Ukraine's Air Force, Air Defences Almost Completely Destroyed, Navy Has Ceased to Exist: Russian MoD
13:03 GMT 25.03.2022 (Updated: 17:11 GMT 25.03.2022)
Russia launched an operation in February to demilitarise Ukraine after receiving a formal request for assistance from the newly recognised Donbass republics, who faced weeks of escalating shelling, sabotage and sniper attacks by Ukrainian forces.
Ukraine's air and air defence forces have been almost completely destroyed, and the country's navy has in effect ceased to exist, according to the chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the Russian General Staff, Colonel General Sergei Rudskoy.
The campaign to demilitarise Ukraine is taking place via precision strikes against military infrastructure facilities, areas where troop formations have been deployed, including airfields, command posts, arsenals and depots containing weapons and equipment, as well as battles between Ukrainian and Russian forces, Rudskoy said in a briefing Friday.
"At present, the Ukrainian Air Force and the system of air defences have been almost completely destroyed. The country's naval forces have ceased to exist," the officer said.
Rudskoy warned that Russia would "not leave unattended" any attempts to supply Kiev with new aircraft and air defence systems, and warned NATO not to implement a no-fly zone.
"Individual member states of the North Atlantic alliance are proposing the closure of the airspace over Ukraine. I draw your attention to the fact that the armed forces of the Russian Federation will immediately respond to such attempts in an appropriate manner," Rudskoy said.
Rudskoy revealed that 1,351 of Russia's military personnel have been killed and 3,825 injured since the operation in Ukraine began on 24 February.
Ukraine's armed forces have suffered 30,000 losses - 14,000 dead and 16,000 injured during the same period, according to the Main Operations Directorate chief. These losses have affected all 24 groupings of the ground units which existed before the operation began, Rudskoy added.
He reminded listeners that Ukraine's armed forces and National Guard formations consisted of 260,200 servicemen before the Russian-led operation began.
The grouping of Ukrainian forces fighting in the Donbass against the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Militias has lost more than 7,000 troops, accounting for more than a quarter of its total strength, Rudskoy said. The Russian military has stopped these forces from being replenished by taking control of railway junctions and key roads. The supply of missiles and ammunition, fuel and food to these units has been almost completely stopped, he said, with remaining stockpiles of weapons and fuel in the relevant areas being destroyed in strikes.
The Ukrainian military no longer has organised reserve forces available, and losses are being compensated by territorial defence troops who do not have the necessary training, which increases the risk of higher casualties, Rudskoy said.
The Main Operations Directorate chief also reported that 113 captured tanks and other armoured vehicles, as well as 138 trophy Javelin and 67 NLAW anti-tank missile systems have been transferred to the Donetsk and Lugansk militias by Russian forces.
Russian military intelligence estimates that a total of 6,595 foreign mercenaries and terrorists from 62 countries have been concentrated in Ukraine to date.
"Today, the number of foreign mercenaries is decreasing. This was facilitated by high-precision strikes against bases and camps where they were being trained. Just at Starychi and the Yaroviv base on 13 March, more than 200 were killed and over 400 were injured," he said.
The officer warned that the rules of warfare do not apply to mercenaries, and that they would be destroyed without mercy.
Rudskoy indicated that the number of foreign mercenaries operating in Ukraine has been dropping, with no new arrivals observed over the past seven days, and an outflow being witnessed. "In the past week, 285 militants fled to Poland, Hungary and Romania, one hopes without any Stingers or Javelins. Previous experience has shown that man-portable air defence systems and anti-tank missiles spread quickly around the world along with the mercenaries returning to their home countries," he said.
Rudskoy also reported that more than 23,000 foreign nationals from 37 governments have volunteered to fight alongside the DPR and LPR units, but that the republics have rejected their help. "We proposed to the LPR and DPR leadership that they accept this assistance, but they said they would defend their lands themselves. They have enough forces and means to do so," he said.
Commenting on the situation in Mariupol, the major south-eastern Ukrainian coastal city which has seen heavy fighting in recent weeks, Rudskoy said that more than 7,000 Ukrainian militants, among them Azov, Aidar and Right Sector neo-Nazi units, are concentrated in the area, taking cover behind civilians whom they use as human shields.
"Fighters from the Azov Regiment are driving women and children out of basements, threatening them with weapons, and directing them toward advancing DPR units to impede their advance. This has become common practice for them," he said.
The Main Operations Directorate chief said that more than 270 settlements previously controlled by Ukrainian forces are now controlled by Lugansk and Donetsk forces, and that the latter are now operating alongside Russian forces to liberate settlements west of Donetsk.
Rudskoy said Ukraine's military created a heavily echeloned, well-fortified defence zone in the Donbass over the past eight years consisting of a "monolithic" network of concrete structures, forcing advancing Russian and militia units to conduct heavy strikes against enemy strong points and reserve positions before proceeding to avoid losses.
Rudskoy gave his assurance that the Russian military operation in Ukraine will continue until the goals outlined by the Russian president are met.