How many tanks and soldiers have the Russians lost in two months of war?
According to different sources, Russia would have employed a total of 120 Battalion Tactical Groups (BTG), which are the basic units capable of operating independently, to launch its invasion of Ukraine. In principle each of these units, whose character is temporary and are created for their entry into combat, would be composed of between 700 and 900 soldiers. It includes motorized infantry companies, some 85 armored vehicles, artillery, mortars, reconnaissance and engineering units, as well as rearguard groups. Occasionally it may receive fire cover from helicopters, artillery and anti-aircraft fire.
These Russian BTGs seem to be having difficulties, as the scale of the conflict is not the most suitable for the exclusive use of independent BTGs, more intended for fighting such as that which has been taking place these past years in the separatist regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. Invasion, however, requires the large-scale combination of different weapons and units as part of larger entities. The brigade may now be the main maneuver unit, but some independent BTGs are likely to remain in play.
Thus, even knowing that these figures are on paper and in reality may vary according to the needs and the availability of forces, these data would mean that the total invasion force would have about 11,200 armored vehicles. If to these are added vehicles from other units, self-propelled infantry, etc., the total figure would be around 12,000, provided that the BTGs that Russia sent to Ukraine meet its own military parameters.
Of this initial contingent, how many tanks or armored vehicles has the Ukrainian Army destroyed so far? There are estimates by several foreign intelligence services, such as the British, that Russia may have lost about 2,000, of which about 550 are tanks, and about 15,000 soldiers.
Another of the most reliable sources on these issues, the open source and military-themed website Oryx, of which we have already spoken in this newspaper on some occasions, has elaborated casualty figures based on the unique identification of each photograph of a destroyed, abandoned or captured vehicle. The current Oryx tally is 562 tanks and 1,200 other armored vehicles destroyed or damaged, totaling 1,762 Russian losses. This assumes only those losses confirmed and photographed and therefore represents an absolute minimum baseline figure. In fact, they themselves warn that where there is no photographic evidence or in those cases where the Russian forces themselves remove the vehicles, no count is possible.
Thus, based on the source of the British secret services, Russia would have lost about 20% of its attacking force. This figure is global, which means that certain units have hardly suffered any damage while others, such as those in the east or those that have been in the vicinity of Kiev or the Hostomel airfield itself have been severely punished. In fact, Ukrainian troops wreaked havoc among those BTGs that from Belarus and Russia headed in a southerly direction to the capital.
The Russian Army has managed, for this second phase of the war centered on a major offensive on the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, to gather about 75 BTGs, although about 15% of the total is still engaged in the siege of Mariupol. For this reason Putin decided not to fight in this city and simply to encircle the remaining Ukrainian forces in the Azovstal metallurgical complex in order to shift forces from this front to the north.
Right now, the stakes are still high. The Russian material and human resources are still much greater than those of the Ukrainians, but the latter continue to receive weapons from the West, especially anti-tank weapons, but increasingly also heavy ones, which will have to force Putin to rethink the strategy, as it seems difficult to think of a quick victory without a great attrition.
If in only two months of war he has lost some 2,000 armored vehicles and 15,000 men, it is difficult to calculate what a guerrilla war in the Donbas and southern Ukraine will cost him with well-armed, mobile troops who know the terrain to perfection, against soldiers who are inexperienced, unmotivated and very vulnerable in their tanks.