Ukraine war: Ben Wallace says 15,000 Russian troops dead as UK to send anti-aircraft vehicles

 Ukraine war: Ben Wallace says 15,000 Russian troops dead as UK to send anti-aircraft vehicles


Around 15,000 Russian troops have been killed as Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine enters its ninth week, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has told MPs.

Giving an update on the conflict, Mr Wallace said the death toll suffered by Vladimir Putin’s forces came in addition to the loss of thousands of pieces of military equipment by Russia.

He told the House of Commons that latest estimates suggest more than 2,000 Russian armoured vehicles have been destroyed or captured – including at least 530 tanks, 530 armoured personnel carriers and 560 infantry fighting vehicles.

Mr Putin had also seen the loss of more than 60 helicopters and fighter jets, as well as the sinking of its Black Sea fleet flagship, the Moskva, Mr Wallace said.

It was noted that Russia’s death toll in Ukraine was now more than double the number of US casualties during the conflicts in both Afghanistan (4,431 troops killed) and Iraq (2,401 troops killed), waged as part America’s ‘war on terror’ since the 2001 attacks on New York. 

The Defence Secretary told MPs that Russia had seen more than a quarter of the 120 battalion tactical groups (BTGs) it initially committed to the Ukraine invasion now rendered ‘not combat effective’.

He said the beginning of Mr Putin’s invasion had seen the Russian President commit approximately 65% of his entire ground combat strength.

Defence experts say most Russian BTGs have between 700 to 800 personnel, but a few have around 900 troops.

Mr Wallace described the performance of Russian forces as ‘woeful’.

‘I don’t celebrate the loss of anyone’s life and when I see the huge casualty rates of Russian soldiers, as a former soldier I think it is a disgrace, a betrayal of those young men,’ he said.

He also confirmed to MPs that Britain was increasing its support for Ukraine by gifting Kyiv a small number of ‘Stormer’ armoured vehicles fitted with launchers for anti-air missiles.

The Defence Secretary told MPs this would give Ukraine’s military ‘enhanced short-range anti-air capabilities both day and night’.

The 5.6 metre-long ‘Stormer’ vehicles weigh 13.5 tonnes and can travel at 80kph (50mph).

They can carry eight ready-to-fire ‘Starstreak’ missiles, with a further nine stowed inside. Each of these laser-guided projectile splits into three darts, in order to rip targets apart.

Mr Wallace revealed to MPs that Starstreak high-velocity and low-velocity anti-air missiles had already been in use by Ukrainian forces, after being delivered to the country more than three weeks ago. 

It has been suggested the deployment of Stormer vehicles will make it easier for Ukrainian troops to fire the missiles – which they have previously had to do from shoulder launchers of portable stands – in order to down Russian aircraft.

Russia's death toll in Ukraine is now more than double the number of US casualties during the conflicts in both Afghanistan and Iraq

Russia’s death toll in Ukraine is now more than double the number of US casualties during the conflicts in both Afghanistan and Iraq

A Stomer vehicle fires a Starstreak high-velocity missile during a training exercise. A number of these British vehicles have now been sent to Ukraine

A Stomer vehicle fires a Starstreak high-velocity missile during a training exercise. A number of these British vehicles have now been sent to Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin has now seen the loss of around 15,000 Russian troops since he began his invasion of Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin has now seen the loss of around 15,000 Russian troops since he began his invasion of Ukraine

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said, in the first 61 days of the conflict, Russia 'has so far failed in nearly every one of its objectives'

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said, in the first 61 days of the conflict, Russia ‘has so far failed in nearly every one of its objectives’

The lowdown on Ukraine’s latest British-made weapon

Name:  Stormer

Number of missiles: Eight ready-to-fire, with nine more stowed inside the tracked vehicle.

Weight: 13.5 tonnes

Length: 5.6 metres

Width: 2.8 metres

Height: 3.4 metres

Max Speed: 50mph 

The latest donation of British military hardware followed a recent visit by members of the Ukrainian government to Salisbury Plains, where they were able to view what more UK kit could be supplied.

In total, the UK has provided more than 5,000 anti-tank weapons, five air defence systems – with more than 100 missiles, 1,360 anti-structural munitions and 4.5 tonnes of plastic explosives, Mr Wallace said.

He did not rule out sending Brimstone missiles – which could target Russian ships – to Ukraine.

The Defence Secretary added, in the first 61 days of the conflict, Russia ‘has so far failed in nearly every one of its objectives’.

He described how Mr Putin was now regrouping his forces with an aim of further invading eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.

