Britain says Russia lost a third of its forces in Ukraine

Britain’s Defense Ministry said today that Russia may have lost a third of its ground forces during the military operation in Ukraine.

“Despite initial small advances, Russia has not made any significant territorial gains over the past month, instead maintaining a consistently high level of attrition,” the UK MoD wrote on Twitter. “Russia may now have lost a third of its ground combat troops deployed in February.”

According to the UK MoD, the Russian forces’ offensive campaign in Donbass “has lost momentum and is significantly behind schedule,” and they are unlikely to significantly accelerate the operation within the next 30 days.

Tanks of pro-Russian separatists in Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 22.  Photo: RIA Novosti.

Tanks of pro-Russian separatists in Mariupol, Ukraine, on April 22. Picture: RIA Novosti.

But Russia’s Defense Ministry announced earlier this week that its forces in eastern Ukraine have reached the border between Donetsk and Lugansk, two Russian-speaking provinces whose Moscow-backed separatists fought Ukrainian troops for eight years last year.

The Russian Defense Ministry statement highlights the prospect that Moscow will soon gain control of the entire Donbass region, down from just a third before the operation began on February 24.

The war situation in Ukraine after more than two months of fighting.  Graphic: Washington Post.

The war situation in Ukraine after more than two months of fighting. Graphic: Washington Post.

Western observers say the above results are fairly limited compared to President Vladimir Putin’s original ambitions. However, the takeover of the Donbass, coupled with early successes in controlling the southern region bordering the Crimean peninsula, would give the Kremlin major leverage in future negotiations to end the conflict.

Control of the Donbass region also helps Russia open a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, completely blocking Ukraine’s direction to the Sea of ‚Äč‚ÄčAzov and increasing pressure on Kiev’s economy and sea trade.

Vu Hoang (Corresponding AFP)