Russia lost half of its ground forces so far, says former Ukraine defense minister

20 March 2022, 05:02 PM

According to Andrii Zahorodniuk, former Minister of Defense of Ukraine and head of the Center for Defense Strategies, Russia has lost almost half of its ground forces that it used to invade Ukraine on Feb. 24.

In an interview with NV, Zahorodniuk spoke about the effectiveness of Moscow’s vaunted hypersonic missiles, peace talks as a stalling technique, remaining Russian war plans, and the reluctance of Syrian mercenaries to go fight in Ukraine.

NV: UK intelligence maintains that Russia is using peace talks with Ukraine to buy time to regroup and replenish their regiments. I don’t expect much of these talks, but will the invaders change tactics?

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Zahorodniuk: We can’t rely on anything Russian representatives say. Fortunately, Ukrainian government doesn’t do that.

As it stands, (Russians) are losing the ground campaign. Their whole operation, the initial Plan A was foiled very quickly; Plan B didn’t work either. Did they have a Plan C? That’s something we ought to examine, but it looks like it’s not going well for them.

They could be pondering a Plan D – some way to wiggle out of this whole ordeal, to have something to show the world, Putin, and their own citizens, something that could look like some kind of progress, some kind of success.

They have very little chance of winning the ground war, but they are trying to pull something off there. Of course, they could be using the talks as on operational lull, in order to draw up some new war plan and regroup.

But we can be certain that our Armed Forces are not twiddling their thumbs, waiting for the talks to conclude. While the political arm (of the government) is engaging in negotiations, our army is repelling the invasion, fairly successfully destroying enemy forces, ever day. And this success has already secured their place in history books.

It’s likely that Russia is much weaker that it seems; that they have less funds and less resources that we assumed. Right now, they are marshalling additional reserves, which are of much worse quality than expected. Even we overestimated their capabilities, not to mention Western countries.

Perhaps they see a peace deal as a way out. But negotiations are best started with the strongest possible hand. That’s why they will continue to achieve anything they can on the battlefield; they will continue carrying our air and missile strikes, and will unfortunately continue to blockade our ports; they will attempt to advance in their most prospective directions – Mariupol, Mykolaiv, in order to obtain a stronger negotiating position.

NV: Is it true that they are recruiting Syrians, or is it but hot air?

Zahorodniuk: They really were recruiting Syrians. We had that confirmed by independent sources, familiar with the situation. Most likely, it’s true.

But after some of them came back, took a look at what’s going on here, Syrian enthusiasm has declined dramatically.

NV: How is Russia’s military-industrial complex faring given their economic isolation?

Zahorodniuk: they are indeed (running out) of resources. They also have fewer pieces of working military equipment than anticipated. Their force on paper is different from the situation on the ground, and have to rapidly mend this gap. And to do so quickly would be impossible for any country, given the intricacies of the production chain.

NV: After 24 days of war, does Russia still have offensive capabilities, and is Ukraine still able to launch counterattacks?

Zahorodniuk: It’s not clear that Russia can engage in major offensives on all fronts. Ukraine is evidently stronger on land. They (Russians) are trying to bulk up, pull up some reserves, but it’s not working. So, their prospects are grim.

Air and naval dimensions are different. Our naval capabilities are (minimal).

Ground operations are so far unsuccessful for Russia. They didn’t meet any of their operational objectives. According to our estimates, they have lost (killed, captured, wounded) essentially half of the force they ordered into Ukraine.

It’s pretty easy to calculate: 15,000 dead – times three to get the wounded, plus some captive. And we’re getting to a number that’s approaching the 110,000 ground combat troops they had deployed here. It’s a disaster (for Russia).

Today it’s clear their plans are failing. They are pivoting to positional warfare, digging trenches. It could help them in the short-term, but long-term they will be easy, stationary, vulnerable targets for our artillery.

NV: Ivano-Frankivsk oblast was hit with hypersonic missiles. Is this weapon really all that different from what they used against us before?

Zahorodniuk: of course, since countering such missiles is much harder. But the question is, how many of them does Russia have? Since they have started making them recently, we could assume they possess some test variants for now. Most likely, they won’t be able to win the war with these weapons.

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