‘We anticipate this next phase of the invasion will be an attempt by Russia to occupy further the Donbas and connect via Mariupol the Crimea,’ Mr Wallace told the Commons.

‘So it is urgent we in the international community ensure Ukraine gets the aid and weapons it so much needs.’

He praised Ukraine as ‘an inspiration to us all’ after they had ‘beaten back the army of Russia in the north and the north east’.

Mr Wallace suggested that peace could only come once Russia had been removed from all Ukrainian territory, including the Crimea – which Mr Putin annexed in 2014.

Asked by Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, the chair of the Commons’ Defence Committee, what success would look like for Ukraine, he replied: ‘Our strategic aim is twofold.

‘One is that Putin must fail in Ukraine, he must fail in his invasion and I think he is on course to do that actually.

‘He must fail in his occupation of Ukraine and I think he has definitely failed in achieving that.

‘To the fine tuning of that, that is as much a matter of Ukraine’s choice as it is of anybody else – that Ukraine gets to choose where it wishes to settle for peace. We will do everything we can to support them.

‘For my part, I want Putin not only beyond the pre-February boundaries. He invaded Crimea illegally, he invaded Donetsk illegally and he should comply with international law and in the long run leave Ukraine.’

Labour’s shadow defence secretary John Healey warned the UK risks falling behind its military allies’ commitments to NATO if it does not ‘reboot’ defence spending. 

Flames light up the night sky over Bryansk, a Russian city some 70 miles from the Ukraine border, after suspected Ukrainian missile strikes hit oil storage facilities there overnight

Flames light up the night sky over Bryansk, a Russian city some 70 miles from the Ukraine border, after suspected Ukrainian missile strikes hit oil storage facilities there overnight 

Two columns of thick black smoke rise into the morning air over the Russian city of Bryansk after two oil storage facilities caught fire

Two columns of thick black smoke rise into the morning air over the Russian city of Bryansk after two oil storage facilities caught fire

The Defence Secretary’s update to MPs came after suspected Ukrainian missile strikes blew up two oil storage facilities supplying Russian troops fighting for control of Donbas.

The Transneft-Druzhba Oil Depot, located in the city of Bryansk around 70 miles from the Ukrainian border, caught fire at 2am local time before a second fire broke out at a nearby military facility around 15 minutes later, Russian state media said this morning.

Video of the moment one of the fires broke out appeared to capture the sound of an incoming missile before a large explosion and fireball.

Bryansk is a logistical hub for Russian forces battling Ukraine in Donbas, while the Druzhba pipeline is one of the main routes for Russian oil to reach Europe.

The blasts came as British intelligence said Russia had ‘yet to achieve a significant breakthrough’ of defensive lines in Donbas despite Ukraine imposing a ‘significant cost’ on Mr Putin’s forces.

The Ministry of Defence said poor logistical and combat support were hampering Russia’s advances, as they did in the failed effort to take Kyiv. 

Ukrainian defenders holed up in the Azovstal steel works in the southern city of Mariupol – which is still under siege – were also pinning down ‘many Russian units’ and preventing them from redeploying to the Donbas front, while also exhausting Kremlin troops and reducing their combat effectiveness, the MoD added.

Railway lines, oil facilities and military bases in Belgorod – another logistical hub in Russia but close to the Ukrainian border – have been targeted several times in recent weeks, including by low-flying helicopters.

Klimovo, a village with a nearby military base in the wider Bryansk region, was also struck.

On Sunday, the US pledged more military support to Ukraine to ensure ‘it can win this fight’ after Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin led the highest-profile American delegation to visit President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv since the war broke out.

Mr Blinken and Mr Austin said the US had approved a $165 million sale of ammunition for Ukraine’s war effort, along with more than $300 million in foreign military financing.

‘The strategy that we’ve put in place – massive support for Ukraine, massive pressure against Russia, solidarity with more than 30 countries engaged in these efforts – is having real results,’ Mr Blinken told reporters in Poland the day after meeting with Mr Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials.

He added: ‘When it comes to Russia’s war aims, Russia is failing. Ukraine is succeeding.

‘Russia has sought as its principal aim to totally subjugate Ukraine, to take away its sovereignty, to take away its independence. That has failed.’

Mr Zelenskyy in the meeting said he was ‘very thankful’ for the American aid and particularly praised President Joe Biden for his ‘personal support.’

‘The priorities are weapons and support from the United States of America and our partners, European leaders, in terms of our army’s strength and support in certain areas,’ the Ukrainian president said.

‘The second issue is the sanctions policy against the Russian Federation because of the full-scale invasion and all the terror they have committed in Ukraine.’

