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Russia Has Likely Lost a Third of Troops in Ukraine, British Intelligence Says

A destroyed Russian tank sits near a home east of Kharkiv in Biskvitne, Ukraine, on Saturday. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI
A destroyed Russian tank sits near a home east of Kharkiv in Biskvitne, Ukraine, on Saturday. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI

Russia has likely lost a third of its ground troops in Ukraine, the British Defense Ministry said in an intelligence update Sunday.

The British Defense Ministry said in the statement that the Russian military has "lost momentum" in the Donbas region after refocusing its assault to eastern Ukraine last month.

The Donbas region, comprising Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, has largely been held by Russian-backed separatists since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

Before the start of the invasion on Feb. 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the two oblasts as independent republics. Experts have said that President Vladimir Putin will try to annex the Donbas region into Russia in coming months.

"Despite small-scale initial advances, Russia has failed to achieve substantial territorial gains over the past month whilst sustaining consistently high levels of attrition," the British Defense Ministry said.

"These delays will almost certainly be exacerbated by the loss of critical enablers such as bridging equipment and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance drones."

The British Defense Ministry confirmed Friday that Ukrainian forces repelled attempts by Russian troops to cross a strategic river in eastern Ukraine and shared photos showing a destroyed pontoon bridge and armored vehicles.

"Russian bridging equipment has been in short supply throughout the conflict, slowing and restricting offensive maneuver," the British Defense Ministry said Sunday.

The British Defense Ministry said that Russian drones "are vital for tactical awareness and directing artillery" but have been thwarted by Ukraine's anti-air capabilities. The United States has committed more than 1,400 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, among other defense systems, to Ukraine for its defense.

"Russian forces are increasingly constrained by degraded enabling capabilities, continued low morale and reduced combat effectiveness," the British Defense Ministry said. "Many of these capabilities cannot be quickly replaced or reconstituted and are likely to continue to hinder Russian operations in Ukraine."

The British Defense Ministry said that Russia "is unlikely to dramatically accelerate its rate of advance" in the next month under current conditions.

Ukraine's ability to prevent Russian troops from successfully deploying the pontoon bridge to cross the Siverskyi Donets River on Wednesday has "shocked" prominent Russian war bloggers, the Institute for the Study of War said in an analysis Saturday.

"Those bloggers have begun commenting on the incompetence of the Russian military to their hundreds of thousands of followers," according to the think tank.

"The attempted river crossing showed a stunning lack of tactical sense as satellite images show [destroyed] Russian vehicles tightly bunched up at both ends of the [destroyed] bridge, clearly allowing Ukrainian artillerymen to kill hundreds and destroy scores of vehicles with concentrated strikes."

The Institute for the Study of War said that the Russian war bloggers, who previously cheered for the country's military, have since turned to criticizing leadership.

"The effects of this change in tone and discourse by these milbloggers are uncertain but could be potent," the think tank said. "The commentary by these widely read milbloggers may fuel burgeoning doubts in Russia about Russia's prospects in this war and the competence of Russia's military leaders."

The think tank noted that Russian forces have yet to completely control the Azovstal steel plant in the besieged city of Mariupol and that troops have made "no attempts to advance" in a bid to isolate the strategic cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.

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