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Putin Has a New Ukraine Problem: Morale Is ‘Exceedingly Low’

Russian Military Soldiers. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Russian Military Soldiers. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Clearly, Russia’s war in Ukraine is going horribly bad for President Putin. While some of the reasons for this have to do with very poor military decision-making and overconfidence that Ukraine could be quickly defeated, Moscow has a morale problem that can’t be easily solved: 

It has been 267 days since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. On Thursday, the Ukrainian military continues to pressure the Russian forces in the east and the south.

The situation on the ground

In the east, the Ukrainian forces keep attacking in the direction of Svatove through Kreminna. The Ukrainian counteroffensive has certainly lost its heavy momentum, but the Ukrainian forces are pushing forward slowly.

In the Donbas, the Russian forces continued to attack Bakhmut and Avdiivka but with no success.

In the south, the Ukrainian military continues with its long-range fires interdiction campaign, targeting Russian formations and logistical nodes all across Zaporizhzhia and the eastern part of the Kherson province.

Moreover, according to the Institute for the Study of War, several reports indicate that the morale of the Russian and pro-Russian forces in the Luhansk and Donetsk provinces in the Donbas is “exceedingly low,” most likely as a result of the seemingly unending stream of defeats that the Russian arms have been suffering lately.

Russian casualties

Every day, the Ukrainian military is providing an update on their claimed Russian casualties. These numbers are official figures and haven’t been separately verified.

However, Western intelligence assessments and independent reporting corroborate, to a certain extent, the Ukrainian casualty claims. For example, the Oryx open-source intelligence research page has visually verified the destruction or capture of more than 1,400 Russian tanks (which amounts to more tanks than the combined armor capabilities of France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom) and more than 5,300 military vehicles of all types; this assessment has been confirmed by the British Ministry of Defense.

The same independent verification exists for most of the other Ukrainian claims. Recently, the Pentagon acknowledged that the Russian military has lost thousands of combat vehicles of all types, including over 1,000 tanks, and dozens of fighter jets and helicopters.

Furthermore, more recent reports that are citing Western intelligence officials indicate that the Russian military has suffered more than 100,000 casualties (killed and wounded) in the war so far.

In the summer, Sir Tony Radakin, the British Chief of the Defence Staff, had told the BBC that the West understands that more than 50,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded in the conflict thus far. If we were to take the Ukrainian figures as accurate, the number mentioned by Sir Radakin is on the low side of the spectrum.

In November, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley shared the U.S. military’s assessment that the Russian military has lost more than 100,000 troops so far in the war.

Yet, it is very hard to verify the actual numbers unless one is on the ground. However, after adjusting for the fog of war and other factors, the Western official numbers are fairly close to the Ukrainian claims.

As of Thursday, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense is claiming the following Russian casualties:

83,110  Russian troops killed (approximately three times that number wounded and captured)

5,804 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles destroyed

4,362 vehicles and fuel tanks

2,878 tanks

1,860 artillery pieces

1,531 tactical unmanned aerial systems

278 fighter, attack, and transport jets

393 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS)

261 attack and transport helicopters

474 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses

209 anti-aircraft batteries

160 special equipment platforms, such as bridging equipment

16 boats and cutters

four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems

On Thursday, Ukrainian forces continued to inflict the heaviest in the direction of Bakhmut, which is located in the south of the Donbas, Avdiivka, which located farther to the south of Bakhmut, and Lyman in the east.

The stated goal of the Russian military for the renewed offensive in the east is to establish full control over the pro-Russian breakaway territories of Donetsk and Luhansk and create and maintain a land corridor between these territories and the occupied Crimea.

This first appeared in Sandboxx.

1945’s Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist with specialized expertise in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.