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Ukraine’s army largely destroyed as the ‘forever war’ goes on


UKRAINE has suffered troop losses most likely between 400,000 and 500,000, and Russian troops are advancing with increasing rapidity on nearly all fronts with the latest Russian invasion from the north into Kharkiv opening up a new battle line. Arkhangelskoye and Kotlyarivka have been taken by Russian troops and the critical strategic town of Chasov Yar is about to fall. Even where Ukrainian troops had some success in breaking through at Rabotino in the Zaporizhzhia region they are now in retreat.

Particular progress is made in western Donetsk with retreating Ukrainian troops unable to establish new defensive lines quickly enough and newly mobilised troops no match for the Russian army.

The total losses of the armed forces of Ukraine in April 2024, according to reports from the Russian Ministry of Defence, amounted to 29,445 with total losses since the beginning of 2024 amounting to 112,820 killed and wounded.

Assessments of Russian killed and wounded since February 2022 vary between 50,000 and 200,000. (For an analysis of both sides’ claims on losses, see the end of this article.) These reports refer only to front-line losses not counting military personnel killed by  Russian long-range precision weapons and aircraft deep in Ukrainian territory, the latest of which, in Odessa where warehouses with Nato Storm Shadow missiles were struck, was particularly devastating in terms of senior military personnel. According to former People’s Deputy Anna Gopko, the strikes were ‘very accurate’ which she attributed to ‘the leaking of information to the Russian intelligence services’.

The effect of these attacks has been evidently aided by efficient intelligence gathering from underground groups and spies within the Ukrainian government and military. That’s what happens when you intervene in a civil war!

According to retired Ukraine State Security Service colonel Oleg Starikov the new mobilisation law (and the attempt to force Ukrainian refugees of military age abroad to return) will not help Kiev turn the tide of the war; untrained recruits cannot defeat the Russian army. According to Starikov Ukraine no longer has a regular army; the Nato-trained army of 400,000 has been largely destroyed by Russian troops in two years of fighting. There remain a few professional brigades with inexperienced officers and recent poorly trained recruits.

There is massive internal resistance to the war inside Ukraine with 12million having left the country, some 650,000 men of military age living abroad, even more in ‘internal exile’ fleeing the government’s press gangs who kidnap them off the streets, the daily flight of potential soldiers over the borders to Moldova and Romania (often with border guard help, doubtless at a price) and as People’s Deputy of Ukraine Yuri Kamelchuk said: ‘At least 15,000 Ukrainian military personnel received disciplinary punishments for refusing to follow orders.’

They are apparently not sent back to the battlefield. So, desperate for new bodies to be hurled into the front line, Kiev’s new mobilisation law declares the mentally ill and intellectually disabled will be drafted into the Armed Forces. Men and women will also be considered fit for service even if they have HIV, hepatitis, tuberculosis or cancer.

Widespread corruption has siphoned off much of the $200billion of Western civil and military aid to Ukraine. Much money meant for the building of defence lines as the Ukrainian army retreats has been misappropriated by middlemen and contractors.

‘We have nothing!’ complained Ukraine General Krivonos angrily on live television about a lack of ammunition. Krivonos emphasised that military operations cannot rely solely on the sacrifice of soldiers’ lives.

‘If we [the Ukrainian authorities] had not embezzled funds but instead invested them, we could have allocated 25-35million – but unfortunately, this is not the case! We have numerous factories capable of quickly repairing equipment, but unfortunately, this is not happening.’

In recent weeks the speed of Ukraine’s losses of towns and villages has been increasingly rapid with a dozen or more towns surrendered to Russian troops especially in the west of Donetsk. They include Novobakhmutivka, Semenovka and Berdychi, most of Kislovka and Kotlyarovka and most recently Ocheretino, Keramik and Arkhangelsk.

Since the beginning of 2024 the Russian Armed Forces have taken control of 547 sq km of territory within the regions which are now part of the Russian Federation. The last key towns in the province like Kramatorsk, Pokrovsk and Severodonetsk are the only remaining targets before Ukraine is swept out of Donetsk province altogether and the road is clear to the Dnieper River.

Kramatorsk is also on the road to Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second biggest city and a major industrial hub. It is not part of those provinces now integrated into Russia but has become a priority target for Russian forces since it is a base for much shelling of towns inside Russia, in particular Belgorod where an apartment block has just been hit.

The Russians’ prime targets are the remaining parts of the four provinces (now declared to be in Russia) Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

Kharkiv was under particular threat of attack and Ukrainian authorities have begun an urgent evacuation of the last industrial enterprises from the city. The Turboatom plant was moving all its production facilities to the western regions of Ukraine. Ukrainian journalist Anton Gura: ‘As often as I drive along the Kharkov highway, I see an endless stream of trucks from Kharkov towards the West. Businesses are leaving. And this is despite Terekhov’s [the mayor of Kharkiv] statement that everything is fine.’

The attacks on Odessa and Kharkiv suggest their ambitions extend to all those provinces where they believe they have majority support from their mainly Russian populations.

