During a Q&A with Kremlin pool journalists on June 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Ukraine had to slow down the counteroffensive it launched on June 4 because of heavy personnel and equipment losses.
Ukraine’s losses are so “massive,” he said, that the question is “not about its ability to continue the offensive” but about “the Ukrainian army’s loss of overall combat capability.”
“As of tonight ... our guys have nailed 245 enemy tanks and about 678 armored vehicles of different types,” Putin said.
These claims are false.
Putin’s claim the Ukraine military has lost “overall combat capability” is “completely wrong,” retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, the former commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, told Polygraph.info.
“Neither the Kremlin nor any of its spokesmen nor President Putin himself have a shred of credibility, so I would not trust or accept any assessments of the war from them,” Hodges said.
At the time of Putin’s statement, Ukraine had reclaimed at least eight Russian-occupied towns and villages.
Speaking to reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels on June 16, General Mark A. Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Ukraine’s counteroffensive will “likely take a considerable amount of time — and at high cost.”
Still, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who was standing next to Milley, expressed confidence in the Ukrainian armed forces capabilities.
“Quite frankly, the Ukrainians … still have a lot of combat capability,” Austin said, The Washington Post reported.
As for Putin’s claim that “923 tanks and armored vehicles” on the Ukrainian side had been destroyed, that figure is several times higher than any independent estimate. It even exceeds estimates of Ukraine’s total losses during the 16 months since Russia launched its full-fledged invasion.
According to Oryx, a military analysis website, 550 of Ukraine’s tanks and 291 of its armored fighting vehicles – 841 total – were destroyed, damaged, abandoned or captured between February 24, 2022, and June 21, 2023.
Putin’s claim that nearly 1,000 Ukrainian tanks and armored vehicles have been destroyed since June 4 is “obviously complete nonsense,” Oryx’s top researcher Jakub Janovsky told Polygraph.info.
The Oryx researchers estimated that Ukraine lost 17 tanks and 26 armored fighting vehicles between June 1 and June 19. Oryx geolocated and visually verified each of those vehicles.
There is no such evidence backing Putin’s claims.
At the St. Petersburg economic forum on June 16, Putin claimed that Ukraine had lost 186 tanks and 418 armored vehicles during its counteroffensive.
Speaking with Russian military bloggers in the Kremlin three days earlier, on June 13, Putin said Russia had destroyed 160 Ukrainian tanks and 360 armored vehicles since the beginning of Ukraine’s counteroffensive.
Yet, Russia’s recent attempt to provide evidence for these claims failed.
On June 15, the Russian Foreign Ministry posted a video on Twitter that it said “proved” Ukraine was losing the war. The video showed devastating scenes of some dozen tanks and AFVs, allegedly Ukrainian, damaged and destroyed.
Open-source intelligence analysts on Twitter geolocated the military vehicles in the Russian video and concluded that it showed 11 vehicles shot from different angles. That is a far cry from Putin's "923."
“I think the Russians have shown us the same five vehicles about 1,000 times from 10 different angles,” U.S. Defense Secretary Austin said in Brussels.