The UK’s defense minister has claimed a quarter of a million Russian troops have been killed, injured or gone missing since the start of Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking at an event in London earlier this week, Ben Wallace was discussing the dire state the Kremlin currently finds itself in, reflected by the aborted Wagner mutiny and the multiple firings, killings and disappearances of Russian generals in recent weeks.
He said: “If you look at the generals being fired, you look at Prigozhin – if anyone predicted last year that Prigozhin was going to march on Moscow, General Surovikin who is currently resting in Moscow at the moment – he’s one of their most capable generals.
“So, the splinter in the hierarchy of the Russian army is very real and the casualty rates are horrific.
“It would not be wrong to say at least 230,000 to 250,000 dead or injured Russians.”
The exact numbers of soldiers both Russian and Ukrainian troops killed and injured since the start of the full-scale invasion have been notoriously hard to verify.
Both Kyiv and Moscow regularly make claims about the numbers of enemy personnel their forces have taken out of action, while confirmation of their own losses is far harder to come by.
Wallace’s claim of 230,000 to 250,000 is actually in line with Ukrainian claims which, as of Friday, July 21, stand at 240,690 “liquidated personnel.”
⚡️ The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces posted the data on russian military losses as of July 21.
In total, about 240,690 russian soldiers were eliminated.
— FLASH (@Flash_news_ua) July 21, 2023
The total is also in line with previous western estimates. At the start of February, a report in The New York Times citing “American and other Western officials,” claimed 200,000 Russian troops have been killed and wounded since Feb. 24 of last year.
The month before, Norway’s Chief of Defense Eirik Kristoffersen, said: “Russian losses are beginning to approach around 180,000 dead or wounded soldiers.”
And previous to this estimate, in November of last year the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley said the Russian army had suffered more than 100,000 dead or wounded, with a “probably” similar toll on the Ukrainian side.
Looking to the Kremlin for accurate figures is pointless task – Moscow’s official total of 5,937 has not been updated since September and was almost certainly a vast underestimate even at the time.
Earlier this week, light was shed on the number of Wagner mercenaries who have been killed and injured during the war.
Unverified numbers, posted on Telegram by several Wagner-affiliated channels, claim that in all operations from the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion up until the “capture of Bakhmut” on May 20:
· Wagner had 78,000 thousand fighters in total.
· 49,000 of these were convicts.
· 22,000 were killed.
· 40,000 were wounded.
This means only one-in-five made through unscathed – 16,000 of the 78,000.
Ukraine has also been secretive about its own losses – in December Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said official estimates of the number of Ukrainian troops killed “range from 10,000… to 13,000” but did not give a figure for the number of wounded.
Podolyak did say that Zelensky would make the official data public “when the right moment comes,” but we have no idea when that might be.
Speaking at the event in London this week, Wallace compared the number of Russian troops killed and wounded with the 15,000 Russian troops killed in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989, saying: “That’s the mindset of Putin.”
As for Ukraine’s chances of victory, Wallace added: “I think it is winnable. I think Russia is much more fragile than the Russians want to admit, for sure.”