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As Russian casualties surge, Kremlin's new defense minister says he wants 'minimal losses'

by Chris York May 15, 2024 11:10 AM 3 min read
Ukrainian artillerymen from the 24th brigade load an ammunition inside of a 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled howitzer at a position along the front line in the vicinity of Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast on Dec. 10, 2022. (Ihor Tkachov/AFP via Getty Images)
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Russia's new Defense Minister Andrei Belousov said on May 14 that his main priority is to win the war in Ukraine "with minimal human losses," even as Moscow reportedly suffers record numbers of troops killed and wounded on the battlefield.

Belousov, a former aide and Russia's economy minister from 2012-2013, replaced Sergei Shoigu as the defense minister in a surprise reshuffle of Russia's security and defense apparatus.

Speaking on May 14 after being officially appointed, he laid out his priorities for his new role.

"The key task, of course, remains achieving victory. Ensuring the achievement of the military-political goals of the special military operation (the Kremlin's term for the full-scale invasion of Ukraine – edit.), set by the president (Vladimir Putin)," he said.

"At the same time - I want to specifically emphasize this - with minimal human losses."

Russia has not disclosed the losses of its Armed Forces in Ukraine since September 2022, meaning the official Kremlin death toll still stands at just 5,937.

Ukraine publishes daily figures that are generally in line with estimates from Western nations.

The latest count on May 15 is 486,940 Russian troops lost, though the numbers from the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces do not specify killed or wounded.

Earlier this month, France estimated 150,000 Russian troops had been killed since the launch of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine and put the total losses, including injuries, at 500,000.

48 hours in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s most-bombed major city
The first signs that something ominous is happening in Kharkiv come as soon as the train from Kyiv reaches the suburbs of the city – as two pillars of smoke appear in the distance, every single phone in the carriage erupts with a piercing electronic squawking. “I guess we’ve arrived,

Since the launch of Russia's new offensive in Kharkiv Oblast on May 10, the Kremlin's daily losses have surged.

For much of April, daily losses hovered around the 800-1,000 mark, but rapidly ticked upwards in May.

According to Ukraine's figures, Moscow lost the most number of soldiers in a single day since the start of the full-scale invasion – 1,740 – on May 12.

On May 10, the number was 1,320; on May 11, 1,260; on May 13, 1,400; and on May 14, 1,510.

​​If confirmed, France's 150,000 figure of Russian troops killed is around 10 times higher than that suffered by the Soviet army during the decade-long war it fought in Afghanistan from 1979-89.

For comparison, the U.S. military lost around 102,000 soldiers killed in all the wars it fought since the end of World War II, including 58,220 during the Vietnam War.

Mediazona, a Russian independent media outlet, together with BBC Russia, has confirmed through open-source research the names of 49,281 Russian soldiers who have been killed fighting in Ukraine since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion.

Since Mediazona's last update in mid-March, the names of 1,580 Russian soldiers have been added to the list of casualties.

In February, President Volodymyr Zelensky said at least 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers had lost their lives in the war. He added that the exact number is unknown, and it would only be possible to find out once occupied territories were liberated.

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