SHOCKER: 90,000 'Irrecoverable' Russian Losses in Ukraine

Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Russian losses in the eight-month-old Ukraine War could be wildly higher than anything Moscow will admit to — or anything I dared report might be possible.

“Irrevocable losses,” Russian-language news site iStories claims, “may amount to more than 90 thousand people.” That’s according to iStories’ inside sources, reportedly “a former officer of the Russian special services, the second is an active FSB officer.”


iStories was founded in neighboring Latvia two years ago by Russian journalists in response to the Kremlin’s growing crackdown on independent news.

An irrecoverable loss, as detailed by the report, is a soldier “who died, went missing, died of wounds or injured that prevent them from returning to military service.”

If iStories is correct, Russian losses are approximately half of the estimated 190,000 men sent into Ukraine on strongman Vladimir Putin’s order on February 23.

Then there are the material losses, but maybe those are a subject for another day.

Russian Losses

Just two weeks ago I would have told you that 90,000 KIA/WIA was crazy, but with Russian forces actively digging in for the worst in most places that they aren’t retreating, I have to give today’s report serious credence.

Longtime Sharp VodkaPundit Readers™ know I’ve been erring on the cautious side since the beginning of this stupid war, discounting Kyiv’s claims, like that “63,380 dead” in the infographic above. Last week, I was willing to concede that as many as 20,000 Russians might be KIA.

The real number could indeed be much higher, so bear with me while I do some back-of-the-envelope math for you.


Typically, the ratio of wounded to killed (WIA to KIA) in modern war is about three to one. Three wounded soldiers, many lightly enough to be returned to action, for every one soldier killed.

The United States is notorious — in the very best possible way — for going to extraordinary lengths to keep our wounded alive. That’s allowed us to enjoy, as it were, a WIA to KIA ratio as high as 8.5 to one in Afghanistan and 7.2 to 1 in Iraq.

Speaking frankly, Russian field medicine sucks.

Supplies are so short, particularly for Russia’s recently drafted “mobiks,” that the UK’s Ministry of Defense released video last month that “appears to show a staffer instructing soldiers to use tampons to plug wounds.”

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Intelligence and defense expert Philip Wasielewski examined the issue back in April:

The modern ratio of 1:3 or 1:4 for killed-to-wounded may be inapplicable because Russia’s demonstrated inadequate logistical system means not only the inefficient delivery of supplies to the front but also a similarly inadequate delivery system of wounded to the rear. Therefore, poor medical evacuation capabilities and loss of the “Golden Hour,” the first hour of emergency medical treatment for wounded soldiers, for many Russian wounded could mean a killed-to-wounded ratio of 1:2.3, which is consistent with the ratio of losses by Soviet forces in the Second World War.


If we go by the old Soviet ratio, Russia might have suffered at least 39,000 KIA with another 51,000 or so permanently out of action.

But here’s where it gets tricky. If 51,000 are too wounded to recover, there must be thousands — maybe tens of thousands — more whose wounds aren’t so bad. That would make today’s 39,000 KIA figure perhaps the new low estimate.

Kyiv’s claim of 63,000 Russian KIA — which I’d previously told you was “wildly inflated” — could be the realistic high estimate.

I’d add that those Russian losses came mostly from the army’s best-trained and best-equipped battalion tactical groups (BTG) that were kept closest to combat-ready before the war.

All in under eight months of action.

By comparison, the U.S. lost about 36,500 KIA and another 92,000 WIA in three years of fighting in Korea.

The Russian “reservists” (Russia doesn’t have a real army reserve like we do) coming into action in the next weeks or months will be worse-trained and worse-equipped than the men they replace. That doesn’t speak well for Russian losses going forward, even if today’s figures are inflated.


There are no winners in this war. At best, Ukraine gets back their country — ruined.

But the biggest losers of all are the countless unprepared men who Vlad Putin ordered to their deaths in senseless numbers no one may ever correctly count.

EDIT: Earlier, I’d overstated US KIA/WIA figures from the Korean War. The new figures are correct.


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