Ukrainian soldiers are expressing concerns about the possibility of losing a “war of exhaustion” against Russia as Kyiv faces difficulties in replenishing its battle-weary forces. According to a retired Ukrainian lieutenant general who spoke to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), units on the front lines are typically 20 to 40 percent below their required strength due to the toll of Ukraine’s summer counter-offensive.
Initially, there was hope that Nato-trained brigades equipped with Western tanks would be able to reclaim territory occupied by Russia. However, despite inflicting significant damage on Russian forces, the heavily fortified front lines have remained largely unchanged during months of brutal fighting.
Pte Bohdan Lysenko from Ukraine’s 47th Brigade told the WSJ, “We don’t have a chance playing [a] war of exhaustion with Russia. We need a fundamental change in our army.” Lysenko’s unit is currently defending the town of Avdiivka in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, with only 20 men. The company began the summer with 120 soldiers, many of whom have been killed, wounded, or transferred away from the front line. The remaining soldiers, including several replacements, are mostly over 40 years old.
Pte Oleksandr Siergeichikov, who has been defending Avdiivka with Ukraine’s 110th Mechanized Brigade since the spring of 2022, stated, “We’re still motivated, but we’re exhausted.” Avdiivka, located around 16 miles from the Russian-occupied city of Donetsk, is surrounded by Russian-held territory to the north, east, and south. The town has been on the front line since Russia’s initial invasion of the Donbas region in 2014.
Russia, with a population more than three times the size of Ukraine, can afford to sacrifice thousands of soldiers strategically to make incremental gains before replacing them. The Kremlin sent tens of thousands of soldiers to their deaths in a 10-month battle to capture Bakhmut, about 30 miles north of Avdiivka. Kyiv, on the other hand, has prioritized safeguarding its troops, emphasizing that it values the lives of its soldiers.
Cpl Mykhailo Kotsyurba, a Bradley commander in the same company as Pte Lysenko, commented on Moscow’s tactics, saying, “They’re not stupid. It’s a strategy. They look for weak points, then go there. We don’t have enough ammunition, but they have enough people.”
While Britain, the United States, and Ukraine estimate that Russia has suffered more than 300,000 casualties, including deaths and injuries, since the invasion began in February of the previous year, the Ukrainian government does not release casualty figures for its own forces. However, a group of historians and researchers has estimated that approximately 30,000 Ukrainian soldiers have died, with an additional 100,000 injured.
Ukraine’s ranks, once filled with highly motivated volunteers, are now being supplemented by conscripts with minimal training. Many attribute the losses to Soviet-trained commanders whose