What Is the Size of Russian Forces in Ukraine?

From the Congressional Research Service:

Source: Cory Welt, “Ukraine: Background, Conflict with Russia, and U.S. Policy,” Congressional Research Service Report R45008 (September 2019).

Regarding the Donbass region:

The estimated number of Russian troops in eastern Ukraine has declined since peaking in 2015 at about 12,000.42 In February 2019, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations said that “over 2,100 Russian regular military, mostly in key command and control positions,” were fighting in eastern Ukraine, with the total number of Russian-backed fighters about 35,000.

The conflict’s intensity has declined since 2015, but fighting continues. In 2018, Special Representative Volker characterized the conflict as a “hot war.”44 U.S. officials and others regularly call attention to the “humanitarian catastrophe” in eastern Ukraine.45 According to OHCHR, the conflict has led to around 10,000 combat deaths and more than 3,000 civilian fatalities.46
This count includes the 298 foreign nationals killed in the July 17, 2014, downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, or MH17, a commercial aircraft en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur that was shot down in Ukrainian airspace. Intelligence sources indicate that separatist forces brought down the plane using a missile supplied by the Russian military.

A map depicting the disposition of forces is in this post. Regarding the shootdown of MH17:

The JIT – which includes officials from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine – concluded in May 2018 that the missile system belonged to the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Missile brigade, based in the western Russian city of Kursk. It produced evidence that it said proved how the missile system had reached eastern Ukraine.

An extensive analysis of the Russian hybrid war in Eastern Ukraine, based on leaked emails, is provided by the Royal United Services Institute (July 2019):

For Crimea:

Ukrainian officials say Russia has deployed more than 30,000 troops to the region, as well as S-400 surface-to-air missile systems and other advanced weaponry. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has documented “multiple and grave” human rights violations in Crimea and said that minority Crimean Tatars, who are generally opposed to Russia’s occupation, have been “particularly targeted.”


39 thoughts on “What Is the Size of Russian Forces in Ukraine?

  1. Moses Herzog

    Indirectly related:

    I’m not an expert on geopolitics. But I’ll say this. If donald trump gets a 2nd term, I think Putin will go for a larger land grab in eastern Ukraine (or in essence what would be “central” Ukraine. People might ask “Why not take the whole thing??”. For the same reasons he only took Crimea. He gets achieved what he wants achieved, creates less chance of a backlash by only taking a portion. At that point he in effect controls the whole thing, the same as he did when he had the Russian proxy leader (Yanukovych) in Kiev. He can then either control the western portion by “shadow government’ means, or wait 4-5 years while Europe does nothing and take the rest of the western portion. There could even be an argument there that he does it in two moves, both taking place before 2024, when the task might become monumentally more irksome for Putin. He knows as long as donald trump is in office, the USA will not take Putin on militarily in that region, and neither will Europe. They’ll just increase military exercises in the core countries and make slap on the wrist style economic sanctions.

    1. Barkley Rosser

      I think Putin would prefer to have a patsy of his in charge i Kyniv, not “take the whole thing.” I do not think he wants even to annex Donetsk and Luhansk, just let them be left alone as de facto independent republics unrecognized by the rest of the world and pro-Russia, like South Ossetia and Abkhazie and Trandneistria, all of which quitely go along in their netherworld state supported by Russia while pseudo-independent.

      The problem is that it turned out that Crimea was very expensive to swallow and the Russian economy is not in good enough shape to have pay more such costs. Putin thought they would get all kinds of tourism money as well as various nice ag products. They have gotten some of the latter, but not the former. And aside from a lot of troops there and building that problem-causing bridge, they have had to pay expensive pensions for Crimeans, with those better Russian than Ukrainian pensions a major resons some in Crimea supported becoming Russian. At the time of independence, Crimea voted 54% to 46% to go with Ukraine, but it has been run so badly with a poor economy, the old age pensions have not kept up with those in Russia.

      So, Putin does not even want to annex Donetsk or Luhansk, much less other parts of Ukraine. Fuggedaboutit. Cut a deal for a status quo with Zelensky.

