NATO draws up first assessment of Russian losses

A Russian army hat among personal belongings left behind by routed Russian soldiers, in Brovary, near kyiv, Ukraine, March 10, 2022.

This is just an estimate. On the twenty-eighth day of the war in Ukraine, the Russian armies are treading water but, above all, they seem to be recording very heavy losses. NATO estimated, Wednesday, March 23, that between 30,000 and 40,000 Russian soldiers are no longer fit to fight, counting killed, wounded, prisoners and missing, in four weeks of war in Ukraine. Between 7,000 and 15,000 Russian soldiers are believed to have died.

For comparison, about 15,000 Russian soldiers died in Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989. This is NATO’s first public estimate of the number of Russian casualties since the war began on February 24.

A NATO military official said the alliance’s estimate was based on information from Ukrainian officials, what Russia has released — intentionally or not — and intelligence gathered from open sources. This official spoke on condition of anonymity, in accordance with the rules set by NATO. He added that this estimate of 30,000 to 40,000 Russian casualties is derived from what he called a standard calculation that in wartime an army counts three wounded soldiers for every soldier killed.

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498 dead according to Moscow

Since the start of the invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has limited itself to announcing on March 2 its one and only death toll of 498 soldiers, while Ukraine claims that the Russian army has lost “about 15,600 men” and that portraits of killed or captured Russian soldiers are posted on Ukrainian social media.

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For its part, the Pentagon provided an estimate of 2,000 to 4,000 Russian deaths in two weeks, but American intelligence sources, quoted by the New York Times, advanced, on March 16, a toll of 7,000 soldiers killed in three weeks. During a press conference on Wednesday, John Kirby, spokesman for the Defense Department, noted that the morale of Russian units was low, affecting their cohesion and their ability to fight.

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Le Monde with AP and AFP

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