Ukraine's Military is Losing Much More Than They Are Admitting

Published July 2nd, 2022 - 07:24 GMT
Soldier stands guard
Irpin, Kyiv region, Ukraine - March 3 2022: Ukrainian soldier on duty near the occupied town of Irpin, a suburb of Kiyv, during attacks by the Russian army. (Shutterstock)

Dr Rene Tebel 

The Ukrainian war is in its fifth month. The Russian Federation army had to bury the hope for a quick success already a few kilometers behind the Ukrainian border, as well as many of its soldiers. After the shock of the Russian attack and the euphoria of stopping the invaders despite their military inferiority and in some fronts getting them to retreat, the Ukrainians are now also confronted with their now glaring high losses of soldiers and civilians (in this senseless war).

Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a first statement already in mid-May. Speaking to Ukrainian students, the Ukrainian president described the current war as a postponed war of independence, only completing the "independence" of 1991. Even though he believes in victory against Russia, Ukrainian Pravda quotes him as saying, "[....] But we must remember that the price of all this is tens of thousands of lives. The lives of all those killed by the enemy. Tens of thousands."

A few days later, on May 22, the first figures of Ukrainian soldiers' losses came to the public. In a briefing with Polish President Andrzej Duda, according to Ukrainian Pravda, Zelenskyy is said to have opposed a petition advocating that even conscripted men be allowed to leave the country during a state of war. In this context, Zelensky spoke of how he could hardly convey this when "today between 50 and 100 people" could die in the east of the country defending Ukraine and its independence.

The Ukrainian president specified this figure in an interview with U.S. broadcaster Newsmax Television on May 31, when he spoke of 60-100 soldiers dead and 500 injured per day in eastern Ukraine. Speaking to the UK Guardian on June 8, presidential intimate Olexy Arestovych had already said that up to 150 soldiers had died and 800 others wounded every day this week.

Likewise, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov wrote of daily losses of "up to a hundred of our fighters killed and up to 500 wounded" in a Facebook entry published on June 9, and on the same day Mikhaylo Podolyak, an advisor to the Ukrainian president, told the BBC that the AFU was losing between 100 and 200 killed fighters every day.

The faction leader of Volodymyr Selenskyi's "Sluha narodu" party, David Arachamia, reached even higher, speaking of a total of 200 to 500 Ukrainian soldiers killed and up to 1,000 killed and wounded in the Dombass per day over the past two weeks - a statement promptly contradicted by the Secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, Oleksiy Danilov, in an interview in the medium.

However, these statements are rather a flash of the current situation and did not provide more reliable conclusions about the total loss. This changed with an interview that Olexiy Arestovych gave to Russian oppositionist Mark Feygin on a regular YouTube channel "Feygin Live" on June 10. According to the Washington Post, Arestovych, who fairly accurately predicted the timing of a Russian attack as early as March 2019, spoke about 10,000 dead Ukrainian soldiers since the beginning of the war.

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From these figures, it can be roughly deduced that the Ukrainian armed forces lost at least 10,000 soldiers in the first three and a half months of the war, and that for about three or four weeks the numbers have been rising sharply, so that in this phase of the war of attrition the monthly casualties could now range from 6,000 to 9,000 killed (at 200 or 300 soldiers per day).

The spike in casualties is plausible because the Ukrainian defenders in the Dombass are currently engaged in a war of position along a front line that has been developed into defensible positions since about 2014. In this eastern Ukrainian combat zone, Russian forces possess not only air superiority, but also great superiority in firepower. Indiscriminately, the Russians take on Ukrainian positions with a seemingly inexhaustible reservoir of ammunition. 

The losses of the Ukrainian armed forces must also include the wounded. With figures of 500 (Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Oleksiy Reznikov) soldiers per day, up to 60,000 wounded soldiers could be expected since the beginning of the war. If Arestovych's figure of 800 wounded is taken as a basis for the actual combat phase, this would result in about 24,000 wounded on the Ukrainian side per month. Of course, most of them could return to the front. 

This possibility does not necessarily exist for a third group of "losses". In addition to the dead and wounded, there is an increasing number of prisoners of war. According to Russian TASS of 7 June, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu put this figure at a total of 6,489 AFU soldiers. In the current battle for Lysychansk, this number is likely to increase soon.

The author is the Editor of the Tebel Report in Austria. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Al Bawaba News. 

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