More than 50,000 Russians killed in Ukrainian ‘meat grinder’: Report

The rate of casualties accelerated last year as inexperienced troops arrived on the front lines.

Russian soldiers line up during an opening ceremony of the memorial to Russian service members killed during the Russia-Ukraine conflict, in Yevpatoria, Crimea, on February 22, 2024 [Alexey Pavlishak/Reuters]

Russian military casualties in the war with Ukraine have topped 50,000, according to research.

The BBC, whose Russian unit has been counting deaths since Moscow’s forces invaded the neighbouring state in February 2022, revealed the number on Wednesday, noting that the rate of casualties accelerated in the second year of the conflict.

The tally, compiled by BBC Russian, independent media group Mediazona and volunteers saw the death toll rise to 27,300 Russian soldiers during the second year of the war, a 25 percent increase on the first year.

The only official death toll released by Russia said in September 2022 that just under 6,000 of its soldiers had been killed.

‘Meat grinder’

The research notes that Moscow’s use of “meat grinder” tactics is likely to have accelerated the loss rate of troops last year.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) points out that as the front line in eastern Ukraine became bogged down in 2023, battleground tactics deteriorated into sending waves of troops in frontal assaults.

That saw Russian losses spike during large-scale offensives in Donetsk, the BBC investigation says, and again months later during the battle to take the city of Bakhmut.

The BBC estimates at least two in five of Russia’s dead fighters had nothing to do with the military before the invasion, being drawn from the ranks of volunteers, civilians and prisoners, and therefore struggled for technical and tactical expertise.

The analysis notes about 9,000 prisoners, recruited either through the Wagner mercenary outfit or directly by the Ministry of Defence, were killed in the invasion. These recruits survived an average of two to three months.

The BBC acknowledges that its data does not cover casualties among militia forces in Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, while adding that the actual overall death toll is probably significantly higher than 50,000.

Ukraine said in February that it had lost 31,000 soldiers. That figure is also widely thought likely to be lower than the true toll.

Responding to the report, the Kremlin said it did not disclose information on military deaths and casualties, which falls under the remit of the defence ministry.

According to AFP, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that due to laws covering official secrets of Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine it is “absolutely understandable” that the ministry did not release the figures.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies