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Tallying the troops BBC journalists identify more than 3,000 Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine

Ukrainian President’s Office / SIPA / Scanpix / LETA

Using open sources, BBC News Russian has identified 3,052 Russian soldiers and officers killed in Ukraine since Moscow began its full-scale invasion on February 24.

The Russian BBC’s tally only includes those soldiers whose full names could be confirmed based on reports from regional leaders and local media. As regional officials and media outlets do not report the names of all the dead, the actual number of Russian military losses is believed to be significantly higher. 

Together with a team of volunteers, BBC News Russian journalists tracked reports of military fatalities published by the heads of the Russian regions where the servicemen in question were born or lived, as well as reports published by local media outlets and educational institutions where the deceased studied. 

The BBC’s tally only includes those soldiers whose full names could be confirmed. And it does not include the reported deaths of Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group, who are reportedly fighting in Ukraine. 

To get an idea of how many military fatalities were not included in their statistics, the Russian BBC studied data from 11 regional cemeteries, where Russian soldiers were buried after February 24.

For example, the journalists found that 42 Russian servicemen had been buried in a cemetery near Ulyanovsk since the start of the full-scale invasion. What’s more, half of the deceased were not named publicly — not even on social media. At other cemeteries, the Russian BBC found that the names of 30–100 percent of the recently buried servicemen had not been publicly reported. 

Extrapolating from these statistics, the Russian BBC surmises that its list of reported deaths contains “at least 40–60 percent fewer names” than the actual number of servicemen laid to rest in Russia since the start of the full-scale war. 

The Russian Defense Ministry has only reported on troop losses twice in the three months since Moscow began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The last official toll — 1,351 soldiers killed and 3,825 wounded — was reported on March 25. 

Like BBC News Russian, the independent Russian outlet Mediazona has also used open data to calculate Russian troop losses in Ukraine. As of May 20, Mediazona had found 2,622 reported fatalities. Similarly, the Ukrainian Telegram channel Goryushko, which gathers open source reports of Russian soldiers’ deaths, had recorded 3,054 fatalities at the time of this writing. 

On May 23, UK Defense Intelligence reported that Russia’s military death toll in Ukraine was likely comparable to the Soviet Union’s losses during its nine-year war in Afghanistan. According to official statistics, more than 15,000 Soviet soldiers were killed or went missing during the Soviet-Afghan War. Ukraine’s estimates put Russia’s death toll even higher: at least 30,500 troops as of May 31. 

BBC Russian’s other findings, in brief:

  • In the last month, Russian officials and media outlets have started reporting the deaths of “volunteers” more often. The Russian BBC found 81 reported deaths of alleged volunteers. A third of them were over the age of 40, and ten were over the age of 50.
  • Of all Russia’s regions, Dagestan has suffered the most losses — 176 publicly reported deaths, according to the BBC’s findings. Buryatia ranked second (at least 136 deaths) and the Volgograd region ranked third (at least 109 deaths). There are only six known deaths from Moscow, even though the capital’s residents account for 9 percent of Russia’s population. 
  • The Russian BBC managed to confirm the deaths of three Russian generals. In total, the journalists’ tally includes 152 so-called senior officers (generals, colonels, lieutenant colonels, and majors) and 405 junior officers. These figures indicate that officers make up more than 18 percent of the publicly reported losses. This high proportion may be due to the command structure of the Russian army, and the fact that the bodies of officers are the first to be sent home for burial. 
  • Roughly 20 percent of the identified deceased served as motorized infantry troops. As of the end of May, this group has overtaken Russia’s Airborne Forces in terms of losses (paratroopers account for 19 percent of the publicly reported deaths). This may be due to the nature of the fighting in the Donbas, which is the main battleground in Ukraine right now. 
read more about Russian casualties

Young men from poor regions Mediazona journalists investigate open data on Russian troop losses in Ukraine

read more about Russian casualties

Young men from poor regions Mediazona journalists investigate open data on Russian troop losses in Ukraine

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