Russian President Vladimir Putin has put a hard number on the number of his tanks knocked out in the Ukrainian counteroffensive so far, a rare admission of loss but one he countered with claims Ukraine had lost many times more.
Pro-Kremlin journalists and war bloggers had an intimate personal briefing by Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, which stood out for Western observers perhaps less for its discussion of social benefits for Russian servicemen or grain exports and more for what could be a frank admission of military losses. In comments made before cameras and even repeated on Russian state media, Putin said the country had lost 54 tanks in the Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Whether this is the ‘propaganda number‘ or the truth is, for now, hard to know. Ukraine claims to have destroyed 3,829 Russian tanks since the start of the war, and 106 since the start of the counteroffensive last week. Ukrainian government figures also claim 140 destroyed non-tank Russian armoured vehicles in that period.
Whether Russia has lost 54 or 106 tanks in ten days, Putin’s admission of loss remains striking compared to the alarmed discussion over the comparatively small number of Western tanks lost by Ukraine in the course of that same counteroffensive. The new battle, which has been ongoing for around ten days and according to Western analysis is still in the probing stage ahead of the full assault, may have seen Ukraine lose four Leopard 2 main battle tanks as well as several Bradley armoured fighting vehicles.
Russia Boasts it Has Captured Knocked-Out American, German-Made Armour as ‘Our Trophies’ https://t.co/WO1mzrgwGb
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) June 14, 2023
The tank, the tank, the tank is on fire
We don't need no water, let the russian tank burn.
🔥 🔥 🔥
🎥 14th Mechanized Brigade pic.twitter.com/lZxzemGTXO
— Defense of Ukraine (@DefenceU) March 26, 2023
Putin placing a hard number of 54 tanks — even if he also said that some of those could be restored and repaired — is unusual given it comes from a norm where the Kremlin only normally makes claims about enemy losses. With this in mind, it is not surprising that Putin appended his comments on Russian losses of armour with — probably inflated — assertions about the number of Ukrainian tanks his forces had destroyed.
Compared to his 54, Ukraine had lost 150 tanks and 350 other armoured vehicles in the ten days of the counteroffensive, Putin claimed, continuing to assert this means Ukraine would have lost “about 25%, maybe 30% of all the vehicles that were provided [to Ukraine] from abroad.”
Underlining his claims, the Russian leader employed some descriptive language, telling the assembled: “The enemy hasn’t had success in any of the areas. They have large losses”, and “They burn nicely, as we expected, be it Bradleys or Leopards, yes… Ammunition detonates inside, and pieces fly off in different directions”.
Emphasising the destruction of Western armour, where it happens, appears to be a high priority for Russian information output. Putin’s remarks followed by just hours the publication of footage by the Russian Ministry of Defence purporting to show a group of damaged and abandoned armoured vehicles of the Ukrainian army.
Russia claimed it had “seized” the Leopard 2 tanks and Bradley armoured vehicles, boasting they were not “our trophies”.
Counteroffensive: Western Tanks Fight Russians For First Time, One German Leopard Lost, Reports Claim https://t.co/z1UiI3sBwG
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) June 9, 2023