Russian Casualties in Ukraine Reportedly Include at Least 15 Field Commanders

AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda

How serious are Russian casualties in the Ukraine War? In 36 days of fighting on Iwo Jima during World War II, nearly 7,000 Marines lost their lives.

In the 20 days of fighting in Ukraine, U.S. intelligence estimates that the Russians have lost at least that many of their soldiers.


The 7,000 Russian deaths is a conservative estimate. If it’s even close to accurate, that number would represent more Russian deaths in 20 days than there were American deaths during the 20 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

There have been no big set-piece battles in Ukraine that involve hundreds of tanks and tens of thousands of troops. It’s a shadow war with Russians relentlessly bombing major population centers and firing artillery and rockets into major cities, deliberately targeting civilians in hopes of destroying Ukraine’s will to resist while Ukraine’s army uses hit-and-run guerilla tactics that are taking a fearful toll on Russian troops — especially on their morale.

Related: Russia-Ukraine War Headed for a Bloody Stalemate

That could be why at least 15 Russian commanders — including one lieutenant general and three major generals — have reportedly already been killed. Troop morale is so low that Russian commanders are moving closer to the front lines — as ordered in at least some cases by Putin, according to Pentagon officials.

New York Times:

“Losses like this affect morale and unit cohesion, especially since these soldiers don’t understand why they’re fighting,” said Evelyn Farkas, the top Pentagon official for Russia and Ukraine during the Obama administration. “Your overall situational awareness decreases. Someone’s got to drive, someone’s got to shoot.”

But, she added, “that’s just the land forces.” With Russian ground forces in disarray, Mr. Putin has increasingly looked to the skies to attack Ukrainian cities, residential buildings, hospitals and even schools. That aerial bombardment, officials say, has helped camouflage the Russian military’s poor performance on the ground. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said this week that an estimated 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in the war.


Pentagon officials say a 10% casualty rate, including dead and wounded, for a single unit, renders it useless for combat. If you add the 7,000 dead to the estimated 14,000-21,000 wounded, the Russian military is already near that level.

But it’s the high number of dead field commanders that should be alarming to Russian defense officials. In addition to the four general officers, there have been five colonels and three lieutenant colonels among the dead, as well as several majors and captains. In a conscript army like Russia’s, good commissioned officers spell the difference between victory and defeat.

Two American military officials said that many Russian generals are talking on unsecured phones and radios. In at least one instance, they said, the Ukrainians intercepted a general’s call, geolocated it, and attacked his location, killing him and his staff.

If Russian military deaths continue to rise, the kinds of civic organizations that called attention to troop deaths and injuries during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan could once more come to prominence.

There are no civic protests that will change Putin’s mind. And with anti-war protesters getting arrested and given long prison terms. Putin might do everything he can — including shooting protesters in the streets — to give him a free hand in Ukraine.



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