Ukrainian War. (Very) heavy Russian losses. Without a quick peace, Putin's power hangs in the balance?

(B2) Vladimir Putin's tone was certainly serious on Thursday (March 3) before the National Security Council. The simple tribute paid as the long enumeration of compensation paid to the families of the dead and wounded soldiers is worth as much as a survey on the state of mind in Russia.

Un momentum somewhat trivial

It is rare that in time of war, the Russians recognize the losses of non-commissioned officers and especially announce so quickly the payment of exceptional indemnities to the victims. It is just as rare for the President to rise, solemnly ask all the members of his Security Council to observe a minute of silence in memory of the soldiers who fell at the front, and for the compensation paid to the families of the dead to be carefully listed. and injured. Yet this is what happened during a meeting of the National Security Council, broadcast on the official Kremlin channel.

Support the families of the dead

Of course, the president's message remains patriotic: " We have lost men. […] They were fighting for Russia, for de-Nazifacation so that no anti-Russia could threaten us ". But he also adds a phrase, less martial, more social: “ We will do everything for the families, the children of our soldiers who fought for our people ". A gesture that is not insignificant.

The Russian cash machine

Vladimir Putin does not stop there. It lists, one by one, the measures taken. All family members of military personnel who died in Ukraine will receive legal insurance coverage, namely a one-time allowance of 7,4 million rubles and monthly monetary compensation. Corn " each family member "fallen soldiers will receive more" additional financial compensation of 5 million rubles ". NB: approximately 100 times the average monthly salary of a soldier. It is not negligible.

Compensation for injured soldiers

For servicemen injured in combat (concussion, trauma, dismemberment), in addition to the legal one-time allowance of 2,9 million rubles and (in case of disability), they will be entitled to a monthly allowance and in addition “ a sum of 3 million rubles ". The decree on additional social guarantees didn't really wait. Signed by Vladimir Putin on Saturday (March 5), this measure entered into force the same day. NB: a sign of the urgency of the decision.

... And for other law enforcement (interior)

This measure also concerns staff other law enforcement » Participating in operations. That is to say, in particular those of the Ministry of the Interior, such as the National Guard of the Russian Federation – a special unit directly dependent on the Russian President – ​​and other forces. NB: an interesting clarification.

The Russian pot is boiling

The situation is so urgent that it requires this momentum President's television show, with a seriousness and length that says a lot about the intensity of the fighting. Without being a specialist in Russian things, we can say that the pot is boiling within the Russian security apparatus.

Officially 2000 soldiers out of action

On March 2, after six days of combat, the Russian Ministry of Defense already recognized nearly 500 dead and 1600 wounded (498 dead and 1597 wounded to be exact). That is a ratio of 1 to 3 for the injured. And all the same more than 2100 soldiers neutralized in barely six days of combat. That is a rate of around 90 dead and 270 injured per day. This testifies to the intensity of the fighting. It should be noted that this count seems to take into account only the military. Quid other forces, those of the Ministry of the Interior in particular, or even private forces (Wagner type)?

An estimate of 15.000 soldiers

Without going as far as the figure announced by the Ukrainians of 12.000 Russian soldiers killed (1), undoubtedly exaggerated, one can reasonably consider that the Russian figure is underestimated (like any propaganda figure in time of war). We can therefore at least, in a reasonable way, multiply it by 2. Taking into account the “other forces” in action (coefficient of 1,5) and the pro rata number of days (coefficient of 2,33), we would arrive ( at the very least) to a balance sheet of 3 to 4000 dead for 14 days of combat and more than 10.000 wounded for the various Russian forces engaged. That is a ratio of 250 deaths / day (2). Not to mention the soldiers taken prisoner by the Ukrainians (3). It is enormous ! This means that in barely two weeks of combat, the Russian forces would have lost 10% of their prepared manpower!

Several generals killed

In these losses many senior officers. Major General Vitaly Gerasimov, a graduate of the Kazan tank school and chief of staff of the 41st army, died in Karkhiv on March 7, according to the Ukrainian SBU. Major-General Vitaly Gerasimov had taken part in the military operation in Syria as well as in the annexation of Crimea. The number 2 of the 41st army, Major-General Andrei Skhovetsky, a veteran of the intervention in Syria, also died, he near Mariupol, according to the Russian press. And we must add the death of Vladimir Zhoga, commander of the Sparta battalion of the separatist republic of Donetsk (alias Vokha, according to the Tass agency), on March 5 in Volnovakha. A death officially recognized by the Kremlin, which even awarded him the title ofHero of the Russian Federation.

An eviction of Putin: not impossible

Will this situation be tenable internally? At the level of the population, this causes a stir, anger, demonstrations perhaps. But ultimately limited in number. Russian power has seen others. Will this be enough to change the behavior of power? Not sure. On the other hand, on the security device side, it might not be the same music.

