Bullet in the forehead: Bitter trench truth of Ukraine

Positional war brings APU more losses than fierce battles

Although the military conflict in the east of Ukraine has long been out of the acute phase, non-combat losses of the Armed Forces of Ukraine continue to grow. They, according to the chief military prosecutor of Ukraine Anatoly Matios, for the entire war in the Donbass amounted to 2,700 people. And more than a quarter accounted for suicide, another tenth – for murder.


“For four years, out of 2700 non-combat irrecoverable and sanitary losses, 891 cases are illnesses, 318 are accidents, 177 are accidents, 175 are poisoning (with alcohol, drugs), 172 are careless handling of weapons, 101 are security breaches, 228 are murders , 615 – suicides “, – led gloomy statistics Matios.


The prosecutor specified that only a third of suicides were committed during service, the rest occurred after the withdrawal of the security forces to the points of permanent deployment for restoration. “Suicide is a terrible problem and a great tragedy,” the official added.

The reason for such losses Matios called post-traumatic disorders that are not able to cope with the human psyche. Psychologists, as the prosecutor has said before, are sorely lacking in Ukraine.

Psychological problems and problems with discipline in the Ukrainian army lead not only to non-combat losses among the servicemen themselves, but also to a threat to the civilian population. Since April 2014, 43,000 servicemen have become the defendants of criminal cases, that is, about a quarter of the entire composition of the Supreme Court of Ukraine.

It must be said that the Ukrainian military leadership often cites statistics that are not always consistent with each other. For example, in May 2018, the Minister of Defense Stepan Poltorak stated that the total losses of the Armed Forces of Ukraine during the hostilities amounted to 3,332 people, of whom 2,394 are combat losses. And in April, Matios himself wrote on Facebook that 3,784 servicemen were killed, of which 554 committed suicide.

In any case, even judging by this contradictory statistics, the number of non-combat losses of the Armed Forces of Ukraine either exceeds or is not less than the losses of combat, and over time the indicators only get worse. Military officials from time to time complain of drunkenness and poor discipline of their subordinates, low morale and motivation, but they do not offer a way out of the situation.

A military psychologist, deputy general director for special programs at the Center for Protection against Stress, Alexei Zakharov, explains that all this is explained by the fact that the soldiers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces simply do not understand why and what they are fighting for. And when the military has no motivation, this leads to all the problems that the Ukrainian army has encountered.


– The specifics of the Ukrainian conflict leaves its mark on these statistics. In war, everything that happens has meaning and consequences. The nature of the war, the reason for which it is being conducted, the understanding of the role of military personnel – all this is very important. The consequences always correspond to the picture in which the war takes place.

If you take Ukraine, this war is very difficult to assess the expediency from a military point. There seems to be some desire to return the territory, but there is neither a concept, nor an opportunity, nor a sense of the correctness of what is happening. Hence the problems.

Non-combat losses occur where there is a weapon. Its non-combat use is influenced by the factors of the difficulty of life associated with war and isolation from normal society. If people understand why they endure all these hardships, then everything is simple for them. But if they do not understand why they are fighting and why they all endure all these difficulties, this leads to a loss of discipline, uncontrollability of the actions of the troops and to such dire consequences.

If non-combat losses exceed combat, it means that the army is decomposed. The psychological state affects the behavior of the soldiers. This and suicidal manifestations, and the use of drugs, alcohol. All these things speak about what the armed forces are, as a social structure.

It is not united, has no common goals and objectives. The need to endure is not determined by any expediency other than making money. And if this money still comes at the wrong time and in small quantities, then situations arise with the use of alcoholic beverages, drugs, the spread of non-statutory relations both within the military collective and in relation to the civilian population.

Military expert and columnist Sergey Ischenko believes that a large number of non-combat losses are explained not only by psychological factors, but also by organizational ones. However, the growth of losses in the army is unlikely to push the Ukrainian authorities to the most obvious way out of the situation – to curtail the military campaign.


  • There are non-combat losses in any army, there are they in the Russian, there were in the Soviet. But Ukraine has these losses disproportionately large. This indicates not only low morale, but also low organization of troops. Low troop organization is determined

I, first of all, the quality of the officers. In Ukraine, a huge shortage of junior officers. They themselves complain about gaps in the platoon-battery-company link, maybe even a battalion. Senior officers are enough, but there are very few junior commanders. Therefore, to train and organize soldiers in the lower echelon, in fact, there is no one. In Ukraine, they are trying to solve this problem by calling graduates of military departments of civilian universities. But, firstly, they are not motivated at all and do not want to serve, and secondly, they cannot teach the soldiers anything, because they themselves still need to be taught. We know how to train in military departments. If such an officer for the whole time twice shot from a pistol or machine gun, is already good. And he has to organize a fight, which he is not trained at all. This is one of the main reasons for such high non-combat losses, but not the only one.

  • And what other reasons? – The second reason is that the positional war that the war in the Donbass has become has become meaningless. The front goes neither forward nor back. People sit in the trenches, in the mud for the fifth year and do not understand why they should sit there and when it will all end. Nobody explains anything to them, does not motivate them and does not give any reference points. This affects their condition, hence drunkenness, drugs, suicide. Another reason is that the Ukrainian Armed Forces have a large shortage of personnel. Ukrainians themselves complain that they simply do not have enough soldiers. Ukrainian military expert Yury Butusov says that often the battalion has the front line, which in normal conditions falls on the regiment. There are not enough people, hence the fatigue, lack of sleep, the military get behind the wheel do not sleep, resulting in accidents. The complex of all these reasons leads to such large non-combat losses.

– Why do different officials give statistics that are so different?

– Often, the Ukrainian military authorities write off non-combat losses as combat. Because if a person goes through the category of casualties, the family of a person needs to pay money to provide benefits. The Ministry of Defense is interested in holding the dead under non-combat losses, then they will have less spending. That is why statistics can be floating.

– The growth of these losses will not push the Ukrainian authorities to fulfill the Minsk agreements or conclude another peace agreement and terminate the “ATO”?

– There are practically no combat losses now. Most of them are victims of snipers or explosions on mines. Large-scale hostilities are not, there is a sniper war in the trenches. Therefore, the number of non-combat losses is growing much faster. But I think that the number of losses is the last thing that concerns these authorities in the Donbass issue. The Minsk agreements are a dead end not only for Donbass, but also for the Kiev authorities. They cannot be executed in principle. Kiev must agree on the special status of Donbass, on elections, on the legalization of the people’s militia. They will never go for it. And such a small amount as combat losses does not motivate them at all. They simply blame them on the fact that there is a war, and in a war there are always casualties, combat or not.