The Russians Rolled Thermobaric Rocket Launchers Toward Chasiv Yar

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Shortly after finally capturing the ruins of Avdiivka following a bloody, five-month battle that culminated in February, Russian forces in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region took aim at another eastern prize: the industrial town of Chasiv Yar, which had a pre-war population of around 12,000.

Exposed on the very edge of the line of contact west of Bakhmut and depending on a north-south canal—a canal with two easy crossing points—for its defense, Chasiv Yar is vulnerable. And its easternmost canal district, on the far side of the canal from the town center, is even more vulnerable.

Chasiv Yar should’ve been easy picking for the nearly 500,000-strong Russian force in Ukraine. Instead, it—like many other front-line towns—has become an attrition trap for the Russians. They’ve made incremental gains that can be measured with a yardstick, but at the cost of thousands of casualties. Ukrainian casualties are much lighter.

The Russian strategy in the months-long battle for Chasiv Yar is obvious. Under intensive close air support, Russian troops from the 200th Arctic Motor Rifle Brigade, 299th Air Assault Regiment, 11th Air Assault Brigade and other units attack the canal district in order to secure a foothold for a direct assault on the center of Chasiv Yar—while also attacking the village directly to the north, Kalinina, in order to put pressure on the supply lines into Chasiv Yar.

It’s not going well for the Russians. And even the recent introduction of Russian TOS-1 and TOS-2 thermobaric rocket launchers to the Chasiv Yar sector hasn’t decisively tilted the local balance of power. As of Tuesday, the Ukrainian 41st Mechanized Brigade, 241st Territorial Defense Brigade and Presidential Brigade remain in control of Chasiv Yar, the canal district and Kalinina.

The Russians managed to briefly push back the Ukrainians in Kalinina in recent days, but the Ukrainians counterattacked despite heavy shelling from the Russian 200th Arctic Brigade—and reversed the Russians’ gains.

The Ukrainian Center for Defense Strategies has been pessimistic about the canal district, in particular. “The enemy will soon capture the canal neighborhood in Chasiv Yar,” CDS noted on Tuesday, “as their forward units have taken an enveloping position around this part of the city.”

In fact, one of those enveloping positions was in Kalinina—and Ukrainian counterattacks eliminated it, apparently after CDS assessed the battlefield for its Tuesday report and before the group published the report.

Part of the problem for the Russians is that they counted on their Victory Day offensive along the Russia-Ukraine border north of Kharkiv to draw Ukrainian units away from eastern battlefields in order to weaken the defenses around towns such as Chasiv Yar.

But resupplied just in time with American munitions, the Ukrainians managed to reinforce their northern defenses and halt the Russian offensive without significantly thinning out their eastern defenses. Meanwhile, a growing shortage of armored vehicles and the slow collapse of the Russian military’s basic training system have forced poorly-trained Russian troops to assault Ukrainian positions on foot.

They’re getting massacred. “Russian losses have continued at a high level in 2024, and in May average Russian personnel casualties were over 1,200 per day—the highest reported since the start of the war,” the U.K. Defense Ministry reported.

“The elevated casualty rate is highly likely a reflection of Russia’s ongoing attritional offensive which is being conducted across a wide front,” the ministry continued. “It is highly likely that most Russian forces receive only limited training, and they are unable to carry out complex offensive operations.”

The Russians’ plan was to over-extend and thin out the Ukrainians before marching into Chasiv Yar. Instead, they over-extended and thinned themselves out.

Maybe the Russians will eventually concentrate enough trained manpower for a successful assault on the canal district and its flanks, setting conditions for a follow-own assault on Chasiv Yar’s town center.

If that happens soon, it will have taken several months and cost the Russians potentially thousands of casualties. That begs the question: is the prize—the 266th biggest population center in pre-war Ukraine—worth the cost?

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1. Ukraine Control Map:

2. Center for Defense Security:;

3. U.K. Defense Ministry:

4. World Population Review:

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