International

Explained: The Toll Of Putin's Invasion On Ukraine And The World As War Completes 100 Days

While Russians failed in their initial objective to capture Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the cost of their invasion is still unseen since World War 2.

Soldiers walking in front of a building a tree uprooted in the Ukraine war
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Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the invasion of Ukraine on February 24 in hopes that his military will quickly cruise through the country, crushing its defences, and capturing its capital Kyiv in as early as the first 48 hours. 

Now 100 days later, the Russian military has long dropped the plan to capture or the country's north. It's now waging a devastating war in the Donbas region in the country's east. 

While the Russians failed in their original objective and Ukrainians have surprised everyone with the fight they have put up, the cost of their invasion on Ukraine, Europe, and the world that's unseen since the Second World War. 

The indisriminate bombing of Ukraine, the killings of civilians, the destruction of homes and public infrastructure, the homelessness and the migrants' crisis in Europe, and worldwide inflation of food and petroleum are some of the ways in which Putin's invasion is devastating the world. 

Here we explain on the 100th day of Putin's war in Ukraine that how things stand at the moment, what has been the devastation caused, how the Ukrainians have feared, and what is the possible way ahead.

The human toll of Ukraine war

No one really knows how many combatants or civilians have died, and claims of casualties by government officials — who may sometimes be exaggerating or undercounting for public relations reasons — are all but impossible to verify.

"At least tens of thousands" of Ukrainian civilians have died so far, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Thursday in comments to Luxembourg's parliament.

In Mariupol alone, officials have reported over 21,000 civilian dead.

Sievierodonetsk, a city in the eastern region of Luhansk that has become the focus of Russia's offensive, has seen roughly 1,500 casualties, according to the mayor.

Such estimates comprise both those killed by Russian strikes or troops and those who succumbed to secondary effects such as hunger and sickness as food supplies and health services collapsed.

Zelenskyy said this week that 60 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers are dying in combat every day, with about 500 more wounded.

Government officials, UN agencies, and others who carry out the grim task of counting the dead don't always get access to places where people were killed. Also, Moscow has released little information about casualties among its forces and allies, and given no accounting of civilian deaths in areas under its control.

In some places — such as the long-besieged city of Mariupol — potentially the war's biggest killing field, Russian forces are accused of trying to cover up deaths and dumping bodies into mass graves, clouding the overall toll. 

Russia's last publicly released figures for its own forces came March 25, when a general told state media that 1,351 soldiers had been killed and 3,825 wounded.

Ukraine and Western observers say the real number is much higher. Zelenskyy said on Thursday that more than 30,000 Russian servicemen have died — "more than the Soviet Union lost in 10 years of the war in Afghanistan". In late April, the British government estimated Russian losses at 15,000.

Speaking on condition of anonymity on Wednesday to discuss intelligence matters, a Western official said Russia is "still taking casualties, but in smaller numbers". The official estimated that some 40,000 Russian troops have been wounded.

In Moscow-backed separatist enclaves in Eastern Ukraine, authorities have reported over 1,300 fighters lost and nearly 7,500 wounded in the Donetsk region, along with 477 dead civilians and nearly 2,400 wounded; plus 29 civilians killed and 60 wounded in Luhansk.

The devastation of the Ukraine war

Relentless shelling, bombing and airstrikes have reduced large swaths of many cities and towns to rubble. Nearly 1,900 educational facilities from kindergartens to grade schools to universities have been damaged, including 180 completely ruined.

Ukraine's parliamentary commission on human rights says Russia's military has destroyed almost 38,000 residential buildings, rendering about 2,20,000 people homeless.

Other infrastructure losses include 300 car bridges, 50 rail bridges, 500 factories, and about 500 damaged hospitals, according to Ukrainian officials.

The World Health Organization has tallied 296 attacks on hospitals, ambulances and medical workers in Ukraine this year.

Ukrainians fleeing their homes

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that about 6.8 million people have been driven out of Ukraine at some point during the conflict.

But it adds since fighting subsided in the area near Kyiv and elsewhere, and Russian forces redeployed to the east and south, about 2.2 million have returned to the country.

The UN's International Organisation for Migration estimates that as of May 23 there were more than 7.1 million internally displaced people — that is, those who fled their homes but remain in the country. That's down from over 8 million in an earlier count.

Ukrainian land captured by Russians

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Ukrainian officials say that before the February invasion, Russia controlled some 7 per cent of Ukrainian territory including Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, and areas held by the separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk in Eastern Ukraine. On Thursday, Zelenskyy said Russians now held 20 per cent of Ukraine.

