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. 

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.”