In nearly three months of war, Russian troops in Ukraine have likely suffered as many losses as the Soviet army did during over nine years of fighting in Afghanistan, according to a British government report.
The latest update from Britain’s Defence Intelligence agency claims that “a combination of poor low-level tactics, limited air cover, a lack of flexibility, and a command approach which is prepared to reinforce failure and repeat mistakes” has led to Russia’s high casualty rate among its troops in Ukraine.
According to British intelligence, Russia’s death toll continues to rise as the offensive in Donbas is reinforced.
According to the latest report from the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, the Russian military has sustained 29,200 casualties in Ukraine since the beginning of the war on February 24.
This number is probably inflated by Ukrainian authorities, but estimates from Western intelligence report a Russian death toll that’s still much higher than the one the Kremlin is officially recognizing.
In the latest official Russian report, the country’s death toll in Ukraine was just over 1,500 casualties.
Newsweek has reached out to the Russian Ministry of Defense for comment.
On May 15, the British Ministry of Defence estimated that Russia had likely lost a third of its troops sent to conduct the invasion of Ukraine.
Already in April, British intelligence estimated that Russian troops might have lost as many as 15,000 men since February. NATO agreed, estimating Russian losses between 7,000 and 15,000.
In March, the Russian tabloid newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda briefly published a story claiming Russian troops had suffered 10,000 casualties in Ukraine. The article was later deleted, with the tabloid’s newsroom denying responsibility for it.
As the war now approaches the end of its third month and Russian troops still struggle to make any significant advance in the Donbas (Moscow’s new strategic target in the country) it’s likely that Russia has suffered even more casualties than reported by the Soviet army in Afghanistan between December 1979 and February 1989.
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 turned into a brutal, long conflict that saw the death of an estimated one million civilians, 90,000 Mujahideen fighters and 18,000 Afghan troops. The Soviet Union lost about 14,500-15,000 men.
There’s mounting evidence of the losses suffered by Russian troops in Ukraine: videos of the abandoned bodies of fallen troops have emerged on Western media, together with images documenting destroyed equipment and deadly counter-attacks.
British intelligence believes that the number of casualties in Ukraine might overturn the Russian public’s support of the war.
“The Russian public has, in the past, proven sensitive to casualties suffered during wars of choice. As casualties suffered in Ukraine continue to rise they will become more apparent, and public dissatisfaction with the war and a willingness to voice it may grow,” the report reads.