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 openly available information, lists more dead in the same time frame—and in fact the real figure is likely in the tens of thousands.
This can have several possible explanations. Demographics, distinct attitude towards military service, large number of military units located in these regions, low wages and unemployment rate all count towards making the army appealing to young men.
Most reports about soldier deaths are coming from the poorer regions: the average wage there is lower than the Russian median wage. Moscow and Saint Petersburg representing over 12% of the country’s population are almost never mentioned in those reports.
Since the beginning of this invasion, confirmed Russian army casualties in Ukraine exceeded those sustained in the Second Chechen war. The latest official figures for both wars were announced in 2021 at the State Duma: 5,042 troops in the first Chechen war, ‘over 6,000’ in the second campaign.
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 October 7, we’ve been able to confirm deaths of at least 1 200 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.
80 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 . The loss of each pilot also means the loss of expensive equipment.
The date of the deaths is provided in some 5 100 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 5 800 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.