Soaring Death Toll Among Russian Troops May Trigger Public Backlash, UK Officials Say

More than 15,000 troops are thought to have died since Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine.
A Russian serviceman stands guard in Mariupol
A Russian serviceman stands guard in Mariupol
OLGA MALTSEVA via Getty Images

Russian forces are facing losses in Ukraine comparable to the Soviet Union’s nine-year war in Afghanistan, UK intelligence suggests.

Almost three months since Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, his troops are still yet to secure a solid victory in the neighbouring European country.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has now suggested that Russia is facing serious backlash from the general public over its failures.

The UK officials tweeted: “In the first three months of its ‘special military operation’, Russia has likely suffered a similar death toll to that experienced by the Soviet Union during its nine-year war in Afghanistan.”

This war took place between 1979 and 1989. The Soviet Union invaded to oust the anti-communist guerrillas, with the backing of the Afghan communist government. The Soviets lost nearly 15,000 troops in the bloody conflict and many more were injured.

Russia may now have a similar death toll now because of its disorganised approach, according to UK officials.

The MoD tweeted: “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 this high casualty rate, which continues to rise in the Donbas offensive.”

Last month, defence secretary Ben Wallace told MPs that not only did he believe around 15,000 Russian personnel had been killed during their offensive, but more than 2,000 armoured vehicles had been destroyed or captured.

Although the Kremlin has been determined to suppress any anti-war sentiment across Russia, even shutting down blank-sign protests, the rising death toll could create public opposition difficult to suppress.

“The Russian public has, in the past, proven sensitive to casualties suffered during wars of choice,” the MoD explained.

“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 Kremlin has already been accused of hiding the true scale of troops who have died from the Russian public by the MoD.

In April, the UK intelligence suggested that Russia was going to provide compensation payments for the families of the dead through the “military rather than civilian officials”.

It speculated: “This likely reflects a desire to hide the true scale of Russia’s losses from the domestic population.”

Elsewhere, the first war crimes trial since the Russian invasion began has just sentenced a Russian soldier to life imprisonment.

Vadim Shishimarin, a tank commander, was found guilty of killing an unarmed Ukrainian civilian who was riding a bicycle through a village.

This is significant because Moscow has repeatedly denied that it has committed any war crimes through its invasion of Ukraine, despite growing consternation from the rest of the international community.

Ukrainian prosectors have been going to areas such as Bucha where Russian forces were accused of committing a massacre. Ukraine has allegedly opened more than 6,000 cases of war crimes.


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