NATO: 7,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers dead in Ukraine


KYIV, Ukraine — NATO estimated on Wednesday that 7,000 to 15,000 Russian troops have been killed in four weeks of war in Ukraine, where fierce resistance by the country’s defenders robbed Moscow of the lightning victory it sought.

For comparison, Russia lost about 15,000 soldiers in 10 years in Afghanistan.

A senior NATO military official said the alliance’s estimate was based on information from Ukrainian authorities, what Russia has released – intentionally or not – and intelligence gathered from open sources. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with basic rules established by NATO.

Ukraine has released little information on its own military losses and the West has not given an estimate, but President Volodymr Zelenskyy said nearly two weeks ago that around 1,300 Ukrainian servicemen had been killed. you are beautiful.

When Russia launched its invasion on February 24 in the biggest European offensive since World War II, a swift overthrow of the Ukrainian government seemed likely. But as Wednesday marks four full weeks of fighting, Moscow is mired in a bitter military campaign.

Zelenskyy – who has captured the world’s attention with ad hoc videos and speeches to legislatures asking for military aid for his country – used the anniversary to plead for people around the world to come together in public on Thursday to show their support for Ukraine, saying the war breaks the hearts of “every free person on the planet”.

“Come to your squares, your streets. Make yourselves seen and heard,” Zelenskyy said in English during a moving video address to the nation, recorded in the dark near the presidential offices in Kyiv. “Say people matter. Freedom matters. Peace matters. Ukraine matters.”

Speaking in Russian, Zelenskyy called on Russians “to leave Russia not to give your tax money to war”. Tens of thousands of Russians have already fled their country since the war began, fearing an escalating crackdown on dissent that has included the arrest of thousands of anti-war protesters and the suppression of media outlets.

Zelenskyy, who will address NATO members via video on Thursday, also said he was asking the alliance to provide “effective and unrestricted” support to Ukraine, including all the weapons the country needs. needs to repel the Russian invasion.

With his ground forces slowed down or stopped by fleeing Ukrainian units armed with Western-supplied weapons, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops are bombarding targets from a distance, falling back on the tactics they used to reduce cities in ruins in Syria and Chechnya.

A senior US defense official said on Wednesday that Russian ground forces appear to be digging in and establishing defensive positions 15 to 20 kilometers (9 to 12 miles) outside the capital, Kyiv, as they only advance little or nothing towards the city center.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military assessments, said it appears forces are no longer trying to advance into the city and that in some areas east of Kyiv , the Ukrainian troops pushed back the Russian soldiers further.

Instead, Russian troops appear to be prioritizing combat in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions of the Donbass, in what could be an effort to cut off Ukrainian troops and prevent them from moving west to defend other cities, the official said. The United States has also seen Russian vessel activity in the Sea of ​​Azov, including what appears to be efforts to send landing ships ashore with supplies, including vehicles, the official said.

In a worrying sign that Moscow may consider using nuclear weapons, a senior Russian official said the country’s nuclear arsenal would help deter the West from intervening in Ukraine.

“The Russian Federation is capable of physically destroying any aggressor or group of aggressors within minutes at any distance,” said Dmitry Rogozin, the head of state aerospace company Roscosmos. , in televised remarks. He noted that Moscow’s nuclear stockpiles include tactical nuclear weapons, designed for use on the battlefield, as well as much more powerful nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles. Roscosmos oversees missile construction facilities.

US officials have long warned that Russian military doctrine is considering an “escalation to de-escalation” option of using nuclear weapons on the battlefield to force the enemy back in a situation where Russian forces face a imminent defeat. Moscow has denied having such plans.

Rogozin is known for his bluster, and he did not specify what actions by the West would be considered interference, but his comments almost certainly reflect the thinking inside the Kremlin. Putin has warned the West that an attempt to introduce a no-fly zone over Ukraine would draw him into conflict with Russia. Western countries have said they will not create a no-fly zone to protect Ukraine.

As US President Joe Biden departed for Europe to meet key allies over new sanctions on Moscow and increased military aid to Ukraine, he warned there was a “real threat” that the Russia could use chemical weapons.

On the eve of a meeting with Biden, European Union countries signed an additional 500 million euros ($550 million) in military aid for Ukraine.

Zelenskyy called on Western countries to remain united in the face of Russia’s efforts to “press its interests” with “certain partners” to rally them to his side, and noted during his national speech that Ukraine does not had not received the modern fighter jets or air – defense systems requested. He said Ukraine also needs tanks and anti-ship systems.

“We have been defending ourselves against attempts to destroy us, to erase us from the face of the earth for a month,” he said.

The United States has determined that Russian troops committed war crimes in Ukraine, and it will work to prosecute those responsible, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. He cited evidence of indiscriminate or deliberate attacks on civilians and the destruction of apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, shopping malls and other sites.

Yet key Russian objectives remain unachieved, including in kyiv, where near-constant shelling and gunfire rocked the city on Wednesday as the two sides battled for control of several suburbs. Mayor Vitali Klitschko said at least 264 civilians have been killed in the capital since the start of the war.

The shelling also claimed the life of another journalist on Wednesday. Russian independent media The Insider said Russian journalist Oksana Baulina was killed in a kyiv neighborhood.

In the south, the beleaguered port city of Mariupol has suffered the worst ravages of war, enduring weeks of shelling and now street-to-street fighting. But Ukrainian forces prevented its fall, thwarting an apparent attempt by Moscow to fully secure a land bridge linking Russia and Crimea seized from Ukraine in 2014.

Zelenskyy said there were 100,000 civilians left in the city, which had a population of 430,000 before the war. Efforts to provide those trapped with desperately needed food and other supplies have often failed.

Zelenskyy accused Russian forces of seizing a humanitarian convoy. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said the Russians were holding 11 bus drivers and four rescue workers and their vehicles captive.

In their last update, more than a week ago, Mariupol officials said at least 2,300 people had died, but the true toll is likely much higher. Airstrikes last week destroyed a theater and an art school where civilians were sheltering.

In the besieged northern city of Chernihiv, Russian forces shelled and destroyed a bridge used for delivering aid and civilian evacuations, regional governor Viacheslav Chaus said.

Kateryna Mytkevich, who arrived in Poland after fleeing Chernihiv, wiped away tears as she recounted what she had seen. The city is without gas, electricity or running water, said Mytkevich, 39, and entire neighborhoods have been destroyed.

“I don’t understand why we have such a curse,” she said.

Despite ample evidence to the contrary, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted the military operation is proceeding “in strict accordance” with plans.

The NATO official said 30,000 to 40,000 Russian troops were reported killed or injured. In its latest update, Russia said on March 2 that nearly 500 troops had been killed and nearly 1,600 injured.

Ukraine also claims to have killed six Russian generals. Russia recognizes only one dead general.

The NATO figures represent the alliance’s first public estimate of Russian casualties since the start of the war. The US government has largely declined to provide estimates of Russian or Ukrainian casualties, saying the available information is of questionable reliability.

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Anna reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Associated Press writers Robert Burns in Washington, Yuras Karmanau in Lviv and other AP reporters around the world contributed to this report.

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Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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