According to British intelligence, casualties among Russian and pro-Russian forces in Ukraine are increasing at an unsustainable rate, raising further concerns about Moscow’s ability to maintain its current pace of operations despite limited progress on the battlefield.
According to figures released last week by the Donetsk People’s Republic, a self-proclaimed pro-Putin autonomous region in eastern Ukraine known as the Donbas, more than 2,100 of its forces have died and nearly 9,000 have been injured since operations began.
According to the UK Ministry of Defense, the casualty rate is roughly 55% of its total force, “which highlights the extraordinary attrition rate Russian and pro-Russian forces are suffering in the Donbas.”
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on February 24 and met stiff resistance from local forces backed by Western munitions and financial resources, the loss of men and material has been staggering. The number of Russian deaths is closely guarded. Moscow put the death toll at 1,351 in March, but there was reason to believe it was much higher. A British estimate in April put the figure at around 15,000 – more than the Soviet Union’s nine-year war in Afghanistan – while other estimates put the figure as high as 40,000.
The extent to which Russia can continue fighting and the pressure that forces loyal to Kyiv can exert on invading forces to accelerate those shortcomings are among the most pressing issues confronting the Ukrainian government and its Western backers as Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin face growing dissent and dwindling resources.
According to the Institute for the Study of War, new Russian recruits receive only three to seven days of training before being sent to “the most active sectors of the front.”
According to the BBC, volunteers in the Russian military, as well as the equivalent of national guard forces and Russia’s government-affiliated mercenary group, have replaced conventional military units as Russia’s main assault force.
The institute has previously stated that the Russian military is lowering its standards for age, health, criminal records, and other routine service qualifications while offering significant financial incentives to recruits. According to the BBC, the Russian Ministry of Defense is now offering to pay off volunteers’ loans and debts in order to entice recruits.
“On both sides,” the British Defense Ministry said, “the ability to generate and deploy reserve units to the front is likely becoming increasingly critical to the outcome of the war.”
Ukraine’s casualty figures have been similarly depressing. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, stated last week that public assessments of up to 100 killed-in-action every day align with the Pentagon’s assessment of battlefield carnage, which includes up to 300 wounded-in-action every day.
“This is an existential threat. They’re fighting for the very life of their country,” said the veteran commander of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. “So, your ability to endure suffering, to endure casualties is directly proportional to the object to be attained.”