Attrition: Russian Losses so Far in Ukraine


March 22, 2024: Russian losses in Ukraine, as of March 17th, have been horrific. Russia reports lower losses, but this estimate, compiled by the Ukrainian military general staff, or Stavka, is considered more accurate. The Ukrainians are closer to the losses than the Russian general staff 850 kilometers away in Moscow. The Russian general staff reports much lower losses but the veracity of this is undermined by reports published in Russia of the thousands of Russians with severe injuries. Left out of these press releases is that the injured are Russian soldiers and the injuries occurred in Ukraine.

Any Russian reports of their losses in Ukraine are questionable while the Ukrainians are on the spot to count dead Russians and destroyed, damaged, or captured Russian equipment. The captured Russian tanks and other weapons were usually abandoned by the Russian crews. The Ukrainians give the equipment a new paint job to identify them as Ukrainian. Ukraine has received lots of NATO weapons, including tanks, other armored vehicles, and howitzers, but still uses a lot of Russian-designed weapons that they had at the beginning of the war or later captured from the Russians.

According to the Ukrainian Stavka the Russians have lost 430,000 soldiers killed, captured, or missing. Ukraine reports that Russia had lost 6,790 tanks and 13,000 other armored vehicles. The armored vehicle losses have been catastrophic. Half these armored vehicle losses occurred during the first few months of the war. That caused Russia to withdraw its troops and remaining armored vehicles from northern Ukraine and move them to eastern Ukraine, where most of the fighting has continued ever since. The Russian tanks and other armored vehicles being used now are mostly older models, including tanks produced in the 1950s and 1960s which were put into reserve in the 1970s. These storage sites were in remote parts of Russia near rail lines so the reserve tanks could be loaded on flat cars and moved to tank restoration operations and then to Ukraine. Russia is still building new tanks but in small numbers, like hundreds a year. Three or four times as many repaired new models or refurbished older model tanks are available. As the war in Ukraine went on, there were fewer Russian tanks available. There was a similar situation with the 13,000 other armored vehicles, which include troop and supply carriers as well as self-propelled artillery.

So far Russia has lost over 10,000 artillery systems. This includes howitzers and large, usually 120mm, caliber mortars. Many towed Russian howitzers were abandoned and captured by the Ukrainians. Russia also lost about a thousand MLRS (Multiple Launcher Rocket Systems), which are usually mounted on heavy trucks. Other losses include 720 air defense systems which include systems that use missiles as well as mobile systems that use smaller missiles and 30mm autocannon.

Russian combat aircraft and helicopters have also been heavy with 347 jet fighters and ground attack aircraft lost along with 325 helicopters. The jets are difficult to replace because they include a lot of imported electronics and other components from European companies which are no longer available due to sanctions for Russia’s attacks on Ukraine. With fewer traditional jet aircraft, the Russians have turned to cheaper UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) which have become used more as expendable munitions than weapons-delivery systems. Another critical loss is the 14,000 trucks for moving supplies and, in tanker trucks, fuel. Ukrainians have, since the start of the war, been particularly eager to destroy Russian supply trucks, especially if they are carrying munitions or fuel. You can always tell when one of these are hit because their cargoes explode as well in a very visible manner.

As a historical footnote, Russia used the term Stavka for their general staff throughout World War II but stopped using the term after the war. The Ukrainians began using the term Stavka soon after the Russians invaded during early 2022. Russia doesn’t call the fighting in Ukraine a war, but a special operation to reclaim Ukraine for Russia and a new Russian empire to replace the communist Soviet Union that disappeared in 1991. The Russians also invaded because Ukraine was preparing to join the European Union (EU) and after that NATO. Russian leaders consider this treason because they believe Ukrainians are simply Russians with a different accent and an identical Cyrillic alphabet, with a few changes. The Ukrainians regard that attitude as nonsense and Russian propaganda. For centuries Ukraine was recognized as an independent entity or, more often, as the Ukrainian portion of the Russian empire and more recently the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, Ukraine was one of more than a dozen components of the Soviet Union that declared independence from Soviet rule. Russia has been trying to put that empire back together ever since but without much success.




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