Toll of war in Ukraine high, but just how much unknown

Graves of fallen Ukrainian servicemen at the Lychakiv military cemetery in Lviv on June 1, 2023, amid the Russian invasion (YURIY DYACHYSHYN)
Graves of fallen Ukrainian servicemen at the Lychakiv military cemetery in Lviv on June 1, 2023, amid the Russian invasion (YURIY DYACHYSHYN)

The human cost of the war in Ukraine, two years after the Russian invasion, is in the hundreds of thousands, but the exact toll is unknown, with both sides shrouding their losses in secrecy, and Russia covering up civilian deaths in areas it has conquered.

- Civilian toll unknown -

Official tolls of civilians killed since the beginning of the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022, are unreliable as no independent count has been made due to a lack of access to Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia.

In June 2023, Ukrainian authorities said they had only been able to record 10,368 civilians whose bodies had been found.

"What we think most probable is that the number is five time higher. Around 50,000 casualties," said Oleg Gavrych, a top aide to the  head of cabinet of President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The UN's human rights office has also acknowledged that the number is considerably higher than the some 10,000 civilians it had confirmed dead.

Ukrainian authorities believe the siege of Marioupol from February to May 2022 left at least 25,000 dead, many buried in mass graves. The major southern port remains under Russian control.

And there has never been a toll for other badly hit towns, like Bakhmut in the east.

Across the Russian border, at least 138 civilians have been killed, according to the Russian news site 7x7.

- 'Hundreds of thousands' of soldiers -

The military on both sides has kept its military casualty figures under wraps. Any tolls have come from third parties.

In August 2023, the New York Times quoted US officials as putting Ukraine's military losses at 70,000 dead and between 100,000 and 120,000 injured.

The US officials estimated 120,000 dead and between 170,000 and 180,000 injured on the Russian side.

On January 29 in a written response to a parliamentary question UK Armed Forces minister James Heappey put the Russian losses at more than 350,000 dead and injured.

On February 8 the Ukrainian army estimated it had killed or injured more than 392,000 Russian troops since the invasion

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said in December 2023 that 383,000 Ukraianian soldiers had been killed or injured since the beginning of the invasion.

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