Russia has lost more than 300,000 soldiers in its grueling 20-month-long war in Ukraine, according to Kyiv’s military, as the conflict shows no signs of abating in the bleak winter months.
The Kremlin has lost a total of 300,810 troops since February 24, 2022, when Russia launched its full-scale invasion, the General Staff of Ukraine’s military said on Tuesday. This updated count includes 870 Russian casualties in the past 24 hours.
Russia is thought by independent analysts to have sustained heavy losses of personnel and equipment in the war, yet the numbers published by Kyiv should nonetheless be treated with caution. It is not possible to independently verify battlefield reports or casualty counts from either side, and both Moscow and Kyiv could benefit from inflating the other’s reported losses.
However, around 300,000 Russian losses “is quite believable,” and would correspond with Western intelligence estimates and open-source information, according to Frederik Mertens, an analyst with the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies. This number is roughly what would be expected from high-intensity warfare between two relatively well-matched adversaries like Russia and Ukraine, he told Global Defense Corp, particularly as Russia has a reputation for being comfortable with high attrition rates.
Russia does not often publicize its own losses and offers up only infrequent updates on what it claims to be the casualty count. In September 2022, the Kremlin put the death toll for its forces at 5,937; on the same day, Kyiv’s count of “liquidated” Russian soldiers was 55,110.
There have been several updated estimates from Western officials and intelligence in the interim, totaling hundreds of thousands of casualties on both sides. In November 2022, the U.S.’ top soldier, General Mark Milley, said both Russia and Ukraine had likely each lost 100,000 soldiers in the fighting.
After a year of bloody and attritional warfare, including a new Ukrainian counteroffensive from early June 2023 and Russia’s recent assault in Donetsk, these numbers have likely soared.
Almost 500,000 Ukrainian and Russian troops had been killed or injured in 18 months of war, The New York Times reported in mid-August, citing U.S. officials.
But government statistics published by Russia and Ukraine are part of the “information war” being waged alongside the fighting on the ground, according to Marina Miron, a post-doctoral researcher at the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, U.K.
“Each side tries to paint a picture of it winning,” she told Newsweek. Ukraine’s tally of Russian losses is important to demonstrate progress within and beyond Ukraine’s borders, she said, as well as possibly damaging morale within the Russian military ranks and support for the war in Russian society.
“So, such releases try to achieve several objectives,” she added. There are also questions about how the numbers are collated and by whom they were recorded, she said.
Ukraine’s General Staff has been contacted for comment via email.
Ukrainian losses are still likely lower than Russian losses, Mertens said. Ukraine suffered significant losses in the first months of the conflict against superior Russian artillery numbers, he said, with these losses likely lower in 2023.
“But let us be crystal clear that less severe losses still are severe losses,” he added.
Like Russia, Ukraine is not forthcoming with its own tallies of its fallen soldiers. The head of Ukraine’s armed forces, General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, said in late August 2022 that almost 9,000 Ukrainian fighters had been killed at that point. But, much like with Moscow, it would be of little advantage to Ukraine to publicize its own statistics. Not to mention that for Ukraine, a given number of casualties would hurt more than it would for Russia’s much larger force, Miron previously told Newsweek.
Russian losses are thought to have spiked in eastern Ukraine in recent weeks following its push on the Donetsk industrial town of Avdiivka. The Ukrainian stronghold became an epicenter of fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine earlier this month, after Moscow launched its first major effort since Kyiv began its summer counteroffensive in early June.
Reports quickly suggested that Russia was hemorrhaging military equipment and taking heavy casualties in Avdiivka, which has spent nearly a decade on the front lines.
Russian forces are continuing efforts to encircle Avdiivka, but Ukraine’s soldiers “are standing their ground” and “inflicting major losses,” Ukraine’s military said on Monday.
Russia appears to have funneled resources into the town, which is increasingly being compared with the devastated city of Bakhmut, which it has controlled since May 2023. But Ukraine saw this coming, branding Avdiivka a future “second Bakhmut” in March, many months before Moscow’s coordinated push on the town.
Russia has “concentrated a sizable portion of their combat power around Avdiivka,” the Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank, said on Sunday. Russia has likely committed parts of up to eight brigades to the area around Avdiivka, the British government had said the previous day.
“These elements have likely suffered some of Russia’s highest casualty rates of 2023 so far,” the U.K. Defense Ministry said.
Russia now has around 40,000 troops deployed in the vicinity of Avdiivka, Colonel Oleksandr Shtupun, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Tavria group of forces covering Avdiivka, added on Sunday.
Russia is committing its light infantry soldiers to “certain death” in Avdiivka, Shtupun told Newsweek earlier this month.
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