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Russia sent a large number of troops to the front line to engage in brutal fighting

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According to US statistics, May was a particularly dangerous month for Russian troops in Ukraine, with an average of more than 1,000 Russian soldiers injured or killed every day. U.K. and other Western intelligence agencies.

But despite its heavy losses, Russia is still recruiting 25,000 to 30,000 new soldiers each month — roughly the same number that U.S. officials say is leaving the battlefield. That has enabled Russian forces to keep sending waves of troops into Ukrainian defenses, hoping to overwhelm them and break through the trench lines.

Russian soldiers likened this style of fighting to being put through a meat grinder, and commanders seemed unaware that they were sending their infantrymen to die.

At times, the approach has proven effective, with Russian forces scoring victories in Avdiivka and Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. But Ukrainian and Western officials say the strategy was less successful this spring as Russia sought to seize land near the city of Kharkiv.

American officials said Russia had achieved a key goal of President Vladimir V. Putin: creating a buffer zone along the border that would make it harder for Ukrainians to invade the country.

But Western officials said the offensive did not threaten Kharkiv and was ultimately stopped by Ukrainian defenses.

“President Putin and Moscow did try to make significant progress, to break through the front lines this spring,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told The New York Times. “They tried, but they failed. They made only small gains, but at a very high cost.”

At other times, Russian casualties surged, particularly during the attacks on Avdiivka and Bakhmut. But the attacks on those cities were spread out over several months. The May offensive, both outside Kharkiv and on the Eastern Front, involved more intense periods of Russian waves of attacks. British military intelligence analysts said Russian casualties in May, which they believe Average 1,200 people per daythe highest in the war.

Fighting last month devastated the town of Vovchansk, about 40 miles from Kharkiv, where Ukrainians and Russians are locked in a fierce battle for control.

Russian soldiers said on social media and the messaging platform Telegram that their troops had suffered heavy casualties. Some said their ranks had been overwhelmed by drone, machine gun and artillery fire.

Russia’s use of infantry in waves reflects one of its advantages in warfare: Russia has a much larger population than Ukraine and therefore a larger pool of potential conscripts.

But casualties forced Russia to send new recruits to Ukraine relatively quickly, meaning that soldiers sent to the front lines were less well-trained.

The lack of systematic training and the need to send new recruits into combat have limited Russia’s ability to form more capable forces and increased casualties.

But the reality is far more complicated than that. The changing nature of modern warfare has also contributed to the increased death toll in recent months.

Ubiquitous drones make it easy for both sides to spot and target enemy forces, while mines and cluster munitions make crossing open areas almost suicidal.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III recently said that at least 350,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded since Putin launched his full-scale invasion in February 2022. The United Kingdom estimates that Russian casualties are over 500,000.

U.S. estimates of the war’s casualties are based on satellite imagery, communications intercepts, reports from social media and news media journalists, and official Russian and Ukrainian reporting. But even within the U.S. government, those estimates differ.

Reliable estimates of Ukrainian casualties are harder to come by. Ukrainian officials are very cagey about the numbers. Several U.S. officials insist they don’t have accurate figures. Zelenskiy has said 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers died in the first two years of the war, but U.S. officials say that figure appears to underestimate Ukraine’s losses.

Russia partially mobilized in September 2022. This has caused tens of thousands of young people to flee the country. But Western intelligence analysts say Russia will not need another such mobilization or conscription this year.

Russia appears to be able to sustain current military operations by offering financial incentives to recruits, recruiting criminals, and recruiting some Russian mercenaries from Africa.

But the main question this year is whether Russia’s current strategy can prevail over Ukrainian forces, which are searching for a defensive foothold. $60 billion US aid package Finally reaching the front, Ukrainian commanders no longer had to ration their ammunition. Russian firepower was still superior to Ukrainian, but not by as much.

Ukraine has changed its strategy, building fortifications and laying minefields to slow the Russian advance. U.S. officials say the war is in favor of the defenders and Ukraine is focused on holding the line.

“I see the Russian advance slowing down and that part of the front is stabilizing,” Mr. Austin told reporters in Brussels this month. “A few weeks ago, there was a fear that Russia would make a major breakthrough. I don’t think that’s happening anymore.”

And Russia’s new buffer zone on the border near Kharkiv may be a hollow achievement.

Ukraine will still be able to use long-range U.S. weapons to attack Russia, thanks to a policy shift by the Biden administration that allows the Ukrainian military to use U.S. missiles Attacks on military targets on the border.

U.S. officials say the change is already starting to have an effect, eliminating Russian artillery fire and making it harder for Moscow to strike Kharkiv.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said this month that the Kharkiv offensive turned out to be “another mistake by Russia.”

“It is indeed very important that our troops and fighters destroy Russian terrorist positions and launchers near the border.” He said“It’s working. Just as we expected it to.”

But despite Ukraine’s successes around Kharkiv, more challenges lie ahead. In the coming weeks, U.S. and Western officials expect the fighting to shift back to the east and south as Russia still appears willing to commit forces to make incremental gains.

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