On Thursday morning, the war in Ukraine entered its 16th month.
What the Kremlin believed to be a lighting operation that would last between three days and two weeks has become a nightmare with no end in sight for the Russian military.
And there seems to be no end in sight for the Russian losses. Moscow has lost hundreds of thousands of troops in the “special military operation” in Ukraine.
The Numbers: How Many Dead in Ukraine?
The fog of war combined with the tendency of the Kremlin to provide false casualty figures, creates the perfect recipe for inaccuracies.
So, our assessment here at 19FortyFive is as close to the truth as open-source data allows. (When we refer to Russian forces, we include the Russian military, Wagner Group private military company, and pro-Russian separatist forces.)
Several weeks ago, the U.S. Intelligence Community came out with an estimate of Russian casualties in the war. The assessment in March reported around 220,000 Russian troops killed, wounded, or captured. To understand the magnitude of that number, the initial invasion force that the Kremlin unleashed on Ukraine on February 24, 2022, was around that size. In less than 1,5 years of combat, the Russian forces have lost almost their entire invasion force.
But the actual number of losses is likely even higher by now. In April, the Russian forces suffered approximately 16,400 casualties.
On the other hand, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense reports a lower number of Russian losses (about 205,000 as of Thursday). However, it’s not clear whether Kyiv means this figure to dead Russian troops or total casualties, which would include wounded and captured as well.
The Russian forces have lost tens of thousands of heavy weapon systems as well, in effect negating any technological advantage they had in the opening phase of the war.
Despite losing so many troops, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for the Russian forces in Ukraine right now.
The daily casualties of the Russian military, Wagner Group, and pro-Russian separatists continue to be in line with the numbers up to this point.
On any given day, the Russian forces will lose approximately between 400 and 900 troops killed, wounded, or captured. If the casualty number ends up on the lower end of the spectrum, it means that there aren’t any major Russian offensive or Ukrainian counteroffensive operations going on. Conversely, if the number lands on the higher end of the spectrum, it means that heavy combat is taking place on the ground and likely in more than one point of the contact line. =
These figures add up and sap the ability of the Russian forces to achieve anything meaningful on the ground besides attriting the Ukrainians. Only time will tell if that’s a viable strategy. But even if it is, it would have cost Russia a horrible number of men.
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. He is currently working towards a Master’s Degree in Strategy, Cybersecurity, and Intelligence at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.