Ukraine says its priority for 2024 is to take control of the skies.
Russian soldiers fired Msta-B howitzers in Ukraine in November 2023. Photo: RIA Novosti

The Russian Defense Minister said the Ukrainian army lost more than 215,000 soldiers and 28,000 pieces of heavy equipment in the second year of the conflict.

“The Russian army is systematically reducing the combat capabilities of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU). The enemy’s losses last year exceeded 215,000 soldiers and 28,000 heavy weapons”, Minister Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced during the meeting on January 9 and emphasized that Russian forces are maintaining “strategic initiative” on the entire front line.

This is the first time Russia revealed Ukraine’s casualties and damage last year, mainly the large-scale counterattack campaign that Kyiv launched in the summer but fell into a deadlock.

Mr. Shoigu said last month that more than 383,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or wounded since the beginning of the conflict, including 159,000 in the counteroffensive campaign that began in June. Kyiv also lost 14,000 tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers, 553 aircraft, 259 helicopters, 8,500 howitzers and rocket artillery after the outbreak of hostilities.

According to the Russian Defense Minister, the US is pressuring Ukraine to continue recruiting more troops, aiming to “realize Washington’s ambition to lead the world” with “the lives of Ukrainians.” Mr. Shoigu believes this would not affect the outcome of the conflict but would only “unnecessarily prolong hostilities.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky said in December that Ukrainian military commanders had proposed mobilizing an additional 450,000-500,000 troops. Ukrainian army commander Valery Zaluzhny later denied Mr. Zelensky’s information, although he admitted that the country’s forces needed more recruits.

Also, during the meeting, Minister Shoigu said the Russian military would focus on maintaining its nuclear capabilities at the “highest level of combat readiness”. He also revealed plans to continue developing advanced weapons, including weapons using artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

“Our immediate goal is to improve the operation of communication systems, increase the efficiency of using modern means of reconnaissance, targeting and counter-fire, as well as air defense and satellite capabilities, “Mr. Shoigu emphasized, adding that the country will increase the production of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

The US Department of Defense and Ukraine have not commented. Kyiv has not announced its military casualties in the conflict with Russia and has said it will not respond to the damage figures given by Moscow.

In a battlefield report on January 9, the Ukrainian army said Russian forces had lost more than 360,000 people, 6,000 tanks, 11,000 armored vehicles and 8,600 artillery pieces since the beginning of the conflict.