50,000 Russian Soldiers Killed in meat grinder incident

The BBC can confirm that the number of military casualties in Ukraine has exceeded 50,000 for Russia.

During the second year on the front line, as Moscow pursued its aggressive strategy, we observed a significant increase in casualties compared to the previous year.

BBC Russian, the independent media group Mediazona, and a team of dedicated volunteers have been diligently tracking and documenting fatalities since February 2022.

Freshly dug graves in cemeteries have proven invaluable in identifying numerous soldiers.

Our teams thoroughly analysed information from official reports, newspapers, and social media sources.

Over 27,300 Russian soldiers lost their lives in the second year of combat, as our findings reveal. This tragic toll serves as a stark reminder of the immense human sacrifice that has accompanied territorial advances.

No comment has been provided by Russia.

Moscow’s relentless strategy of sending waves of soldiers forward in an attempt to wear down Ukrainian forces and expose their locations to Russian artillery has been compared to a meat grinder.

The total number of deaths, which exceeds 50,000, is significantly higher than the previously disclosed official fatality figures provided by Moscow in September 2022.

It is probable that the actual number of Russian deaths is significantly greater.

Our analysis does not cover the deaths of militia in Russian-occupied Donetsk and Luhansk – in eastern Ukraine. If they were included, the number of casualties on the Russian side would be even greater.

Ukraine, on the other hand, seldom discusses the extent of its battlefield casualties. In February, President Volodymyr Zelensky made a statement regarding the number of Ukrainian soldiers who lost their lives. However, according to estimates from US intelligence, it is believed that the actual number of casualties may be higher.

Aggressive strategies

The latest list compiled by the BBC and Mediazona highlights the sobering toll that Russia’s evolving front-line strategies have taken on human lives.

In January 2023, there was a significant increase in the number of deaths in the Russian military. This coincided with the start of a major offensive in the Donetsk region of Ukraine.

During the battle for the city of Vuhledar, the Russians employed a strategy of frontal assaults that the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) deemed ineffective.

“Difficult terrain, insufficient combat power, and a failure to catch Ukrainian forces off guard” resulted in minimal progress and significant casualties, according to the report.

There was a notable increase in the graph during the spring of 2023, coinciding with the events surrounding the battle for Bakhmut. It was during this time that a mercenary group known as Wagner played a role in assisting Russia in capturing the city.

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Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Wagner’s group, stated that they incurred losses of approximately 22,000 during that period.

Last autumn, the capture of the eastern-Ukrainian city Avdiivka by Russia resulted in an unfortunate increase in military fatalities.

Examining burial sites

Volunteers have been diligently documenting the presence of new military graves in 70 cemeteries across Russia since the war began, in collaboration with the BBC and Mediazona.

Significant expansions have been observed in graveyards, as revealed by aerial images.

Take a look at these images of Bogorodskoye cemetery in Ryazan, located to the south-east of Moscow. They reveal the emergence of a brand new section.

Images and footage captured on the ground indicate that the majority of these recent burials are of military personnel who lost their lives in Ukraine.

According to the BBC, a significant portion of Russia’s deceased fighters had no prior military involvement before the invasion.

According to Samuel Cranny-Evans of the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi), Russia’s professional troops played a crucial role in carrying out complex military operations during the 2022 invasion.

However, it is worth noting that many of the seasoned soldiers have unfortunately suffered casualties or injuries, as mentioned by the defence analyst. Consequently, they have been substituted by individuals who may have limited training or military background, including volunteers, civilians, and prisoners.

According to Mr. Cranny-Evans, these individuals are unable to perform tasks that professional soldiers are capable of. “This implies that they must engage in simpler tactical manoeuvres – typically involving a direct assault on Ukrainian positions with artillery backing.”

Wagner versus the defence ministry

Prison recruits play a vital role in the success of the operation, and recent analysis indicates that they are facing higher mortality rates on the front line.

Starting in June 2022, Moscow has given permission for Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Wagner, to initiate recruitment efforts within prisons. The inmates-turned-fighters later served as members of a private army, fighting on behalf of the Russian government.

Wagner was known for his formidable reputation in battle and his strict disciplinary measures. Soldiers may face severe consequences for retreating without orders.

The group kept on recruiting prisoners until February 2023, when its ties with Moscow started to deteriorate. Since then, the defence ministry of Russia has maintained its consistent approach.

