Zelensky says 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers killed since Russia invaded

Ukraine has not put a number to its military losses since the end of 2022

By REUTERS
February 26, 2024
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky attends a press conference during the “Ukraine Year 2024” forum in Kyiv on February 25, 2024. — AFP

KYIV: President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday that 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed since Russia’s full-scale invasion two years ago, giving the first official figure for more than a year.

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Zelensky told a news conference in Kyiv that he could not disclose the number of wounded because it would help Russian military planning.

“31,000 Ukrainian troops have been killed in this war. Not 300,000, not 150,000 ... (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is lying there ... But nevertheless, this is a big loss for us.”

Ukraine has not put a number to its military losses since the end of 2022, when presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed since the invasion on Feb 24.

Battlefield casualties are a highly sensitive subject in a country trying to reform how it mobilises civilians into the army to regenerate its forces after last year’s counteroffensive proved unable to break through Russian lines.

A New York Times report in August cited US officials as putting the Ukrainian death toll at close to 70,000. The same report said as many as 120,000 Russian troops had died during the war.

Zelensky told reporters that 180,000 Russians had been killed in the fighting.

Russia does not disclose military losses, which it regards as secret. Both sides regularly describe the other’s military losses as vast.

The Ukrainian leader also said that tens of thousands of civilians had been killed in the occupied areas of the country during the war. Kyiv says it cannot accurately assess the scale of such losses because it does not have access. —Reuters

Some 50 percent of Western arms deliveries to Ukraine do not arrive on time, Kyiv’s defence minister said on Sunday.

Rustem Umerov made the remark during a televised conference in Kyiv one day after Russia’s full-scale invasion reached its two-year mark.

“We have a plan. We are working to the plan. We are doing everything possible and impossible. But without timely supply (of western arms) it’s hard for us,” he conceded.

According to Umerov, Russia has spent $150bn (£119bn) in its all-out attack on Ukraine, amounting to 15 percent of its entire GDP. With House Republicans in Washington blocking a US military aid package, Ukraine’s armed forces are running out of air defence missiles and artillery shells.

F-16 jets promised by an international coalition including the Netherlands, Norway and Belgium have yet to arrive. They are expected some time this spring. Umerov said history showed that it was impossible for any country to win a war without “air superiority”.

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