      1. J. Barkley Rosser, Jr

        If there were to be any more territorial grabs, the obvious one would be for the Donetsk republic to grab the port of Mariapul on the Black Sea, which it held for awhile early in this conflict. But in fact since the Minsk Accords went into place, there has been no substantial territorial change of control, despite ongoing fighting. This would be relatively inexpnsive to take and hold and clearly of economic benefit for the separatist republics. But it has been left alone for quite some time now.

    1. pgl

      That canard has already been addressed and demolished under the prior posts. Come on Bruce – do try to keep up with the discussion and stop wasting our time with worn old Trumpian tweets.

      1. Moses Herzog

        There are many crimes against humanity going on in Xinjiang right now. Now, to say that has any connection to donald trump’s tariffs would be blatantly false. But the argument that a U.S. President should use any and all tools available to end those crimes against humanity are still there and still valid. And I’m going to walk out on the long wooden plank of the pirate ship and say that even Menzie might agree with me on that.

        Whether Han people living inside give a sh– about Xinjiang people or not??—as a white dude who with his own eyes saw and heard indications they didn’t care while he lived in China an extended time, I guess I’ll let the Han people living inside China search their own conscience, be that conscience what it is, themselves.

        1. pgl

          My God Bruce – are you really this stupid? I was clearly referring to your initial claim which clearly is a canard already demolished. But you cannot even get this? Yes you are really incredibly stupid.

        2. pgl

          “U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed into law the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act.”

          Oh gee – this controversy certainly excuses what Putin is doing in Ukraine. NOT! Leave it to Single Statistic Bruce “no relationship to Robert” Hall to go off on some irrelevant distraction. Oh wait – maybe the Dalai Lama has some dirt on Joe Biden!

        3. pgl

          “It simply means that your outrage is highly selective.”

          Harvey Weinstein is on trial for rape in NYC right now. I think Bruce Hall has his defense. After all the prosecutors have not raised the other rapes that have occurred in my city over the past several years. Highly selective! Maybe I should head over to the court room and see if I can get this admitted into evidence for the defense team. You think the judge will allow it?

    2. baffling

      donald trump has had three years to do something about the russians in ukraine. he has accomplished nothing to date. probably too worried about the peepee tape to confront the russians.

      1. pgl

        He almost had a success as in getting that dirt on Biden. And don’t worry as the Republicans in the Senate are still helping him out here.

    3. pgl

      I’m sure Bruce Hall read the following replies to a very similar question as the really stupid one he asks here. But of course Bruce Hall thinks he is clever to ask it under another post. No Bruce – it is even more stupid the second time around!

      Barkley RosserJanuary 27, 2020 at 11:53 am
      Obama admin held off because there was serious corruption in the Ukraine govt and DOD and others did not trust the Ukrainians to use them well. This is easily checked on, btw, if you are interested inf acts rather than propaganda.
      The big joke is that the people over there that Trump and his pals like Giuliani like are exactly those ones who were so cottupt the US govt resisted giving them top weapons. We are talking about the clown Biden demanded be removed, backed by EU and IMF and who was not investigating Burisma, indeed was investigating almost nobody, which was the problem.
      Reply ↓
      2slugbaitsJanuary 27, 2020 at 12:27 pm
      Rick Stryker Barkley Rosser has it exactly right. Under Obama it was the DoD that would not sign off on sending Javelins to Ukraine because they were concerned that some of those missiles would end up in a Moscow laboratory. The Javelin anti-tank missile contains a shaped charge, which means that it depends on precise timing when it hits the outer surface of its target. If you get inside the guts of the missile, then you can defeat it by surrounding the tank with skirts and explosive reactive armor. Armor combat is all about a game that uses an unknown mix of shaped charges and kinetic energy rounds. You can design a tank to defeat one, but not the other unless the enemy knows the engineering behind the shaped round.
      Reply ↓
      bafflingJanuary 27, 2020 at 1:31 pm
      2slugs and barkley, just a reminder that the slippery dick striker knows exactly what you are stating. but dick is not interested in the truth, he is simply a political hack who comes on this site every once in a while to troll for business. he is a sad example of what happens to some men when they get old and bitter-they get joy from bringing pain to others.

