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Journalists estimate 83,000 Russian soldiers killed since start of full-scale invasion of Ukraine

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk February 24, 2024 5:23 PM 3 min read
Destroyed Russian tanks are lying in a field near the village of Bohorodychne in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Feb. 13, 2024. (Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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Two years of Russia's full-scale war in Ukraine has resulted in the deaths of 83,000 Russian soldiers, according to a joint study by independent Russian media outlets Meduza and Mediazona, published on Feb. 24.

Russia does not release data on military casualties arising from its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Meduza and Mediazona announced in July 2023 that journalists had accessed a restricted but non-classified database of inheritance cases, and compared trends to those in publicly available mortality data from Russia’s State Statistics Service, records from the Russian Probate Registry, and obituaries.

The resulting data gives an indication of how many Russian soldiers have been killed since February 24, 2022.

The report noted that though "the front line has virtually frozen in 2023, the rate of losses not only did not decrease, but increased significantly."

By the end of 2023, an estimated 75,000 Russian soldiers had been killed, making the average 120 deaths per day.

This is due to an increase of troops at the front line and "increased firepower of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, which received Western weapons and ammunition."

The number of dead soldiers also began to accelerate in October 2023, when the Russian offensive on Avdiivka began.  

Pro-Kremlin military blogger dead after reporting Russia’s losses in Avdiivka
Andrey Morozov, who wrote under the pseudonym “Murz” on Telegram, was a pro-Kremlin commentator who participated in Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Russian state-run media and other military bloggers said he died by suicide.

Losses reached the highest peak between January and March 2023, during the battle for Bakhmut, the report said.

"According to our data, during this period up to 2,000 people died a week, and most of them were former prisoners."

With a prison population reaching over 400,000 inmates due to one of the highest rates of incarceration in the world, Russia’s Federal Penal Service provides a "unique human resource" for the Russian military, the U.K. Defense Ministry reported in January 2023.

Former prisoners make up the largest share of dead soldiers, followed by contracted soldiers, and in third place, those who were forcibly mobilized.

Meduza and Mediazona's calculations only apply to those who have been killed, not seriously wounded or discharged.

The U.K. Defense Ministry reported on Feb. 24 that according to its estimations, approximately 350,000 Russian personnel have been killed or wounded.

The latest Ukrainian military update said that Russia has lost over 409,010 troops in Ukraine since the start of the full-scale invasion.  

"In two years of conflict, Russian losses match - and in many cases surpass - those that comprised its original force" of at least 100,000 personnel.

"Mobilization and recruitment, production and refurbishment of existing stockpiles mean that Russian forces in Ukraine are now larger in number than at the start of the war," the U.K. Defense Ministry said.

Neither Moscow nor Kyiv releases public information about troop losses, but the Russian military's culture of dishonest reporting means that Russian officials themselves likely have a "low level of understanding" about casualty figures, the ministry said in December 2023.

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