Uptick in Russian Casualties in Ukraine as One Year Anniversary Approaches

As Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine approaches its one-year mark, speculation is mounting that Moscow will soon launch a major new offensive.[0] In recent days, reports have emerged of Russian troops attempting to advance at various points along a frontline which stretches hundreds of kilometers across southern and eastern Ukraine.[1] This has been identified by some commentators as the beginning of the new offensive, and this is supported by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's assessment that Russia has already begun some spring offensives.[2]

From the early days of the war, casualty counts for Russian soldiers have varied widely depending on the source, but Ukraine recently raised its estimate of Russian soldiers killed in the conflict to more than 134,000.[3] Meanwhile, the Kremlin has not provided official casualty figures, making any accurate assessment of Russia’s human losses in the Ukraine war extremely difficult. However, analysts interviewed by The Moscow Times believe there has likely been a sharp uptick in the number of Russian soldiers dying in Ukraine in recent weeks. US and European officials have offered rare assessments recently, with estimates of Russian casualties ranging from 180 000 to 200 000, and Ukrainian casualties at around 100 000 wounded.[4]

The UK Ministry of Defence report stated that Russian soldiers are dying in greater numbers in Ukraine this month than at any time since the first week of the invasion. Ukrainian forces claim to have repelled some Russian attacks in the eastern region of Luhansk, while Russian forces unsuccessfully attacked Ukrainian positions in western Zaporizhia Oblast. The UK MoD also assessed that Russian forces are expanding the construction of defensive lines and deploying personnel to Zaporizhia and Luhansk oblasts out of concern for Ukrainian counteroffensives.[5]

The British government intelligence report stated that Russia's likely aim is to reverse some of the gains Ukrainian forces made over September-November 2022, but that Russian forces have not massed sufficient offensive combat power on any one axis to achieve a decisive effect.[2] Indeed, Russian forces have continued ground attacks in the Kreminna area, Svatove-Kreminna frontline, Bakhmut, and western Donetsk Oblast, and have conducted a limited ground attack in western Donetsk Oblast.

The uptick in Russian casualties is likely due to a range of factors including lack of trained personnel, coordination, and resources across the front.[6] Intelligence from Britain suggested that Russia has likely sustained its most extensive losses since the beginning of its incursion into Ukraine in the past two weeks.[7]

0. “Russia's New Offensive Grinds Into Action As Ukraine Punches Back Hard” Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, 11 Feb. 2023, https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-ukraine-new-offensive-winter-war-bakhmut-vuhledar/32266536.html

1. “War in Ukraine: Russian forces begin offensive efforts” Euronews, 14 Feb. 2023, https://www.euronews.com/2023/02/14/war-in-ukraine-russian-forces-begin-offensive-efforts-but-attacks-too-small-for-breakthrou

2. “Ukraine Plotting Counteroffensive Against Russia Within ‘Weeks,' U.S. Says” The Daily Beast, 14 Feb. 2023, https://www.thedailybeast.com/ukraine-plotting-counteroffensive-against-russia-within-weeks-us-says

3. “As Russia’s Losses in Ukraine Spike, Those Tracking the Deaths Are Overwhelmed” The Moscow Times, 10 Feb. 2023, https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2023/02/10/as-russias-losses-in-ukraine-spike-those-tracking-the-deaths-are-overwhelmed-a80173

4. “Estimated number of killed and wounded Russian troops: Ukraine War in Data” Grid, 9 Feb. 2023, https://www.grid.news/story/global/2023/02/09/ukraine-war-in-data-estimated-number-of-russian-troops-killed-and-wounded-in-ukraine-is-approaching-200000

5. “Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, February 13, 2023” Critical Threats Project, 14 Feb. 2023, https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-february-13-2023

6. “Russia suffering highest casualty rate in Ukraine since first week of war: UK” The Hill, 12 Feb. 2023, https://thehill.com/policy/international/3855036-russia-suffering-highest-casualty-rate-in-ukraine-since-first-week-of-war-uk/

7. “Putin Plots Big Military Push Before Ukraine War Anniversary: U.K. Intel” Newsweek, 14 Feb. 2023, https://www.newsweek.com/putin-plots-big-push-before-ukraine-war-anniversary-u-k-intel-1781049