How many Russians have died in Ukraine? The data shows what Moscow hides

Relatives of officers killed in the invasion of Ukraine, in Crimea (AP / file)

Almost 50,000 Russian men have died in the war in Ukraineaccording to the first independent statistical analysis of Russia’s war dead.

Two independent Russian media, midfielder and jellyfishwho worked with a data scientist from the German University of Tübingen, used Russian government data to shed light on one of Moscow’s best-kept secretsthe true human cost of his invasion of Ukraine.

To do so, they used a statistical concept popularized during the COVID-19 pandemic called excess mortality. From inheritance records and official mortality dataestimated how many men under the age of 50 died between February 2022 and May 2023 above normal.

Neither Moscow nor kyiv give updated data on military casualties, and both strive to amplify those of the other side. Russia has barely officially acknowledged the death of just over 6,000 soldiers. Reports of military casualties have been dogged in Russian media, according to activists and independent journalists.

Documenting deaths has become an act of defiance, and those who do so face harassment and possible criminal charges.

FILE - Ukrainian servicemen pack the dead body of a Russian soldier, killed in a recent battle in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine, Saturday, April 8, 2023. Nearly 50,000 Russian soldiers have died in the war in Ukraine, according to the first independent statistical analysis of Russia's war dead.  (AP Photo/Andrii Marienko, File)
Ukrainian soldiers move the body of a Russian soldier in Kharkiv (AP/file) (Andrii Marienko/)

Despite these challenges, Mediazona and the Russian Service of BBCwho worked with a network of volunteers, have used social media posts and photos of cemeteries in different parts of Russia to create a database of confirmed war deaths. By July 7 they had identified 27,423 dead Russian soldiers.

“These are just soldiers we know the name ofand in each case his death is verified by several sources,” said Dmitry Treshchanin, editor of midfielder and who helped oversee the investigation. “The estimate we made with jellyfish allows us see the ‘hidden’ deathsdeaths that the Russian government obsessively and unsuccessfully tries to hide.

To get a more exhaustive count, journalists from Mediazona and Meduza obtained records of inheritance processes submitted to the Russian authorities. Its data from the National Authentication Registry contained information on more than 11 million people who died between 2014 and May 2023.

According to his analysis, in 2022, 25,000 more inheritance processes were opened than expected for men between 15 and 49 years of age. By May 27, 2023, the number of additional cases had skyrocketed to 47,000.

That increase is roughly in line with a May White House estimate that more than 20,000 Russians have been killed in Ukraine since December, though it falls short of British and US intelligence estimates of total Russian deaths.

FILE - A Russian soldier killed during combats against Ukrainian army lies on a corn field in Sytnyaky, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, March 27, 2022. Nearly 50,000 Russian soldiers have died in the war in Ukraine, according to a new statistical analysis.  (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd, File)
The body of a Russian soldier on the outskirts of kyiv, in the first weeks of the invasion (AP/file) (Rodrigo Abd/)

Britain’s Defense Ministry said in February that between 40,000 and 60,000 Russians had probably been killed in the war. A leaked estimate from the US Defense Intelligence Agency put a figure of between 35,000 and 43,000 Russians killed in action in the first year of the war.

“Their numbers may be accurate, or they may not be,” said Treshchanin, editor of midfielder, in an email. “Even if they have sources in the Russian Defense Ministry, their own data could be incomplete. It is extremely difficult to get all the casualties from the army, Rosgvardia, the Akhmat battalion, various private military companies, of which Wagner is the largest but not the only one.. The casualties among prisoners, first recruited by Wagner and now by the Ministry of Defense, another very opaque topic, with a lot of potential for manipulation. Actually statistics could give better results”.

Russian forces could have prevented many deaths and amputations with better first aid services at the front lines, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence report on Monday. Russia has suffered an average of about 400 daily casualties for 17 monthswhich creates a “crisis” in combat medical care which has likely affected medical services for civilians in border areas near Ukraine, the ministry noted.

FILE - Ukrainian servicemen load bodies of Russian soldiers in to a railway refrigerator carriage in Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, May 13, 2022. Nearly 50,000 Russian soldiers have died in the war in Ukraine, according to a new statistical analysis.  (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)
Transfer of bodies of Russian soldiers (AP/file) (Efrem Lukatsky/)

Independently, Dmitry Kobak, a data scientist at the German University of Tübingen who has published papers on excess mortality from COVID-19 in Russia, obtained age- and sex-disaggregated mortality data for 2022 from Rosstat, the official news agency. statistical russian.

Found that in 2022, 24,000 more men under the age of 50 had died than expecteda figure that fits with the analysis of inheritance processes.

The COVID-19 pandemic made it more difficult to determine how many men would have died in Russia since February 2022 if there was no war. Both analyzes corrected for the persistent effects of COVID on mortality by comparing death rates for men with those for women.

Sergei Scherbov, a scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, cautioned that “differences in the number of deaths between men and women can vary significantly simply by chance”.

FILE - The mother of a Russian soldier who was killed in a military action in Ukraine, kneels near a planted tree in memory of her son at the Alley of Heroes in Sevastopol, Crimea, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023. The Alley of Heroes was opened in memory of Russian servicemen who died during fighting in Ukraine.  More than 70 trees were planted in the Victory Park.  Nearly 50,000 Russian soldiers have died in the war in Ukraine, according to the first independent statistical analysis of Russia's war dead.  (AP Photo, File)
The mother of a Russian soldier killed in the war, in Sevastopol (AP/file)

“I’m not saying that there can’t be an excess of deaths in men, but from a statistical point of view, this difference in deaths could be the result of chance,” he said.

Russians missing but not officially recognized as dead, as well as Ukrainian citizens fighting in units of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk republics, are not included in this data.

Kobak acknowledged that still some uncertainties remain, especially in the deaths of older men. Furthermore, it turns out difficult to know how many missing Russian soldiers have died. But he noted that either factor is unlikely to have much of an impact on the final tally.

“That uncertainty is in the thousands,” he said. “The results are generally plausible.”

The Russian Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

jellyfish is an independent Russian outlet that has been operating in exile for eight years based in Riga, Latvia. In April 2021, the Russian authorities designated jellyfish as a “foreign agent”, which makes it difficult for him to earn advertising revenue. In January 2003, the Kremlin outlawed jellyfish by labeling it an “undesirable organization.”

Moscow has also appointed midfielder as a “foreign agent” and blocked his website after the large-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.

(With information from AP)

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