President Vladimir Putin in recent blustering comments about Russia’s awesome military prowess and Ukraine’s inevitable defeat indirectly confirmed Kyiv’s forces are taking a lot more Russian soldiers prisoners.

The Kremlin strongman, in a televised Wednesday press conference in St Petersburg covered by TASS and other major media, offered the party line precise figures of 1,348 Russian soldiers in captivity, against 6,365 Ukrainians held by Russia. He offered no evidence to back up the alleged ratio of one Russian soldier made a prisoner of war for every five Ukrainians.

That said, in January, in public comments to government officials, Putin claimed the ratio was not five to one in Russia’s favor, but ten to one – making his Wednesday figure a tacit admission that whatever the actual numbers are, from February-June 2024, the Ukrainian army has been capturing about twice as many Russian soldiers as it used to.

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Ukrainian media covered Putin’s comments widely. Practically without exception, Ukraine-based sources both official and from soldiers in the field in recent weeks called Putin’s numbers inflated.

According to those sources, battlefield Russian troop surrenders are rising, particularly in the northern Kharkiv sector, because Ukrainian forces in recent weeks have launched a series of modest but successful attacks.

Kyiv Post screen grab of alleged Russian soldier identification tags found on a prisoner of war captured by Ukrainian Marines during counterattacks in Vovchansk. The video was posted on the unit Telegram channel on June 5. Short-range Ukrainian counterattacks have been confirmed in the sector and multiple Kyiv units have claimed that as they mop up they are taking more Russian prisoners of war.

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A German officer said they assumed some flew with “unfriendly intentions” but decided to simply incorporate them into the training to caution Ukrainian troops of the real dangers on the battlefield.

According to video interviews with alleged Russian prisoners of war, field reports from Ukrainian troops on the line, independent Ukrainian media, and even Russian milbloggers, Kyiv’s forces in the second half of May fighting around the northeastern town of Vovchansk shifted tactics from static defense to local counterattacks often led by veteran infantry units experienced in close-in combat, and heavily supported by drone swarms flown by strike units concentrated in the northeastern sector.

Fighting reported is bitter and house-to-house, and Kyiv ground gains appear to be limited, but in the first week of June, more and more reports have appeared of Russian soldiers surrendering to advancing Ukrainian troops.

Official video posted on June 5 by Ukraine’s Border Troops command showed images of a Russian soldier who was hit and injured by an FPV (First Person View) drone during attacks into the town in May, was, per his account, abandoned by his comrades, and came into Ukrainian custody during mopping up operations in a rural region near Vovchansk.

 

Ukraine’s Joint Forces Khortisiya spokesman Nazar Voloshin, on June 2, in an official statement, claimed troops, fighting across a 250-300 kilometer area, had captured “close to 60 Russians” in a single day of combat.

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Voloshin said that most of the Russians were captured in small-scale infantry actions in Vovchansk and adjacent sectors. He cited reports and video from the field as evidence, but Kyiv Post could not confirm the figure.

Were Voloshin’s claims to be confirmed, the take of Russian prisoners of war into Ukrainian custody would be the biggest single day of Kremlin troop surrenders and captures since the start of the war.

Individual Russian soldier accounts following captures reported in late May and early June most commonly tell of being in a group of 5-20 men ordered to attack a wood line or defensive position, and the narrators’ coming under massed mortar, artillery and then FPV drone strikes. Almost all tell of losses above 80 percent. Ukrainian troops, according to those accounts, move in to surround survivors and, if safe, take them prisoner.

Kyiv Post screen grab of combat video published by Ukraine’s 79th Mechanized Infantry Brigade of an engagement in the Vuhledar sector. The 79th published the video on May 31. Images showed a Russian armored attack halted after hitting a minefield and coming under artillery fire and then FPV drone attacks. A 79th Brigade statement said 15 Russian soldiers died in the assault and one was captured. The image shows a 79th attack drone dropping an anti-personnel grenade. It landed near the wounded Russian tank crewman.

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In most cases, the Ukrainian captures appear to have been individuals or small groups of Russian survivors. On June 6, in the Vovchansk sector, video and comment posted by Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade showed two Russian soldiers, both wounded and reportedly captured during a Marine counterattack.

The report claimed two Russian units were “destroyed” and that Marines captured “two company commanders and several soldiers” and posted images of individual soldiers attesting to their purported regret for invading Ukraine, and personal Russian army identification tags.

Go-Pro helmet-cam video published by the Kyiv-raised 3rd Assault Brigade, another formation geo-located to the northeast sector, showed heavily armed Ukrainian infantrymen using small arms and hand grenades in an assault on a chain of Russian strong points, and systematically firing and blasting bunkers before attempting to enter them. In one case in the May 29-published video, a Russian soldier surrenders. He later on states most of his buddies were killed or wounded.

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In the eastern Chasiv Yar sector, drone video published by the Ukrainian military information platform DeepState on June 1 showed a Russian squad riding on an MT-LB tracked carrier apparently losing its way and driving across no-man’s-land and directly into a Ukrainian fighting position.

As the Russian soldiers debussed Ukrainian FPV drones targeted the infantrymen. Survivors were captured, the report said. Kyiv Post geo-located the video to the Chasiv Yar sector to battleground in and around the village Kalinivtsiya but could not confirm the date the images were recorded. The report said some survivors were captured.

Ukrainian FPV drones targeting wounded Russian soldiers was recorded in unit video published by 79th Mechanized Brigade on May 31.

Images geo-located to farmland east of the Ukraine-held city Vuhledar around the village Novomyhailivka showed a Russian armored attack halted after hitting a minefield and coming under artillery fire and then FPV drone attacks.

A 79th Brigade statement said 15 Russian soldiers died in the assault and one was captured. Some cuts of the edited video showed Ukrainian drones targeting Russian tank crewmen thrown 5-10 meters from their vehicle after it exploded. One Russian soldier survived the engagement and was taken prisoner, the unit statement said.

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Russian prisoner of war Evgeniy Azinov, by his account an infantryman serving in Russia’s 237th Tank Regiment, told of one attack on Ukrainian positions, in a video published by a Ukrainian internet platform tracking individual Russian soldier losses, called I Will Wait:“At sunrise, we arrived by armored carrier to a cut in the ground, and we were told to get out about 100-150 meters from a wood line. When we started running to the wood line artillery started hitting us. A great many of our guys died. I fell and I tried somehow to crawl ahead. We found a bunker and went in. There were many wounded. Only three of us weren’t hurt. We sat there for about four or five hours. Then drones started dropping grenades on us. Then (Ukrainian) soldiers came for us and we surrendered.”

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