Two years ago Russia launched a full-scale attack on Ukraine, displacing millions of people and destroying homes and businesses across the country.

FactCheck takes a look at how many casualties of war there have been on both sides of the conflict – and what experts think could happen next.

How many Ukrainian and Russian soldiers and civilians have died?

In December 2023, a declassified US intelligence assessment shared with Congress said, according to a congressional source, that there were 315,000 dead and injured Russian military personnel as a result of the war – nearly 90 per cent of the pre-war 360,000 soldiers.

But the issue of military deaths and injuries is sensitive in both Russia and Ukraine, and Russia has not released any official figures regarding military deaths.

In May last year, a Wagner-affiliated Telegram channel said 22,000 fighters for Wagner (a private Russian military group) had been killed in Russia’s war in Ukraine, but FactCheck can’t verify this.

A Ukrainian civic group said in November 2023 that it had confirmed the deaths of nearly 25,000 Ukrainian soldiers since the invasion began by using open sources, and put the total toll at more than 30,000.

But again, FactCheck cannot verify these numbers and Ukraine treats the number of military deaths as a state secret so the total is not officially known.

In its latest report, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine said there have been 30,457 civilian casualties since 24 February 2022. This comprised 10,582 killed and 19,875 injured.

FactCheck hasn’t been able to verify how many Russian civilians may have died on home soil since the country launched its attack on Russia.

Ukraine has launched a number of drone attacks inside Russia, but official death tolls from these are not known.

Who is currently winning the Russia-Ukraine war and what could happen next?

Two years after the full-scale invasion, there’s no sign of the conflict coming to an imminent end as Russia continues to launch further attacks.

Dr Huseyn Aliyev, lecturer in Central and East European studies at the University of Glasgow, tells FactCheck: “I am afraid my predictions for this year are rather bleak for Ukraine. We have just witnessed the fall of Avdiivka, which was largely due to the lack of defence lines, as well as the lack of tactical reserves and ammunition.”

He says: “As things stand, Ukraine is highly dependent on foreign supplies of ammunition and weapons as two years into the conflict domestic mass production of ammunition is still lagging behind, even when it comes to basic munitions, such as landmines or mortar rounds.”

Unless Ukraine “ramps up” domestic production of ammunition, particularly artillery shells and drones, as well as improving mobilisation and recruitment, “it is likely to lose the rest of Donbas region this year as well as some territories in the south,” Dr Aliyev adds.

This is echoed by David Lewis, professor of global politics at the University of Exeter and a senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, who explains to FactCheck that “two years into the war, Russia has regained confidence after its initial disastrous march on Kyiv in 2022” and “believes it can make further gains in 2024”.

He notes that although “Russia’s territorial gains so far have been rather small given their huge losses – only gaining a further 11 per cent or so of Ukrainian territory”, they have “consolidated their control of those territories and it will be very hard for Ukraine to win them back”.

Prof Lewis says that “the most likely scenario is further Russian attacks along the front line during spring and summer”, but “as long as Ukraine maintains adequate supplies, it will still be difficult for the Russian military to make major territorial gains”.

A “continuing dynamic deadlock in the land war” is more likely throughout the year, he adds, but “there is still the possibility of a more serious Russian breakthrough”.

“This will certainly be a difficult third year of war for Ukraine, with only very limited prospects of viable talks between the two sides at least in the next six months,” says Prof Lewis.

This is echoed by Professor Anthony King, director of the Strategy and Security Institute at the University of Exeter, who tells FactCheck: “I think we are looking at a long year, with positional fighting (dense front lines and urban fortresses). Russia will look to take back more of Donetsk, but it will be slow and heavy.”

He says Ukraine “committed to a defensive strategy” so “the key will be industrial production” and “continuing supplies of weaponry and ammunition”.

“I suspect a move for some kind of peace may be possible in 2025,” explains Prof King, but adds that although “Ukraine may look to another counter-offensive then”, he’s “deeply sceptical” that Ukraine will be able to retake all its terrain lost to Russia.

“I think we will move to a frozen conflict, or an unhappy treaty which partitions Ukraine,” says Prof King.

(Image credit: Ukrinform/Shutterstock)