Young men from poor regions Mediazona journalists investigate open data on Russian troop losses in Ukraine
The independent Russian outlet Mediazona has published a new report analyzing available data on Russian military casualties in Ukraine. Using open Russian sources, the journalists found 1,744 reports of Russian military fatalities — a number noticeably higher than the official death toll (1,351) reported by the Russian Defense Ministry on March 25.
By comparison, the Telegram channel Goryushko, which also tallies reports of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine, has gathered information on 1,790 deaths as of April 26. Ukraine’s Armed Forces, however, now estimate that Russia has lost more than 22,000 troops since launching its full-scale invasion.
According to Mediazona’s report, Russia has lost at least 317 officers, of which a third are senior officers (majors, lieutenant colonels, and colonels). The Russian side has also confirmed the deaths of two major generals and a captain of the first rank.
“Almost every fifth reported casualty was an officer; this does not imply, however, that a fifth of all casualties were officers,” Mediazona notes. Indeed, this high proportion of known fatalities among Russian officers could be due to the fact that their deaths are typically reported publicly and their bodies are the first to be sent home for burial.
At least 500 of the dead are “elite” fighters from Russia’s most combat-ready units. This figure includes 351 airborne troops, 91 marines, and 45 special forces (Spetsnaz) officers. The regiments that have suffered the most losses are Kostroma’s 331st Guards Airborne Regiment (at least 49 troops) and Pskov’s 76th Guards Air Assault Division (at least 40 troops).
“According to data collected by the BBC, this regiment took part in the offensive on Kyiv where they got bogged down in fighting in the northern part of the region: in Bucha, Hostomel and Irpin,” Mediazona notes.
Paratroopers from both of these regiments fought in the Donbas in 2014. At the time, the Russian authorities tried to cover up their involvement in the war — the Defense Ministry claimed that captured Russian soldiers “got lost” and wandered into Ukrainian territory accidentally, or that they had left the armed forces to go fight in the Donbas as “volunteers.” Those killed in action were buried in secret.
Mediazona also found reports about five police officers and 78 Russian National Guard (Rosgvardiya) officers killed in Ukraine, including 15 riot police (OMON) officers who, according to the journalists, were deployed to suppress civilian protests and assist with carrying out searches and arrests.
“The majority of fatalities are servicemen from poor regions,” Mediazona underscores. Russia’s republics of Dagestan and Buryatia have suffered the most losses (125 and 85, respectively). These regions are among the poorest in Russia, where the average monthly salary is just over 20,000 rubles (roughly $270). “Citizens of Moscow and Saint Petersburg (where more than 12 percent of Russia’s population live) are virtually absent from the reports,” according to Mediazona.
Nearly 1,000 reports mentioned the age of the deceased: 243 were 21–23 years old, 195 were 24–25 years old, and 139 were under 21 years old (the latter figure likely includes conscript soldiers).
In addition, roughly 700 reports mentioned the date of the deaths. According to Mediazona’s data, Russia suffered more fatalities in the first three weeks of the war than in the weeks that followed. The Russian military apparently suffered its most serious losses on March 12 (presumably during active fighting for Mariupol), and on the first and fifth days of the invasion.
You can read Mediazona’s full report in English here.