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22 March 2022

Why Russia’s troop losses in Ukraine are remarkable

Russia has lost more troops in a month in Ukraine than the US lost in a decade in Iraq.

Less than a month since the invasion of Ukraine, thousands of Russian troops have been killed in the country. Official Russian figures from the Ministry of Defence put the military death toll at 498 a few weeks ago, but this is certain to be an understatement. Although US intelligence assessments vary, one recent estimate reported by the New York Times last week put the figure at about 7,000.

US estimates draw on open-source data, Ukrainian reports, satellite imagery and intercepted communications and all put the number of troops killed in the thousands.

The Ukrainian military puts Russian losses at 15,000, which is probably on the high side. A story on a pro-Kremlin Russian news website put losses at 9,861 before being quickly taken down, which led to speculation that it was a leak of the official Russian figure.

In almost a decade of fighting in Iraq 4,492 US troops were killed and 2,325 in two decades in Afghanistan. Although figures are highly unreliable, even the estimated 14,000 Russian troops killed in the Second Chechen War were spread over 10 years, compared with 27 days of the current war.

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