In the six months since Kiev launched its push against Russian defensive lines, it has lost over 125,000 troops and 16,000 heavy weapons, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu estimated during a ministerial meeting on Friday.
The Ukrainian government and its Western backers had high expectations for the operation, for which the former's army was provided with main battle tanks and other advanced arms. Ukrainian officials predicted that the push would help their country reclaim territory lost since major hostilities started in February 2022, and potentially launch an incursion into Crimea, which had broken away from Kiev in the wake of the 2014 armed coup.
The Russian minister reported:
"Total mobilization in Ukraine, delivery of Western arms and deployment of strategic reserves by the Ukrainian command have not changed the situation on the battlefield. Those desperate actions simply increased the losses of the Ukrainian armed forces."As such, Kiev's military has been "significantly degraded" while Russian forces are "taking a more advantageous position and widening the zone under their control on all fronts," Shoigu added.
Last week, Shoigu put Ukrainian casualties in November at 13,700, which pushed the Russian estimate of total Ukrainian losses in the counteroffensive over the 100,000 benchmark.
The most senior Ukrainian general, Valery Zaluzhny, reported in early November that the frontline situation had devolved into a "stalemate" and that Kiev's side was unlikely to achieve a breakthrough unless some surprise technological development gave it a decisive edge over Moscow. His assessment has been rejected by officials, with President Vladimir Zelensky maintaining that Ukrainians are still making progress.
On Friday, the Associated Press published an interview with the Ukrainian leader, in which he said, "Look, we are not backing down, I am satisfied." He blamed a shortage of Western weapons for the underwhelming results of the Ukrainian operation and declared that a "new phase" in the hostilities was beginning this winter.
Comment: Ah, yes...the Ukrainian winter strategy. How did that go in the past?