It is no secret that Russian forces have suffered extremely heavy casualties in the war in Ukraine so far. There is plenty of audiovisual evidence to show the destruction of the Russian military in the fields of Ukraine.
But the actual casualty figures are stunning.
220,000 Russian Troops Killed or Wounded
According to the latest assessment by the U.S. Intelligence Community, as cited by the British Defense Minister Ben Wallace, the Russian military and Wagner Group private military company have lost more than 220,000 troops killed and wounded combined.
“The Russian forces have some really significant and deep systemic problems at the moment in their efforts. The latest U.S. assessments I have seen now put casualty figures over 220,0000 dead or injured,” Wallace said during a press conference.
This latest casualty is 20,000 higher than the previous Western assessment that was released in February. This number is in line with the monthly casualty reports we have been publishing here at 19FortyFive. Indeed, every month since November has been deadlier than the previous, with an average of around of more than 18,500 killed and wounded every month.
The current Russian casualties are larger than the invasion force that barged into Ukraine on February 24, 2022. That alone is clear evidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” against its smaller neighbor has failed spectacularly thus far.
Russian Casualties in Ukraine
The number of Russian casualties has been a hotly contested topic since the start of the war. The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense has been providing an enemy casualty sheet almost every day since the conflict began on February 24, 2022. The casualty updates include both manpower and weapon systems losses.
According to the latest official Ukrainian estimates, the Russian military and Wagner Group private military company have lost 172,900 troops in Ukraine. Obviously, that number conflicts with the latest Western intelligence assessment of more than 220,000 Russians dead and wounded.
Until recently, Western casualty estimates had tended to be more conservative than the Ukrainian claims. Indeed, the West assesses that the Russian forces have lost about 1,900 main battle tanks, but the Ukrainians are claiming almost twice that number.
So, this discrepancy in the number of killed and wounded is that much more perplexing. The explanation could very well be due to the definition of what constitutes a casualty.
The Ukrainians use the word “liquidated” to refer to the Russian losses. However, that word choice leaves the actual figure of killed and wounded up to interpretation. With “liquidated” Kyiv could mean “killed” or “killed and wounded.” Going off from the Ukrainian claims in other categories of Russian casualties, such as main battle tanks, we can reasonably assess that the Ukrainians mean “killed” when using “liquidated,” as that would mean that they don’t account for the wounded Russians. Adding the wounded (standard military wisdom suggests two to three wounded for one killed), would put the total estimate of Russian casualties to as high as 680,000 killed and wounded, which would be in line with the estimates of materiel losses.
It is most likely that the Western intelligence assessments are more accurate than the Ukrainian.
A 19FortyFive Defense and National Security Columnist, Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins University graduate.