Ever since the war in Ukraine began, they have been among the most difficult facts to ascertain: the numbers of soldiers killed and wounded on either side. The much-used phrase “fog of war” applies — and in this war, it’s made even murkier by a desire among Russians and Ukrainians alike to obscure the truth about their losses.
U.S. and European officials have offered rare assessments recently of casualties on either side: a staggering 180,000-200,000 Russians dead and wounded; and 100,000 or more Ukrainians in those categories. On Norwegian TV, Gen. Eirik Kristoffersen, Norway’s defense chief, put the estimate of Russian casualties at 180,000 and the Ukrainian toll at roughly 100,000 wounded. Meanwhile, U.S. and other Western officials say the number of Russian troops killed and wounded in Ukraine is “approaching 200,000.”
An already high toll has jumped in the midst of particularly heavy fighting in and around the eastern city of Bakhmut. U.S. officials told the New York Times and Wall Street Journal that the toll in that region alone has occasionally been more than 300 troops killed or injured in a single day on either side.
As these officials and others who follow the war closely have said from the beginning, it is extremely difficult to accurately determine these figures. The sources for their estimates include satellite imagery, intelligence intercepts and on-the-ground media reports. They take in reporting from both governments as well — though again, those are not often the most trustworthy sources.
From the early days of the war, casualty counts for Russian soldiers have varied widely — depending on the source. Ukraine raised its estimate of Russian soldiers killed in the conflict to more than 188,000 on Wednesday. These numbers have been updated frequently through the Facebook page for the country’s General Staff of the Armed Forces. In its first update on casualties since March, Russia claimed in late September that there had been 5,937 Russian military deaths. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in April that there had been “significant losses of troops, and it’s a huge tragedy for us.”
A report by Meduza, an independent Russian media outlet, and the Russian branch of the BBC confirmed at least 155,000 dead Russian soldiers as of Dec. 9.
Russia has also suffered a high rate of casualties among senior officers. Thirteen Russian generals have been killed, according to Ukrainian authorities; the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency puts the figure at eight to ten.
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