When it comes to a country’s ability to make sacrifices, a benchmark is needed. For today’s Russia, the most suitable one is the so-called “people’s republics of the Donbas” – the DNR and LNR.
At the beginning of 2022, they managed to carry out a draft, which indicated that mobilization was possible and feasible in Russia as well. Which is what happened in the fall. The losses of the DNR and LNR contingents in the conflict have proven very high, and now their involvement in battles has had to be curbed. The scale of the casualties gives an indication of the ceiling for losses that today’s Russia can withstand.
A month ago, the BBC Russian Service, which, together with Mediazona
, keeps a list of dead Russian soldiers by name, estimated
the losses of the Donbas proxy states at 6,500 killed (5,000 servicemen from the DNR and 1,500 from the LNR). This corresponds to fragmentary information coming in from the Donbas. In December, DNR officials reported 4,200 deaths and four times as many wounded.
If we accept a minimum figure for Donbas losses at 7,000 today and take into account that Russia is 40 times the size of the DNR and LNR, then Russia could take losses of 250,000-300,000. Though arbitrary, these calculations give an idea of the scale of what is possible.How many dead already
The Ukrainian General Staff reports about 160,000 Russian dead and raises that number by 500-1,000 daily. These estimates have not been confirmed independently. The most reasonable thing is to treat them as we would reports of any warring country about enemy losses.
More moderate figures are given by Western analytical and intelligence outfits. For example, the American Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) puts
the number of Russian dead in Ukraine at 60,000-70,000 (including the DNR and LNR). That would already be more than the total losses of the USSR and Russia in all their wars and conflicts after World War II (about 50,000). However, CSIS has not disclosed its methodology.
Thus, for now, the abovementioned, unique project
and the BBC remains the most reliable source. As of this writing, they have the names of 16,674 Russian dead (excluding the DNR and LNR). This list is compiled based on public information about the deaths of soldiers, like online posts by relatives, news in regional media, etc.
Russian casualties are definitely greater than 16,700. The investigators themselves caution that “the real death toll may be several times higher.” Most likely, it is about double that. If we multiple by two, we get 33,500.
Thus, the losses of the Russian side, including killed DNR and LNR soldiers (more than 7,000) and several thousand missing, approach 50,000. Though such an estimate cannot claim to be precise, it gives an idea of the scale of what is happening.No sign of crisis
Now, we can answer the question about whether such losses are capable of shaking Russia enough to convince it to end the war.
On the one hand, the casualties are already twice or three times higher than Soviet losses in the Afghan adventure or Russian (federal) losses in either of the Chechen wars. On the other hand, they are five or six times lower than the “ceiling” of casualties that has already been reached by the Donbas people’s republics without triggering a revolt there.
The list that the investigators keep help us with a few more pieces to the puzzle.
They list 112 dead Muscovites and 149 dead Petersburgers. That is four to five times fewer than, for example, people killed from the Sverdlovsk, Buryatia, Kuban or Chelyabinsk regions. Moreover, the likelihood of dead Muscovites and Petersburgers not being counted is lower than anywhere else. Putin’s blood tax has been much less burdensome for the two capitals.
You do not have to see cynical tactics of the regime in this. The result is clear: there has been and will be less discontent in the capitals over losses simply because there are far fewer dead Muscovites and Petersburgers.
One might think that Putin would eventually face pushback from autonomous ethnic regions like Buryatia, Bashkortostan and Dagestan. Their losses are visibly higher than average. But currently there is no sign of a crisis there either.
Let us now look at the structure of the losses themselves in the last 2-3 months. Due to the attempts of Putin and his generals to turn the tide of the war, the number of weekly casualties has risen. But who is dying the most?