Thousands of deaths have been reported and more than eight million people have fled the country since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began almost one year ago.
It is still unclear how many soldiers and civilians have been killed and calculating the human cost is challenging – and likely still will be even once the war has ended.
Misinformation is rife in modern warfare – and information released by the Russian Government is particularly untrustworthy – so gathering verified data on military deaths in Ukraine is difficult.
In all conflicts, casualty estimates can often differ due to discrepancies between sources and in how the death toll is calculated. For example, was the death a direct or indirect cause of the war? Have civilians been included?
What do we know so far about the military loss of life in Ukraine? How does the war compare to others around the world? Here we explain what you need to know about military deaths in war and how they compare with conflicts involving the UK, US and allied troops.
Military deaths in the Ukraine war
The war in Ukraine has been ongoing for almost a year now and while the true death toll remains unclear, reports suggest tens of thousands of soldiers and civilians have died.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) estimates that between 40,000 and 60,000 Russian forces, including private military contractors, have been killed since the invasion began.
Estimates published by the Ukraine Armed Forces and shared daily by The Kyiv Independent put Russian losses at 143,680 as of 20 February 2023.
In December 2022 it was reported by Ukrinform that up to 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers had died since the start of the war. Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the head of the President’s Office, said this on Ukraine’s Channel 24.
Civilian deaths in the Ukraine war
The civilian death rate also continues to rise daily. The latest information published bythe Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) showed there had been at least 7,155 civilian deaths and 11,662 injuries, between 24 February 2022 and 5 February 2023.
The OHCHR believes that the actual figures will be considerably higher. It also said most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects, including shelling from heavy artillery, multiple launch rocket systems, missiles and air strikes.
How does the loss of military life compare to other conflicts?
No war is ever comparable but estimated death figures can give us an idea of how much countries have suffered as a result of conflict.
The US and UK, for example, have been heavily involved in conflicts concentrated in the Middle East in recent years, with their militaries losing thousands of lives. Figures sourced from a report by the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University shows the US experienced a heavy loss in Iraq (March 2003 to October 2019) with the country losing 4,572 military personnel. Other allied forces lost 323 troops during the conflict.
While the US lost seven troops during the Syrian/ISIS conflict (September 2014 to October 2019), Allied forces as a whole lost 11,000 troops. This includes thousands of Kurdish fighters. Figures included in the report are all approximates and gathered from various sources.
How do Ukrainian and Russian military deaths compare with previous UK losses?
Both Ukraine and Russia have lost far more military personnel in the invasion of Ukraine than the UK has lost in any conflict since the Second World War.
Another source of verified information comes from the UK Government’s Ministry of Defence, which publishes data on deaths of UK armed forces for each medal earning operation since World War II.
According to the latest figures, covering the period 3 September 1945 to 28 February 2022, UK armed forces have been involved in 33 medal earning operations resulting in 7,192 deaths. The deaths are as a result of hostile action as well as other causes. The conflict in Malaya (also known as The Malayan Emergency) has been the bloodiest for UK troops. The operation ran from 16 June 1948 to 31 July 1960 and 1,442 armed personnel lost their lives. Operation Banner – the name for the British armed forces operation in Northern Ireland between 14 August 1969 to 31 July 2007 – resulted in the second highest death toll for UK troops. In total 1,441 deaths were recorded during this operation.
The UK has not experienced a high operational related death toll in many years. The number of deaths in a single year peaked in 1951 when 829 deaths were recorded. This was as a result of deaths in Korea, Malaya and the Canal Zone.