A rapidly untenable situation

If the police and the interior forces seem well kept by President Putin, a former 'Services', on the other hand, it could not be the same within the army. Russian security forces are loyal as long as they are led to victory or sacrifice is necessary to save the homeland. They take all the blows and then stand firmly at the side of power. But this is no longer the case when these two conditions are no longer met.

The army does not want a defeat

If the war ends in a defeat, or even a semi-victory in Ukraine, it would be a profound sign of the weakening of Russian military power both externally and internally. Everything that has been won on the politico-military grounds for a few years, in Syria in particular, could thus be erased. In a few days. Their role inside the Russian sphere of power could also be weakened. In the end, it will not be Putin's defeat, but the fault of the generals who did not know how to plan and execute the “special operation”. It is therefore their very power that would be threatened. Dangerous.

An uncontrollable Ukraine

Then, even if the battles of Kiev, Odessa and Mariupol could be won, holding Ukraine (the country where the Cossacks were born) for months will be a challenge. Even with the replacement by a puppet power, the few days spent in combat united the Ukrainian nation like never before (4). Everyone knows it in Russia, at least in the “services” and in the army. Everyone remembers the endless stagnation in Afghanistan, an intervention that began in 1979 and ended with a retreat (in good order) in 1989, one of the factors that precipitated the collapse of the USSR. Russian intervention in Ukraine could thus prove to be the regime's grave, more surely and more quickly than Afghanistan was for the USSR. Very dangerous.

Putin's throne in the balance?

Unlike the oligarchs, close to power but at its mercy, the military or the police have the means to defend their system. The eviction of Putin from power, according to a method of which Russia (and before it the USSR) has the secret, could be a way out of the war… If the war drags on too long. Will the internal circuitry tolerate it? Not sure ! The throne of the so solid Vladimir Putin could end up faltering. After all, he is close to 70 years old (7 years longer than the average lifespan for a Russian man).

The days of the special operation numbered

Putin must know that the days of his “special operation” are numbered. Hence the multiplication of discussions with the Ukrainians and the multiplication of phone calls to find the right interlocutor with whom to 'stop' a cessation of fighting. This can make it even more dangerous or unpredictable. Or on the contrary more flexible. We are not immune to a reversal of which the Kremlin has the secret.

The interest in concluding the intervention is mutual

Conclusion: the Russians as much as the Ukrainians will have an interest in having a peace and ceasefire agreement. It remains to be seen who can last the longest. This is the whole stake of the battle in the days to come. This is also what is at stake in the ongoing negotiations – whether in Homiel in Belarus between Ukrainians and Russians or in Antalya soon with Turkish intercession in a few days.

The moment crunch approximate

The Europeans will have to be ready at this time, that they quickly find a solid and credible negotiating team, and that they do not trust the Chinese (5). If they are the absent subscribers of diplomacy as they have already been in Syria, Nagorno Karabagh or Mali, it will be a formidable admission of powerlessness. We would then have a very clear decline of Europe in the world and, contrary to what will be proclaimed at the Versailles summit on March 10 and 11, an abandonment of its " independence » geopolitics.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

  1. On the 14th day of the offensive (March 9), the " total estimated enemy casualties " is about " 12.000 men according to the Ukrainian SBU. Figure quoted and updated in the Ukrainian press (cf. the true), but to be taken with great tweezers (NB: it can easily be divided by 2), This would also include “ 81 helicopters, 317 tanks, 1070 armored vehicles, 120 artillery guns, 28 air defense vehicles, 56 rocket launchers (Grad type), 60 tank trucks, 7 operational and tactical drones, 3 ships, 482 other vehicles ».
  2. A ratio quite similar to that of the Russian military intervention in 1956. The only operation comparable at the historical level. Similar numbers — about 190.000 men mobilized on the Soviet side. Identical objective and display: the restoration of order to the regime threatened by " counter-revolutionaries and fascists (according to the speech of the time). The Soviet forces then lost 700 men in a very short operation - a few days - and limited in area. With a balance of forces present, incomparably more favorable to the Russians: a powerfully endowed (Soviet) Red army, which had just emerged from the 2nd World War (and had just withdrawn from Austria) against a Hungarian army (Honved) and police forces, ill-prepared and poorly equipped, and a population deploying its molotov cocktails, without any support in Western equipment and armament.
  3. A rather low figure of 116 prisoners is estimated by the Ukrainian SBU according to the true Ukrainian. Which somewhat contradicts the images widely broadcast by the Ukrainians.
  4. The events of Maidan were seen by part of the population as the revenge of European Ukraine on Russian-speaking Ukraine.
  5. Recent statements by Josep Borrell seeing China as a mediator, even asking it to intervene, are a formidable admission of powerlessness.

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).