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Lost equipment, casualties and communication failures: How the Russian military is faring in Ukraine – and what's next

The Russian military is losing “significant” equipment, “about to run out of available troops” and failing to move its convoy into Kyiv, according to a security and defence analyst.

Michael Clarke, former director general of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), tells Sky News why the Russian military appears to be struggling in Ukraine – and what Russian President Vladimir Putin’s next moves could be.

Follow lives updates on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

How much equipment has Russia lost?


Mr Clarke says Russian forces have lost about 860 pieces of significant equipment – including tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery pieces, according to verifiable figures from independent sources or with photographic evidence.

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Missile strikes continue in Ukraine

Of those, about 60% of them have been abandoned or captured.

Ukrainians have lost less than 250, which they can afford.

More on Ukraine

“Any side retreating you would expect to lose some equipment because you have to leave the equipment behind,” Mr Clarke says.

“You try and blow it up, disable it and you clear off.

“If you’re attacking, you don’t expect to have your equipment abandoned or captured, which indicates that Ukrainian counter-attacks, local counter-attacks must be doing quite well.”

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Ukraine war: What happened on day 13?

Key developments:
US bans Russian energy imports and UK will stop using Russian oil this year
Poland offers all its MIG-29 fighter jets to US in plan to provide aircraft to Kyiv
Ukraine’s first lady writes open letter condemning Putin
Echoes of Churchill in Zelenskyy’s appeal to the UK
• Woman charged in New York with being a Russian agent for more than a decade

How many Russian soldiers have been killed?

Ukrainian sources say Russia has lost 11,000 troops but verifiable sources put the figure closer to 10,000, according to Mr Clarke.

He says this is much worse compared to the conflict in Afghanistan, in which Russians lost 15,000 troops in about nine years.

“That loss of 15,000 back in the ’80s started to have a big effect on public opinion in the Soviet Union, so what effect 10,000 in 10 days will have… even though the Russian public don’t hear much about this, mothers don’t know what’s happened to their sons,” he says.

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Zelenskyy tells MPs: We will not give up

“They don’t know what’s happened to these boys because nobody’s been brought back. The Russians took crematoria with them – mobile crematoria.

“These bodies are being cremated where they fall.

“They’re not being returned home, but their mothers will wonder where on earth they are.”

Read more: Has World War Three already started? Some security experts believe so

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Russian tanks seen northeast of Kyiv

Why is Russia running out of troops?

“At the moment, they’re about to run out of available troops, because they committed about 190,000 to this operation,” Mr Clarke says.

“And they’re all now there. There will be a few thousand held back, but not many.

“So they’re more than 90% committed to this operation.”

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Mayor shows bombing aftermath

He says it looks as though Russia is sending more troops from the far east which look as if they’re going to arrive in four or five days.

They appear to be arriving in non-military vehicles like minivans.

“The problem the Russians have got is in trying to occupy a country that doesn’t want you there,” Mr Clarke says.

He says this means they have to leave troops behind to keep areas under their control – which they would not have to do if they were liberating people, as they claim.

Read more: Could Putin stand trial for war crimes and what punishment could he face?

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Putin: Russia ‘proud of its soldiers’

“They’ve got three main axes of attack: through Kyiv, in the south in Mariupol to link up with the north, and in the west towards Odesa,” he says.

“All of those lines of attack are now running out of steam, because they’re having to leave so many troops behind, and they’re not really in control.

“The one city that they’ve got is Kherson in the south, and they’re not really in control of that either.”

How likely is an attack on Kyiv?

Mr Clarke says a Russian convoy headed towards Kyiv has not moved in six days – a major issue for its planned attack on Kyiv.

He agrees that it’s a “sitting target” and says Ukrainian forces are attacking it effectively using drones.

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Devastating aftermath of air strikes

Ukrainian troops have their own drone called the Punisher drone, which is electric and carries one bomb.

“It’s stealthy – because it’s electric it can’t easily be picked up,” Mr Clarke says.

“They’re being clever, because what they’re doing is they’re attacking the fuel.

“This convoy contains about 15,000 troops – it’s basically an armoured division and probably about 230 tanks.

“They’re not attacking the tanks, they’re attacking the fuel.

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‘Bombing of Ukraine like WWII’

“They’re holding it in place by denying it the ability to sort itself out. They’re keeping the traffic jam jammed.”

He says the latest information we have is that the convoy is trying to back up to create a bit of space and “not doing very well”.

Read more: Putin cornered over invasion ‘miscalculation’ – how will he react?

Will Russian forces capture Odesa?

At the moment Russian forces are fighting in Mykolaiv – which they need to take in order to get to the southern port city of Odesa, Mr Clarke says.

He says Russians have about 30 warships in the Black Sea, of which six are assault ships.

“There’s a naval assault waiting to go in on Odesa when the ground forces get there,” he says – but “they’ve been waiting a while”.

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What is Belarus’ role in Russia-Ukraine conflict?

He says there is also a possibility of an attack on the other side of Odesa from the West, from Russian troops who are over the border in Moldova in the Transnistria district.

“It’s possible that Odesa could be attacked from east, west and south by the sea.

“It won’t be a comfortable position to be in but the Oddesans at the moment are determined not to roll over.”

Will Russia attack other European countries?

“The three Baltic states are really getting very worried: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania,” says Mr Clarke.

He says Estonia and Latvia have significant Russian populations of about 20 to 25%, including former Soviet Army members that could support a Russian invasion.

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UK and US to ban Russian oil imports

He says Lithuania doesn’t have a particularly big Russian speaking minority but its territory that separates the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea from Belarus is regarded as a “European flashpoint”.

He says he doesn’t know why Mr Putin would go further than Ukraine – but if he threatened the Baltics “it would be maybe a sort of Donbas situation in Estonia or Latvia, with Russian minorities becoming difficult – or some crazy attempt to link up Belarus with Kaliningrad to link Belarus and this little piece of Russia through the Suwalki gap, which would really bother Lithuania and Poland”.

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What are the chances of Putin being deposed in a coup?

Mr Clarke says: “I think Putin’s finished – he’ll either go quickly or it’ll be maybe two or three years.”

He says the Russian president has made a “massive strategic blunder”.

“There is no recovery from this, there’s no way back for him.”

He says it is unlikely there will be a popular revolution in Russia “because there’s no mechanism for it” and Mr Putin is not that unpopular with “ordinary Russian people” in the central and eastern parts of the country.

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How important a role will China play in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine?

But the middle classes do not like him and the oligarchs are worried about him because he is now interfering with their ability to make money.

“His fate will be Julius Caesar’s, which won’t be necessarily a physical assassination, but somebody will put the knife in politically,” he says.

“When one person does, they’ll all join in,” he says.

“That’s the fate that now awaits him,” he says. “And only China can save him.”


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