Russia's unsustainable equipment losses in Ukraine:​ Yahoo News Explains

As Russian President Vladimir Putin calls for 300,000 reservists to replenish military ranks in Ukraine, equipment losses by Russian forces point to a potentially unsustainable war effort in the long term. Yahoo News Senior Correspondent Michael Weiss explains.

Video transcript

MICHAEL WEISS: You've seen the footage-- Russian military vehicles destroyed, abandoned, or captured by Ukrainians. While Russia steps up long-range attacks on civilian targets, on the battlefield, they're on the defensive.

- Russia has suffered humiliating losses, with troops retreating from occupied territory.

- Vladimir Putin announced he is calling up hundreds of thousands of reservists.

- And make no mistake-- Putin is making these moves because Russia's military campaign here in Ukraine is failing.

MICHAEL WEISS: So how could this have happened? Well, let's take a look at the numbers. Before the invasion in February, the Russian military seemed prepared for a decisive victory. They had more firepower, more soldiers, and more than 10 times Ukraine's annual military budget at their disposal. And with the control of Ukraine's eastern border and annexed Crimea to the south and allies to the north and west going into the war, on paper, Russia had an advantage. But their losses tell a different story.

Oryx, an open source research group, has been tracking both Russian and Ukrainian military equipment destroyed, captured, damaged, or abandoned throughout the war. And the numbers are pretty remarkable. Just looking at tanks, as of September 15th, the Russians have lost more than 1,100, compared to 263 lost by Ukraine. And if you take all the heavy military equipment-- that's everything from infantry fighting vehicles to tanks to helicopters, artillery, radar, surface-to-air missile systems, and aircraft-- Russian losses have exceeded 6,000 units, compared to just under 1,600 Ukrainian losses.

Over a third of the equipment lost by Russia, more than all of Ukraine's losses combined, was abandoned by their own forces or captured by the Ukrainians. And they're using that equipment against the Russians. In some cases, Ukrainians are even upgrading the trucks, tanks, and armored vehicles before sending them right back out.

Now, Oryx data only includes equipment that has been visually confirmed as captured, so the true total is likely to be much higher. So what does this mean for the war in Ukraine? Putin had, going into this campaign, a fairly good track record with respect to using hard power to his advantage-- seizing Crimea in a near bloodless coup in 2014, the dirty war in Donbas. Then, of course, in 2015, Russia intervened in Syria.

So he had tacked on several military victories, albeit small in comparison to a war of conquest in Europe. And what you're seeing now, particularly in the last month or so, the utterly humiliating defeat of Russian forces in Kharkiv, where a lot of people just simply up and ran away from battle. This is something that's not sustainable for him.

- He's in it deep, and he's getting deeper and deeper.

- Russians are protesting on the streets.

- Chanting send Putin to the trenches.

MICHAEL WEISS: We're now in a period of reckoning and reassessment. How powerful is Russia? What kind of a conventional military threat does it pose? But I think the real problem that Putin has had from the very outset is bad intelligence, underestimating Ukraine's resiliency, its creativity in how it fights this war. And then there's a bad understanding of the changed sociology in Ukraine, where Russia used to be able to apply political pressure, economic incentives, cultural outreach. All of that is lost.

He's not going to have a friendly population to conquer and to occupy, much less to incorporate into Russia. It just-- this ship has sailed a long time ago.