Last year, Prigozhin attempted a mutiny against Russia’s armed forces, but eventually decided to retreat after moving towards Moscow. Tragically, he lost his life in a plane crash in August.

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Our most recent analysis delved into the names of 9,000 Russian prison inmates who tragically lost their lives on the front line.

We have verified the start dates of over 1,000 military contracts and the dates of their unfortunate demise.

It was discovered that, during Wagner’s tenure, the former prisoners managed to survive for an average of three months.

However, according to the data presented in the graph above, individuals recruited later by the defence ministry had a significantly shorter lifespan, averaging only two months.

The ministry has established army units called Storm platoons, consisting primarily of convicts.

Just like Wagner’s prisoner units, it seems that these detachments are frequently regarded as a disposable force sent into combat.

“Storm fighters, they’re just expendable,” one ordinary soldier, who had fought alongside members of the Storm, shared with Reuters last year.

In a recent development, Storm fighters played a crucial role in the prolonged battle to seize Avdiivka.

The city was captured by Russia eight weeks ago, marking a significant strategic and symbolic triumph for Putin, comparable to the victory in Bakhmut.

Prisoners deployed directly to the front line

Under Wagner’s leadership, fresh recruits for the prison fighters underwent a two-week military training programme before being deployed to the battlefield.

In contrast, there were reports of casualties among defence ministry recruits during the initial weeks of their contracts.

The BBC has interviewed families of prison recruits who have passed away, as well as soldiers who are still alive. They have shared their concerns about the adequacy of the military training provided to prison recruits by the defence ministry.

A widow shared with us the story of her husband, who signed his ministry contract while in prison on 8 April last year. Just three days later, he was bravely fighting on the front line.

“I was confident that there would be the few weeks of training they mention.” And they assured that there would be no cause for concern until at least the end of April.”

She was devastated to discover that he had been killed on 21 April, after anxiously waiting to hear from him.

A mother recently discovered that her husband had been transferred from prison to the battlefield when she attempted to reach out to him regarding the tragic loss of their son, who was also serving in the military.

According to Alfiya, her son Vadim, who is a father of twins, had no prior experience with weapons before being mobilised.

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She explains that she was unable to inform her husband Alexander about their son’s passing, as he had been “taken away” to participate in combat. She discovered his departure through a phone call from another prisoner.

According to Alfiya, Alexander, who grew up in Ukraine and had family there, strongly believed that the claim of Russia invading Ukraine to fight fascism was false. According to her, when army recruiters initially approached the prison, he strongly rejected their offer.

After the tragic loss of her son, Alfiya received the devastating news that Alexander had also passed away, adding to her grief.

Prepare yourself for the worst

When employed by Wagner, prison inmates were usually hired for a period of six months. The fighters, if they managed to survive, would then be granted their freedom upon completion.

However, starting from last September, enlisted prisoners are now required by the defence ministry to continue fighting until their last breath or until the war concludes – whichever occurs first.

The BBC has received reports of prisoners reaching out to their families for assistance in purchasing appropriate uniforms and boots. There have also been reports of inmates being sent to fight without adequate equipment, medical supplies, or even firearms.

“Numerous soldiers possessed rifles that were ill-suited for combat,” states Russian war advocate and blogger Vladimir Grubnik, on his Telegram channel.

“It’s quite perplexing to think about what a foot soldier should do on the front line without essential supplies like a first aid kit, a spade for digging trenches and a functional rifle.”

Wagner, a Russian private mercenary squad headed by the late Yevgeny Prigozhin

Grubnik, who operates in Russian-occupied eastern Ukraine, alleges that commanders dismissed the possibility of replacing guns that were deemed “completely broken.”

“The rifle had already been allocated to the individual, and the inflexible military bureaucracy was powerless to intervene.”

Former prisoners have also shared accounts of the significant sacrifices made by their fellow inmates.

“If you join now, be prepared for the risks, mate,” remarks Sergei, in an online forum for Storm fighters and their loved ones, where valuable information is exchanged.

He asserts that he is a former inmate who has been actively involved in a Storm unit since October.

According to another forum member, they joined a Storm platoon of 100 soldiers five months ago, and the number of survivors has dwindled to just 38.

“Every combat mission feels like a fresh start.”

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