I’m not sure how confident we can be in the source of this information, but plenty of people in the international media have been running with it. Also, from all of the anecdotal information trickling out from the eastern front in Ukraine this month, it really doesn’t sound all that improbable. Someone inside the Ukrainian intelligence agencies has been intercepting some phone calls being made by Russian soldiers and they don’t sound very happy. According to one allegedly intercepted call, the Russian replacement troops that have been sent to replenish the battalions on the front lines have been dying in large numbers. And the ones who are not killed have been leaving and going back home to Russia. The front lines are so thinly manned at this point according to this soldier that they recently had to combine the remains of three battalions to form one full one, and they’re not even sure if they’ll have enough for that. (Yahoo News)
A Russian serviceman says in an intercepted conversation that several battalions are being withdrawn from the combat zone due to high losses, and three battalions are to be made into one.
Source: intercepted phone call posted by the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defence
Quote: “Now they’ve withdrawn the battalions, they’ll make one out of three, because … there are no people left. And then, f**k knows whether they’ll make one.”
Details: The Russian soldier complains that 2,000 reinforcements have arrived in six months, of which 500 at most are still there.
Only 25 percent of the last round of 2,000 replacement troops to arrive in the country are still alive and fighting. The Russian army is reportedly arranging psychiatric counseling sessions for the troops who went back home because “nobody wants to go back to Ukraine.”
The same soldier also complained about the new weapons and artillery systems supplied by NATO allies to Ukraine’s forces. He said that the missile systems are totally silent so you “never hear” them coming and then they hit you “in two seconds.” The Russians don’t seem to have any way to counter these weapons and their losses are stacking up quickly.
These reports seem to line up with other confirmed news coming from the front lines. A report from Reuters over the weekend said that the Russians were suffering “hundreds” of casualties per day. Another report from Fox News yesterday depicted a single Ukrainian counteroffensive this weekend that left 54 Russian soliders dead and three of their tanks in smoldering ruins.
So does the information in the intercepted phone call really sound all that unlikely? You can burn through 2,000 replacements pretty quickly if you’re losing men at that rate and others are simply going AWOL and returning to Russia. Unless Putin fully mobilizes the military (which would require a formal declaration of war, which he’s been unwilling to do thus far) it sounds as if Russia could literally run out of troops without completing the conquest.
I’m not trying to get anyone’s hopes up yet, but is there still a chance that Russia could simply lose this war? We’ve been told that they have solidified their control across large sections of the Donbas, but the Ukrainians have continued their counterattacks every day. It’s not a question of just taking all of the lands in that oblast. After you take them, you then have to hold them. And if the Ukrainian forces keep attacking every day, that’s going to require a constant flow of replacement Russian troops. At what point will the cost become too high for Putin? Even more to the point, when will the cost become too high for the Russian families back home who are watching their sons, husbands, and fathers returning in body bags or not returning at all? The Ukrainians have a lot of citizens left that might be sent into battle and more evacuees are returning to the country every week. Could they really pull this off?