Ukraine says it has downed double the number of warplanes Moscow lost in Afghanistan

Ukrainian forces claim to have destroyed 278 Russian aircraft during eight months of fighting, more than twice as many as the Soviet Union lost in its 1979-89 military intervention in Afghanistan.

 Russian Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack planes perform during the Aviadarts military aviation competition at the Dubrovichi range near Ryazan, Russia, August 2, 2015 (Illustrative). (photo credit: MAXIM SHEMETOV/REUTERS)
Russian Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack planes perform during the Aviadarts military aviation competition at the Dubrovichi range near Ryazan, Russia, August 2, 2015 (Illustrative).
(photo credit: MAXIM SHEMETOV/REUTERS)

Ukrainian forces have destroyed 278 Russian aircraft during eight months of fighting, more than twice as many as the Soviet Union lost in its 1979-89 military intervention in Afghanistan, Ukraine's commander-in-chief said on Thursday.

His statement could not be verified by Reuters and there was no comment from the Russian Defence Ministry, but it fits into a pattern of increasingly confident rhetoric from Kyiv as it has made progress in retaking territory from Russian invaders.

Though civilians face power outages and intermittent water supply cuts after Russian missile and drone strikes on energy infrastructure, the momentum on the battlefield is with Ukraine.

With the help of military equipment provided by its Western allies, including US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), Ukraine is now mounting pressure on Russian occupation forces in the south.

"During the full-scale aggression, (Ukrainian) defenders destroyed (more than) twice as many (Russian) aircraft as the Soviet Union lost during the 10-year war in Afghanistan - 278 (Russian) aircraft in Ukraine against 118 Soviet aircraft in Afghanistan," General Valeriy Zaluzhniy wrote on Twitter.

Russian Air Force Kamov Ka-52 (credit: FEDOR LEUKHIN/CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)Russian Air Force Kamov Ka-52 (credit: FEDOR LEUKHIN/CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

"This war is the same shame for Russia & will cause its destruction," he wrote.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan

More than three decades after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the military campaign there remains seared on the Russian national conscience and is criticized by many Russians as a bloody foreign adventure akin to the U.S. war in Vietnam.

Around 14,000 Soviet troops were killed in Afghanistan. Many were repatriated in zinc coffins known as Cargo 200, a term that is now being widely used for Russian soldiers killed during the war that Russia launched in Ukraine on February 24.

Since it began, each side has said it has inflicted huge casualties on the other, but those numbers are seen as significantly inflated.

Ukraine says 74,000 Russian soldiers have been killed. Russia's defense minister said in September that 61,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed.