The fighting in Ukraine is tough and bloody. Both sides are taking heavy casualties every day in a conflict that has turned into a war of attrition and nerves.
The Russian military launched its invasion of Ukraine with approximately 220,000 men. More than 18 months later, Moscow has lost over 250,000 troops in the fighting, according to most estimates.
With nothing to show for all these losses, the Kremlin also has to worry about the attrition in its most elite units.
Airborne Casualties in Ukraine
Spetsnaz special operations units and VDV airborne formations have taken heavy losses in the fighting on the ground both in the initial days of the invasion and the subsequent months of stationary fighting across the battlefield.
Like much else surrounding the war, the Kremlin has refused to acknowledge the number of losses thus far, but so many casualties can’t be hidden for long.
In early August, during the annual celebrations of the VDV Airborne Forces Day, VDV’s commanding officer General Colonel Mikhail Teplinsky, acknowledged in a recorded address the heavy toll his paratroopers have paid in the war so far.
Teplinsky stated that approximately 8,500 VDV paratroopers had been wounded in action but later returned to the front or refused to leave the fighting—because of their light wounds.
“However, extrapolating Teplinksy’s figures endorses the assessment that at least 50 percent of the 30,000 paratroopers who deployed to Ukraine in 2022 have been killed or wounded,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in a recent estimate of the war
The VDV is an elite formation and strategic reserve against a potential NATO attack, but the fighting in Ukraine has decimated its ranks and reduced its combat effectiveness. VDV paratroopers have often been ordered to undertake perilous frontal assaults against well-fortified Ukrainian positions with the inevitable outcome of losing a lot of men and weapon systems.
VDV units are now most likely comprised of a mixture of veterans who have survived the attrition and young recruits with no combat experience
Russian Casualties in Ukraine
Meanwhile, on the ground, on day 535 of the Russian invasion, the Russian military as a whole continues to lose a steady number of troops.
Over the past 24 hours, Russian forces lost close to 600 men killed, wounded, or captured and dozens of heavy weapon systems in Ukraine.
Overall, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense claimed that as of Friday, Ukrainian forces have killed and wounded approximately 252,780 Russian troops, destroyed 322 fighter, attack, bomber, and transport jets, 313 attack and transport helicopters, 4,290 tanks, 5,043 artillery pieces, 8,318 armored personnel carriers, and infantry fighting vehicles, 713 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), 18 boats and cutters, 7,511 vehicles, and fuel tanks, 471 anti-aircraft batteries, 4,197 tactical unmanned aerial systems, 756 special equipment platforms, such as bridging vehicles, and four mobile Iskander ballistic missile systems, and 1,377 cruise missiles shot down by the Ukrainian air defenses.
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. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.
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