New Delhi: Ukraine said on Tuesday (February 7, 2023) the last 24 hours were the deadliest of the war so far for Russian troops as Moscow pressed on with an intensifying winter assault in the east, bringing tens of thousands of freshly mobilised troops to the battlefield. The Ukrainian claim could not be independently verified and Russia has also claimed to have killed large numbers of Ukrainian troops in recent weeks. Tallies of enemy casualties from either side have typically been seen as unreliable, and Kyiv offered few details of the latest battles.
But the assertion that the fighting was the deadliest so far fits descriptions from both sides of an escalating campaign of close-contact trench warfare, which has left snow-covered battlefields of eastern Ukraine littered with corpses.
Close to the town of Maryinka, some 30 km (18.6 miles) from the eastern city of Donetsk, a marine unit of Ukraine’s armed forces fired rockets on Russian positions from a Soviet-era launch system.
“They storm in small infantry groups, trying to creep in further and further. Even without previous artillery strikes (on Ukrainian positions), their infantry attempts to move in,” said a soldier who gave his name only as Ievhen.
“The enemy adapted quite well, they learn as fast as we do. They adopted different kinds of tactics,” he added.
Kyiv and the West say Russia has been pouring troops and mercenaries into eastern Ukraine in recent weeks in hopes of being able to claim new gains around the time of the first anniversary of its full-scale invasion later this month.
A lieutenant in the Ukrainian unit who gave his name as Volodymyr said: “The targets are given to us either by drone operators or by our spotters – they observe where our rockets explode. Then, we correct our fire direction and launch again.”
The Ukrainian military increased its running tally of Russian military dead by 1,030 overnight to 1,33,190, and described the increase as the highest of the war so far. For its part, Russia said it had inflicted 6,500 Ukrainian casualties in the month of January.
The war is soon entering its second year at a pivotal juncture, with Moscow attempting to regain the initiative while Kyiv holds out for Western tanks to mount a counter-offensive later in 2023.
After Russia failed to capture the Ukrainian capital Kyiv last year and lost ground in the second half of 2022, Moscow is now making full use of hundreds of thousands of troops it called up in its first mobilisation since World War Two.
The last few weeks have seen Russia boast its first gains for half a year. But the progress has still been incremental, with Moscow yet to capture a single major population centre in its winter campaign despite thousands of dead.
Fighting has focused for months around Ukrainian-held Bakhmut in eastern Donetsk province, a city with a pre-war population of around 75,000. Russia has made clear progress towards encircling it from both the north and south, but Kyiv says its garrison is holding fast.
Moscow has also launched an assault further south against Vuhledar, a Ukrainian-controlled bastion also in Donetsk province on high ground at the strategic intersection between the eastern and southern front lines.