Russian Casualties Mounting

From the Wilson Center’s Stubborn Things blog, an interesting observation on Russian casualties:

More Russians were killed in Ukraine in the first three weeks of the invasion than the U.S. lost in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

Russia is paying a high price for its war against Ukraine. As the war enters its second month, according to a NATO official, at least 7,000 Russian troops have been killed…and, as of mid-March, the upper estimate is 15,000. If the death toll is “only” 7,000, it is already higher than U.S. losses over twenty years in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. At the upper end, it exceeds Soviet losses in the ten-year occupation of Afghanistan during the 1980’s.

Of course, the figures Russian officials admit to are significantly lower: 1,351 killed according to the latest announcement. Since the Kremlin has formally criminalized calling the invasion a war—claiming the term spreads disinformation—Russian news outlets have been unwilling to seek the real death toll. International journalists have reported on overwhelmed morgues in Belarus and mobile crematoriums designed to conceal the scale of Russia’s loss.

Digital sleuths have reviewed thousands of images from the war to determine that by the end of March, Russia had lost more than 2,000 vehicles to Ukrainian fire, breakdowns, and abandonment, with each one carrying up to a dozen troops. Then, on March 21, the pro-Kremlin tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda reported that “According to Russian defense ministry data … 9,861 Russian soldiers had been killed in action and another 16,153 had been wounded.” Six hours later, the number was removed from the website, and the paper said that it had been hacked.

The real scale of Russia’s loss will remain mysterious long after the war. But what is clear is that by the time it’s finished, Putin’s “special military operation” will result in the largest Russian death toll since the Second World War.

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