While frontlines are constantly shifting, that amounts to an additional 58,000 square kilometres under Russian control, a total area slightly larger than Croatia or slightly less than the Indian territory of Ladakh.

How Ukrainian, Russian economies are hit

The West has levied a host of retaliatory sanctions against Moscow including on the crucial oil and gas sectors, and Europe is beginning to wean itself from its dependence on Russian energy.

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Evgeny Gontmakher, academic director of European Dialogue, wrote in a paper this week that Russia currently faces over 5,000 targeted sanctions, more than any other country.

He added that some $300 billion of Russian gold and foreign exchange reserves in the West have been frozen and air traffic in the country dropped from 8.1 million to 5.2 million passengers between January and March.

Additionally, the Kyiv School of Economics has reported that more than 1,000 "self-sanctioning" companies have curtailed their operations in Russia.

The MOEX Russia stock index has plunged by about 25 per cent since just before the invasion and is down nearly 40 per cent from January. The Russian Central Bank said last week that annualised inflation came in at 17.8 per cent in April.

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Ukraine, meanwhile, has reported suffering a staggering economic blow: 35 per cent of GDP wiped out by the war.

"Our direct losses today exceed $600 billion," Andriy Yermak, the head of Zelenskyy's office, said recently.

Ukraine, a major agricultural producer, says it has been unable to export some 22 million tons of grain. It blames a backlog of shipments on Russian blockades or capture of key ports.

Zelenskyy accused Russia this week of stealing at least a half-million tons of grain during the invasion.

The war's economic fallout for the world

The fallout has rippled around the globe, further driving up costs for basic goods on top of inflation that was already in full swing in many places before the invasion.

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Crude oil prices in London and New York have risen by 20-25 per cent, resulting in higher prices at fuel pumps and for an array of petroleum-based products.

Developing countries are being squeezed particularly hard by higher costs of food, fuel and financing, according to economist Richard Kozul-Wright of the UN Conference on Trade and Development

Wheat supplies have been disrupted in African nations, which imported 44 per cent of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine in the years immediately before the invasion.

The African Development Bank has reported a 45 per cent increase in continental prices for the grain, affecting everything from Mauritanian couscous to the fried donuts sold in Congo.

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The world's food security has been hit by the Ukraine war as not just wheat but Russia has a 14 per cent world market share of barley and Ukraine 12 per cent, Russia has a 26 per cent share of world’s sunflower oil supplies, whereas Ukraine is the world’s largest export with a whopping share of 37 per cent.

Moreover, Russia and Belarus are also major global fertiliser suppliers, and supply disruption means agricultural production across the world is affected because of lack of access to fertiliser. Russia has around 17 per cent share in the world's fertiliser supply. Belarus and Russia last year exported 40 per cent of the world's potash, according to Reuters. 

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How things could play out from here

The Ukrainians have foiled Russian plans of capturing Kyiv or the whole of country, and Russians are now only focussed at capturing the country's east.

In addition to the preparation from the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea, unprecedented support by the West in terms of weapons, humanitarian aid, intelligence-sharing, and sanctions against Russia, also bolstered Ukrainian response to the Russian invasion. The poor war strategies and battle tactics of the Russian military als helped Ukraine.

However, as highlighted above, Ukraine has still taken considerable toll. The CNN sums up Ukrainian losses so far: "Russia now controls a crescent of Ukrainian territory that extends from around Ukraine's second city of Kharkiv, continues through separatist-held cities of Donetsk and Luhansk and reaches westward to Kherson, forming a land bridge linking the peninsula of Crimea (forcibly annexed by Russia in 2014) with the Donbas region."

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Some experts say Putin aims at prolonging the conflict till the moment when the West gets tired of being bogged down in Ukraine and scales down its support, paving way for Russia to push further. 

CNN's Nathan Hodge wrote in an article, "Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Putin's Security Council, said in recent remarks that Russian forces aren't "chasing deadlines" in Ukraine, suggesting Putin has a much more open-ended timeline for his war in Ukraine. Ukrainians, in contrast, fear international fatigue may set in, leading the international community to press their government to make concessions to Putin."

"The deciding factor in Ukraine may be who has the time: A Russian dictator who is likely to hold power until he dies, or a Ukrainian people who are fighting for their national survival."

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(With AP inputs)

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