Russian forces have lost around 1,000 tanks in Ukraine so far, senior US defense official says

This video footage, released by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, shows the devastating impact of shells from a Russian TOS-1A hitting Ukrainian positions near Novomykhailivka in the Donetsk region on May 26. (Armed Forces of Ukraine/Cover Images/Reuters)

Russian forces are using a wide array of weapons on multiple fronts in eastern Ukraine as they attempt to break through stubborn Ukrainian defenses, which are outnumbered and outgunned, according to Ukrainian officials.

Several of these officials describe the situation as “very difficult” and admit that Ukrainian units may have to withdraw in some places.

In recent days, according to Ukrainian officials, the Russians have combined short-range ballistic missiles, multiple rocket launcher systems, heavy artillery and tanks in a ruthless bombardment of towns and villages in the Luhansk and Donetsk still under Ukrainian control.

Ukraine’s national police said civilians were killed in attacks on 13 settlements in Donetsk, with several previously untargeted towns suffering damage. Russian forces appear to be increasing the number of towns they bombard as they attempt to destroy Ukrainian defenses and supply lines.

Their main objective appears to be to take Sloviansk, which has seen an upsurge in shelling in recent days. Mayor Vadym Liakh said half the city is now without water and there will be “no gas supply until the heating season”.

A growing number of Ukrainian officials are describing the military situation in dire terms, although Russian advances on the ground have been modest.

Fedir Venislavskyi, a member of the Ukrainian parliament and member of the National Security Committee, described the situation as “difficult”.

He told Ukrainian television that “the hottest spots are Severodonetsk and Lysychansk. The enemy is trying to surround our troops.”

The twin towns of Luhansk are almost completely destroyed, but Ukrainian troops are still present. It is estimated that around 15,000 civilians are still in Severodonetsk.

According to the Institute for the Study of War’s latest battlefield assessment, “Russian forces may need to conduct a ground offensive on Severodonetsk in the coming days to maintain momentum after committing a significant portion of personnel , artillery, aviation and logistics on the front.”

Venislavskyi said that if the Russians could break Ukrainian resistance there, “their next targets are Bakhmut, Soledar”, towns further west.

In particular, regional officials say the highway connecting Bakhmut and Lysychansk – a supply route for Ukrainian forces – is under constant attack.

“The enemy partially controls Lyman and is moving towards the outskirts of Severodonetsk. The situation in this operational zone will be very difficult in the coming days,” he said.

He also suggested that additional Russian forces were brought in, saying “the enemy continues to build up reserves near Izium to attack Sloviansk and Barvinkove”.

“The enemy sends units from Primorsky Krai, the Far East and Siberia to Ukraine. Groups of battalions are formed, loaded onto the railway and sent to Ukraine,” Venislavskyi said.

A building damaged in a missile strike in the city of Kramatorsk, Donetsk region, Ukraine on May 26.
A building damaged in a missile strike in the city of Kramatorsk, Donetsk region, Ukraine on May 26. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Serhiy Haidai, head of the Luhansk regional military administration, said “the armed forces have been defending themselves for the fourth month now. Our defensive positions are being destroyed by the enemy every day.”

“The Lugansk region, the part under the control of Ukraine, is very small in terms of territory. Therefore, the Russians will do their best to take it. For them, this is the easiest way to win at least an intermediate victory. … Our forces are gradually moving to more fortified positions,” he said.

Haidai is one of many Ukrainian officials to point out that the defenses to the east are vastly outnumbered.

“You have to understand that a huge amount of equipment and people are fighting against us,” he said.

“It takes time to [Western] weapons to reach us. They must pass from the west to the east of Ukraine. One or two howitzers will not change position; we will simply lose them. Therefore, we have to wait and regroup,” Haidai said.

He also acknowledged the likelihood that Ukrainian forces would have to retreat.

“Maybe we will have to leave two more settlements. But we have to win the war, not the battle,” Haidai said.

Rostyslav Smirnov, adviser to the Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs, declared on Ukrainian television that “the advantage of the Russians in [terms of] personnel is eight to one,” and the equipment advantage more than doubled.

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