Revealing the Hidden Toll: Unveiling the Number of Russian Casualties in Ukraine

by Michael Nguyen
Russian casualties

A groundbreaking analysis has unveiled the true extent of Russian casualties in the war in Ukraine, indicating that nearly 50,000 Russian men have lost their lives. Independent Russian media outlets, Mediazona and Meduza, collaborated with a data scientist from Germany’s Tübingen University to shed light on a closely guarded secret—Moscow’s concealed human cost of its invasion of Ukraine.

To accomplish this, they utilized a statistical concept known as excess mortality, which gained popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. By examining inheritance records and official mortality data, they estimated the number of men under the age of 50 who died between February 2022 and May 2023, surpassing the expected death rate.

Both Moscow and Kyiv have been reluctant to provide timely data on military losses, each amplifying the other side’s casualties while withholding their own. The Russian government has only publicly acknowledged the deaths of slightly over 6,000 soldiers. Reports on military losses have been suppressed in Russian media, with activists and independent journalists facing harassment and potential criminal charges for documenting the fallen.

Despite these challenges, Mediazona, in collaboration with the BBC’s Russian Service and a network of volunteers, has utilized social media posts and photographs of cemeteries across Russia to compile a comprehensive database of confirmed war deaths. As of July 7, they had identified 27,423 deceased Russian soldiers.

Dmitry Treshchanin, an editor at Mediazona overseeing the investigation, stated, “These soldiers are those whom we know by name, and their deaths have been verified by multiple sources. The estimate we calculated in conjunction with Meduza allows us to observe the ‘hidden’ deaths that the Russian government obsessively and unsuccessfully attempts to conceal.”

To obtain a more encompassing assessment, journalists from Mediazona and Meduza acquired records of inheritance cases filed with Russian authorities. Their analysis of data from the National Probate Registry, covering the period from 2014 to May 2023, revealed that there were 25,000 more inheritance cases opened in 2022 for males aged 15 to 49 than expected. By May 27, 2023, this number had risen to 47,000.

This surge aligns closely with a May estimate by the White House, which suggested that over 20,000 Russians had been killed in Ukraine since December. However, it is lower than intelligence assessments from the United States and the United Kingdom regarding the overall number of Russian fatalities.

The UK Ministry of Defense, in February, stated that approximately 40,000 to 60,000 Russians were likely killed in the conflict. Furthermore, a leaked assessment from the US Defense Intelligence Agency indicated that between 35,000 and 43,000 Russians were killed in action during the war’s first year.

Dmitry Treshchanin expressed caution about the figures provided by these assessments, stating, “Their numbers may be accurate, or they may not be. Even if they have sources within the Russian Ministry of Defense, the data itself could be incomplete. It is extremely challenging to gather all the casualties from the army, Rosgvardia, Akhmat battalion, various private military companies—of which Wagner is the largest but not the sole one. Casualties among prisoners, initially recruited by Wagner and now by the Ministry of Defense, also present a blurry subject with potential for manipulation. Statistics may yield more reliable results.”

According to an intelligence assessment published by the UK Ministry of Defense on Monday, a significant number of Russian fatalities, as well as amputations, could have been prevented with improved frontline first aid. Russia has been experiencing an average of approximately 400 casualties per day for the past 17 months, creating a “crisis” in combat medical care that likely undermines medical services for civilians in border regions near Ukraine.

Additionally, a data scientist from Germany’s Tübingen University, Dmitry Kobak, who has previously published work on excess COVID-19 deaths in Russia, obtained mortality data categorized by age and sex for 2022 from Rosstat, Russia’s official statistics agency. His findings indicated that 24,000 more men under the age of 50 died in 2022 than anticipated, aligning with the analysis of inheritance data.

Assessing the number of men who would have died in Russia since February 2022 in the absence of war was complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Both analyses accounted for the lingering effects of COVID-19 on mortality rates by comparing male death rates against female deaths.

