Nearly 50,000 Russian soldiers have died since the start of the major offensive in February 2022. This is the conclusion of the first independent assessment of the human cost of the war for Moscow – and so far the only one. The survey was released to the media on Monday, July 10 Medusa of the Free Russians And MediazonaIn alliance with it Statistician Dmitry Kopak from the University of Tubingen.
“Adding seriously wounded fighters who were unable to return to battle, according to our calculations, Russia’s total casualties were at least 125,000 soldiers,” the survey’s authors write for Medusa. These fifteen months of intense fighting have cost three times more men than the ten-year war in Afghanistan (1979-1989), the Russian Independent Investigations Center claims.
“As a Russian citizen, I would like this not to happen, I would like there to be no war,” laments Dmitry Kopak, an official Russian data worker who has worked for years to reveal the hidden face. Election results Or Census of Covid-19 victims.
The war’s death toll remains largely a mystery. Officially, Russia has admitted that fewer than 6,000 people have died since the start of the war. That happened in September 2022. Since then, Moscow has maintained strict radio silence. But Medusa believes that the figures put forward by Ukrainian or US officials — 35,000 to 60,000 in 2022 alone — should be taken with a grain of salt.
So far, the only independent attempt to estimate Russian war losses has been conducted by Britain’s BBC. Working with Mediazona, these reporters monitored death reports on social media and local media. Thus they were able to certify 26,801 deaths. A figure below the truth, they point out.
This is where the real discovery of new expressions comes in. Medusa and Mediazona “had access to really unique data: genetic claims,” points out Ilia Kashnitsky, a demographer at the University of Southern Denmark.
They were able to look at more than 11 million files from 2014, and were able to narrow down the excess deaths from February 2022, the start of the massive Russian offensive in Ukraine. They restricted themselves to cases involving men of military age.
This excess mortality calculation is based on proven statistical techniques. They were used to assess the dead Pollution occursTo get a better idea of deaths related to natural disasters and, more recently, Accurate number of Covid-19 victims.
But this approach has so far been of little use in warfare. “The only other example I know of is the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020, for which a colleague of mine tried to estimate the true number using excess deaths. Casualties on both the Armenian and Azerbaijani sides“, emphasized Dmitry Kopak.
Comparison with excess female mortality
Epidemics have been a major catalyst for the use of these techniques. “This significantly refined the methods for establishing a normal death situation,” explains Ilya Kashnitsky. Indeed, it is not easy to determine what is a “normal” number of deaths related to accidents, suicides, or crimes. The proliferation of studies on this subject during the health crisis has made it possible to obtain a more solid basis for the idea of ”death in normal times”.
But for the war in Ukraine, Covid-19 was above all an obstacle. “At the beginning of 2022, the virus was still spreading in Russia, and we had to find a way to separate war-related deaths from those attributed to Covid-19,” notes Dmitry Kopak.
So they turned to women. By observing the excess female deaths in early 2022 and assuming that the virus killed as many women as men, we were able to account for the excess deaths in the male population. This excess corresponded to the victims of war, Medusa and Mediazona ended.
“Of course, because of the war, the number of suicides or violent deaths among men of fighting age may have increased,” Ilya Kashnitsky recognizes. But the expert believes that their number could not have been so high as to distort the results of this investigation.
In particular, Dmitry Kobach was able to obtain official data, which indirectly confirms the results obtained from the analysis of genealogical files. He was able to analyze death records by sex and age in Russia between 2016 and 2022. Again, he was able to estimate the excess mortality of men under the age of 50 compared to women in 2022, giving an idea of the number of war casualties between February and December 2022.
His findings – about 24,000 Russian soldiers were killed – match the figures obtained from an analysis of an excess of genealogical files for 2022 (about 25,000).
The big unknown is about the first half of 2023, as there is no official death record for this year yet. So very rough estimates. “Every deceased person does not need to create an inheritance document, and since not all inheritance cases are connected to the war, corrections must be made, Dimitri Kobak notes. “It is difficult to compare, especially without an official record. That is why, in the end, they calculate the total death toll between 40,000 people and 55,000 people,” he concludes. However, an interesting figure is that from January 2023, there will already be at least 15,000 Russian soldiers killed in action.
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