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Putin Can’t Deny This: Ukraine Is ‘Liquidating’ Russia’s Military

MLRS rocket system. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
MLRS rocket system. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

November was one of the deadliest months of the 10-month war in Ukraine. In 30 days, the Russian military lost around 15,000 troops. That is more dead soldiers than the U.S. military suffered in more than 20 years in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is also more troops killed than the Soviet Union lost in its ten-year adventure in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

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And yet, despite an extremely bloody November, December was an even deadlier month for a Russian military in deep trouble.

Heavy Russian Casualties in Ukraine

According to the official Ukrainian claims, in the 31 days of December, the Russian forces lost the following: 16,520 troops killed and between 33,000 to 49,000 wounded in action (common military practice is to account for two to three wounded for every soldier killed), 266 vehicles and fuel tanks, 198 armored personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles, 184 tactical unmanned aerial vehicles, 180 ballistic and cruise missiles, 114 tanks, 112 artillery pieces, and 28 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS).

Agendas and Numbers Behind Casualty Figures 

Every day, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense sends out a press release with the casualties it has inflicted on the Russian forces all across the battlefield.

To be sure, there is a good probability that the Ukrainian figures are off, whether that is because of the fog of war or because of a concerted information operation to demoralize Russia further but also bolster Western military and financial support for Ukraine.

As of Monday, Kyiv claims to have “liquidated” more than 111,000 troops. Meanwhile, the latest Western military and intelligence assessments, which are at least a month old, state that the Russian military (but also the Ukrainian forces) has lost approximately 100,000 troops killed, wounded, and missing in Ukraine.

So, if we again account for twice or thrice the number of wounded for every troop killed, the Ukrainians are claiming to have inflicted a total of between 330,000 to 440,00 casualties on the Russian forces.

Although it is undeniable that the Russian military has suffered great casualties, it is unlikely that it has lost almost half a million men in the war so far, especially with an invading force of 200,000 men.

As a result, the best explanation lies within the word “liquidated.” The Ukrainians seem to have been deliberately vague about what they mean by the word. Indeed, although at first glance you would think that a “liquidated” troop is dead, it is highly likely that the Ukrainians mean that he is out of action, that is killed, wounded, missing, or captured.

If we take that definition of the word, the Ukrainian figures are closer to the Western military and intelligence assessments and thus more credible.

It is worth noting; however, that independent open-source intelligence has visually verified a large portion of the Ukrainian claims.

Not all Ukrainian casualty claims have been (or, indeed, can be) verified. Still, a significant number of tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles, artillery pieces, and multiple launch rocket systems have been verified by independent third parties, such as the Oryx open-source intelligence website.

Expert Biography: A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate. 

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.