More Russian soldiers have likely died seizing Avdiivka than in the entire Soviet-Afghan war, ISW says

More Russian soldiers have likely died seizing Avdiivka than in the entire Soviet-Afghan war, ISW says
  • Russian forces seized the Ukrainian town of Avdiivka earlier this month but paid a heavy price.

  • The ISW said the number of Russian fatalities likely exceeds those killed in the Soviet-Afghan war.

  • Russia has often used costly "human wave" tactics to achieve its military objectives in Ukraine.

More Russian soldiers are likely to have died seizing the Ukrainian town of Avdiivka than in the 10-year Soviet-Afghan war, the think tank the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said.

Russian forces began their brutal campaign to seize the town in eastern Ukraine in October and finally succeeded earlier this month.

However, the victory came at a high cost — Ukrainian military officials estimate that up to 47,000 Russians were killed or injured in the battle, along with scores of tanks and fighting vehicles.

By comparison, up to 25,000 Soviet soldiers are believed to have been killed during the entire Soviet-Afghan war.

While Russia is known to downplay its losses, a high-profile military blogger recently said that Russia had lost 16,000 soldiers and 300 armored vehicles in the battle for Avdiivka. He was found dead a few days later, with reports suggesting he died by suicide.

War analysts and Ukrainian commanders noted that Russia's tactics to take Avdiivka often involved "human wave" assaults, in which Ukrainian positions were overwhelmed with large numbers of Russian soldiers on foot.

Many of these soldiers, who were often ill-equipped or poorly trained, died in high numbers.

Russia used similar tactics to capture the city of Bakhmut, Moscow's other major victory in the war, which also led to huge losses.

Before the Russian takeover of Avdiivka, George Barros, a Russia analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, told Business Insider that any Russian victory would be costly and hollow.

"Bakhmut was like that too. It was a tactical victory — I'd argue operational failure — contributing to the continued Russian strategic failure," Barros said. "Avdiivka so far, they've not even yet achieved tactical victory, and it's unclear that they necessarily will. But even if they do at this price point, I would characterize it as an operational failure."

Assessing the progress of the war as it begins its third year, the ISW said: "The situation today is grave, but it is far from hopeless."

It noted that while Russians have regained the initiative, their gains have been "very limited and extremely costly."

"Ukraine has not lost and there is no reason for Ukraine to lose. Russians are adapting for a long war effort in Ukraine, but they are not the Red Army hordes wrapped in the triumphant banners of World War II victories that Putin and his propagandists pretend them to be," the think tank said.

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