Grim milestone: Russia passed 400,000 casualties in the Ukraine war

On February 16th, the Ukrainian General Staff reported in their daily war update that Russia lost more than 400,000 soldiers since Vladimir Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine on February 24th, 2022.

Russian losses stood at 400,300 according to the General Staff, which Urkiane’s Ministry of Defense also commented on, writing on social media: “Instead of Kyiv in 3 days, Russians get 400,000 coffins.

The Ukrianian Defense Ministry also pointed out that if all of the Kremlin’s losses were lined up, then it would have an “800-kilometer line to h***.

On the other hand, Western estimates of Russian casualties have tracked fairly well with numbers put out by Ukraine’s General Staff. For example, in late January 2024, UK Minister of State for the Armed Forces James Heappey provided an estimate of casualties similar to Ukriane’s figures.

“We estimate that approximately 350,000 Russian military personnel have been killed or wounded since the start of the conflict,” Heappey told British lawmakers according to Newsweek. On January 25th, Ukraine’s General Staff put Russian losses at 379,610 soldiers.

One of the single worst months for Russian losses occurred in December 2023, a fact that was reported by several international media news outlets since it marked a period of extremely destructive fighting in Ukraine.

At the end of November, figures from the Ukrainian General Staff revealed that Moscow’s losses stood at a concerning 330,040 troops. But the following thirty-one days would prove to be costly for Russia in terms of both men and material.

By the end of December, the total number of troops lost in the war ballooned to 359,230, which means that Moscow lost 29,190 soldiers. But it wasn’t only soldiers that were lost in big numbers at that time. 

Russia also suffered a staggering number of equipment losses as a result of the fighting in December. Newsweek’s Ellie Cook crunched the totals provided by Ukraine’s General Staff and noted that tanks and artillery suffered mightily. 

Moscow lost 423 tanks and 533 artillery systems in December. If the losses were correct, they would represent a significant percentage of the total lost tanks and artillery systems Ukraine has eliminated since the invasion was launched. 

As of December 31st, Russia had lost 5,977 tanks, meaning that just over 7% of Moscow’s total tank losses occurred in December 2023. Russia lost 8464 artillery systems, which means a total of over 6% were destroyed in one month. 

On February 17th, Russian tank losses had climbed to 6,465 while the country’s artillery losses reached 9,641 according to Ukriane’s General Staff. These statistics, if true, show that the fighting hasn’t slowed down since the end of December.

Again, it’s important to remember that the figures presented by the Ukrainian General Staff are being published by Ukraine, so they should be taken with a grain of salt. However, high casualties have been proven to be accurate by other sources. 

“It is very difficult to determine casualties in an ongoing conflict since both sides will try to keep the data secret and inflate the number of adversary casualties,” King’s College London War Studies researcher Marina Miron told Newsweek.  

In mid-December, declassified intelligence from the United States revealed that Russia had lost the majority of the country’s pre-invasion force. According to reporting by CNN on the US intelligence, Russia lost 87% of its invasion forces. 

Prior to invading Ukraine, the Kremlin accumulated 360,000 soldiers for the fight but lost 315,000 as of November 2023 according to the intelligence assessment. Moreover, high numbers of tanks and military vehicles had also been lost. 

The US intelligence assessment reported that 2,200 of the 3,500 tanks Moscow started the invasion with were lost by November 2023 while 4,400 of the 13,600 infantry fighting vehicles stockpiled for the invasion had been destroyed. 

On December 29th, the British Ministry of Defence assessed the rise in casualty figures Russia was seeing and reported that the increase of roughly daily averages reported by Ukraine was likely due to the degradation of its military forces. 

“During the course of 2023, the average daily number of Russian casualties (killed and wounded) in Ukraine has risen by almost 300 per day compared to 2022,” the report by the British Defence Ministry explained. 

“The increase in daily averages… almost certainly reflects the degradation of Russia’s forces and its transition to a lower quality, high quantity mass army since the ‘partial mobilization’ of reservists in September 2022,” the report continued. 

The ministry’s analysis went on to state that it would likely take Moscow at least five to ten years to rebuild its military forces and added that if the casualty rate continues over the next year then total losses could reach half a million. 

One reason why Russia’s losses might have been so high in December could be due to the ongoing offensives the country has launched along several areas of the frontlines, the most notable of which is Moscow’s fight to capture Avdiivka. 

Notably, on February 17th, The New York Times and several other media outlets began reporting that Avdiivka had fallen based on a statement from Ukraine’s Commander-in-Chief General Oleksandr Syrsky.

“Based on the operational situation around Avdiivka, in order to avoid encirclement and preserve the lives and health of servicemen, I decided to withdraw our units from the city and move to defense on more favorable lines,” Syrsky said in a statement.

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