It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The Ukrainians were supposed to roll over. The whole invasion was to take a matter of days. Then there would be a new puppet government in Kyiv parroting Moscow’s lies and providing cover for Putin’s aggression. Before the West was really awake to what was happening, Ukraine would be a client state of Moscow.
The Ukrainians had other ideas. The Ukrainians fought back. The losses to Russia already are massive.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry on Wednesday, March 2nd released its official estimate of Russian losses to date. Per Ukraine, 5480 Russian soldiers have been killed so far. The Russians have also lost 211 tanks, 862 other armored vehicles, 85 artillery systems, 40 rocket artillery systems, nine air defense systems, 30 combat jets, 31 helicopters, 355 trucks, and light vehicles, 2 speedboats, 60 fuel carriers, and three UAVs.
There are some obvious issues with simply accepting those numbers at face value, but the available evidence from a multitude of other sources suggests that the Russians are in fact taking a beating. Reporting on one battle near Kharkiv indicates two battalions of Russia’s 200th Mechanized Brigade were decimated by Ukrainian defenders and forced to retreat leaving six undamaged RF T-80BVM tanks in Ukrainian hands.
Images coming in from all over Ukraine show similar scenes of abandoned and destroyed Russian vehicles. On March 1, 2022, according to Ukrainian authorities, the Russians lost 60 tanks, 4 anti-aircraft systems, 30 pieces of tube artillery, and 20 pieces of rocket artillery in Sumy alone. Nearby in Akhtyrsk, the Ukrainians say they destroyed 200 Russian armored vehicles –half of them tanks.
Concern over the scale of Russian losses is such that Putin has actually issued an order forbidding Russian media outlets from using the words “invasion,”“assault” or “declaration of war” in describing the Russian attack on Ukraine. Any media outlet violating the order will be blocked from operating by the Russian government and subjected to stiff fines. The Russian people are to be fed a continuous diet of official propaganda and prevented from knowing the full scope of what is unfolding.
Even so, the scope of the losses is such that it is proving impossible to cover it up. The Kyiv Independent obtained a WhatsApp audio message recorded by a woman residing in the city of Aleysk in Russia’s Altai region the home base for the Russian 35th Brigade. In the message the unidentified woman weeps telling the person she is talking to that the local “tank brigade” was “totally destroyed in Ukraine.”
She goes on to say that “just 18 out of 150 guys survived” and that the first batch of 45 coffins, mostly young people from the town and villages nearby, were now arriving in Aleysk. The information in the message seems consistent with information concerning the 35th Brigade, which was essentially wiped out in armed clashes near the city of Chernihiv, north of Kyiv, on February 26th.
The Ukrainian military on that day reported seizing Major Leonid Shchetkin, who served as a chief executive officer and deputy battalion leader in Russia’sn35th Brigade.
In a particularly grisly development, it now appears that Russian forces are employing mobile crematoriums to keep up with the task of disposing of their dead soldiers. Special vehicles follow advancing forces and incinerate Russian bodies. This has the added benefit for Putin of disposing of the evidence of the losses he is experiencing and preventing images of dead Russian boys from circulating online.
To capitalize on the growing Russian losses and encourage Russians to speak out against the war, Ukraine has established a website that provides information about captured and killed Russian soldiers. The name of the site, 200rf.com, is a reference to Cargo 200, a Russian military code word used to refer to the coffins in which dead Russian soldiers are sent home to their families.
What remains to be seen is how Putin will decide to react to the losses he is experiencing. He may start looking for an off ramp and a way out of the mess he has created. He may simply double down and continue to pour in troops.
In the meantime, there is one thing certain. Ukraine has become a killing field for Russians, and a great many Russian families will never see their sons again.
We, as Americans, brought this war on. We need to fix 2020 or the entire world is going to pay for our weakness.
My heart aches for both the Ukrainians and the Russian families that will lose sons, husbands, grandsons to this madman's decent into hell.