Ukraine Claims Retaking 1,000 Sq Km of Territory; Russia Counts Rising Costs

By Geoffrey Smith — Ukraine’s counter-offensives in the south and east of the country are gaining momentum, President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed, at the end of a week in which its armed forces have recaptured significant amounts of territory from the occupying Russian forces. 

Zelensky said Ukraine had retaken around 1,000 square kilometers of territory – just under 400 square miles – in areas around the eastern city of Kharkiv and the southern region of Kherson, which, if true, would be the biggest battlefield successes registered by Ukraine since it repelled an attack on the capital Kyiv at the start of the war six months ago.

The battlefield gains are a crucial display of Ukraine’s capability to defend itself successfully if given the necessary support by sympathetic countries in the West. They may help to strengthen European resolve in particular ahead of what is likely to be a painful winter of energy shortages, that will test the willingness of European populations to endure hardship to stop the spread of Russian power any further west.   

International media reports, corroborated by the Telegram channels of various Russian bloggers generally in favor of the war, have indicated that Ukraine’s forces are now pushing towards the town of Kupyansk, the location of a key rail junction that Russia’s forces in the eastern region of Donbas depend on for resupply. Russian TV channel Rybar also published situational maps showing a deep Ukrainian salient in the area that has for the last couple of months been firmly under Russian control. 

Elsewhere on Friday, the exiled former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky published what he claimed was a Finance Ministry document that implicitly lent substance to Ukrainian estimates of the casualties they have inflicted on Russia since the war began.

The document showed that, as of August 28th, the government had paid 361.4 billion rubles ($5.97 billion) to families in compensation for the deaths of serving military personnel. Khodorkovsky said that compensation is set at 7.4 million rubles per family, which implies a total of 48,759 dead.

That number would not include compensation for those who have fought for the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, nor for mercenaries such as the Wagner group, or other groups hired in Syria.

Ukraine estimates Russian casualties as of Thursday (nearly two weeks after the dating of the Russian document) at just under 52,000.

The document published by Khodorkovsky could not be independently verified.

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