KYIV – ukraine said on Tuesday the last 24 hours were the deadliest of the war so far for Russian troops, as Moscow hurls tens of thousands of freshly mobilised soldiers and mercenaries into relentless winter assaults in the east.
The Ukrainian military increased its running tally of Russian military dead by 1,030 overnight to 133,190, and described the increase as the highest of the war so far. It also said its troops destroyed 25 Russian tanks in two days.
The report of enemy dead could not be independently confirmed, and Moscow denied its forces have suffered losses on such a scale while also claiming to have killed thousands of Ukrainians.
But the unprecedented scale of reported casualties fits accounts from both sides that describe battles in snow-covered trenches as the deadliest combat of the war, despite little progress by either side at the front.
The war is entering its second year at a pivotal juncture, with Moscow attempting to regain the initiative, while Kyiv is holding out for Western tanks for a counter-offensive.
After failing to capture Kyiv in 2022 and losing ground through the second half of the year, Moscow is now making full use of hundreds of thousands of troops called up over the past few months in its first mobilisation since World War II.
Kyiv and the West say Russia has been pouring additional troops into eastern Ukraine in recent weeks to claim new gains around the time of the first anniversary of its full-scale invasion later in February.
The last few weeks have seen Russia boast its first gains for half a year. But the progress has still been incremental, with Moscow yet to capture a single major population centre in its winter campaign despite thousands of dead.
Fighting has focused for months around the Ukrainian-held city of Bakhmut in eastern Donetsk province, a city with a pre-war population of around 75,000 that Russia has been trying to encircle.
Moscow has also launched an assault further south against Vuhledar, a Ukrainian-held bastion on high ground at the strategic intersection between the eastern and southern front lines.
In a daily intelligence update, Britain's defence ministry said Russia's military has been attempting since early January to restart major offensive operations to capture Ukraine-held parts of the Donetsk region, but has gained little ground so far.
The Russians “lack munitions and manoeuvre units required for a successful offensive”, it said.
“Russian leaders will likely continue to demand sweeping advances. It remains unlikely that Russia can build up the forces needed to substantially affect the outcome of the war within the coming weeks.”
Ukrainian officials say Moscow could be accumulating weapons and reserves for an even bigger push in the coming weeks. The Ukrainian governor of Luhansk province predicted a big Russian offensive there that could begin around Feb 15.