For the past four months in this war, much has been said about Russian casualties and military equipment losses, with Russia taking staggering losses but failing to gain much ground in Ukraine. The criticism levied on Russia is justifiable. Once touted as one of the most advanced and modern militaries in the world before the invasion, the joke goes that Russia has been reduced to barely having the second-best army in Ukraine. However, not much has been said about Ukrainian casualties and their equipment losses. Today, we try to look at that side of the equation.

First of all, both Ukraine and Russia are guilty of the same thing, which is not publishing the real number of wounded and dead from their side for reasons that range from military necessity and neither having a truly free press that could discover and publish those numbers. That’s reasonable, considering the psychological effect of publishing the number of soldiers that have died on your side of the conflict. For most of our active military personnel and veterans, you would already know this reason, but for our newbies out there, we’ll give you a brief explanation of why this is happening.

For Russia’s reasons, it’s obvious that they won’t publish their own casualty statistics as it brings into question whether the high cost is worth the minimal gains they have attained in Ukraine. Since the first week of the war, the problems of the Russian army with morale and limited supplies have been apparent, and publishing their losses would be a shock to the Russian civilian population who would probably demand that the war be ended immediately and their leaders are held responsible for their huge losses.


A funeral service for Ukrainian casualties (Сергій Гудак). Source:
A funeral service for Ukrainian casualties (Сергій Гудак/Twitter)

That seems lopsided, doesn’t it? But don’t get us wrong, the Ukrainians have also suffered significant losses of troops and military equipment. Just as the Russians do, the Ukrainians have also not been transparent with their losses, partly for the same reason. Why would their government publish information that would damage their high morale? Watching the way the Ukrainians fight, their losses are probably much less as they are favorably on the defense in prepared positions forcing the Russians to assault them across open ground. They are also using small units to locate and then target larger Russian formations with rockets and artillery, wiping some units out almost to the last man.  Their defensive strategy was so effective that in three weeks, the Russians were forced to abandon their armored offensive and withdrew to prepared, static positions and are trying to just hold on to the ground they took in the first few days of the war. This has allowed Ukraine to complete mobilizing its reserves, consolidate its forces and launch a counter-offensive.   If Ukraine did publish its losses which we estimate to be about 40-50% of Russian losses, at the least the Ukrainian people would think these lives were expended for some gain in preserving their country.

Ukrainian Presidential Adviser Oleksiy Arestovych offered this rationale for not publishing casualty counts. They did not want to help Russia assess the efficiency of its attacks. He did, however, admit that the Ukrainian Armed Forces have suffered “considerable” losses but were “much smaller than the Russian ones.”

No war comes without loss of life and Ukraine was very economic in expending lives needlessly by deploying pretty well-trained personnel in the early weeks and not just throw untrained conscripts into the meatgrinder. Yes, they do have conscription, and they did call up all men from the ages of 18 to 60 to remain in the country to fight, with reservists also being called up, but this does not mean they were being herded off to slaughter like sheep. Reports have said that these men received basic training before being sent out or handed a weapon, albeit in a shorter period of training than a soldier would get in the US.


So, How big is the Ukrainian Armed Forces? According to the International Institute of Strategic Studies, Ukraine had some 196,600 active military personnel when the invasion began last February 24th: 125,600 ground troops, 35,000 air personnel, 15,000 naval troops, and 900,000 reservists. Note that Ukraine also has 53,000 border guards, 60,000 personnel from the National Guard, and 46,000 civil servants within the military. This is not counting the International Foreign Legion and the thousands of Ukrainians who volunteered to fight.

But for a baseline, let’s use the 196,600 active military personnel for now. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that Ukraine’s losses were at 23,367 last April 16th – nothing new has come out of Russia since then. We are skeptical of this number for several reasons.  These would be significant losses to Ukraine’s regular forces and would result in degraded performance of their units in the field.  If anything, Urkaine’s units appear to be getting more effective and more lethal every week.

A few days ago, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reported that fighting in Donetsk and Luhansk has been the most violent in the war so far with Ukraine losing 60 to 100 soldiers per day.

“We’re losing 60-100 soldiers per day killed in action and around 500 people wounded in action. So we are holding our defensive perimeters,” Zelensky said.

So let’s do some math here. Today is the 100th day of the war in Ukraine, which leaves us with 100 days to account for. If Zelensky says they are losing 60 to 100 soldiers per day, and yes, we know this is based on the estimates with the recent shift to Donbas, this leaves us with 6,000 to 10,000 killed, with 50,000 wounded over the course of February through May. So at the most, Ukraine has 60,000 soldiers incapacitated, which is a pretty huge number.