      1. ilsm

        I have a shot digital clip, on a thumb somewhere, of a test of the Javelin starring a couple of contractor employees in polo shirts and chinos: the missile goes down range, does its thing on some old vehicle and the testers approved the result screaming “holy sh$%!!!! I do not think their test info sheet had the exclamation.

          1. ilsm

            Not that one, I have a 5 plus minute clip of M-1 Abrams tanks on the “range” blowing things up, on the move…. 120 mm smooth bore cannon shooting high explosive, and sabot rounds. Heavy metal rock in the background. I watch it for motivation!

          2. 2slugbaits

            ilsm You should try riding in one while standing out from the commander’s hatch while flying over rough terrain at 45mph. You hold on for dear life. The 60 degree incline and brake test is a real thrill as well. What’s not fun is jumping into a 70 ton hunk of steel after it’s been sitting in a hot Texas or Alabama sun.

    4. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Bruce Hall: I will note that the Chinese invaded Tibet quite a few decades ago…and they have not shot down any airliners of late.

      But if you’re asking if we should for instance sanction the Chinese over their treatment of the Uighers, I’d say yes.

      1. Bruce Hall


        Gee, the Chinese didn’t shoot down any planes in Tibet so let’s ignore everything else they did there.

        I appreciate that economics dictate we ignore all of that for cheaper products. Congress and Trump need to be re-educated in the ways of the world and economics.

        But as pgl so deftly states:

        That canard has already been addressed and demolished under the prior posts. Come on Bruce – do try to keep up with the discussion and stop wasting our time with worn old Trumpian tweets.

        Yeah, sure. If it ain’t Russia, it ain’t broke.

        1. Menzie Chinn Post author

          Bruce Hall: You did not read my comment, I believe. I’m for sanctions, maybe not the issues you want to sanctions for. If China were to invade Vietnam (even if just the areas with lots of ethnic Chinese), I would be for sanctions, for instance. Say no to “Sudetenland II”.

        2. 2slugbaits

          Bruce Hall I don’t think you understood pgl‘s comment about that “canard” having already been addressed. And you’re completely confused about what some of us here are saying about China. China is a bad geopolitical actor; but tariffs are an ineffective way to deal with that problem. Almost as ineffective as having Princess Ivanka win monopoly rights in China for some of her product lines. I don’t think you’re a stupid person, but sometimes you get so defensive about having supported Trump that you end up saying some pretty stupid things. This is one of those times.

          1. pgl

            One has to wonder at times about Brucie boy. Could anyone really be as stupid as he routinely comes across? Oh yea – most of those MAGA hat wearing types are this stupid. What do they put in the lining of these hats that cause utter stupidity?

        3. Moses Herzog

          I just made a prolonged screed in this same spot in the blog thread that somehow got lost in the ether of the internet (not the blog’s mistake, just those weird gremlins). That’s what I get for being a blowhard on the keyboard. So I’m gonna make this one shorter. I think it’s damned unfair Menzie gets harangued about China, when I suspect it’s largely only because of his ethnicity. Menzie has more than proven he is objective on these issues. Has he not brought up ZTE umpteenth million times?? And the loans made to donald trump beforehand?? I have maybe 25% German blood with a very German last name, nobody constantly gives me sh– about whatever dumba$$ foreign policy moves or domestic abuse of citizens Germany does every time I talk geopolitics–so why should Menzie have to put up with that crap?? I am certain Menzie is quite numb to it by now, but it doesn’t make it any less of a cheap and low-grade way to make an argument for your obeisance to donald trump.

          There is reason to believe donald trump gave bribes to both the leaders in China and bribes to Turkey in return for something of high personal value (unrelated to his duties as the government job title he claims). The odds are quite high news will break on this in the relative near future. Do you not think Menzie will discuss this when that becomes public?? I wouldn’t bet too much on that if I were any of you losers who think this is an effective talking point on why your “president” is “a great man” for trading away the security of the American nation for his own private gains.

    5. noneconomist

      I’m missing something re: China and Tibet.
      Did we threaten China—with more tariffs?—unless they agree to dig up dirt on the Bidens?
      Did the administration withhold military aid TO Tibet until they get in on the search for Biden information?
      Information, please, Bruce.

