31,000 Ukrainian Soldiers Killed in Two Years of War, Zelensky Says

By John Mercury February 27, 2024

Some 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed since Russia’s full-scale invasion began two years ago, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday, acknowledging for the first time in the war a concrete figure for Ukraine’s toll.

“This is a big loss for us,” Mr. Zelensky said at a news conference in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital. But he declined to disclose the number of wounded or missing, saying that Russia could use the information to gauge the number of Ukraine’s active forces.

Mr. Zelensky’s tally could not be independently verified. It differs sharply from estimates by U.S. officials, who, this past summer, put the losses much higher, saying that close to 70,000 Ukrainians had been killed and 100,000 to 120,000 had been wounded. Russia’s military casualties, the officials said, were about twice as high.

By revealing Ukraine’s losses, Mr. Zelensky said he wanted to counter Russian propaganda and other estimates that have placed Ukrainian casualties at a much higher level. He said Russia had wrongly claimed that Ukraine had lost 60,000 soldiers.

Mr. Zelensky’s unusual acknowledgment came as his country’s armed forces have been on the defensive, running low on manpower and ammunition along most of the 600-mile front line, with Russian troops pressing attacks in the east and south. A week ago, Moscow captured the city of Avdiivka, a Ukrainian stronghold in the east, and its troops have been slowly pushing westward in recent days, trying to build on their momentum in the area.

Ukraine’s top general, Oleksandr Syrsky, said he had ordered his troops to withdraw from Avdiivka to “preserve the lives and health of the soldiers,” which he described as the army’s “highest value.”

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