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Updated Aug 18, 2023, 4:30pm EDT
securityEurope
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Semafor Signals

Half a million Russian and Ukrainian troops have been killed or injured in the war

REUTERS/Viacheslav Ratynskyi
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The News

Nearly half a million Ukrainian and Russian troops have either been killed or injured since the start of the Ukraine war, the New York Times reported Friday, citing U.S. officials.

Russia has reported a total of 300,000 casualties — with 120,000 deaths and up to 180,000 injuries. Ukraine is estimated to have lost 70,000 troops; 100,000 to 120,000 have been wounded.

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Moscow is believed to undercount the dead, while Kyiv has not publicly disclosed official data on deaths and injuries since the start of Russia’s invasion.

In its last public estimate from November, the U.S. said that at least 100,000 troops on each side had been killed or wounded.

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SIGNALS

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After losing thousands of troops at the start of its counteroffensive, Ukraine recently pivoted to previous battlefield tactics aimed at reducing casualties by avoiding digging into Russian minefield defenses. But U.S. officials worry that Ukraine has become casualty averse, the New York Times reports1 , and will only end up burning through scarce ammunition supplies and prolonging the counteroffensive.

Moscow has experienced more losses in its war against Ukraine than it did over 10 years of war in Afghanistan. But despite the large-scale death and devastation, there seems to have been little protest2 from the Russian public. This may be partially due to the media narrative surrounding the war in Russia, which does not disclose casualty figures, and the consensus from the political elite to back President Vladimir Putin in his fight against Kyiv. The Kremlin has also taken a zero-tolerance approach to any opposition and has vowed to crack down on anyone who criticizes the ongoing invasion.

But even as Russia attempts to control the media to boost morale, soldiers who have returned home from the frontline, as well as anonymous bloggers3 , are beginning to share stories about the true horrors of the war. After Ukraine struck a military base in Makiivka on New Year’s Eve that the Ukrainian army said killed 400 Russians, the Kremlin admitted to losing 63 troops a figure that sparked outrage and was eventually altered to 89  what is likely well below the actual number of casualties.

The latest victims in Ukraine are displacing the dead4 from past wars. At Lychakiv Cemetery in Lviv, troops are being buried in a Soviet war memorial whose soldiers fought against Ukrainian nationalists in 1944. Roughly 560 of men of the NKVD have been exhumed since April to make space for Ukrainians. To the gravediggers’ surprise, many of the skeletons exhumed had their skulls cut open.

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