The Russian army is losing at least a battalion’s worth of vehicles and men a day as twin Ukrainian counteroffensives roll back Russian territorial gains in eastern and southern Ukraine. That’s hundreds of casualties and scores of vehicle write-offs every day.
These losses are catastrophic for Russia. The Russian army barely was sustaining a little over 100 under-strength battalions in Ukraine before Kyiv’s forces counterattacked in the south on Aug. 30 and in the east eight days later.
In just under two weeks of brutal fighting, the Ukrainians have destroyed, badly damaged or captured 1,200 Russian tanks, fighting vehicles, trucks, helicopters, warplanes and drones, according to the Ukrainian general staff. Independent analysts scouring social media for photos and videos have confirmed nearly 400 of the Russian losses.
Around 5,500 Russian troops have died in Ukraine since Aug. 29, according to Ukrainian officials. It’s possible the Ukrainians are overstating the death toll, but it’s worth noting that recent U.S. estimates of Russian losses have been only slightly lower than Ukrainian estimates.
To put these numbers into perspective, Russian losses in Ukraine have swelled by a tenth in around 10 days—in a war that’s 200 days old. The rate of Russian casualties and vehicle write-offs doubled then tripled as the Ukrainians launched their counterattacks.
Worse for the Russians, in their faltering defense of the south—and total rout in the east—they’ve failed to inflict heavy losses on the attacking Ukrainian brigades. Rough estimates have the Ukrainians losing one-tenth as many troops and vehicles since Aug. 30.
Worse still, captures account for half the Russian vehicle losses. The Ukrainian army in just the last week and a half has seized enough Russian tanks, fighting vehicles and artillery to equip an entire brigade. In other words, the Ukrainian army actually has more vehicles now than it did before launching its counteroffensives.
The Ukrainians meanwhile have taken so many Russian prisoners of war—potentially thousands—that they’re struggling to accommodate them. “We have nowhere to keep all the POWs,” Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, said Friday.
The steep Russian losses swiftly have reshaped the war. The Russians were short of trained troops and modern equipment before the Ukrainians swept through northeastern Ukraine last week, liberating dozens of settlements spread across thousands of square miles. Ukrainian advances so far have been somewhat less dramatic in the south.
The unhappy truth, for the Kremlin, is that it still hadn’t made good its losses from this spring when the Ukrainians counterattacked late last month, disrupting Russian efforts to reconstitute the force.
The Russians lost thousands of men and hundreds of armored vehicles trying, and failing, to encircle Kyiv starting in late February. This summer the Kremlin launched a nationwide recruitment drive, lifting age caps for new army recruits and offering rich cash bonuses in a desperate bid to stand up scores of new battalions.
Recruitment fell short of goals, but the Russian army did manage to form the new 3rd Army Corps with 10,000 or more troops and hundreds of T-80 and T-90 tanks and BMP-3 fighting vehicles. The 3rd AC raced into northeast Ukraine last week—and immediately suffered heavy losses, essentially resetting the Kremlin’s reset effort.
Now the Russian army in Ukraine is reeling. The Ukrainian army has the momentum and, in critical sectors, numerical and firepower advantages, as well. And short of a total national mobilization—a move that could spark a political crisis—Russia has run out of easy sources of fresh troops and equipment.