The conflict in eastern Ukraine has been raging for nearly a year now, with no end in sight. The death toll is at an all-time high, and a closer look reveals that most of the casualties are from Russia’s poor tactics on the battlefield. This harsh insight into Russian strategies is cause for alarm and should be addressed by the international community.
Last year, after months of tension between Russia and Ukraine, Putin sent his troops to occupy parts of eastern Ukraine near Donetsk and Luhansk—the region known as Donbas. Since then, both sides have accused each other of launching offensives and war crimes against civilians. Though it’s hard to get accurate numbers due to incomplete records on both sides, estimates suggest that more than 100,000 people have died or been wounded since the war began. General Mark Milley recently stated that this number could be closer to 200k when you include losses from Russia’s side alone (180k dead/wounded). Ukrainian civilian deaths are estimated at around 30k plus 100k military casualties. The number of Russian troops killed and wounded in Ukraine is estimated to be approaching 200,000 according to the US and other Western officials – a stark symbol of the toll taken by President Putin’s invasion of eastern Ukraine near Bakhmut and Soledar towns.
The soaring death tolls among Russian troops in Ukraine are a devastating reminder of the impact of the Russian invasion. In an attempt to seize the entire eastern Donbas region, Russia tried to push toward Ukrainian regions multiple times but had been met with drastic failures. In addition, research conducted by non-governmental organizations such as Human Rights Watch suggests that Russia is responsible for significant violations of international humanitarian law during this period, including unlawful killings, indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets, torture, arbitrary detention, and forced displacement.
“Hundreds of Russian cluster munition attacks were documented, reported, or alleged in at least 10 of Ukraine’s 24 regions, killing an estimated 689 civilians between February and July 2022. Human Rights Watch documented Russian forces’ use of cluster munitions in Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, and Donetsk regions,” the report notes.
Saturday, February 5, 2023, in the morning report to the President of #Russia Vladimir #Putin, the irretrievable military operational loss of manpower of the #RussianArmy is 132,491 people. Data are as of 6 am Moscow time today.
— generalsvr_en (@generalsvr_en) February 5, 2023
As evidenced by recent reports from international organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI), these tactics have resulted in high levels of suffering among non-combatants as well as Russian soldiers alike – many of whom are young conscripts without adequate training or supplies which are being forced into combat roles against their will. According to a report released by HRW earlier this year, “the human cost [of this conflict] continues to be staggering: hundreds if not thousands of civilian casualties each month from indiscriminate shelling attacks alone.”
The aggressive Russian tactics can also be seen in reports from journalists who have visited eastern Ukraine over the last few months. They describe a landscape littered with destroyed homes and buildings and mass graves filled with Russian soldiers killed in battle. Furthermore, some Ukrainian citizens interviewed claim that children have been conscripted into military service or forced to fight against their will – a clear violation of human rights legislation by Moscow’s leadership. Clearly, Putin’s aggression has had far-reaching consequences for its own citizens and Ukraine’s civilians, who have suffered immensely throughout this conflict.
In addition to sending ill-prepared troops into battle, Russia has employed various military tactics that make it difficult for Western forces to protect their own soldiers and civilians nearby. This includes using heavy artillery such as tanks, missiles, and mortars which can cause extensive damage in populated areas; deploying snipers who take cover among civilians; arming rebels with sophisticated weapons systems; carrying out mass arrests without due process; and allowing groups like “Little Green Men” (unidentified militants) to terrorize local populations.
What makes these figures even more alarming is evidence suggesting that Russia has been sending poorly trained recruits, including former convicts, to the front lines to pave the way for more seasoned fighters. This approach has resulted in thousands of deaths among those expendable human resources while stalling progress toward peace talks.
With civilian casualties reaching an all-time high and no sign of peace talks in sight, it’s clear that something needs to be done before things escalate even further.
Putin and the Russians’ Downfall
The increasing death toll in the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine is an increasingly grim reminder of the grave consequences of President Putin’s invasion. Unfortunately, the decision has only exacerbated an
Russia’s tactics in eastern Ukraine reveal much about Putin’s approach to the conflict; he values victory above all else, even if it means sacrificing his own soldiers. This strategy has proven highly effective before, with many battles ending in Russian victories within a short period of time. However, this may not continue indefinitely due to increased military pressure from Ukraine and sanctions from Western countries—notably those imposed after Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014.
Some analysts believe that Moscow views the city of Bakhmut as a critical point in its attempt to gain control over eastern Donbas and has flooded the area with troops despite knowing that doing so would result in an excessive loss of life. If true, then this tactic highlights an all-too-common willingness among some political leaders to risk civilian lives when pursuing their objectives.
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Ukraine reports that dozens of soldiers were buried under the rubble after a HIMARS strike on a Russian military base in Kadiivka.
Most of the dead are said to be Kadorovites. pic.twitter.com/wtrm9miOjt
— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) January 23, 2023
Despite widespread condemnation from foreign governments and international organizations such as the United Nations, there has yet to be no meaningful progress toward preventing further loss of life among Russian forces in Ukraine. The current situation, therefore, seems unlikely to improve anytime soon and may continue until a decisive victory is achieved by one side or another. Until then, the world will probably remain witness to stories of needless suffering at the hands of those who prioritize strategic objectives over human rights considerations.
In addition to illustrating Putin’s desire for success at any cost, his strategy demonstrates his willingness to use unconventional methods, such as deploying untrained recruits and convicted criminals onto the battlefield rather than relying solely on experienced troops from Russia’s armed forces. This indicates that he does not feel limited by traditional rules of warfare or constrained by public opinion back home—and indeed, polls show that much of Russia remains firmly supportive of its president despite international criticism.
Given this context, it is clear that President Putin’s invasion has had tragic consequences for both sides involved in this conflict – but especially for those within his own borders who have borne the brunt of its most dire impacts. As such, it is crucial that international organizations continue to closely monitor these developments – while also intervening wherever possible – to ensure an end to further bloodshed and suffering on all sides.
Without swift action from world leaders, there’s no telling how much worse things could become for innocent civilians caught in the crossfire between two countries locked in a seemingly endless conflict over land rights and power struggles between political leaders. Our duty as citizens is to pressure our governments into taking action to protect those caught up in this battle for control so we can finally see some resolution after five long years of bloodshed and violence.
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