In the social media war that is going on alongside the on-ground and in-air war between Russia and Ukraine, each side has been bragging about smashing the other side’s tanks. With many, many tanks up in flames, it is hard to know for sure who has the upper hand in the Ukrainian counteroffensive, which began a few days ago, making its presence felt on the frontline near Bakhmut.
However, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who normally speaks a lot less than Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, did say last evening, during a televised session with military bloggers, that Russia had lost 54 tanks in the Ukrainian counteroffensive; he also claimed that Ukraine had lost 160 tanks so far.
“This is a massive counteroffensive, using strategic reserves that were prepared for this task. They lost over 160, we lost 54 tanks, and some of them are subject to restoration and repair,” said Putin.
He also said that Ukraine had lost 10 times more people (soldiers) than Russia since the counteroffensive began — he put the date of June 4 on it. “Their losses are approaching a level that could be described as catastrophic,” he said.
During the session, Putin referred to the destruction of the Kakhovka dam last week — Ukraine and Russia have blamed each other for the massive breach, which has flooded 600 sq. km in and around Kherson, in south Ukraine — and said that Ukraine had used the US-made Himars rocket launch system to destroy the dam.
“The Ukrainian side wanted this… unfortunately, it stopped their counteroffensive on that front. Unfortunately, because this offensive would have ended very badly for the Ukrainian troops,” said the Russian head of state. He began the invasion in late February 2022 over the proposed entry of Ukraine into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a membership that Putin believed could put Russia at risk.
The Ukrainian counteroffensive was planned for months, as the Russian military kept striking the country with missiles and attacked in other ways, including with the private militia Wagner.
It would seem that Zelenskyy decided to get started instead of waiting any longer, even with the partial military supplies from his NATO allies. He confirmed that this was the actual counteroffensive only after his recent meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Ukraine has not yet got the “fighter jets coalition” support that Zelenskyy has been asking for so fervently, though in theory, the way is clear for F-16 jets to be given to him. President of the United States of America Joe Biden let it be known in mid-May this year that Western allies of the US could supply Ukraine with F-16s and that the US was open to training Ukrainian pilots on those jets.
It remains to be seen how many of those jets will materialise, as the supply of fighter jets to Ukraine could draw NATO members into a full-fledged war with Russia. As yet, Russia still has the aerial advantage, as Putin can bomb his enemy relentlessly from high above.