Russian forces 'down to just over half pre-war strength' in Ukraine

Grinding struggle for Russia on the Ukraine frontline with depleted troop levels

A satellite image shows towed artillery in firing positions, north of Lyman, Ukraine. Reuters.
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Russian forces engaged in the Ukraine offensive are down to just over half the pre-war deployment strength as all sides gird for an extended war of attrition, western officials have said.

Ukraine's army has demonstrated its ability to conduct counter attacks where Russia's deployments are set thin and shape the frontline with new weapons from the US and Europe.

“We started perhaps with a narrative from the Russians of sort of lightning war and we've now moved to a grinding, more attritional, struggle,” a western official said. “I think people's ideas of the amount of time for this [conflict] have changed.”

Previous estimates of Russian losses had put the force for the operation at about 58 per cent combat effectiveness and the rest no longer able to be effectively employed. “We think that's gone down by a few percentage points over the last few weeks and it's in that above 50 per cent but still a really remarkable write-down of their capability,” the official said. “And of course that's then set against a Ukrainian force which is being consistently resupplied with western weapons and capabilities.”

On a day when President Volodymyr Zelenskyy gave an estimate of daily losses on his side of up to 100 troops killed and 500 injured every day, the estimate for the Russian side was that 15,000 troops had been killed and 40,000 wounded since its invasion of Ukraine.

A Ukrainian serviceman looks at a sunflower seeds storage on fire after shelling on a farm close to the frontline near the city of Bakhmut. EPA

Pointing to the Ukraine offensive on Kherson, the port city that was among the first to fall to the Russian campaign in the days after February 24, there was further points of the battle continuing to be dragged out.

“Other than what's happening in the Donbas, in the Kherson region the Ukrainian forces have gone on the offensive in an area that was lightly held by Russia,” the western official said. “It is highlighting the risk that Russia is having to take on its operational flanks as it concentrates its efforts in the centre. It's allowed Ukraine to threaten the flanks and that's an indicator of how the conflict may unravel in the coming days and months.”

Updated: June 01, 2022, 4:47 PM