LVIV, Ukraine — With Russia and Ukraine engaged in an information war that is at times as intense as the clashes on the battlefield, attempts to capture losses and victories by either side are obscured by the fog of conflict and the work of powerful propaganda machines.
Nearly two weeks into the war, it is clear that Russia has failed to seize and control almost any major cities or population centers — including the prize targets of Kyiv, in the center of the country, and Kharkiv in the northeast. Odessa, a vital port city in the south, is bracing for an assault but the Russian land advance in that direction has been thwarted repeatedly.
Still, the Ukrainian government is presenting a picture of Russian losses that is both staggering and hard to verify.
Since the start of the war, Ukraine’s military claims to have killed more than 12,000 Russian soldiers. In its latest daily update on Tuesday, the military said that it had shot down or destroyed 48 Russian airplanes and 80 helicopters; captured or destroyed 303 tanks and hundreds of mechanized vehicles and cars; taken out two Russian naval vessels, including a warship; and blown up dozens of fuel tanker and mobile missile launching systems.
“Russia has not lost as much aircraft in the past 30 years as in 13 days in Ukraine,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his daily address to the nation on Tuesday.
Satellite imagery analyzed by military analysts suggests that roughly 950 Russian vehicles, including 140 tanks, have been destroyed or damaged, according to Justin Bronk, a research fellow for air power and technology at the Royal United Services Institute, a London think tank that specializes in security issues. That represents only a fraction of the invasion force, but is still striking.
The intelligence arm of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that Maj. Gen. Vitaly Gerasimov, chief of staff of Russia’s 41st Army, had been killed outside the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, making him the second Russian general to die in the war.
The Ukrainians do not release a running tally of their own soldiers killed in action. But they often note the names of those who have died and bestow them with military honors.
The Kremlin, on the other hand, has forbidden the media in Russia from calling the invasion a war — it is a “special military operation,” in President Vladimir V. Putin’s phrase, and officially, everything is going according to plan.
Four days into the war, the Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, acknowledged for the first time that “there are dead and wounded” Russian troops. But he offered no numbers, and insisted that Ukrainian losses were “many times” higher.
To be sure, it is in the interest of Ukraine and its many Western allies to promote Ukrainian victories and play up logistical and morale problems in the Russian ranks. According to what American officials described as conservative estimates, Ukrainian soldiers have killed more than 3,000 Russian troops. These officials, citing confidential U.S. intelligence assessments, said that Ukraine has also shot down military transport planes carrying Russian paratroopers, downed helicopters and blown holes in Russia’s convoys using American anti-tank missiles and armed drones supplied by Turkey.
Taken together with witness accounts from the battlefield, it is increasingly clear that Russia has sustained heavy losses.
Carlotta Gall contributed reporting.