What we know about the death toll of Russians in Ukraine

Russian military vehicles destroyed in a street of the Borodinka settlement, Ukraine, on March 3 (Maxim Levin/Reuters)

Nearly a month has passed since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, deploying tens of thousands of troops in an offensive against its neighbor from three sides.

While the Ukrainian army is much smaller, its forces mounted fierce resistance that managed to hold off the Russian advance in some parts of the country. A senior NATO intelligence official said, on Monday, that indications point to an emerging stalemate in the Russian offensive, with Russian ground forces continuing to be grounded and the inability of Russian combat aircraft to achieve air supremacy.

It is unclear exactly how many Russian soldiers have died in their campaign so far.

On March 2, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman put the death toll of Russian military personnel at 498. But this number has not been updated by officials since then.

Then on Monday a pro-Putin Russian tabloid published – and later removed – a report with an updated Russian armed forces death toll of 9,861 people killed in the war in Ukraine, citing the Russian Defense Ministry.

The report of the popular newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda originally stated: “According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, during the special operation in Ukraine, the Russian Armed Forces lost 9,861 dead and 16,153 wounded.”

CNN analyzed the site’s HTML code, which indicated that the article was published on Monday at 12:09 am Moscow time.

Seconds after CNN read the original article — at 9:56 p.m. Moscow time, according to HTML code — the story was updated and all references to the death count removed. This update on the outlet’s website came shortly after the article began attracting attention from social media posts, which cited the number of deaths.

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The original report from the tabloid is in line with US Department of Defense estimates that there are up to 10,000 Russian military dead. Ukraine has put the figure even higher.

CNN is not able to independently verify any of these numbers.

After the update, Komsomolskaya Pravda published a statement that “access to the admin interface was hacked” and that “a fake entry was made in one of the bulletins.”
They claimed that “inaccurate information was immediately removed”. CNN analysis showed that the update came 21 hours later.

The Kremlin sidestepped questions about the course of the war in Ukraine that were presented to the Defense Ministry on Tuesday. The ministry said it had “no authority” to announce the number of Russian military deaths while the “military operation” was still underway.

CNN’s Natasha Bertrand, Paul B. Murphy, Vasco Cutovio, and Nathan Hodge contributed to this post.

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