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19 Dec, 2023 16:51

Russian leadership assesses Ukraine conflict: Key takeaways

The country's goals remain unchanged, President Vladimir Putin says
Russian leadership assesses Ukraine conflict: Key takeaways

Russian President Vladimir Putin attended an expanded meeting of the Defense Ministry’s Board on Tuesday, hosted by Minister Sergey Shoigu at the National Control Center in Moscow.

During the public part of the event, the president and top military officials discussed intermediate results of the ongoing military operation against Ukraine, Russia’s goals, and the outstanding challenges the country is facing.

Estimates on Ukraine’s losses

Ukraine has lost nearly 400,000 troops since the beginning of the hostilities, Shoigu claimed during the meeting. The minister noted that the Ukrainian military sustained a vast part of the losses during its botched counteroffensive, launched early in June. 

“Since the start of the special operation, the Ukrainian armed forces’ casualties have exceeded 383,000 servicemen killed and wounded,” Shoigu stated, adding that the counteroffensive alone had cost Kiev some 159,000 soldiers.

Kiev has also sustained heavy losses in military hardware, including more than 14,000 tanks and other armored vehicles, 8,500 artillery weapons, 553 warplanes, and 259 helicopters, according to the Russian defense minister.

Western effort to deal Russia a ‘strategic defeat’ flopped

President Putin added that “The West is not abandoning its strategy of containing Russia and its aggressive goals in Ukraine. Well, we are not going to give up our goals for the special military operation either.”

Despite their efforts, Kiev's Western backers have failed to achieve their intended goals, Putin stated. “All the attempts, as they said in the West, to inflict a military defeat on us, a strategic defeat, were shattered by the courage and fortitude of our soldiers, running into the growing power of our Armed Forces, the potential of our domestic industry and defense production.”

The president expressed gratitude to the country’s servicemen fighting on the frontlines and commended the “unprecedented support shown by our people… and patriotic sentiments expressed by an overwhelming majority of our citizens.”

Russia now has free hands in Ukraine

Russian forces now hold the strategic initiative in the Ukraine conflict and act as they see fit, the Russian president said. “In essence, we are doing what we consider necessary, what we want. Wherever… commanders decide active defense is best, it takes place. And where it is needed, we improve our positions,” Putin stated.

On the contrary, Ukrainian forces have been and remain driven basically by political goals only, with their efforts aimed at showing “their true masters at least some results of their much-hyped so-called counteroffensive,” the president noted.

Russian defense industry output booms

Since the beginning of the military operation, Russia has gradually ramped up its defense production output, Shoigu noted. According to the minister, the sector is now producing 5.6 times more tanks compared to February 2022 and around 3.5 times more infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers.

The country’s drone and artillery shell productions have been growing at an exceptionally high pace, with their output expanding 16.8 and 17.5 times, respectively, the minister noted. He stressed that all the troops involved in the operation are fully supplied with all the ammunition they need.

Challenges for the Russian military remain

However, the country’s military is still experiencing certain difficulties, further highlighted by the Ukraine conflict. While the changes within the military are now happening “quite fast,” Putin warned there’s still a lot of work to do. Namely, the country needs to “seriously increase the production and supply of high-precision munitions and drones of various types,” as well as improve its anti-aircraft defenses.

“We need to seriously restructure the operation of the communications systems, use modern means of reconnaissance, target designation, and counter-battery warfare much more effectively, increase the capabilities of our satellite constellation,” the president said.