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Ukrainians visit an avenue where destroyed Russian military vehicles have been displayed in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Aug. 20, 2022. Ukrainians visit an avenue where destroyed Russian military vehicles have been displayed in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Aug. 20, 2022.

Ukrainians visit an avenue where destroyed Russian military vehicles have been displayed in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Aug. 20, 2022.

Jeff Cercone
By Jeff Cercone September 9, 2022

Despite Putin’s claim, Russia has lost plenty in Ukraine invasion

If Your Time is short

  • Russia has lost as many as 25,000 soldiers in its invasion of Ukraine, with tens of thousands more injured, according to estimates from U.K. and U.S. officials.

  • Russia’s economy will contract as much as 6% this year mostly because of international sanctions, the country’s central bank predicted.

  • Thousands of educated professionals have fled the nation after the war began, according to news reports.

Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke little of Ukraine when he delivered a lengthy speech before world economic leaders.

But when a journalist asked him how Russia has fared since its invasion of the neighboring country, Putin denied it had suffered any loss at all.

 "We have not lost anything and will not lose anything," Putin said Sept. 7.

The statement came at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia.

Russian journalist Ilya Doronov prefaced his question about Russia’s health with his own analysis of what he said were two impacts.

"Economically, we have seen that our usual way of life is changing, when we had banking systems, carmakers, other manufacturers, and then they suddenly left Russia," Doronov said. "And there is the moral aspect, where families become divided over this, when relatives on different sides of the border stop talking, things like that.

"I have a question: for our country — what do you think we have gained and what we have lost, as a state, since February 24?"

In his answer, Putin acknowledged polarization happening "both in the world and within Russia." But he said the country has gained because "we have strengthened our sovereignty."

Putin’s response ignored the toll on human life on both sides since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. It also failed to account for the economic impact that sanctions have had on Russia. 

Precise figures of Russian lives lost are unavailable as the country has not regularly shared its estimates. But Russia has conceded loss of life: In March, it announced that 1,351 Russian troops had been killed. It has not released a total since then.

Dr. Colin Kahl, the U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, said in a press briefing on Aug. 8 that Russia has "probably" had up to 80,000 soldiers killed or wounded  "in less than six months."

U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told Parliament on Sept. 5, that he estimated that "more than 25,000 Russian soldiers have lost their lives." 

Also, Russia has lost more than 5,000 military vehicles in the battle, according to Oryx, a group that tracks military losses around the world.

Russia has also lost economically because of crippling sanctions imposed by the U.S. and other nations, experts say. 

Eddie Fishman, a professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University, called Putin’s statement of no losses "patently false." Fishman pointed to inflation and information about Russia’s gross domestic product, a measurement of economic health.

"Even Russia's central bank projects a GDP contraction of 4 to 6% this year — which would make Russia's 2022 economic performance as bad as, if not worse, than the 1998 Russian financial crisis," he said.

Inflation in Russia was at 15.1% in July, up from 6.5% a year earlier, but down from a high of 17.8% in April. It’s higher than other world powers. U.S. inflation, for example, was at 8.5% in July, while the U.K. was at 10.1%.

Russia’s central bank prediction of a 4 to 6% loss in GDP in 2022 is in line with analysis from the International Monetary Fund. In July, that organization of 189 member countries predicted a 6% drop in GDP for Russia this year. That is an improvement from an 8.5% drop it had predicted in April.

"Putin’s comments are contradicted by his own central bank," said Scott Gehlbach, a political science professor at the University of Chicago.

Gehlbach pointed to a report from the central bank in August that he said warned of the "substantial long-term economic consequences of Russia’s decoupling from the world economy."

The report modeled three three scenarios. In one, it found a worsening geopolitical climate and further sanctions could lead to a year of continued high inflation and a lack of GDP growth until 2025.

An internal Kremlin report also was not optimistic about Russia’s economy, Bloomberg News reported.

The report, according to Bloomberg News, said Russia could face prolonged economic damage from sanctions. Maxim Reshetnikov, Russia’s economy minister, told the news outlet the forecasts are "analytical estimates" used to show "what would happen if we don’t resist, don’t do anything."

"Russia's economy may not have fallen off a cliff, but it is going through a major recession with no end in sight," Fishman said.

Beyond its economic struggles, Russia has also lost access to technology and goods, as well as some of the nation’s brainpower. News reports have chronicled the flight of thousands of citizens, including Russian professionals from tech, arts and journalism sectors. A recent report released by Russia’s Federal State Statistics Service said about 419,000 people had fled the country since the start of 2022, according to reporting by The Daily Beast.

"Russia has lost a great deal, of course — including access to Western technologies and the talent of many young Russians who are now in exile," said Susanne Wengle, an associate political science professor at the University of Notre Dame. "Putin’s claim that Russia lost nothing is a rhetorical strategy to diminish the value of these material and human assets." 

Gehlbach also noted the "large exodus of highly educated members of the Russian citizenry."

"Putin is probably happy to see their backs," Gehlbach said, but "In the long or even medium run, their absence will have big, negative consequences for the Russian economy." 

Our ruling

Putin stated that Russia has lost nothing since the country invaded neighboring Ukraine in February.

Russia has suffered many losses. As many as 25,000 Russian soldiers are estimated to have died. Indicators from within Russia show the Russian economy has been damaged by international sanctions resulting from the war. And experts say thousands of Russians from many professional backgrounds, including tech and academia, have fled the nation.

We rate Putin’s claim False.

Our Sources

The Kremlin, transcript of President Vladimir Putin’s remarks at Eastern Economic Forum, Sept. 7, 2022

U.S. Department of Defense, "Transcript of press briefing with Dr. Colin Kahl, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy," Aug. 8, 2022

UK Parliament, "Ukraine update," Sept. 5, 2022

Aspen Security Forum, transcript of interview with CIA Director William Burns, July 20, 2022

Foreign Affairs, "Is Russia’s Economy on the Brink?," Sept. 2, 2022

Email exchange with Eddie Fishman, professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University, Sept. 7, 2022

Email exchange with Susanne Wengle, associate political science professor at the University of Notre Dame, Sept. 7, 2022

Email exchange with Scott Gehlbach, political science professor at the University of Chicago, Sept. 7, 2022

Bloomberg News, "Russia Privately Warns of Deep and Prolonged Economic Damage," Sept. 5, 2022

Bank of Russia, "Monetary Policy Guidelines for 2023–2025," Aug. 11, 2022

Bank of Russia, "​​Bank of Russia cuts key rate by 150 bp to 8.00% p.a.," July 22, 2022

Yale School of Management, "Russian Economic Impact," August 2022

The Wall Street Journal, "Russians Who Fled Putin Seek Shelter and Redemption in Georgia," Aug. 17, 2022

The Wall Street Journal, "Russian Tech Spending Declines as Sanctions Take Toll," April 8, 2022

The New York Times, "Russian Tech Industry Faces ‘Brain Drain’ as Workers Flee," April 13, 2022

Reuters, "Tracking sanctions against Russia," July 7, 2022

The Daily Beast, "Kremlin Says 2022 Is ‘Year of Unity’ as 419,000 Flee From Russia," Sept. 6, 2022

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Despite Putin’s claim, Russia has lost plenty in Ukraine invasion

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