5 costly mistakes the Russian military has made since it invaded Ukraine

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  • Russia has wracked up a litany of blunders since it invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

  • Moscow's forces have repeated battlefield errors and even contributed to its own losses.

  • These are five of Russia's most costly mistakes since the war began.

Russia invaded Ukraine more than 18 months ago, launching a brutal war that still has no end in sight.

Coverage of the grueling conflict has, in part, been characterized by a litany of Russian military mistakes that began early and continue to crop up.

The country has nevertheless begun to learn from many of its early disastrous missteps, evidenced by its strategically sound defenses that have thus far curtailed Ukraine's current counter-offensive.

But even as they adapt, President Vladimir Putin's exhausted, poorly-motivated troops continue to make unforced errors.

Here are 5 military mistakes Russia has made since February 24, 2022.

Failure to take Kyiv

Russia started the war with a massive failure right off the bat. Putin vowed Russian troops would take the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv within a matter of days. Eighteen months later the city has yet to fall.

Hindsight lays bare the obvious tactical mistakes that created a Russian logistical nightmare in Kyiv: The country failed to use its significant aviation assets to achieve air superiority early in the conflict; sent its military convoys into Ukrainian ambushes in and around the city; and failed to successfully deploy battalion tactical groups, sending tanks into the fight without infantry and infantry without tanks, Insider reported soon after the invasion.

Russia's lack of sufficient preparation was likely a consequence of what many experts believe to be the country's most costly mistake thus far — underestimating Ukraine.

A man wrapped in a Ukrainian flag walks in front of a tank.
A man wearing a Ukrainian flag visits an avenue where destroyed Russian military vehicles have been displayed ahead of Independence Day in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, Aug. 21, 2023.Efrem Lukatsky

Putin rushed his troops into a fight they were never trained for against a united force that had everything to lose, Michael Kofman, a Russia expert at the Center for Naval Analyses, noted in February 2024.

Calder Walton, a scholar at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and author of "Spies: The Epic Intelligence War Between East and West," wrote in The Sunday Times last month that Russia's FSB intelligence agency failed to adequately inform Putin of what his troops were likely to face in Ukraine, cementing a military snafu of the Russian president's own making.

Repeated tank mistakes

Russian troops have struggled throughout the conflict with tank warfare, repeating the same glaring mistakes across different battles.

On more than one occasion, Russia sent unprotected columns of tanks into Ukrainian ambushes, leading to significant vehicle losses, numbering more than 100 in some incidents. First in Kyiv, then in Bucha, and again in Vuhledar, burnt tank wrecks lay littered across the battlefield.

Military experts told Insider in March that Russia was failing to provide fire support to its tanks in combat and leaving them out in the open, making them vulnerable to Ukraine's anti-tank Javelin missiles. Russian forces have also driven their tanks straight through minefields, causing them to explode.

Destroyed Russian tank in Kharkiv Ukraine
A woman on a destroyed Russian tank near the village of Oskol in Ukraine's Kharkiv region on October 9, 2022.ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images

The country struggled to prove adaptable, forgoing common sense in several tank-related incidents and failing to integrate its tanks with combined arms, military experts told Insider in March.

March estimates from Western defense officials suggested Russia had lost as many as half of its main battle tanks in Ukraine if not more, and loss estimates have continued to grow since then.

HIMARS attacks

A series of seemingly preventable HIMARS attacks and similar attacks have likely wiped out hundreds of Russian soldiers in recent months

In January, a slew of Russian command mistakes left troops in a vulnerable position that ultimately led to their deaths. Ukraine used the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) to strike Russian positions during the New Year holiday in Makiivka, an occupied Ukrainian city in the east.

Russia confirmed at least 90 soldiers were killed in the attack, while Ukraine estimated the death toll was closer to 400. The incident prompted criticism of Moscow's military leadership, with military bloggers accusing the Kremlin of housing troops near ammunition storage, allowing them to use cell phones that emit location data, and stationing them within firing range of Ukrainian weapons.

Security experts told Insider at the time that the incident showcased Russia's inability to safely house and lead troops in a combat zone.

Then in June, reports emerged that a large Russian force was struck while close to the front and within range of Ukraine's 155mm artillery and longer-range precision weapons such as HIMARS and Storm Shadow.

A M142 HIMARS launches a rocket in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, on May 18, 2023.Serhii Mykhalchuk/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images

Some reports estimated the number of dead was as high as 100 with 200 total casualties, Insider reported at the time. It was unclear why so many soldiers were massed in one spot. Some accounts suggested they had been loading supplies and weapons while others said it was to await a general's speech ahead of a dangerous mission.

History repeated itself in August when a Ukrainian HIMARS attack hit five Russian units gathered on a training beach, resulting in 200 estimated casualties and destroyed equipment, Insider reported. Military experts told Insider the incident was an example of Russia flouting "military operations 101" by massing large numbers of troops in a big, open space.

Self-inflicted injuries

Russia's losses aren't always a result of Ukraine. There are several examples throughout the war of Russian troops and leaders harming their own side.

Three Russian soldiers were killed and 16 more were injured after a sergeant accidentally detonated a hand grenade in a soldier dormitory. The grenade exploded in Tonenkoye village's community center in the Belgorod region. The explosion also started a fire which forced several others to evacuate, Russian state media reported at the time.

Then in April, a Russian warplane bombed a Russian border city by mistake, injuring two women and damaging four apartments in the city of Belgorod, according to the local governor.

There are also reports that Russian soldiers have fired on their own comrades amid the chaos and confusion that has gripped the country's army.

Force protection errors

Russia has increasingly struggled to protect its key equipment and infrastructure throughout the war.

A series of drone attacks on Russian air bases hundreds of miles from the frontline in December 2022 marked a new chapter in Ukraine's strikes on infrastructure deep within Russian territory. British defense intelligence called the hits force protection failures.

Since then, Ukrainian strikes in Russian territory have become a new norm as Russia struggles to defend itself amid Ukraine's efforts to turn the tables.

A Ukrainian surface drone called "Sea Baby."
A Ukrainian surface drone called Sea Baby.Screengrab via the Security Service of Ukraine Telegram

In July, Russia put up no obvious resistance when a Ukrainian drone boat struck an important bridge in the occupied Crimean peninsula. The experimental drone boat called "Sea Baby" attacked the Kerch Bridge with more than 1,850 pounds of explosives in an assault that killed two civilians and damaged the bridge.

This was the second time the bridge was attacked, suggesting Russia was struggling to defend the key structure.

Then in August, Ukraine launched another drone-boat attack on a Russian warship which prompted little response from the ship itself, suggesting the crew might not have seen it coming, Insider reported.

Just this week, four Russian IL-76 transport planes were damaged in a fiery blaze after a Ukrainian drone strike hit a Russian airfield more than 400 miles from the border, exemplifying Russia's ongoing and increasing difficulties in protecting its own territory.

Read the original article on Business Insider