Intense Assaults in Eastern Donbas Push Russian Casualty Numbers to Record High

destroyed russian tank on the side of a road
Destroyed Russian Tank on the Side of a Road. Photo: Unsplash

In recent weeks, the Eastern Donbas sector has witnessed a surge in Kremlin-led attacks, a military offensive that is raising serious concerns and pushing the count of Russian casualties to nearly record-breaking levels for the entire war. This intense and highly orchestrated campaign is being waged against fortified Ukrainian positions, resulting in significant Russian losses.

Russian Losses in Eastern Donbas

Multiple sources, including Russian, Ukrainian, and independent agencies, have reported heavy Russian casualties in the region, particularly around the city of Adviivka. The timing of this peak in casualties aligns with Moscow’s launch of mass attacks by Russian tanks and infantry units, primarily targeting the open and heavily mined areas near Adviivka, which is located in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

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What is most striking about the situation is the stark contrast between the official Kremlin narrative and the grim realities on the ground. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, in a recent televised appearance, conveyed a highly optimistic view of the situation to Russian troops in eastern Ukraine, claiming that the enemy’s opportunities were dwindling. However, independent agencies closely monitoring the Russo-Ukraine war have been providing a drastically different perspective.

Ragnar Gudmundsson, an analyst based in Iceland who has been meticulously tracking losses of personnel and equipment on both sides of the conflict since the outset of Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, reported an alarming spike in Russian military casualties. According to his data, more than 1,400 Russian service personnel were killed in combat in a single day on October 20, marking a probable wartime record. Furthermore, an average of 900 Russian soldiers were killed in combat each day from October 10 to October 20, a time frame that aligns with the major Russian army offensives near Avdiivka.

To put these numbers in context, Gudmundsson’s estimates suggest that the only periods in the war when Russian military casualties piled up at a similar pace were in February and March 2023, and November 2022. These periods correspond to intense and brutal Russian attacks in mostly urban areas around Severodonetsk and Bakhmut. It’s worth noting that both Russia and Ukraine do not disclose full information on their casualties, making it challenging to confirm these figures.

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The Ukrainian Armed Forces have added a layer of clarity to the situation, releasing a report that provides unprecedented detail on recent Russian military losses. According to their official claims, elements of Russia’s 2nd Combined Arms Army, responsible for the attacks around Adviivka and neighboring areas, have suffered devastating losses and a significant battlefield defeat. The report highlights the 114th Separate Motor Rifle Brigade as the most severely affected unit, with 190 dead and 160 wounded soldiers in October alone. Considering that a full-strength Russian combat brigade typically consists of 1,800-2,000 personnel, with a significant portion dedicated to support roles, the impact on the fighting capabilities of this force is substantial.

The Ukrainian estimates suggest that nearly 20,000 to 25,000 Russian soldiers have shifted from battle-ready status to combat ineffectiveness within a little over three weeks. Additionally, approximately 1,500 soldiers, primarily front-line combatants, have lost their lives, and 2,000 have sustained severe injuries. While it’s essential to acknowledge the limited ability to independently confirm these numbers, the fact of heavy Russian casualties during attacks in Avdiivka and other front-line areas is consistently supported by various sources and countless anecdotal accounts from both sides of the conflict.

In a surprising turn of events, an independent Russian information platform called Astra recently published a video appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin. In the video, wives and mothers of soldiers from the Russian city of Kirov accused local commanders of forcing reservists, who had minimal training and equipment, into combat in the Donbas sector. This deployment, they claim, directly violates Russian law, as these reservists were intended for local territorial defense units, not front-line combat. The appeal shed light on the unpreparedness of these soldiers for the tasks they were assigned, leading to significant personnel losses, a fact supported by numerous reports.

Beyond the front lines, there have been reports of heavy Russian casualties in rear areas, primarily due to long-range strikes by Ukrainian precision-guided munitions. Notably, a US-made HIMARS rocket struck a motel used by Russian service personnel in Donetsk on October 21, resulting in the loss of approximately 73 soldiers and officers. While the site’s use by Kremlin troops was confirmed, specific casualty details were not provided.

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Anton Gerashchenko, a Ukrainian Interior Ministry spokesman and military blogger, published a video claiming that since February 2022, the Russian Federation has suffered over a million military casualties of various types. This declaration is unusual on Russian social media, as discussing casualty numbers in the Ukraine war can lead to legal repercussions. However, it underscores the severity of the situation.

Anton Gerashchenko tweet

These heavy Russian casualties come at a challenging time for Russia, as it faces one of the worst demographic crises in its history, with its population projected to decrease significantly by 2046. While factors such as emigration and family size play a role, the war’s impact on the population is evident, although rarely mentioned in official reports.

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In a rare acknowledgment of Russian military limitations, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu revealed that Ukrainian artillery fire was causing significant problems for Russian forces, emphasizing the need for countermeasures. This admission highlights the challenges Russian troops are facing on the battlefield.

The Role of Drones in the Russo-Ukraine Conflict

Russia Ukraine Drone Warfare
Photo: SVI

The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones has played a pivotal role in the evolving dynamics of the conflict. Initially, drones were considered the future of warfare, and their adoption was widespread, especially after their successful use by the US in Afghanistan and Iraq. Drones are categorized into various types based on size, weight, range, and endurance, each serving specific purposes.

  • Micro/Nano Drones: These insect-sized surveillance drones, such as the Norwegian Black Hornet, are capable of hovering for up to 25 minutes, transmitting images up to 1.6 kilometers using day and night vision, and infrared capabilities. They can be easily carried by soldiers.
  • Small Tactical Drones: For broader surveillance coverage, larger drones are essential. Hand-launched models like the AeroVironment RQ-20 “Puma” are used for surveillance and intelligence gathering. The US provided Puma drones as part of military aid to Ukraine.
  • Medium-Sized Reconnaissance Drones: These medium-range drones, like the Boeing ScanEagle, are the workhorses of drone technology, used for longer-range surveillance. ScanEagle drones were part of a US military aid package to Ukraine.
  • Large Combat and Surveillance Drones: The Predator Reaper UAV, manufactured by General Atomics, is a well-known example of these medium altitude long-endurance (MALE) drones. They can be armed with various missiles and have long flight ranges, typically operated by pilots remotely.
  • Kamikaze Drones: Also known as loitering munitions or suicide drones, these are designed to attack targets by crashing into them. The Iranian-designed Shahed-136/Geran 2 has been used in the conflict to target infrastructure.
  • Hobbyist and FPV Drones: Due to the high demand for drones on the front lines, civilian hobbyist drones found their way into the battlefield. Soldiers have adapted commercial quadcopters for various purposes, including carrying explosives for attacks.

Recognizing the significance of drones in the conflict, Ukraine launched the Army of Drones project in mid-2022. This initiative aimed to raise funds to acquire drones and train up to 10,000 operators through President Zelensky’s UNITED24 fundraising platform. By May, approximately $325 million had been raised. Ukrainian forces have also begun designing and manufacturing their drones, like the RAM II kamikaze drone.

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As the role of drones has grown on both sides, so has the quest for countermeasures, particularly through electronic warfare to disrupt control systems and onboard electronics. The conflict’s evolution now includes the development of countermeasures to counter those countermeasures.

The Russo-Ukraine war continues to shape the dynamics of modern warfare, marked by evolving technology and increasingly complex battlefield strategies. As both sides adapt and innovate, the fight goes on, with drones playing a pivotal role in this ever-changing landscape.


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