Russia Loses 5,000 Soldiers as Elite Brigade Suffers High Deaths: Ukraine

Ukraine eliminated more than 5,000 Russian soldiers after killing them, wounding them or taking them prisoner amid a Russian probe into Ukrainian defense capabilities in Vuhledar, according to one Ukrainian official.

This comes after a strong Ukrainian counteroffensive effort in the fall that led to troops regaining control of Kherson, advancement stalled on both sides. Much of the fighting has shifted to Bakhmut. A renewed offensive is expected to take place in the spring, with rumors of Russia adding up to 500,000 soldiers to its ranks from a new mobilization. Ukraine continues to request military equipment and weapons from its Western allies, including the United States, and is set to receive Patriot missile systems and more tanks soon for a renewed counteroffensive effort.

However, according to Oleksiy Dmytrashkivskyi, head of the united press center of the Tavriskiy District of Ukrainian defense forces, Ukraine responded with force to Russia's late-January probe, allegedly leading to the death of thousands of Russian soldiers, including the brigade's command staff. Dmytrashkivskyi said Russia also lost 130 pieces of equipment in Ukraine's attack, including 36 tanks.

Ukrainian soldiers fire at Russian troops
Members of a Ukrainian artillery unit cover their ears as an M109 self-propelled artillery unit is fired at Russian mortar positions around Vuhledar from a frontline position. According to a Ukrainian official, troops eliminated 5,000 Russian soldiers near Vuhledar. Getty

Politico reported that Russia lost its brigade while investigating Ukraine's defensive measures ahead of instigating another offensive attack. When Russia began to extend its forces into Vuhledar with its "elite" 155th naval infantry, it was met with a Ukraine defense that allegedly crippled the brigade.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) released a report over the weekend that detailed Russia's failed attempts in battles near Vuhledar.

"Russian forces' reported culmination and tactical failures around Vuhledar, Donetsk Oblast, have likely further weakened the Russian ultranationalist community's belief that Russian forces are able to launch a decisive offensive operation," the report said.

The report went on to say that Russian forces "lost the initiative" to capture Vuhledar late January as Ukraine responded with transferring more troops to the area.

Why Did Russian Troops Want Vuhledar?

The Week Magazine reported that Russia focused its troops on Vuhledar, as the town is vital to disrupt supply lines to Ukrainian troops and is centric to Russia's capture of the Donetsk region. According to the article, Russia began probing Ukraine's defense of the town late last month to identify Ukraine's weaknesses in the area.

However, Ukraine maintains a strong defense that has crippled some of Russia's troops.

Russia's failed attempt to seize Vuhledar in January has led to further criticism of the Kremlin's military capabilities from Russian military bloggers, or milbloggers. Some speculate that Russia won't be able to successfully attack the entire Donetsk region.

"The milblogger made his assessment that the Russian offensive to capture Vuhledar has likely culminated in response to viral footage showing Ukrainian forces destroying a disorderly column of Russian mechanized forces in the Vuhledar area," the ISW report said. "Russian milbloggers seized on the footage to criticize the Russian military command for repeating the same failures that have plagued the Russian military throughout the war in Ukraine, with one prominent milblogger arguing that such incidents illustrate that the Russian army is unable to conduct an offensive along the entire Donetsk front."

Newsweek reached out to the Institute for the Study of War for comment.