In recent days, we have seen repeated statements of US and NATO officials that Russian material and ten thousands of Russian forces are in and around Ukraine, and that Russian generals are directing the fighting in the east of Ukraine (some are probably identical with those sitting in the OSCE’s Joint Cooperation Center in Ukraine, but there are also others).
Miraculously, the issue the Russian leadership fears most has been rather neglected by both the western and the Ukrainian side: the real number of Russian casualties in Ukraine.
Yesterday, the US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland presented figures – 400-500.
Unfortunately, this number based on the Russian dead publicly confirmed (see some of them) is of little use to pressure Russia. It is also of little use to pressure Russia’s most powerful western ally Germany. The German main stream press and government representatives are inclided to side with Russia on this topic, and are also ready to undermine the position of their western allies with the help of German intelligence services. Former German NATO-representatives still speak of a „civil war“ and hold there are no regular Russian units in Ukraine (preferably in pro-Russian German talkshows). Czech and Austrian proxies for example will reproduce similar thoughts. Thus, Russsian soldiers from regular units do not die. It does not matter that the Russian press months ago started to publish reports on Russian aggressions, and Russian regular troops fighting and dying in Ukraine – after all, who knows about those in western Europe?
Therefore, the US, Poland, the Baltic states, Sweden and others should finally offer an platform for the view of Russian human rights activists and Russian oppositional politicians on the issue, and also publish Russian battle statistics.
The latter do not feature 400-500 dead.
The number is slightly higher:
This is the minimum number of persons who have been killed within Russian regular ranks. As of 10 March 2015, an additional 6054 have been wounded, and 3350 are missing.
Those do not include the „volunteers“ who also have died in the thousands.
But total numbers should be only a first step.
In order to put pressure on Russia it has to be established where those people came from and what they have done to Ukrainian cities, civilians, and servicemen.
Let’s illustrate this for one figure:
This is not the number of killed in several months of fighting in the Donbas.
It is the number of killed in just over six weeks (!) of fighting around Debaltseve.
This number also includes Ukrainian casualties:
Recent numbers of Ukrainian civilians killed have been put at 500.
Plus, this number includes up to 300 Ukrainian soldiers (see Yuriy Butusov for a discussion of how the Ukrainian general staff communicates Ukrainian losses).
Ukrainian losses make up less than a fifth of the number mentioned above.
The rest are Russian volunteers and Russian soldiers: more than 4/5 of the killed.
This number is based on available battle statistics which confirm more than 3.600 immediate dead.
Is it possible to generate this number? Yes, it is.
Recently, the Russian side started to provide numbers on the losses of volunteers; one reason is the „professionalization“ of their units. Accordingly, their direct losses at Debaltseve are up to 2.600 men; plus more than 5000 were wounded. There are few Ukrainians among them, as they started to refuse to be used as cannonfodder quite early – in contrary to Russians.
Russian regular units have been used for second-wave attacks.
Accordingly, their losses are fewer, but still significant:
1051 – „200“ (=dead) as a result of direct fighting.
1788 – „300“ (=wounded).
Some 361 went missing.
There has been no reliable information on mortality rates of the wounded on the Russian side. The US with its advanced medical service had mortality rates around 20% in 2005, and reduced the figure significantly afterwards). Historically, the survival rate of wounded US soldiers had been put at between 70 and 76%.
Even if we admit a relatively low mortality rate of just around 20%, the total number of killed is well above 5000.
This makes the battle of Debaltseve the most destructive European battle since the Second World War in Europe.
It was far more destructive than the battle of Vukovar in summer/autumn 1991 which has been considered the fiercest battle in Europe since 1945. As Vukovar in 1991, Debaltseve in 2015 was also ethnically cleansed: it’s Ukrainian population of more than 64% entirely left the area.
But there is a slight difference between Debaltseve and Vukovar: Vukovar then had been a major issue in the European media and for European politics. Debaltseve is not: The „international community“ chose to move on, i.e. to ignore it. The reason might be that the limit has been set at Grozny when it comes to Russian destruction – so there is still some room for manoeuvre.
Still, the responsible for the destruction of Debaltseve, the killing of civilians, for crimes against Ukrainian soldiers have to be named. In the first place, it is the Russian political and the military leadership (the protagonists should be known to the broader public), but also the single military units and individual soldiers are responsible. After all, a recent and wide-spread interview of one of the Russian invaders at Debaltseve has shown Russians are proud of the lies of their president, proud of destroying Ukrainian cities and slaughtering Ukrainians.
The following map shows the locations where the Russian units came from:
Volgograd (20th g. motor rifle brigade; together with 18th g. motor rifle brigade / Novosibirsk):
210 dead, 351 wounded, missing 42
Stavropol (25th special regiment of the 49th army):
192 dead, 241 wounded, 152 missing
Dagestan / Buyinaksk (136th g. motor rifle brigade):
266 dead, 387 wounded, 180 missing
Attack group of the Interior Ministry of Chechnya:
20 dead, 28 wounded, 32 missing
Chechnya/Borzoi (8th g. motor rifle brigade) (together with 18th g. motor rifle brigade / Novosibirsk):
27 dead, 54 wounded – the Novosibirsk had an additional 40 dead, 77 wounded, 11 missing in other battles
Vladikavkaz (19th mechanized brigade and 67th art. brigade):
174 dead, 270 wounded, 33 missing and 13 dead, 20 wounded
Naro-Fominsk, Moscow. Obl. (13th g. tank regiment):
79 dead, 154 wounded, 17 missing (partly with the 32th mot. rifle brigade Shilovo / Novosibirsk. Obl.)
Nizhny Novgorod (6th special tank brigade):
47 dead, 64 wounded
Kyakhta/Buryatia (tank battalions from the 37th motor rifle brigade):
51 dead, 95 wounded, 6 missing
Mulino, Nizhny Novgorod Obl. (288th artillery brigade):
18 dead, 36 wounded
Novosibirsk (232th art. brigade of the 41th army):
16 dead, 64 wounded
Ingushetia (Troyitsk, 291th art. brigade):
3 dead, 10 wounded
Prokhladnyi, Kabardino-Balkaria (346th special regiment):
76 dead, 72 wounded, 26 missing
Plus, GRU and more sophisticated special troops have been brought in on special occasions in Vuhlehirks and Debaltseve:
Pskov (76th guards air-assault brigade / 104th reg.):
12 dead, 26 wounded
Ulyanovsk (31th guards air-assault brigade):
9 dead, 16 wounded
Kubinka, Moscow. Obl. (45th speznaz airborne regiment):
11 dead, 20 wounded
Ivanovo, Moscow. Obl. (217 reg. of the 98th airborne division):
61 dead, 122 wounded, 2 missing
Around 112 tanks/arm. vehicles were damaged or lost, plus well over a dozen of artillery systems.
(12/13 January 2015 until 23 February 2015; some minor units and former fights in the area were left out of the above list)
Troops now have been relocated during the most recent „cease-fire“, and fresh units have been coming in. Especial attention should be paid to hundreds of Russian forces from Samara, currently at Belgorod, probably preparing for an attack on Kharkiv.