« The Russians are coming? | Main | The barber of Kiev »

August 26, 2015


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

IIRC, Russian speakers have one 's' in Donbas and Ukrainian have two.

For comparison, the Ukrainians have claimed they have lost (KIA) 2,800 soldiers so far.

The Battle of Ilovaisk makes up for ~36% of Ukrainian losses (~1k troops). This was over a 22 day period. That's approximately 45 soldiers/day. Many of these were during the retreat when the Russians and DNR had the avenues of retreat zeroed in with artillery.

The Ukrainians have long claimed they had caught a lot of Russian soldiers in similar artillery traps (note: Soviet artillery was to be feared). Their GRAD systems are similar to our MLRS (aka the grid square remover). They did hit one battalion that way and swooped in to gather up Russian survivors to display to the world. They claimed to have caught several other units the same way, but were in retreat at that point.

Mostly the world didn't believe them. Both sides poured out inaccurate information about what was going on. However, in light of what the Russians oopsed for the troop losses in Ukraine, its more than plausible.

There's data point in support of the Russian losses above: Chechnya. The battle of Grozny in the First Chechen War. The Russians lost almost 1800 soldiers in 3 months. In July/August 1996, the Russians lost almost 500 soldiers in a month.

...And the Chechens were probably not nearly as well equipped as the Ukrainians.

Second data point for the post Soviet army's performance: the Russo-Georgian War. It lasted 4 days and the Russians lost 67 (3 MIA) soldiers. That's a rate of 17.5/day against the Georgians.

This, at least,


suggests that anti-Donbas sentiment is growing in Ukraine, perhaps enough to want an end.

The big question might be whether Russia would let the war end on relatively advantageous terms to Ukraine, shorn of two populous Russophone enclaves now dependent on support from Russia.

If reports are accurate, Ukraine just lost 21 soldiers yesterday.

Consider if the Russians lost soldiers at the same rate they did in Georgia last August and in taking the Donetsk airport. Each fight had its peak for about a month each. 17/day for two months gives you 1020. The Ukrainians have been losing around 2 to 3 per day (average) from skirmishes and artillery (it gets spiky at times as noted above). So just from 'normal' artillery losses over 6 months (August thru end of Jan), you get another 364 to 546. Let's split the difference at 455. Just right there, assuming no bad days and the Ukrainians were as effective as the Georgians and no better, you have 1475 dead Russian soldiers.

Catch two battalions in GRAD artillery traps and you have 2,000. Easy.

This is under the assumption the 2k soldiers were lost of 6 months, but, yeah, I can totally believe 2k now.

Russian secrecy on this point probably stems from the Afghan war, when the Soviet authorities were shocked and dismayed to be confronted with mothers using the media -- especially after glasnost -- to make public expressions of grief.

It was particularly jarring because the Soviets had internalized a narrative of themselves as stoically heroic, able to transcend massive casualties to defeat fascism. People freaking out over a relative handful of deaths in Afghanistan was completely unexpected and a major shock to the system. Demonstrations by mothers were bad enough; public support for those demonstrations was deeply disorienting. Putin and a lot of other senior people lived through that period and are working off those lessons.

So that's potentially a constraint on Russian behavior. I doubt they care about casualty figures per se. (In fact, one suspects there are probably a number of Russians in the Donbass that the Kremlin would be just as happy to see stay there, permanently, under the sod.) But they may well be wary of public reaction to casualties.

Possible additional wrinkle: this leaked report might be someone's idea of a trial balloon.

Doug M.

Well it seems that the leaked report might in fact be fake:

https://twitter.com/RuslanLeviev/status/636492934452523008 (Ruslan Leviev did a lot of work for the Nemtsov report on Russian participation in the war in Donbass and he calls the report a fake)

https://twitter.com/Bershidsky/status/636818562833870848 (Leonid Bershidsky of Bloomberg (and an opponent of Putin) also believes it is a fake, and notes that the original report on the bs-life.ru website used "v" to refer to Ukraine (the way Ukrainians refer to Ukraine apparently) instead of "na" to refer to ukraine, the way Russians do)

My. The losses do seem high, although they are not beyond plausibility.

Where can we look for proper verification? Bershidsky seems good, but is that enough to declare it fake?

Well between Bershidsky and Leviev (in particular, his own investigation of the original source site sounds really damning as to it's credibility - see here for his investigation of it: http://www.stopfake.org/en/debunking-the-fake-article-on-2000-russian-soldiers-killed-in-donbas-everyone-fell-for/) and the fact that apparently the site it is originally from as reported by Forbes doesn't seem to have much in the way of any verifiable background information (apparently it has no info on the persons who own or run the site and has no contact info except for a standard online form), I think there is enough to doubt the veracity of the site and the report.

The report is quite plausibly fake.

The number of deaths are also plausible.

It'd be best to call the source at best questionable and probably even false until some other info comes to light.

The first mistake is to compare the Donbass war with the Georgian cofnlict. In the Georgian conflict the Russian losses amounted mostly during August 9 when an entire mechanised battalion and army general of them was trapped between a Georgian special forces unit and infantry that rushed to help destroy them. Georgians suffered the same fate on their flanks the Ukrainians did. They got bombarded by superior artillery, yet most losses occured during retreat, as Russian 4th air army was relentlessly bombing Georgian convoys. Ukrainians had it even worse, entire convoys got ambushed and completly destroyed. In 2008 war both Georgia and Russia experienced only one such event respectively, but neither one was total anihilation. In each case some still got away with their lifes.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)