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Putin's army suffers record casualties of nearly 1,000 a day in grinding Ukraine advances, say western officials

Putin's army suffers record casualties of nearly 1,000 a day in grinding Ukraine advances, say western officials

Vladimir Putin’s army has suffered record losses of nearly 1,000 soldiers killed or wounded a day as it seized ground in Ukraine in February, say western officials.

However, shortages of ammunition, partly caused by Republicans blocking a huge new US aid package for Ukraine, means in some areas Russian forces can out-fire Ukrainian defenders.

“In February, the average daily number of Russian casualties, killed and wounded every day, in Ukraine was the highest it has been since the start of the war, that was at 983 casualties per day, throughout February,” said one western official.

“It’s continuing this trend of very attritional, very mass, heavy Russian warfare.”

Ukraine was “accelerating” the construction of defences, including minefields, anti-tank “dragon teeth” and ditches.

Kyiv faces an “immediate” priority of stabilising its frontline in eastern Ukraine, given the recent Russian advances, but the conflict, in its third year, is expected to be a “long war”.

The western official added: “Looking ahead over the next few months, we think it’s likely that in the land domain, that battlefield picture, Russia’s growing quantitative advantage, particularly in artillery, will allow them to gain some increasing initiative in the land, where as still very much Ukraine seems to have the initiative in the Black Sea and the air domain is still very much contested.”

In London, British defence chiefs said advances by Putin’s troops have slowed but the next weeks will be “challenging for Ukrainian forces”.

They warned of Russian forces being built up to launch fresh attacks in eastern Ukraine.

In its early morning intelligence update, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said: “Russian forces continue to prosecute attacks along several areas of the front line. Russia is focussing operations west of Avdiivka and Marinka, towns both in Donetsk Oblast (province).

“These axes account for 60 per cent of reported Russian attacks in the last four weeks.

“However, the average number of reported weekly Russian ground attacks on Ukraine has reduced by 13 per cent since late February 2024, when the weekly average reached 600.

“Russia seized control of Avdiivka and several villages west of the town in February, but advances have slowed since.”

However, the briefing added: “It is highly likely that the overall situation will be challenging for Ukrainian forces in coming weeks with Russia continuing to regenerate forces and carry out attacks on priority axes.”

Earlier, military experts in America warned Republicans that they may be making Ukraine’s frontline against Putin’s invasion “more fragile” than currently understood.

They also highlighted that Russian advances were reported to have slowed since seizing the city of Avdiivka in the eastern Donetsk province last month.

But the Institute for The Study of War stressed: “Ukrainian shortages of ammunition and other war materiel resulting from delays in the provision of US military assistance may be making the current Ukrainian front line more fragile than the relatively slow Russian advances in various sectors would indicate.”

Britain has urged allies, including America and Germany, to step up military support for Kyiv.

But Republicans are blocking a huge new aid package for Ukraine which Joe Biden wants to despatch.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is also under pressure to send Taurus long range missiles to Ukraine but has so far refused to do so.

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky has said that his troops had succeeded in stalling recent Russian advances in the east of the country.

The ISW assessed: “The rate of Russian advance west of Avdiivka has recently slowed, although Russian forces likely retain the capability to intensify offensive operations in the area at a moment of their choosing.

“The Russian forces apparently reconstituting in the Avdiivka area can serve as operational reserves & let Russian forces prevent the culmination of their offensive operation & intensify efforts to push further west of Avdiivka, if or when the Russian command chooses to do so.

“Russia’s theater-wide initiative in Ukraine will likely allow the Russian military command to dynamically reprioritize offensive operations throughout the frontline.”

America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director William Burns warned earlier this week that, without more Western support, Ukraine would lose more territory to Russia which would embolden Chinese President Xi Jinping in his ambitions to gain control of Taiwan.

The UK and other European allies are grappling with the possibility of Donald Trump returning as US president and potentially dramatically scaling back American support for Ukraine.

In recent days, Ukraine has unleashed a wave of drone attacks on Russia, hitting oil refineries, ahead of the presidential election in coming days set to give Mr Putin, 71, another six years in power.

The Russian president said his country was technically ready for nuclear war and that if the US sent troops to Ukraine, it would be considered a significant escalation of the conflict.

The Biden administration has said it has no plans to send troops to Ukraine but has stressed the need to approve a stalled security aid bill that would ensure Ukrainian troops get the weapons they need to continue the war, now in its third year.

Russian forces launched three-dozen drones across several Ukrainian regions overnight including Kharkiv, hitting civilian infrastructure, authorities in Ukraine said on Thursday.

Ukraine's military said it shot down 22 of the 36 drones launched overnight by Russia.