Russia losing 'significant equipment and personnel', says UK defence secretary Ben Wallace

Ukraine has had some 'considerable success', but fighting is 'intense'

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace speaks to the media after he joined leadership candidate Liz Truss during a visit to the Reliance Precision engineering company in Huddersfield, Yorkshire. PA
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UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Ukrainians are making “real gains” but fighting is “close and hard”, during an update to MPs on the Russia invasion on their return to Westminster after their summer break.

Mr Wallace made the statement in the Commons after Ukraine embarked on a counter-offensive in the Russian-occupied southern Kherson region, which he said had “some considerable success”.

Although the Ukrainians are making gains, Mr Wallace said the fighting is intense.

“On August 29, Ukraine embarked on a counter-offensive in the south of the country around the city of Kherson, on the west bank of the Dnipro River," he said.

“Ukraine has inflicted serious damage on a range of river crossings with the aim of restricting Russian logistical support.

“This has had some considerable success.

“They are making real gains but understandably, as we have seen elsewhere in this conflict, the fighting is close and hard and Ukraine are suffering losses associated with an attacking force.”

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On the other hand, Russia continues to “lose significant equipment and personnel”, Mr Wallace said.

“It is estimated to date that over 25,000 Russian soldiers have lost their lives, and in all, if you include killed casualties, captured, or the now reported tens of thousands of deserters, over 80,000 dead or injured and the other categories," he told MPs.

“This will have a long-lasting impact on Russia’s army and its future combat effectiveness.

“Russia has yet to achieve any of its strategic objectives, and we are now on day 194 of what was envisaged in total to be a month-long campaign.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his invasion on February 24, with many expecting a quick victory.

Six months later, the largest military conflict in Europe since the Second World War has turned into a grinding war of attrition.

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Mr Wallace said the government is working on an additional package of support for Ukraine, having already supplied thousands of anti-tank weapons, drones and military vehicles.

“The United Kingdom continues to give military aid… to the Ukrainian armed forces to help resist the illegal invasion,” he said.

“The total funding committed to this support is £2.3 billion ($2.6bn).”

Mr Wallace also updated MPs on the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, saying the United Nations remains “gravely concerned” by the “dangerous situation”.

He was also later pressed by Conservative former minister Tim Loughton on the possibility of Mr Putin resorting to using “battlefield nuclear weapons”.

While Mr Wallace said “the conditions are not remotely met for that”, he said “we have seen in public President Putin evoke nuclear weapons, I think over 35 times in the last six months”.

“The consequences of the use of tactical nuclear weapons, I think, would be global condemnation by all countries, including countries such as China, for Russia, and I think President Putin is well aware of that,” he said.

Updated: September 06, 2022, 5:08 AM
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