By Tony De Burghe,
Published on NCW, Oct 3, 2022:
In early September the newly re-equipped and NATO trained Ukrainian military along with its foreign mercenaries launched a two-pronged offensive to recover territory lost earlier in the year to the Russian military. The western prong of the offensive in the Kherson region offensive was repulsed at huge cost to Ukraine and made no progress. Conversely, the eastern prong in the Kharkov oblast recovered a large amount of territory as the Russia/Donbass side withdrew to new defensive lines. In this article, the first of two written exclusively for New Cold War, Tony Deburghe documents the human cost of this offensive, drawing on reports from the front lines. In October the Ukrainians did recover some territory in Kherson as the Russian/Donbass side withdrew. As Russia mobilizes an additional 300,000 reserve soldiers and 80,000 volunteers these reports indicate the manpower costs of these two Ukrainian offensives and considers their implications for the future of this conflict.
It is apparent even from the conservative and restrained Russian reporting of Ukrainian military casualties that Ukraine has suffered extremely heavy casualties from the start of their offensive operations against the Russian and allied militias.
The territorial gains count for little against these losses and ensure that Ukraine will not be able to hold on to those gains in the face of planned counter-attacks.
The conservative body count by Russia indicates that Ukraine has lost 26,102 dead and 7,336 wounded between August 1 and the start of October 2022.
Analysts believe these figures to be low as they are constrained by visible body counts by Russian drones which always produce lower figures than the engagement action reports produced at Russian Battalion and Brigade levels.
Independent specialist analysts agree that the figures are low and explain the discrepancies as follows:
1) If a tank is knocked out and no bodies emerge it is merely recorded as a knocked-out tank. The crew are not included in the casualty report.
2) The gruesome reality of the power of modern military explosives ensures that a proportion of casualties are actually blown to pieces and are not visible to post-engagement drone surveys. As an example, they state that a group of ten men hit by a 120mm mortar shell will result in three of those men being totally blown to pieces and the other seven lying on the ground as recognisable bodies.
3) Estimates of the casualties from attacks on command posts by the Russian air force or longer-range rocket batteries take no account of the deaths or injuries caused by these attacks unless visible bodies can be counted, which due to the severity of these attacks is quite rare.
Analysts therefore assume that the Ukrainian casualty figures are understated by 15% plus or minus 2%
Figures for mercenary units are published as separate figures, and, over the same period, amounted to 1,341 dead. These losses were mainly of Polish units in the Kherson region.
Ukraine has cancelled the release of conscripts due in January 2023, BUT it has also cancelled the call up of new conscripts due at that time. That decision can be taken as an admission that Ukraine is facing a manpower shortage and that the conscripts currently under training in the EU and UK represent their last reserves in manpower, currently around 40,000 men. Resistance to conscription in Ukraine is another factor to be taken into account.
Ukraine’s ability to exercise control and command of its frontline troops and provide them with logistical support has also been under constant attack and attrition since August 1. Supply centres, ammunition stores, vehicle repair centres, reserve personnel lodgings, Battalion and Brigade command posts, food stores, and communication centres have all been under attack.
Special weapons such as Himars artillery systems and attack aircraft have also been hit by using improved radar systems that pinpoint their location quickly and allow for immediate countermeasures. In the case of the Himars system a combination of enhanced radar with hypersonic counter fire weapons has proved successful, and several Himars rocket launchers have been destroyed in the past two weeks. Ukraine’s constant shelling of civilian targets has brought its own penalty, namely, over-use of artillery, leading to barrel wear and increasing inaccuracy plus shortages of ammunition stocks that NATO is now finding it difficult to replenish. All of the UK supplied heavy artillery is now out of action because it has either been destroyed by counter fire or is in need of maintenance and repair. Tank, artillery and soft skin repair shops have all been attacked in the past four weeks.
Ukrainian manpower casualties are very much higher than the figures stated by the Russian Ministry of Defence, and Ukrainian figures are bordering upon a joke. Analysts suggest that Russia is not perturbed by the Ukrainian advances, especially as resupply of the Ukraine spearheads is now severely reduced. They expect that once the ground hardens Russia will launch attacks to bottle up the bulk of the Ukrainian forces and starve then out. Following that Russia may advance upon Odessa, and finally may pose a renewed threat to Kiev if the Ukrainian government refuses to surrender. In the meantime, one should expect to see heavier attacks on Ukraine’s dual-use infrastructure including electrical power, gas and communications. Russia will aim to end the war by the end of January 2023.
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