Kremlin's catastrophic losses: comparing Russia's 500,000 troop casualties in Ukraine to historical wars

As of the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Russian losses have reached 500,080 personnel, according to Ukrainian General Staff estimates. Earlier reports from Ukraine indicated this figure referred to the number of killed. However, in February 2024, General Staff representative Lieutenant Andriy Koval stated that this number includes not just deaths, but also injuries, deserters, and other loss categories. It remains uncertain if these statistics include the proxy forces of the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics and mercenaries like the Wagner Group. Below is the comparison of the total losses in the Russian-Ukrainian War with those of the USSR in Afghanistan and the Chechen campaigns.

U.S., U.K., and French estimates of Russian losses in Ukraine

U.S. Estimate

General Christopher Cavoli, Commander of the U.S. Army in Europe and Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO, declared that the Russian army had lost approximately 315,000 personnel, both killed and wounded (as of April 2024). However, the recovery rate of Russian forces was faster than expected by the Alliance. The total Russian contingent involved in Ukraine numbered around 470,000 troops.

French Estimate

In early May, France's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stéphane Séjourné, stated of the Russian army in Ukraine were around 500,000, with 150,000 fatalities.

U.K. Estimate

U.K. Minister for the Armed Forces, Leo Docherty, said that the total Russian Armed Forces lost approximately 450,000 in Ukraine, including tens of thousands of deserters and wounded personnel.

Soviet Losses in Afghanistan and Chechnya

The Soviet Union engaged in numerous operations and proxy wars. One of the most well-known is the invasion of Afghanistan, lasting from 1979 to 1989. The conflict became a significant battlefront in the Cold War, with the USSR supporting the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, while the mujahideen received support from the U.S., Pakistan, the U.K., China, Iran, and Arab states. The greatest toll was on Afghan civilians, with approximately 3 million fatalities and millions more becoming refugees.

During the conflict, the Soviet army, according to analysts Lester Grau and Ali Ahmad Jalali, lost:

- 9,500 killed in action

- 4,000 who died from wounds

- 1,000 who perished from diseases and accidents

However, there is also an estimate of 26,000 dead. Besides the fatalities, about 53,753 Soviet soldiers were wounded, and 264 were missing. Total losses amount to 55,470 with the 14,453 figure or 80,017 under the higher estimate.

Chechen Wars

Following the collapse of the USSR, the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria declared independence and sought to secede from Russia. The First Chechen War, running from December 11, 1994, to August 31, 1996, ended with Ichkeria's victory, while Russia faced heavy casualties. The official Russian estimate for the First Chechen War is 6,000 dead and missing and nearly 18,000 wounded; however, the Soldiers' Mothers Committee reports more than 11,000 (killed or missing and up to 25,000 wounded.

Russia, refusing to relinquish Ichkeria, conducted another crackdown in 1999-2000, obliterating its statehood. These operations cost security forces over 6,000 lives according to official data. Independent estimates, notably from Janes, suggest Russia lost 9,000-11,000 killed from 1999 to 2002.

The overall estimate from the Soldiers' Mothers Committee puts Russian military losses in both wars at 14,000 killed.

In October 2022, the Ukrainian parliament officially recognized the Chechen wars as the genocide of the Chechen people. Ichkeria itself is regarded as temporarily occupied by Russia.

Comparing Russian Army Losses in Ukraine with Other Wars

The Russian army has endured significant losses during its invasion of Ukraine. With 500,000 personnel lost, the toll far exceeds those of both the Afghanistan and Chechen conflicts combined.

  War in Ukraine, Russia