Sergei Scherbov, a scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, cautioned that “variations in the number of deaths between males and females can vary significantly due to chance alone.” He added, “I am not saying that there couldn’t be an excess number of male deaths, but rather that statistically speaking, this difference in deaths could be a mere outcome of chance.”

It is important to note that these counts do not include missing Russians who are not officially recognized as deceased, nor does it include Ukrainian citizens fighting in units of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk republics.

Dmitry Kobak acknowledged that uncertainties remain, particularly regarding the deaths of older men. Additionally, determining the number of missing Russian soldiers who are presumed dead poses challenges. Nevertheless, he stated that neither factor is likely to have a significant impact, remarking, “These uncertainties are in the thousands. Overall, the results are plausible.”

When questioned about the study conducted by Meduza and Mediazona, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, during a conference call with reporters, claimed to be unaware of it, stating that the Kremlin had “stopped monitoring” Meduza. Peskov refused to comment on the number of deaths mentioned in the study, emphasizing that “the Defense Ministry provides the numbers, and they are the only ones authorized to do so.”

Meduza, an independent Russian media outlet, has been operating in exile for eight years, with its headquarters based in Riga, Latvia. In April 2021, Russian authorities labeled Meduza a “foreign agent,” making it more difficult to generate advertising income. Furthermore, in January 2023, the Kremlin banned Meduza, classifying it as an illegal “undesirable organization.”

Similarly, independent outlet Mediazona has been designated as a “foreign agent” by Moscow, and its website has been blocked following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Russian casualties

What is the significance of the independent analysis on Russian casualties in the Ukraine war?

The independent analysis sheds light on the true number of Russian casualties in the Ukraine war, challenging Moscow’s secrecy and revealing the human cost of the invasion.

How did the analysis estimate the number of Russian casualties?

The analysis used a statistical concept called excess mortality, drawing on inheritance records and official mortality data to estimate the number of additional deaths of Russian men under 50 during a specific time period.

Why is it difficult to obtain accurate data on military losses from Moscow and Kyiv?

Both Moscow and Kyiv withhold timely data on military losses and often amplify the other side’s casualties while downplaying their own. This lack of transparency makes it challenging to ascertain the true number of casualties.

How did Mediazona and Meduza compile the database of confirmed war deaths?

Mediazona and the BBC’s Russian Service, along with a network of volunteers, used social media posts and photographs of cemeteries across Russia to build a comprehensive database of confirmed war deaths, identifying thousands of deceased Russian soldiers.

How do the findings of the analysis compare to previous assessments?

The analysis aligns with estimates from the White House, UK Ministry of Defense, and leaked US Defense Intelligence Agency assessment, indicating a significant number of Russian casualties. However, variations in the assessments exist, highlighting the complexity of determining the precise figures.

What challenges did the analysis face in determining the number of casualties?

The analysis faced challenges in accounting for missing soldiers, deaths of older men, and the potential manipulation of statistics. Uncertainties exist, but the overall results are deemed plausible by the researchers involved.

How has the Russian government responded to the study?

The Kremlin spokesperson claimed to be unaware of the study and stated that the Defense Ministry is the authorized source for casualty numbers. Independent media outlets involved in the study have faced restrictions and labeling as “foreign agents” by Russian authorities.

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Jane Smith July 11, 2023 - 8:57 am

mediazona and meduza did gr8 work compiling data on confirmed war deaths. kudos to them for being so determined!

Alex K. July 11, 2023 - 10:05 am

kremlin says they “stopped monitoring” meduza, but we all know what that means. trying to silence the truth, typical.

Sarah123 July 11, 2023 - 12:41 pm

hard to believe the russian govt only acknowledged 6k deaths when the real number is almost 50k! unbelievable cover-up!

John Doe July 11, 2023 - 5:36 pm

wow, this analysis reveals true number of russian casualties in ukraine war. russia hiding so much, not cool!

Mark82 July 12, 2023 - 2:44 am

excess mortality concept used in covid times now helping reveal the hidden deaths. interesting how stats can tell a story!


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