russian attacks, but artillery shell stocks were falling, particularly in the common 122mm and 152mm calibers. Shell reserves are “insufficient” and if intense combat continues the situation will worsen, he said.
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