Attrition: Russian Losses in Ukraine


September 2, 2023: Russian forces have been in Ukraine for 18 months and Russia refuses to disclose any information on the losses. Ukraine has a similar policy about Ukrainian losses but will share what they believe the Russians have lost so far, which is 250,000 Russian troops dead, badly wounded (disabled), deserted or captured. Weapon and equipment losses includes 4,300 tanks and 8,500 other armored vehicles, 5,300 mortars or howitzers as well as 729 MLRS (multiple launch rocket systems), 490 air defense systems, 315 fixed wing aircraft and 316 helicopters as well as 4,300 UAVs and 18 ships of all sizes.

These heavy Russian losses were the result of poorly trained and led Russian troops being on the offensive much of the time. Corruption in the Defense Ministry and army left Russian troops in Ukraine with shortages of supplies, replacements and even munitions. The poor leadership went all the way to the top, where Russian president Vladimir Putin accepted poor advice and carried out a poorly planned and supplied invasion and now is unable to withdraw Russian troops from Ukraine without endangering his own job. Putin blames the survival of Ukrainian forces on NATO assistance. There’s some truth in that because NATO nations, and some neutrals, have sent Ukraine nearly a hundred billion dollars of military and economic aid while also imposing crippling economic sanctions on Russia. While the Russian media is forbidden by law from reporting details of the disaster in Ukraine, Russian military-age men figured out what was going on and took measures to avoid being mobilized into the army and sent to Ukraine. One reason why the current Ukrainian offensive in southern Ukraine has been so successful is the poor morale of the few Russian troops still around to defend Russian occupied territory.

During the first year of the war Ukraine believed the Russians lost about 149,000 troops plus over 3,300 tanks, twice as many other armored vehicles, 2,800 towed or self-propelled artillery systems plus nearly 500 MLRS, nearly 600 hundred aircraft and helicopters and over two thousand UAVs. About 5,500 trucks were lost, including fuel tankers and cargo transports of various sizes.

Back in Russia, more men are being mobilized for the military. Ukrainian intelligence reported that the Russian government is considering mobilizing another 450,000 personnel in a possible second major mobilization. Inside Russia the government is having a hard time finding many military-age men for the war in Ukraine. This has led Russian mobilization officials to take desperate measures, like forcing migrant workers from Central Asia to sign up for military service if they want Russian citizenship and the right to seek work in Russia. Mobilization efforts are still seeking volunteers from men in prison. The military has found that these prison recruits are unreliable and often dangerous to local Russian civilians and their own officers. This highlights another problem; a shortage of officers. While new recruits can be trained in a few months, it takes over a year to train someone who is qualified to become an officer. There isn’t the time, or enough volunteers, to obtain many officers this way. That leaves “battlefield commissions” which selects soldiers who have become sergeants and survived several months in combat. This is now a major source of new Russian army officers but it still isn’t enough to replace the heavy officer losses since early 2022.The initial Russian invasion force was already suffering an officer shortage and that kept getting worse. Russian-language Internet chatter about the war often mentions the officer shortage and how it makes matters worse for Russian troops, especially new ones. For military-age men the threat of being mobilized and sent to Ukraine is considered a death sentence, or at least a situation that is extremely risky. Since the invasion Russia has enacted a law that forbids military age men from leaving the country. The growing number of Russian men showing up illegally in NATO and Central Asian countries and asking for asylum is a problem few expected.




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