      1. Bruce Hall

        NE… no to your sophomoric questions. But “we” (as in most commenters to this post) have two sets of standards when it comes to Russia and China. Certainly, what Russia did by annexing Crimea was reprehensible (even if most people in the Crimea were ethnic Russians). But that pales in comparison to what China has done and continues to do while “we” apologize for them because it is the “economically smart” thing to do.


        1. Moses Herzog

          You know Republicans and “conservatives” are hanging on a very thin and worn out small string of rope for their rhetorical lives, when the best defense they can make for their megalomaniac illiterate King is to PRETEND and put on airs they give a crap about some minority group suffering in another part of the globe. All this, while they shrug their shoulders at (cheer on??) Mexican children being kidnapped from their parents by ICE agents, put in cages and half starved to death with 100+ of them sharing the same broken toilet. In their own country—because of WHICH leader?? Who insisted Mexican children be separated from their parents and put in cages?? But hey, I believe that Bruce Hall cries himself to sleep every night thinking about the Uighur people. Yeah….I totally believe that.

        2. noneconomist

          Thanks for the scholarly–and not a bit condescending–response. Good to know I’ve been apologizing to China all these years because it’s the “economically smart” thing” to do. Without your guidance, I’m sure I would never have realized how repressive the current regime–and its predecessors– in China has/have been.
          For certain, our current government has never bowed to such pressures. (OK, maybe with Saudi Arabia, but as we know getting upset just because they murder a few people here and there–including an American journalist here–now and then is no reason to do silly things economically that would jeopardize our relationships with this freedom loving regime).
          I should know better than to ask foolish questions that merely trifle with a mind as superior as yours.

        3. pgl

          You are accusing others of asking sophomoric questions? That is all you do Brucie Boy. Look in the mirror some day.

  2. Barkley Rosser


    US DOD did not want to send them because then corrupt government of Ukraine was though not reliable enough to prevent some of them getting into Russian hands. New government has been judged by DOD not to be that corrupt. This is not Obama or Trump, this is DOD,. although in the case of Trump holding up the aid, it was him. Not comparable. This is another misleading talking point put out by the Trump defenders.

    1. pgl

      He knew all of that from the previous thread’s comments. But Brucie thought it would be cute repeating this worn old canard again. I guess he figured no one would reply – again!

    1. noneconomist

      Still waiting for the explanation of what that mysterious E11 was doing in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989 as well as why you insist the Russians (Soviets) were never occupiers there or for nearly a half century in Eastern Europe.

      1. ilsm


        The engineers who designed the “commo” on the E-11A were not yet born when Russia was making the same mistake as the US is in Afghanistan.

        E-11A does ‘battlefield connectivity’. has been doing since its introduction, linking ground forces with air support networks beyond line of sight, and also taking data from one “data link format” and translating it to another. Seems some fighter aircraft take data streams in a different radio/data model than others and need a translator between networks. There are ‘standards’ but some older aircraft are not up to date, or maybe standardization was not considered a design requirement. Some countries flying in Afghanistan under US control may not have met the latest standards yet. I m not sure I left that business when data links were rocket science.

        There are no parachutes on that Bombardier!

        Soviets were occupiers until 1989, while the US still occupies.

        1. noneconomist

          The E11a is an aircraft? Software? GS Rank? secret Agent Man in Afghanistan?
          And those Soviets. They WERE–unlike what you stated in your previous comments– occupiers in Afghanistan. Now, how about Eastern Europe? For 45 years? (Somewhere, in the recesses of my aging mind, I seem to recall Soviet tanks rolling through Hungary….in the mid 1950’s. Were they in Budapest for the yearly tank commanders convention or ……?)
          Inquiring minds.

          1. ilsm

            Do Russians (giants during the cold war) ignore a parliament that said we don’t want US troops in Iran anymore? Okay whataboutism, but do you think Trump and his generals can diss the Iraqi parliament that W created?

            E-11A: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battlefield_Airborne_Communications_Node

            The airplane part is an off the shelf Bombardier jet.

            A standing joke: “Do you want to make a Japanese (Korean, German, Kosovar….)politician mad? tell him Japan has to pay more for US occupation bases.”

  3. Ray Love

    Naturally, China is not a threat to Europe, and Europeans of high birth are tight with the string-pullers of the USA.

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