NewsRussia's military losses in Ukraine surge past 500,000

Russia's military losses in Ukraine surge past 500,000

Ukrainian soldiers load the bodies of dead Russians into a refrigerated wagon. Kyiv, May 13, 2022
Ukrainian soldiers load the bodies of dead Russians into a refrigerated wagon. Kyiv, May 13, 2022
Images source: © East News | Efrem Lukatsky

10:01 AM EDT, June 2, 2024

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported that since the beginning of the full-scale war, 505,000 Russian soldiers have been eliminated. "Eliminated" means killed, wounded, missing, and taken as prisoners of war. With each passing month, these losses are accelerating.

When estimating enemy losses, the Ukrainians rely on reports from their frontline units and intelligence data from their sources and NATO countries. International organizations also analyze this data. Depending on the source, the figures vary significantly.

Losses are growing at a rapid pace

In December 2022, ten months after the Russian invasion, the Ukrainian command reported that 100,000 Russians had been killed, 300,000 had been wounded or were missing, and one thousand were taken as prisoners. At the same time, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff and the British reported that 100,000 Russians had been eliminated. However, the Americans included the killed and wounded, while the British also included prisoners of war.

It is clear that one of the sources either significantly overestimated or underestimated Putin's army losses.

Even if the figures were inflated, they were still closer to the truth than those provided by the Kremlin. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that only 5,937 soldiers had died in 2022. Meanwhile, Rosstat stated that 18,000 Russians had died due to "external causes." Reporters from the Russian Mediazona and Meduza, based on Rosstat data on male deaths due to "external causes," inheritance cases, and obituaries, estimated that 47,000 soldiers had died and about 125,000 were wounded.

In 2023, Russians lost more people than in the first year of the invasion, and everyone agreed on that. The differences in the final tally stem from differing initial numbers. According to the Ukrainians, Russian losses in soldiers "permanently lost" (killed and wounded) were around 160,000-170,000. Americans reported 150,000 (including about 40,000 killed).

Now, the Ukrainians, in a report from May 25, 2024, claim that since the beginning of the conflict, they have eliminated 505,000 Russians. Within just the first four months of 2024, the enemy had permanently lost about 150,000 people (including just from March 60,000). The worst month for the aggressor was February, in which, in the battles for Avdiivka and Vuhledar, an average of 983 were killed and wounded daily.

A recipe for carnage

The sheer numbers are staggering, but the worst seems to be the continually growing level of losses for the Russians. Year over year, they regularly increase by one and a half times. The number of lost soldiers is also significantly higher than in previous wars waged by the Kremlin. During the first and second Chechen wars, the Russian army lost 95 to 185 soldiers monthly. In Afghanistan, it was 130–145. In Ukraine, it's as much as 5,000–5,800.

The losses among officers have become particularly painful for the Russians. By May 24, 2024, the death of 3,500 officers of the regular army and security forces had been confirmed. Four hundred fourteen of them had the rank of lieutenant colonel and above.

This is one of the reasons for the current massacre of Russians. Indeed, since the beginning of the war, soldiers have been poorly commanded, as company and battalion commanders have struggled with field command. This resulted from promoting those most loyal to the regime rather than those with field skills.

Officers committed basic tactical errors. They moved along narrow roads in tight columns, lacked anti-aircraft cover, and neglected reconnaissance. Additionally, group commanders couldn't cooperate with artillery and aviation. The ground forces were practically without close air support.

When the experienced command cadre began to run out, they started using the simplest attack methods: frontal assaults on fortified Ukrainian positions preceded by artillery preparation. Because of the number of casualties, these assaults are referred to as "meat attacks."

The primary blame, however, lies with Russian soldiers' poor training. On training grounds, they were trained in almost comfortable conditions. No one interfered with the deployment of formations; artillery fired from prepared positions with drone support, and aviation freely roamed the battlefield. This training process looked excellent at demonstrations for officials but failed in actual combat.

Putin feeds the monster of war

A year before the attack on Ukraine, the Russian army numbered about 900,000 soldiers. In less than half a year after the invasion, the armed forces increased by another 140,000, and in December 2023, Putin signed a decree expanding the number of soldiers to 1.3 million.

The slaughter of Russian soldiers does not seem to faze Putin, who, unlike the authorities in Kyiv, is convinced of the infinite reserves of human resources in Russia.

According to the Polish Institute of International Affairs, in 2023, 490,000 people joined the army (about 277,000 were conscripts). PISM indicates that the pay was tempting; the minimum soldier's salary in 2023 was 210,000 rubles (about $2,300).

The massive losses that the Russians have suffered in Ukraine since 2022 have thus been significantly replenished, and hence the Kremlin's belief that in any situation, they will be able to continue feeding the monster of war with the lives of their soldiers. According to PISM, about 470,000 soldiers were stationed in the occupied territories of Ukraine at the beginning of this year.

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