Since the start of Russia’s so-called “special military operation,” Russian President Vladimir Putin has spun a number of lies to justify the actions and has at times even sought to downplay or sugarcoat the situation on the ground. It was thus surprising that he offered a rare admission of war casualties on Wednesday when he revealed that Russia had lost 54 tanks in the nearly two weeks since Ukraine launched its counter-offensive.
However, while speaking to a number of Russian military bloggers and propagandists this week, he also maintained that some of those vehicles could “be repaired and brought back to service.”
In other words, Putin had to share some truths – or at least half-truths – to make some of his more dubious claims seem all the more “honest.” The Russian leader further suggested that Ukraine has made little to no progress in its recent operations.
“The enemy did not succeed in any of the points of the offensive,” Putin proclaimed and further alleged that Ukraine was suffering “catastrophic losses in terms of personnel.”
Putin further told the bloggers on Tuesday, “We have ten times fewer losses than the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”
However, the math doesn’t come close to adding up.
In addition to alleging that Kyiv’s counteroffensive has been unsuccessful, Putin went on to assert that Ukraine had lost 160 tanks and more than 360 other armored vehicles. Those claims have not been independently verified, while an unnamed U.S. official told the Associated Press that the Russian leader’s comments were “not accurate.”
What Are the Actual Losses?
Throughout the ongoing conflict, neither Ukraine nor Russia has published tallies of their own military losses – even as each has been quick to hype the casualties of the other side. However, even as Western observers agree that both sides are inflating the losses suffered by the enemy, Kyiv’s claims are far closer to the truth.
As of Tuesday, Russia said Ukraine had lost a total of 9,939 tanks and armored vehicles since the start of the war in February 2022 – while as of Wednesday, Kyiv claimed Russia had seen the loss of 3,943 tanks and 7,653 armored personnel vehicles since it launched its unprovoked invasion.
Russia’s claims are actually believed to be higher than the total number of tanks and armored vehicles Kyiv has operated in total since the start of the war.
According to the Dutch open-source outlet, Oryx, Russia has lost 2,041 tanks since February 24, 2022. Of these, 1,271 were destroyed, and 544 were captured by Ukraine, according to this count, Newsweek reported. It is also important to note that these figures only include visually-confirmed losses, and as a result, the actual total could be higher. In addition, it also does not account for other types of armored military vehicles. For the same period, Ukraine has lost 528 tanks, Oryx said, adding that four Western-provided Leopard 2 MBTs have been taken out of action in the past week.
In addition, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) estimated in February that the Kremlin’s forces had lost almost 40 percent of the pre-war tank fleet following nine months of bitter fighting in Ukraine. That figure has only increased, and there have been reports that upwards of two-thirds of Russia’s main battle tanks (MBTs) have been destroyed since the fighting began. As a result, Russia has been forced to deploy older T-62 and even T-54/55 series tanks to the front lines.
Ukraine is continuing to receive Western-made MBTs, including the German Leopard 2 and British Challenger 2 – while later this year it will receive some 31 M1 Abrams MBTs from the United States.
Given that neither side is willing to back down, it is only likely that the losses will continue to mount in Ukraine.
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.