Russia has lost a third of ground forces in Ukraine, UK intelligence says

Ministry of Defence claims Russians have 'failed to achieve territorial gains' in invasion

A Ukrainian soldier on a reconnaissance mission in a recently retaken village on the outskirts of Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine. AP
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The Russian Army has lost about a third of the ground forces it sent into Ukraine at the beginning of the invasion, British intelligence said, amid its faltering attempts to make gains in the battle for the Donbas.

Having failed to take Kyiv and other major cities, President Vladimir Putin was in March forced to alter his invasion plan and instead chose to concentrate on the Donbas region.

Now, the Russians have lost momentum in the battle for the Donbas and have “failed to achieve substantial territorial gains”, the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

One in three Russian soldiers sent across the border into Ukraine has been killed or rendered unfit to fight due to injury, the MoD said. Earlier this month, British intelligence said Russia had lost a quarter the combat power it deployed in the invasion.

“Russia’s Donbas offensive has lost momentum and fallen significantly behind schedule,” the MoD said in an update on Twitter on Sunday.

“Despite small-scale initial advances, Russia has failed to achieve substantial territorial gains over the past month, whilst sustaining consistently high levels of attrition.

“Russia has now likely suffered losses of one third of the ground combat force it committed in February. These delays will almost certainly be exacerbated by the loss of critical enablers such as bridging equipment and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance drones.”

The MoD said Russian bridging equipment has been in short supply throughout the conflict and that Russia's army has been “increasingly constrained by degraded enabling capabilities, continued low morale, and reduced combat effectiveness”.

The ministry said the army would not recover quickly from the setbacks, which would likely hinder Russia’s operations in Ukraine for weeks to come.

“Under the current conditions, Russia is unlikely to dramatically accelerate its rate of advance over the next 30 days,” the intelligence update said.

Nato Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana said on Sunday that Russia’s invasion of its neighbour “is losing momentum”.

“We know that with the bravery of the Ukrainian people and army, and with our help, Ukraine can win this war,” he said.

Mr Geoana is chairing meetings with the 30 Nato foreign ministers in Berlin to discuss the Ukraine crisis. Finland and Sweden’s potential membership of the military alliance also dominated the two-day talks at the weekend.

The Finnish leadership on Sunday announced it will apply to join Nato. The parliament in Helsinki is expected to debate the issue on Monday, but the announcement is seen as a formality.

Sweden is expected to follow in Finland’s footsteps.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said it is “insane” for Russia to try to claim victory in the Donbas, given the army’s lack of progress.

“Russian troops are still trying to come out at least somewhat victorious,” he said in a video message. “It looks especially insane on the 80th day of the full-scale invasion that they don’t drop their efforts.”

Ukrainian troops continue to stand their ground in the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, where they have been holed up for the past 80 days defending the city’s last stronghold.

Updated: May 15, 2022, 1:49 PM