Russian losses in Ukraine: Putin humiliated as Moscow’s failed invasion takes toll on army

Ukraine: Russian BMP-1 vehicle destroyed by anti-tank mine

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The Ukraine-Russia conflict has sparked international fury since being launched by Vladimir Putin earlier this year, with more people injured after a series of explosions at a military base in Crimea today. Officials from Russia claimed a fire triggered the blasts at a weapons dump in northern Crimea, a Russian-occupied area under dispute. Russia’s ministry said “no serious” casualties had been sustained during the incident, but Ukrainian presidential office adviser Mykhailo Podolyak described the event as “demilitarisation in action”, adding he felt the blasts were not accidental.

This is the latest in a long line of sparring between Russia and Ukraine, with tensions reaching new heights after Moscow’s invasion on February 24.

But despite Russia’s military might, officials reviewing the statistics of losses experienced by both sides have found Putin and his nation may have endured some 80,000 casualties in just six months.

A report by the New York Times suggests around 500 Russian troops are being killed or wounded each day of the conflict, according to the newest American intelligence and military reports.

Earlier this year, Moscow was able to seize the Luhansk region of Ukraine, the country’s easternmost region.

It was hoped in Russian circles that this would allow them a route into capturing Donetsk, but progress in this mission stalled due to heavy military fatalities.

Colin Kahl, the US’ under secretary of defence for policy, discussed the numbers during a briefing earlier this week at the Pentagon.

He said: “I think it’s safe to suggest that the Russians have probably taken 70 or 80,000 casualties in less than six months.

“They have made some incremental gains in the east, although not very much in the last couple of weeks, but that has come at extraordinary cost to the Russian military because of how well the Ukrainian military has performed and all the assistance the Ukrainian military has got.”

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Other estimates have placed Russian losses at around 20,000 so far, with 5,000 of those reported to be mercenaries of the Wagner Group.

The Wagner Group is a private force of hire soldiers that is said to have links to Putin, but its existence has not been acknowledged by Russia formally.

On Monday, the BBC reported on Ukrainian head of Luhansk regional administration Serhiy Hayday’s post to social media site Telegram that “Ukrainian forces hit an enemy HQ whose whereabouts were established thanks to a Russian journalist”.

He continued: “This time, the successful strike destroyed the Wagner PMC HQ in Popasna yesterday,” adding that “the number of dead is being clarified”.

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The Wagner Group was deployed to Crimea and Ukraine’s Donbas region in 2014, and has also seen units sent to Syria, Libya, Mali and the Central African Republic.

Russia defines troop deaths as state secrets, meaning the actual number of losses experienced by the Kremlin is unlikely to be truly known.

The last time Moscow noted any type of figure for deaths in the conflict was back in March, when it said 1,351 Russian soldiers had been killed.

At the time, US officials claimed that the total was likely to be closer to 5,000.

Ukraine too has sustained heavy losses, and is equally reluctant to confirm numbers, though figures say it is likely to be between 100 and 200 every day.

Mr Kahl explained that as “conditions in the east have essentially stabilised”, Ukraine has been able to intensify its campaign to retake territory there.

Seth G. Jones, the director of the international security program at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, claimed the Russian army was “seriously depleted”, adding: “That has implications on their ability to fight an effective ground campaign in Ukraine.”

He argued that Russia had struggled to bring in reservists and new recruits into its military, and that so far nearly 85 percent of its fielded army have been sent to war.

The New York Times suggests that prior to the Ukraine invasion, Russia had around 900,000 active-duty troops.

Mr Jones added: “The Russians probably don’t have enough effective combat forces to fully take Donetsk.”

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