Putin Speaks Out on Ukraine Conflict Casualties

New figures shed light on escalating conflict tolls

by Zain ul Abedin
Putin Speaks Out on Ukraine Conflict Casualties
© Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

In a rare disclosure on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin provided an update on the casualties and prisoners of war in the ongoing conflict with Ukraine. Speaking to international journalists in St. Petersburg, Putin claimed that Ukrainian losses substantially exceeded those of Russia, although he failed to provide evidence for his statements.

According to RIA Novosti, Putin informed leaders of global news agencies that Russia currently holds 1,348 of its soldiers and officers captive in Ukraine, compared to 6,465 Ukrainians detained by Russia. He further asserted that the ratio of "irretrievable losses" - fatalities not recoverable by either side - disproportionately favored Moscow, with a purported ratio of one to five.

"Our irretrievable losses are significantly smaller than those of the opposite party," Putin stated, as reported by the state-controlled Tass news agency. This claim contradicts the ongoing estimates from Ukrainian and U.S.

sources, which consistently indicate higher Russian casualties. As of Thursday, Ukraine's military reported the elimination of 515,000 Russian troops since the conflict escalated in February 2022. Ukrainian authorities also claim the destruction of over 7,800 tanks, 13,400 artillery units, and hundreds of aircraft and helicopters.

Despite these figures, detailed casualty statistics remain undisclosed by both Kyiv and Moscow.

Staggering Casualty Reports

In a rare acknowledgment, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reported in February that 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed since the invasion's onset.

The New York Times, citing U.S. officials in August 2023, estimated the Ukrainian death toll at nearly 70,000. Western and U.S. estimates have largely aligned with Ukraine's reported data throughout the conflict. An American report from December suggested that Russian casualties - killed and wounded - totaled approximately 315,000, which accounts for nearly 90 percent of the forces involved in the initial invasion.

Further investigations by the BBC and Mediazona in April confirmed at least 50,000 Russian military deaths, a number substantially lower than the official count of 6,000 confirmed by Russia's Defense Ministry in September 2022.

This figure from the ministry is the only detailed casualty data released by Russian officials since the conflict began. The media investigation also highlighted a steep increase in Russian fatalities in the second year of the conflict, describing a relentless and costly offensive strategy by Moscow across multiple frontlines, often referred to as a "meat grinder." This ongoing strategy reflects the intense and brutal nature of the warfare, suggesting significant human and material costs on both sides.