August 6, 2023
At least 50 precent of Russia’s elite paratroopers may have been killed and wounded during Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the British Ministry of Defense (MoD) has said.
In its daily intelligence assessment on Sunday, the MoD cited figures made recently in a speech by the commander of the Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) which the Kremlin then frantically tried to hide.
Addressing his troops on the Day of Airborne Forces earlier this month, General Colonel Mikhail Teplinsky said that over the last 17 months “more than 5,000 wounded paratroopers returned to the front after treatment, and over 3,500 of our wounded refused to leave the front line at all.”
The MoD noted that he “did not comment on how many troops had been killed or were too seriously wounded to return to duty,” but added that figures were in line with other assessments about the Kremlin’s elite troop losses.
It added: “However, extrapolating Teplinksy’s figures endorses the assessment that at least 50 per cent of the 30,000 paratroopers who deployed to Ukraine in 2022 have been killed or wounded.”
Teplinksy’s speech caused panic in the Kremlin after it was published by the Russian ministry of defense TV channel, “Zvezda.”
It has since disappeared from the Zvezda website and other official Telegram channels.
Russia’s VDV forces were at the forefront of the initial stages of Russia’s full-scale invasion and the battle for Kyiv which the Kremlin originally envisaged would be won in a matter of days.
VDV forces attempted to take control of the Hostomel airport located 10 km to the northwest of the capital, from which the Kremlin planned to fly in reinforcements and take the city. The plan failed miserably and while waiting for reinforcements that never arrived, the VDV forces were sitting ducks for Ukrainian artillery and drones. They were forced to retreat at the end of March after sustaining massive casualties.
Since then, VDV forces have been at the forefront of much of the fighting and increasingly depleted units have continued to take huge losses.
Last month, Ukrainian troops on the offensive in the eastern Bakhmut sector used a military version of bait and switch to capture a key high ground held by Russian paratroopers and advance hundreds of meters towards a tactically important town.
Ukrainian units tasked to capture and hold heights overlooking the town Klishchiivka pushed Kremlin troops out of defensive positions, retreated intentionally, and then used drone-controlled artillery and mortar strikes to hammer counter-attacking Russian infantry units attempting to re-occupy the entrenchments, reports said. Leading Ukrainian military reporter Yury Butusov in a personal Telegram channel comment said elements of the Armed Forces of Ukraine’s (AFU) 80th Air Assault Brigade and the Interior Ministry’s Lyut (Ukrainian: Rage) Assault Brigade executed the artillery ambush against elite Russian army paratroopers.
The Lyut Brigade posted a video of the Russian air assault troops driving straight into a hailstorm of howitzer shells and mortar rounds.
Butusov quoted Russian milbloggers confirming video evidence of close to a dozen Russian paratroopers dying or becoming severely wounded in the space of a few minutes.
In its latest daily assessment, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said VDV units were being drawn into the Bakhmut sector previously held by Wagner at the expense of reinforcing defenses on the eastern and southern frontlines.
It said: “The arrival of these units and formations in the Bakhmut area represents the commitment of a sizable amount of combat power that Russian forces could otherwise have used to support offensive operations in Luhansk and Kharkiv oblasts or to reinforce Russian defensive operations in southern Ukraine.
The ISW added this was “likely one of Ukraine’s primary objectives.”
Both Kyiv and Moscow are exceptionally secretive about troop casualty figures – Moscow’s official total of 5,937 has not been updated since September and was almost certainly a vast underestimate even at the time.
Last month, the UK’s defense minister claimed a quarter of a million Russian troops have been killed, injured or gone missing since the start of Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Speaking at an event in London, Ben Wallace was discussing the dire state the Kremlin currently finds itself in, reflected by the aborted Wagner mutiny and the multiple firings, killings and disappearances of Russian generals in recent weeks. He said: “If you look at the generals being fired, you look at Prigozhin – if anyone predicted last year that Prigozhin was going to march on Moscow, General Surovikin who is currently resting in Moscow at the moment – he’s one of their most capable generals.“
So, the splinter in the hierarchy of the Russian army is very real and the casualty rates are horrific.
“It would not be wrong to say at least 230,000 to 250,000 dead or injured Russians.”
The exact numbers of soldiers both Russian and Ukrainian troops killed and injured since the start of the full-scale invasion have been notoriously hard to verify. Both Kyiv and Moscow regularly make claims about the numbers of enemy personnel their forces have taken out of action, while confirmation of their own losses is far harder to come by. Wallace’s claim of 230,000 to 250,000 is actually in line with Ukrainian claims which, as of Sunday, Aug 6, stand at 249,700 “liquidated” personnel.