Fighting on the ground in Ukraine continues to be fierce as both sides are struggling for the advantage.
On the one side, despite recent tactical gains in southern Ukraine and around Bakhmut, in the Donbas, the Ukrainian forces are having extreme difficulty breaching the extensive, in-depth Russian defenses.
On the other end, the Russian military is putting up a skillful defense. Through a combination of in-depth minefields and an elastic defense posture, the Russian forces have managed to stall the Ukrainian counteroffensive.
But the cost of doing so has been extremely high. In about four months of fighting in southern Ukraine and the Donbas, the Russian forces have lost more than 75,000 men, as well as thousands of heavy weapon systems.
Wake Me Up When September Ends
Although the Russian forces have taken more than 75,000 casualties since the Ukrainian counteroffensive began more than four months ago, September was a relatively good month for them in terms of losses.
In the 30 days of the month, the Russian military and pro-Russian forces took about 14,500 casualties. The materiel losses, however, were still on par with the losses suffered during other months. More specifically, the Russian forces lost 879 artillery guns, 827 tactical and support vehicles, 570 tactical unmanned aerial systems and suicide drones, 384 ballistic and cruise missiles, 359 infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers, 228 main battle tanks, 99 special equipment platforms, 59 multiple launch rocket systems, 36 anti-aircraft batteries, and three warships, boats, and submarines.
Here is the breakdown of Russian losses over the past 11 months: November (16,400), December (16,500), January (20,200), February (21,500), March (24,000 and all-time war high), April (16,500), May (17,000), June (20,000), July (20,000), August (16,500).
The recent days suggest that the Russian losses are once more spiking up.
Credibility and Casualties in Ukraine
All of these numbers are based on the official claims of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense. As such, they should always be taken with a grain of salt, for it would be natural for Kyiv to “round up” the casualty figures for propaganda purposes.
However, Western intelligence assessments largely corroborate the Ukrainian claims, especially when it comes to manpower losses. Indeed, the West assesses that the Russians have lost more troops than Ukraine claims (more than 300,000 versus about 290,000 killed, wounded, and captured.
Whatever the actual number of losses, one thing is certain—the Russian forces have lost an extremely larger number of troops than they expected when they launched the “special military operation” more than 20 months ago. Indeed, the Russian military has lost its entire invasion force of about 220,000 men and then some.
For the time being, the Kremlin has been generating enough men to keep the fighting going. The failure of the Ukrainian military to achieve an operational breakthrough during the counteroffensive so far strengthens Moscow’s position. Russian President Vladimir Putin is playing for time, and a war of attrition is certainly helping him drag the conflict until the Ukrainians come to the negotiating table.
A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from the Johns Hopkins University, an MA from the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and is pursuing a J.D. at Boston College Law School. His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.