Ukraine war troop deaths and wounded nearing 500,000, say US officials

Russia’s military casualties are approaching 300,000, compared to Ukraine’s 170,000

Andy Gregory,Chris Stevenson,Laura Sharman
Friday 18 August 2023 22:37 BST
Moscow buildings damaged by overnight drone attack, Ukraine denies involvement

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The number of troops killed or wounded in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion is approaching 500,000, according to US officials, in an estimate not accounting for civilian deaths.

Russia’s military casualties are approaching 300,000, including up to 120,000 deaths, while Ukraine has lost 70,000 troops, with between 100,000 and 120,000 injured, according to Washington officials quoted by the New York Times.

In addition, Ukraine has suffered at least 26,384 civilian casualties since the beginning of the invasion on 24 February, 2022.

This is according to the latest estimates from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and includes 9,444 killed and 16,940 injured.

Estimating official casualty figures remains difficult because Moscow is presumed to routinely undercount its war dead and injured, and Kyiv does not disclose official numbers.

However, the new findings are enough to corroborate that fighting has intensified in eastern Ukraine where a counteroffensive continues, they added.

Its early phase this summer was particularly difficult for the country, with Western-trained troops struggling to employ “combined arms maneuvers” – where infantry, armour and artillery are used in synchronised attacks.

European officials said as much as 20 per cent of the weaponary sent to Ukraine in the first two weeks of the fighting was damaged or destroyed.

A Ukrainian soldier firing during night training in the Donetsk region
A Ukrainian soldier firing during night training in the Donetsk region (AP)

For months, Kyiv said fighter jets would be vital to counter Moscow’s air superiority. The US has now cleared the Netherlands and Denmark to deliver F-16s to Ukraine.

President Volodymyr Zelensky has consistently said that he believes sending jets would be a powerful sign of Western support for his nation’s forces, but they may not be available on the battlefield for some time.

The jets will be sent once a Europe-led pilot training programme is complete. Such training should take at least six months.

However, Dutch foreign minister Wopke Hoekstra said that this “marks a major milestone” in Ukraine’s defence, given the reluctance by the US over the transfer of jets and concerns over their use triggering a direct confrontation between Russia and Nato.

The Danish defense minister, Jakob Ellemann-Jensen, said that his country’s government has made it clear that a donation was “a natural step after the training”. He added: “We are discussing it with close allies, and I expect we will soon be able to be more concrete about that.”

Photos released on Thursday show Russia’s position under attack in Kuzmyne, Luhansk region
Photos released on Thursday show Russia’s position under attack in Kuzmyne, Luhansk region (Reuters)

The reticence in Washington was overcome in part by the announcement earlier this summer of a Western coalition who have pledged to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s. Mr Ellemann-Jensen said on Friday the training of Ukrainian pilots is starting this month. In addition to training in Denmark, a training centre is expected to be set up in Romania.

As well as the Netherlands and Denmark, that group also includes the UK, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Sweden.

As F-16s are made in the US, Washington needs to give permission for them to be re-exported from other nations to Ukraine.

US secretary of state Anthony Blinken sent a letter to his Dutch and Danish counterparts earlier this week, offering formal assurance that the US would fast-track approval of all requests from third parties to transfer F-16s to Ukraine.

According to figures from the Dutch Defence Ministry, the Netherlands currently has 24 operational F-16’s which are to be phased out during 2024. Another 18 of the jets are currently available for sale, of which 12 have been provisionally sold.

Ukrainian forces supporting infantry are using decades-old Soviet-era jets, which are vulnerable to attacks from Russian fighter jets, Captain Yevgen Rakita, a spokesperson for the 18th Army Aviation Brigade, told the Associated Press. “A modern war cannot be won without aviation [capabilities],” Captain Rakita said.

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