Russia lost about half of its tanks since invading Ukraine, a new report says.

A destroyed Russian tank on the side of the road near in Oskil, Ukraine, last year.
A destroyed Russian tank on the side of the road near in Oskil, Ukraine, last year.Credit…Nicole Tung for The New York Times

The Russian military has lost at least half of its tanks since it invaded Ukraine, according to a report by a London-based think tank released on Wednesday, a potential constraint as fighting intensifies again and Moscow struggles to expand its offensive operations.

“Russia’s tank and artillery fleets have suffered significant attrition,” said the report released by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a research organization. The group assessed that about half of Moscow’s prewar fleet of modern tanks, including the T-72B3 and T-72B3M models, is has been lost.

Russian troops have resorted to pulling older equipment out of storage to fill in gaps on the battlefield.

The report identified 1,700 Russian tank losses, but Henry Boyd, a research fellow for defense and military analysis at the institute, said that number was thought to be even greater.

“I would suspect the actual figure is somewhere between 20 and 40 percent higher than that,” Mr. Boyd said at a news conference about the report. His research indicates that 2,000 to 2,300 Russian tanks have been lost.

Ukraine’s smaller fleet has also lost numerous battle tanks in combat, analysts say, but those losses have been somewhat offset by tanks it has captured from Russian forces and by donations of Soviet-era tanks from allies like Poland and the Czech Republic.

Mr. Boyd added that the damage Russia’s fleet sustained had slowed during the winter months, but that “a larger-scale offensive potentially later this year” could increase the rate of losses.

The report also identified other Russian difficulties on the battlefield, including undertrained reservists being called to the front lines without ammunition or proper equipment. For the Russian Army, the report said, “the war has highlighted longstanding problems related to command and control at both junior and higher command levels, with inflexibility proving an important weakness.”

At the same time, Russia and Ukraine are depleting ammunition stocks at a staggering pace in the nearly yearlong war, putting pressure on weapons makers globally to meet demand and compelling Moscow to turn to allies like Iran to bolster supplies.

Western allies have answered Kyiv’s pleas for modern tanks after weeks of negotiations. Britain, Germany, Poland, the United States and at least a half-dozen other NATO states have pledged an estimated 100 tanks to Ukraine. Kyiv’s troops are already receiving training in Poland to use German-made Leopard tanks, less than three weeks after Berlin agreed to send them to Ukraine.

“Ukraine’s tank fleet is now in transition,” the report said, as the Ukrainian military awaits the new vehicles to arrive and prepares to upgrade from its Soviet-era equipment.

New York Times – February 16, 2023

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