Mediazona, working with BBC News Russian service and a team of volunteers, continues to collect data about the casualties sustained by the Russian military in Ukraine. These numbers do not represent the actual death toll since we can only review publicly available reports — including social media posts by relatives, reports in local media, and statements of the local authorities. Also, the number of soldiers missing in action or captured is unknown.
However, even this limited data can reveal what has been happening to the Russian army over the course of this invasion.
On September 21, following Putin’s announcement of the “partial mobilisation”, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu reported that Russian army casualties stood at 5,937. This was an outright lie: our count, based on publicly available information, lists more dead in the same time frame—consequently, the real toll is likely in the tens of thousands.
Most of those killed in action come from the so-called ‘ethnic republics’, with Dagestan and Buryatia leading the way.
Unusually high number of casualty reports from Krasnodar Krai can be attributed to local volunteers’s frequent visits to the cemeteries to photograph new graves, so a greater number of casualties becomes public knowledge.
Most reports about soldier deaths are coming from the poorer regions: the average wage there is lower than the Russian median wage.
Since the beginning of this invasion, confirmed Russian army casualties in Ukraine exceeded those sustained in the Second Chechen war.
Volunteer units have been sustaining the heaviest casualties over the summer which contrasts the death count from February and spring: in the first weeks, the Airborne forces suffered the most damage, and then the Motorised rifle forces. A large number of those killed in action with no branch identified were volunteer fighters.
By November 4 we’ve been able to confirm deaths of at least 1,400 officers. Their share among the dead is getting diluted: while in late April one in four casualties reports listed an officer, now it is one in six. Neither of these numbers is likely to reveal the real situation on the battlefield. However, as Samuel Crenney-Evans of Britain’s Royal Institute for Defence and Security Studies put it, Russian officers are generally more likely to engage in combat than their Western counterparts.
As of today, only two deputy commanders of the armies have been officially confirmed as killed: Major General Andrey Sukhovetsky of the 41st Army, and Major General Vladimir Frolov of the 8th Army. Retired Major General Kanamat Botashev, 63, died in late May; former fighter pilot had likely volunteered to rejoin the Armed forces. Another Major General, Roman Kutuzov, was reported dead on June 5; deputy commander of the Black Sea Fleet, Captain 1st Rank Andrey Paliy, is also among the casualties.
Russian military also suffered heavy losses to the most combat-ready elite units: the Airborne forces (VDV), the Marines and the Special operations forces.
100 military pilots are known to have been killed. There are likewise pilots among those captured. The loss of pilots is particularly painful for the army: it takes 7–8 years to train one first-class frontline pilot, and costs about $3.4 million. The loss of each pilot also means the loss of expensive equipment.
The date of the deaths is provided in almost 6,500 reports. The number of casualties per day according to this data is a poor reflection of the real picture, but it does suggest which days saw the most intensive fighting.
According to this data, the Russian army had already suffered serious losses in the very first weeks of the war, when it tried to advance in several directions at once, including towards Kyiv. Later, when Russian troops withdrew from the area, the Defence Ministry began to deny plans to seize the Ukrainian capital and to refer to these actions as ‘restraining’ the AFU.
It also has to be mentioned that the latest data is likely incomplete, further updates may introduce significant changes.
Nearly 7,200 reports mention the age of the deceased; the 21–23 year-old group saw the highest number of deaths. Volunteer fighters are considerably older: generally, these men are aged 35 and over.
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