Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Ukraine’s counteroffensive casualties top 125k: Russia

In the six months since Kiev launched its push against Russian defensive lines, it has lost over 125,000 troops and 16,000 heavy weapons, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has estimated during a ministerial meeting on Friday. In recent weeks, top Ukrainian officials admitted the counteroffensive had failed to reach the desired outcome, and they seemed to shift blame for the failure on each other.

The Ukrainian government and its Western backers had high expectations for the operation, for which the former’s army was provided with main battle tanks and other advanced arms. Ukrainian officials predicted that the push would help their country reclaim territory lost since major hostilities started in February 2022, and potentially launch an incursion into Crimea, which had broken away from Kiev in the wake of the 2014 armed coup.

“Total mobilization in Ukraine, delivery of Western arms and deployment of strategic reserves by the Ukrainian command have not changed the situation on the battlefield,” the Russian minister reported.

“Those desperate actions simply increased the losses of the Ukrainian armed forces.”

As such, Kiev’s military has been “significantly degraded” while Russian forces are “taking a more advantageous position and widening the zone under their control on all fronts,” Shoigu added.

Last week, Shoigu put Ukrainian casualties in November at 13,700, which pushed the Russian estimate of total Ukrainien losses in the counteroffensive over the 100,000 benchmark.

The most senior Ukrainian general, Valery Zaluzhny, reported in early November that the frontline situation had devolved into a “stalemate” and that Kiev’s side was unlikely to achieve a breakthrough unless some surprise technological development gave it a decisive edge over Moscow. His assessment has been rejected by officials, with President Volodymyr Zelensky maintaining that Ukrainians are still making progress.

On Friday, the Associated Press published an interview with the Ukrainian leader, in which he said, “Look, we are not backing down, I am satisfied.” He blamed a shortage of Western weapons for the underwhelming results of the Ukrainian operation and declared that a “new phase” in the hostilities was beginning this winter.

Aleksey Arestovich, a former aide to President Zelensky, has also claimed Ukraine has lost up to 300,000 soldiers during its conflict with Russia.

Arestovich made the revelation on Friday while speaking to journalist Yulia Latynina via video link. The former presidential aide was addressing the recent admission made by top Ukrainian MP David Arakhamia, who said the Istanbul talks between Moscow and Kiev were derailed by then-UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who urged Ukraine to “just continue fighting” instead of attempting to reach a deal with Russia.

“I was a member of the Istanbul negotiating team, but even I don’t know how it happened that we decided to break off the Istanbul [talks],” Arestovich stated.

The initiatives floated during the Istanbul talks were actually “very good,” he admitted, claiming that Ukraine’s neutrality and its non-alignment with NATO was a “red line” for Moscow.

Refusing to negotiate, however, has only resulted in heavy casualties, while its prospects to join NATO still remain dubious, he suggested.

“Where is NATO? Does it accept us or not? And will it accept us? … Then the 200 thousand [Ukrainian servicemen] or whatever, 300 thousand, would still be alive,” the ex-aide continued.

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