Confirmed Russian death toll in Ukraine war: 75,000 until end of 2023

A new investigation says 120 Russian military get killed every day in Ukraine.

At least 75,000 Russian servicemen were killed between 22 February 2022 and 31 December 2023 in Ukraine while the true death toll might be higher as many war casualties have gone unaccounted or have not been confirmed officially so far.

A new investigation by Meduza and MediaZona, two independent outlets, says the Ukraine war death toll averages 120 Russian soldiers a day. The peak of the so-called “special military operation” coincided with the battle for the town of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, which grinded 2,000 lives a week. 

Avdiyvka, another small settlement, could repeat that statistical spike.

The journalist research relies on a combination of databases, including the Register of Inheritance Cases (РНД), Russian Federal State Statistics Service (Росстат), and a detailed list of deceased military personnel compiled by MediaZona and the Russian BBC Service.

Russian cadets giving honors to soldiers killed in Ukraine. Credit: BBC

The report does not cover the losses from the most recent months, but if the pace remains similar to the fourth quarter of 2023 - around 3,900 deaths per month - the total casualties over two years could reach approximately 83,000, without counting the severely wounded personnel who are no longer fit for combat.

The highest losses occurred during the battle of Bakhmut, from January to March 2023, with up to 2,000 deaths per week, mainly comprising former inmates recruited by the mercenary group Wagner.

Even after the peak of the Bakhmut operation, the loss rate in 2023 remained high, surpassing the losses in the initial days of the war when Russian forces faced defeat in their attempt to advance on Kyiv, Meduza said.

Despite the frontline freezing in 2023, the rate of casualties not only didn’t decrease but actually increased, a fact attributed to the soaring presence of troops on the front lines, estimated to be around half a million, and improved firepower of Ukrainian forces, thanks to Western weaponry and ammunition.

The Russian casualty rate accelerated in October or November 2023, a period coincided with the Russian offensive on Adviyvka.

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Analyzing the structure of the Russian forces, the investigators found that 22,000 out of the total number of killed men were professional military, either contract soldiers or volunteers. Another category is made of former prisoners who had joined the Wagner mercenary group and other paramilitary formations – at least 20,000. Individuals on mobilization terms make up the third-largest category among casualties - around 16,000 out of 75,000 by the end of last year.

The Russian death rate on the Ukrainian frontlines is approximately 120 individuals per day in the last six months, according to the most conservative estimates.

The investigation, its authors stressed, is based on confirmed data about the deceased only. The data was obtained after months of thorough examination of millions of inheritance claim records, hundreds of thousands of death certificates issued to families of Russian soldiers, photographs of graves that appeared during the past years, news about farewell ceremonies, obituaries in social media, official population statistical dynamics, and other sources.

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The numbers above omit the personnel who got kicked out active service because of injuries – 130,000 – or missing in action servicemen, as well as the Donbas militias and Ukrainian collaborators who are not entitled to financial benefits back in Russia. Foreign mercenaries, too, could not be taken into account.

By comparison, in the 1979-89 war in Afghanistan, the death toll was estimated at 15,000 Soviet troops.

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