This would of course be a devastating loss of the whole of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast in the south and its second biggest city in the north. The map below shows the aspirations of some Russian sources for the integration into Russia of that whole area known historically as Novorossiya. It coincides approximately with the lands returned to Russian control from the Lithuanian Polish Kingdom in 1686.

The justification of these ambitions is clear from the voting pattern in the 2010 elections which gave President Yanukovic victory with the votes of large majorities in these areas – until he was violently overthrown by the Western-inspired and Western-financed Maidan revolution in Kiev in 2014. The US alone contributed $5billion. The blue areas show the Yanukovic support which in fact covers a greater area in eastern Ukraine than that indicated in the map above.

It is perfectly clear what the outline of a negotiated peace could be. Putin has said he would not wish Russia to control areas where the majority of the population opposed integration into Russia.

But making peace is the last thing on the minds of the West and as Seymour Hersh reported in March, negotiations on Ukraine could have begun several months ago, but the US authorities threatened Zelensky with deprivation of funding. Hersh’s US source admitted: We were on the verge of starting reasonable negotiations several months ago, before the re-election of Vladimir Putin and Zelensky’s military degradation. However, the US leadership presented Zelensky with an ultimatum: no negotiations or settlement, otherwise we will not support your government with the $45billion in non-military funds that Ukraine receives annually.’

The quote above shows how much of US aid is non-military and indeed that the vast majority of the recent US ‘military aid’ package passed by the US Congress consists not of weapons for Ukraine but funds to replenish US weapons stocks (and their urgent improvement given the failure of Abrams tanks – now withdrawn from the front line –  Patriot missile systems, Bradley infantry vehicles and HIMARS – now victim of superior Russian Electronic Warfare). Another large part of the package is for daily Ukrainian budget funding and a system to prevent fraud and theft of US aid!

When ‘selling’ Ukraine aid to US citizens, politicians make it clear how it is Americans who profit. As US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said: ‘The money allocated to Ukraine remains in the United States and provides good jobs. The new money we invest almost all stays in the United States, that is, in our industrial base. They provide good jobs in the US. But we can also help Ukraine.’

The US neocon establishment is now considering a ten-year financial package for Kiev, a regime which is collapsing on the military front and facing insurrection internally, provoking conflict with European neighbours (demanding the return of refugees to fight) and showing no ability to counter corruption, even on the front line.

The neocon indifference to the physical destruction of Ukraine and the likely loss of more than 400,000 troops is because they see Russian losses (probably about 50,000) and a Russian state under pressure. But Vladimir Putin has enjoyed a resounding electoral victory, Russia’s growth outpaces that of all European economies and the US, sympathy for Russia in the global South is rising, the war has had knock-on effects in loss of Western influence among former allies such as Turkey, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and UAE, the rise of the BRICS, the driving of Russia into the arms of China, the Russian boost to the North Korean arms industry and economy, the withdrawal of many countries’ gold reserves from the US and the growing marginalisation of the US dollar as the global reserve currency.

All these disasters show what a catastrophic geopolitical decision it was to spend 20 years expanding Nato and the EU eastwards and the military build-up of Ukraine as the battering ram to destroy Russia. Here is just one Freenations warning. 

If the West will not make peace, their populations are likely to sweep them from power – eventually.


Ukraine troop losses total between 160,000 and 500,000, depending on the source referred to, but given the admission by Ukraine’s Starikov (above) that their original army of 400,000 has been largely destroyed, that the US admitted Russian artillery superiority has devastated Ukrainian troops in their trenches, that there has been an enormous expansion of Ukrainian cemeteries with plans to create mass graves rather than single burials, and Budanov’s admission that ‘I used everything we have. Unfortunately, we don’t have anyone left in reserve’, the 160,000 figure is just not credible. Nor is it credible given the admitted losses of inadequately trained mobilised troops sent to the front.

Dmitry Lubinets, Commissioner for Human Rights of the Ukraine Parliament, in an interview with Suspilnye Novosti said that Kiev is throwing people to the front without training: ‘There are shameful cases when guys were mobilised, a few days later they were on the front line and died. Have you seen at least one person who was punished for this?’

Russian casualty assessments (Military, Internal Security troops, Border troops and foreign mercenaries) of between 50,000 and 480,000 are not credible at the higher figure, given the success of their defence against the Ukrainian ‘counter offensive’ (where a failed advance always means high troop losses compared with a successful defence) and the hundreds of square kilometres which the Russian side has taken during 2024 alone; attributing similar losses to the advancing forces as to the retreating is not credible. The third party analysts at Mediazone with whom the BBC collaborates have shown a large fall in Russian deaths since March 2023 with a fall from 800 per week to less than 50 in early 2024. They do assess about 50,000 Russian dead – so a figure of 200,000 killed and wounded is therefore a more reasonable figure.

This article appeared in Freenations on May 5, 2024, and is republished by kind permission.

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Rodney Atkinson
Rodney Atkinson
Rodney Atkinson is an entrepreneur and political economist who is the author of some 500 articles and policy papers. His Freenations website is 23 years old. Rodney Atkinson's books are available on Amazon .

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