If we take Ukraine’s tally of 10,000 soldiers killed and calculate it with the traditional ratio of wounded to killed at 2 to 4 wounded for 1 killed, the number would be around 20,000 to 40,000, which is the same ballpark figure Zelensky gave.

So, 196,000 minus 10,000 and 50,000, you get 136,000 left fighting. This does not include the foreign legion and volunteers. More so, it can also be calculated if you use the average of 60 to 100, which does give you a midpoint.  Ukraine is able to feed its 900.000 reservists into units as they receive their weapons and equipment in ever-increasing quality and quantity. The morale of these reservists is likely to be very high as they join units that appear to be winning while also inflicting horrific casualties on their enemy.

On the other hand, the Russians have lost some 30,000 soldiers, according to Ukrainian estimates. This is at par with the US estimates that Russia has lost 20% of its forces in Ukraine, much of them “out of action.” Prior to the invasion, they had 150,000 soldiers at the borders to invade. So if we plug in the same ratio of 2 to 4 people wounded for every one soldier dead, then the total number of incapacitated troops would be 60,000 to 120,000. We think this is a conservative number actually. We suspect the number of wounded may be lower and the number killed higher.  The Russians have been having terrible supply problems getting their troops just food and water, we believe their standard of medical care for their troops is also very low, resulting in a higher ratio of wounded soldiers dying from their injuries.  In the US military, we will move Heaven and Earth to evacuate our own wounded to a field hospital within one hour of being injured.  Doing so results in a 97% survival rate for US casualties.

So, 150,000 minus 120,000, you get 30,000 of the original Russian troops that launched the invasion still in the fight. After a month of fighting in the field, they would be badly in need of rest and recuperation.   These numbers don’t include the number of men who have abandoned their units snd either went home or sought refuge in Ukraine. Russia is reported to have 900,000 active military personnel across its military branches, with some 2,000,000 reservists. The problem for Russia is that it is a huge country with borders to defend from China, Mongolia, and Japan that tie down as much as 40% of their active-duty forces. We have seen evidence that the Kremlin has brought units from its Eastern border to fight, but they cannot strip all these units in the East and throw them into the fight. Russia has attempted a limited mobilization and issued them equipment from WWII, like bolt action rifles, helmets, and other equipment.

Their manpower shortage has forced them to increase the recruitment age of military personnel to men over 40 and even accept foreigners over the age of 30 to refill their ranks.

Russia probably can’t mobilize their their 2 million men in reserve any time soon. Every soldier they call up has to be clothed, equipped, fed, and transported and the evidence is pretty clear that Russia couldn’t properly support the less than 200,000 troops they began the war with.

Ukraine really doesn’t have these problems. In the west, they are not threatened by Poland, Hungary, or Romania so they can commit the vast majority of their forces to expel the Russians. While they are certainly experiencing a great deal of economic disruption, they are being supplied by the US and Europe with more than just arms, but also money, food, and other goods to sustain their economy.  The economic disruption of the war is being more than offset with aid from the US and the rest of Europe. So far, military assistance to Ukraine in just four months is approaching what countries like France and Japan spend in a year.

Russia itself is having its economy crippled by sanctions(we think). Internationally, they are isolated with few countries on their side, many of whom are customers of Russia for weapons they may not have any reason to think are very good anymore.  Countries on the fence are reluctant to do any business with Russia for fear that they will find themselves subject to sanctions as well.  The Russian military was reliant on outside countries for a considerable amount of the chipsets and microprocessors for the electronics in their computers, aircraft, radars, artillery systems, and tanks.  One of those countries was Taiwan believe it or not.

That supply has been cut off creating a massive problem for Russia in trying to replace lost and destroyed equipment that will not be easily solved.  We don’t believe China is technologically able to step in and supply these chips to Russia.

Russia claims that it has destroyed 134 Ukrainian aircraft, 2,269 tanks, and 987 artillery guns. Ukraine, before the invasion, had some 2,500 tanks, 1,962 artillery pieces, 146 attack aircraft, and 42 helicopters. We think the inaccuracy of these claims is self-evident in the way the Russians have been pushed back in just a few weeks of fighting.  While Russia is replacing its losses with long-retired weapons systems drawn from boneyards in Russia, Ukraine is getting more modern and more lethal equipment from the West to replace its own losses.  Equipment that will also be harder for the Russians to destroy in the field because it is more survivable.