In Ukraine, Russia Is Inching Forward Death by Death

As the Russian military launched its offensive on the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka last fall, Ukrainian troops noticed a change in their tactics as column after column of Russian forces were ravaged by artillery fire.

Russian forces divided their infantry formations into smaller units to avoid being shelled, while the amount of Russian airstrikes increased to hammer the city’s defenses.

It was one of several adjustments the Russians made to help reverse their fortunes after a disastrous first year. But these changes were obscured by one glaring fact: The Russian military was still far more willing to absorb big losses in troops and equipment, even to make small gains.

Russian forces have a different threshold of pain, one senior Western official said this month, as well as an unorthodox view of what is considered an acceptable level of military losses.

Hundreds of thousands of both Ukrainian and Russian soldiers have been wounded or killed since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion, including tens of thousands last year in the battle for the eastern city of Bakhmut. Another town to the south, Marinka, fell to Russia in January, after heavy fighting and more losses.

Avdiivka was among the most costly. The various Russian casualty estimates circulating among military analysts, pro-Russian bloggers and Ukrainian officials suggest that Moscow lost more troops taking Avdiivka than it did in 10 years of fighting in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

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