FACT CHECK: Article Claims 100,000 Ukrainian Troops Have Died During The Russian-Ukrainian War

Elias Atienza | Senior Reporter

PBS NewsHour reported that 100,000 Ukrainian troops have died during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Verdict: Misleading

There is no evidence that 100,000 Ukrainian troops have died since Feb. 24, 2022. Experts and publicly available documents point to a lower number of deaths.

Fact Check:

PBS NewsHour, reporting on a documentary from Bernard-Henri Levy about the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, claimed that 100,000 Ukrainian troops had died during the year-long conflict. It also repeated that claim on its official Facebook account.

Check Your Fact could not find any evidence that 100,000 Ukrainian troops had died. If 100,000 Ukrainian soldiers had died, media outlets would have covered it, yet none have. Neither the Ukrainian government nor western governments have released statements noting that 100,000 Ukrainian troops have died.

Euractiv reported that an internal memo from the European Union stated that fewer than 15,000 Ukrainian troops have been killed in the war, while 35,000 have been wounded. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in November 2022 that 100,000 Ukrainian troops have been killed, though a spokesperson later clarified that she meant 100,000 killed and wounded, according to Ukrainska Pravda.

Check Your Fact previously reported that leaked documents from the Pentagon showed that the U.S. assessed that between 15,500 and 17,500 Ukrainian troops have been killed as of March 1. Around 109,000 to 114,000 troops had been wounded.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told La Razon in April that Ukrainian casualties were less than Turkey’s death total, which was 50,00 at the time, according to the Kyiv Independent. The Telegraph reported April 6 that 150,000 Ukrainian troops had been killed or wounded. 

Luke Coffey, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, told Check Your Fact in an email that he has “heard nothing to indicate that 100,000 Ukra[i]nian troops have been killed.”

“I have heard nothing to indicate that 100,000 Ukra[i]nian troops have been killed. Although official casualty figures for Ukraine are not made public, it seems unlikely this figure is correct because it would make the number of wounded at least double or triple that,” Coffey said.

Lauren Potter, a spokesperson for the Council on Foreign Relations, said in an email to Check Your Fact that distinguished CFR fellow Thomas Graham “noted that the 100,000 figure includes killed and wounded, that is, total casualties.”

“The number of killed is in the neighborhood of 15,000, according to Western estimates. The Ukrainians, who presumably have more accurate figures, have kept them closely held secrets,” Potter said.

A representative for the Ukrainian Embassy in the United States said in an email, “the embassy can neither confirm nor deny this information.” The representative said only the “General staff of Ukraine has this information,” though notes it’s not for public use. (RELATED: Have 100,000 Ukrainian Soldiers Died In The Russian-Ukrainian War?)

“Tatarigami UA,” a Ukrainian military reserves officer, previously told Check Your Fact that “I would rather refer to leaked documents as their provided numbers might be much closer to reality” when Democratic candidate Robert Kennedy Jr. claimed 300,000 Ukrainian troops had been killed. Check Your Fact previously fact-checked the 100,000 number in March.

PBS NewsHour issued a correction noting that the number was from the European Union that was later retracted. It also posted that correction on its Facebook post.

“Correction: Our original introduction and social media language for this story cited a previously retracted Ukrainian troop death toll from the European Union. We’ve edited this post to remove the incorrect figure. The transcript and video text have been corrected. We regret the error,” PBS NewsHour wrote in a comment on its Facebook post.

Update 5/19/2023: This article has updated to note that PBS NewsHour issued a correction. 

Elias Atienza

Senior Reporter
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