Ukraine war timeline: Putin’s invasion enters its third month

Russia heads into the third month of its invasion of Ukraine on Sunday with no end in sight to fighting that has killed thousands, uprooted millions and reduced cities to rubble.

In the face of mounting sanctions and fierce Ukrainian resistance bolstered by Western arms, Russia has kept up its long-distance bombardment and opened up a new offensive in the east.

Some key events so far:

February 24: Russia invades Ukraine from three fronts in the biggest assault on a European state since World War Two. Tens of thousands flee. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he is launching a ‘special military operation’ to demilitarise and ‘denazify’ Ukraine. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy tweets: ‘Russia has embarked on a path of evil, but Ukraine is defending itself.’ 

February 25: Ukrainian forces battle Russian invaders in the north, east and south. Artillery pounds Kyiv and its suburbs and authorities tell residents to prepare Molotov cocktails to defend the capital. 

February 26: A U.S. defence official says Ukraine’s forces are putting up ‘determined resistance’. 

February 28: The first talks between the two sides make no breakthrough. 

March 1: Russia hits a TV tower in Kyiv and intensifies bombardment of Kharkiv in the northeast and other cities, in what is seen as a shift in tactics as Moscow’s hopes of a quick charge on the capital fade.

A U.S. official says a miles-long Russian armoured column bearing down on Kyiv has not made any advances in the past 24 hours, bogged down by logistical problems.

March 2: Russian forces bombard the southern port of Mariupol for 14 hours and stop civilians leaving, its mayor says – the start of Moscow’s blockade of the city. Russia denies targeting civilians.

Russian troops reach the centre of the Black Sea port of Kherson and claim their first capture of a large urban centre. 

March 3: Russia and Ukraine agree to set up humanitarian corridors for fleeing civilians. A cargo ship sinks near a Ukrainian port hours after another is hit by a blast at another port.

A million people have fled Ukraine, the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) says.

March 4: Russian forces seize Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s biggest. NATO rejects Ukraine’s appeal for no-fly zones, saying it would escalate the conflict.

March 6: ‘Rivers of blood and tears are flowing in Ukraine,’ Pope Francis tells crowds in St. Peter’s Square. ‘This is not just a military operation, but a war, which sows death, destruction, and misery.’

March 8: Civilians flee the besieged city of Sumy in the first successful humanitarian corridor. Two million have now fled Ukraine, the UNHCR says. 

March 9: Ukraine accuses Russia of bombing a maternity hospital in Mariupol, burying people in rubble. Russia later says the hospital was no longer functioning and had been occupied by Ukrainian fighters.

March 13: Russia extends its war deep into western Ukraine, firing missiles at a base in Yavoriv close to the border with NATO member Poland. The attack kills 35 people and wounds 134, a local official says.

March 14: Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova bursts into a state TV studio during a live news bulletin, with a banner reading: ‘NO WAR. Stop the war. Don’t believe propaganda. They are lying to you here.’

March 16: Ukraine accuses Russia of bombing a theatre in Mariupol where hundreds of civilians are sheltering. Moscow denies it.

March 25: Moscow signals it is scaling back its ambitions and will focus on territory claimed by Russian-backed separatists in the east, as Ukrainian forces go on the offensive to recapture towns outside Kyiv.

March 29: Ukraine proposes adopting a neutral status during talks in Istanbul.

March 30: More than 4 million people have fled Ukraine, the UNHCR says.

April 1: Ukraine recaptures more territory around Kyiv from Russian soldiers who leave shattered villages and abandoned tanks as they move away from the capital.

April 3/4: Ukraine accuses Russia of war crimes after a mass grave and bodies of people shot at close range are found in the recaptured town of Bucha. The Kremlin denies responsibility and says images of bodies were staged.

April 8: Ukraine and its allies blame Russia for a missile attack on a train station in Kramatorsk that killed at least 52 people trying to flee the looming eastern offensive. Russia denies responsibility.

April 14: Russia’s lead warship in the Black Sea, the Moskva, sinks after an explosion and fire that Ukraine says was caused by a missile strike. Russia says the ship sank after an ammunition explosion. Washington believes the warship was hit by two Ukrainian missiles.

April 18: Russia launches its assault on east Ukraine, unleashing thousands of troops in what Ukraine described as the Battle of the Donbas, a campaign to seize two provinces and salvage a battlefield victory.

April 20: More than 5 million people have fled Ukraine, the UNHCR says.

April 21: Putin declares the southeastern port of Mariupol ‘liberated’ after nearly two months of siege, despite leaving hundreds of defenders holding out inside a giant steel works.

April 22: A Russian general says Moscow wants to take full control of southern and eastern Ukraine. 



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