Russia Losses 15,000 Troops - UK Estimates

Published April 25th, 2022 - 07:01 GMT
A tank in Ukraine
Ukraine War (AFP File Photo)

Around 15,000 Russian troops have been killed as Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine enters its ninth week, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has told MPs.

Giving an update on the conflict, Mr Wallace said the death toll suffered by Vladimir Putin's forces came in addition to the loss of thousands of pieces of military equipment by Russia.

He told the House of Commons that latest estimates suggest more than 2,000 Russian armoured vehicles have been destroyed or captured - including at least 530 tanks, 530 armoured personnel carriers and 560 infantry fighting vehicles.

Mr Putin had also seen the loss of more than 60 helicopters and fighter jets, as well as the sinking of its Black Sea fleet flagship, the Moskva, Mr Wallace said.

It was noted that Russia's death toll in Ukraine was now more than double the number of US casualties during the conflicts in both Afghanistan (4,431 troops killed) and Iraq (2,401 troops killed), waged as part America's 'war on terror' since the 2001 attacks on New York. 

The Defence Secretary told MPs that Russia had seen more than a quarter of the 120 battalion tactical groups (BTGs) it initially committed to the Ukraine invasion now rendered 'not combat effective'.

He said the beginning of Mr Putin's invasion had seen the Russian President commit approximately 65% of his entire ground combat strength.

Defence experts say most Russian BTGs have between 700 to 800 personnel, but a few have around 900 troops.

Mr Wallace described the performance of Russian forces as 'woeful'.

'I don't celebrate the loss of anyone's life and when I see the huge casualty rates of Russian soldiers, as a former soldier I think it is a disgrace, a betrayal of those young men,' he said.

He also confirmed to MPs that Britain was increasing its support for Ukraine by gifting Kyiv a small number of 'Stormer' armoured vehicles fitted with launchers for anti-air missiles.

The Defence Secretary told MPs this would give Ukraine's military 'enhanced short-range anti-air capabilities both day and night'.

The 5.6 metre-long 'Stormer' vehicles weigh 13.5 tonnes and can travel at 80kph (50mph).

They can carry eight ready-to-fire 'Starstreak' missiles, with a further nine stowed inside. Each of these laser-guided projectile splits into three darts, in order to rip targets apart.

Mr Wallace revealed to MPs that Starstreak high-velocity and low-velocity anti-air missiles had already been in use by Ukrainian forces, after being delivered to the country more than three weeks ago. 

It has been suggested the deployment of Stormer vehicles will make it easier for Ukrainian troops to fire the missiles - which they have previously had to do from shoulder launchers of portable stands - in order to down Russian aircraft.

The latest donation of British military hardware followed a recent visit by members of the Ukrainian government to Salisbury Plains, where they were able to view what more UK kit could be supplied.

In total, the UK has provided more than 5,000 anti-tank weapons, five air defence systems - with more than 100 missiles, 1,360 anti-structural munitions and 4.5 tonnes of plastic explosives, Mr Wallace said.

He did not rule out sending Brimstone missiles - which could target Russian ships - to Ukraine.

The Defence Secretary added, in the first 61 days of the conflict, Russia 'has so far failed in nearly every one of its objectives'.

He described how Mr Putin was now regrouping his forces with an aim of further invading eastern Ukraine's Donbas region.

'We anticipate this next phase of the invasion will be an attempt by Russia to occupy further the Donbas and connect via Mariupol the Crimea,' Mr Wallace told the Commons.

'So it is urgent we in the international community ensure Ukraine gets the aid and weapons it so much needs.'

He praised Ukraine as 'an inspiration to us all' after they had 'beaten back the army of Russia in the north and the north east'.

Mr Wallace suggested that peace could only come once Russia had been removed from all Ukrainian territory, including the Crimea - which Mr Putin annexed in 2014.

Asked by Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, the chair of the Commons' Defence Committee, what success would look like for Ukraine, he replied: 'Our strategic aim is twofold.

'One is that Putin must fail in Ukraine, he must fail in his invasion and I think he is on course to do that actually.

'He must fail in his occupation of Ukraine and I think he has definitely failed in achieving that.

'To the fine tuning of that, that is as much a matter of Ukraine's choice as it is of anybody else - that Ukraine gets to choose where it wishes to settle for peace. We will do everything we can to support them.

'For my part, I want Putin not only beyond the pre-February boundaries. He invaded Crimea illegally, he invaded Donetsk illegally and he should comply with international law and in the long run leave Ukraine.'

Labour's shadow defence secretary John Healey warned the UK risks falling behind its military allies' commitments to NATO if it does not 'reboot' defence spending. 

The Defence Secretary's update to MPs came after suspected Ukrainian missile strikes blew up two oil storage facilities supplying Russian troops fighting for control of Donbas.

The Transneft-Druzhba Oil Depot, located in the city of Bryansk around 70 miles from the Ukrainian border, caught fire at 2am local time before a second fire broke out at a nearby military facility around 15 minutes later, Russian state media said this morning.

Video of the moment one of the fires broke out appeared to capture the sound of an incoming missile before a large explosion and fireball.

Bryansk is a logistical hub for Russian forces battling Ukraine in Donbas, while the Druzhba pipeline is one of the main routes for Russian oil to reach Europe.

The blasts came as British intelligence said Russia had 'yet to achieve a significant breakthrough' of defensive lines in Donbas despite Ukraine imposing a 'significant cost' on Mr Putin's forces.

The Ministry of Defence said poor logistical and combat support were hampering Russia's advances, as they did in the failed effort to take Kyiv. 

Ukrainian defenders holed up in the Azovstal steel works in the southern city of Mariupol - which is still under siege - were also pinning down 'many Russian units' and preventing them from redeploying to the Donbas front, while also exhausting Kremlin troops and reducing their combat effectiveness, the MoD added.

Railway lines, oil facilities and military bases in Belgorod - another logistical hub in Russia but close to the Ukrainian border - have been targeted several times in recent weeks, including by low-flying helicopters.

Klimovo, a village with a nearby military base in the wider Bryansk region, was also struck.

On Sunday, the US pledged more military support to Ukraine to ensure 'it can win this fight' after Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin led the highest-profile American delegation to visit President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv since the war broke out.

Mr Blinken and Mr Austin said the US had approved a $165 million sale of ammunition for Ukraine's war effort, along with more than $300 million in foreign military financing.

'The strategy that we've put in place - massive support for Ukraine, massive pressure against Russia, solidarity with more than 30 countries engaged in these efforts - is having real results,' Mr Blinken told reporters in Poland the day after meeting with Mr Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials.

He added: 'When it comes to Russia's war aims, Russia is failing. Ukraine is succeeding.

'Russia has sought as its principal aim to totally subjugate Ukraine, to take away its sovereignty, to take away its independence. That has failed.'

Mr Zelenskyy in the meeting said he was 'very thankful' for the American aid and particularly praised President Joe Biden for his 'personal support.'

'The priorities are weapons and support from the United States of America and our partners, European leaders, in terms of our army's strength and support in certain areas,' the Ukrainian president said.

'The second issue is the sanctions policy against the Russian Federation because of the full-scale invasion and all the terror they have committed in Ukraine.'


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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