Zelensky Claims Just 31,000 Ukrainian Soldiers Have Died During Past Two Years of War With Russia

24 February 2023, Ukraine, Kiew: Volodymyr Selenskyj, President of Ukraine, addresses sold
Kay Nietfeld/picture alliance via Getty Images

President Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday claimed that 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have died in the war with Russia since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of the country two years ago.

In a departure from Kyiv’s tight-lipped stance on revealing casualty figures, President Zelensky for the first time has given a tally of how many soldiers have been killed by the Russians since the 2022 invasion.

Speaking at the “Ukraine. Year 2024” forum in Kyiv on Sunday, the president said per the AP: “31,000 Ukrainian military personnel have been killed in this war. Not 300,000, not 150,000, not whatever Putin and his deceitful circle have been lying about. But nevertheless, each of these losses is a great sacrifice for us.”

Zelensky said that he would not reveal how many of his soldiers have been wounded or have gone missing over the past two years. He also said that his government does not have a full accounting of how many civilians have been killed by the Russians, but suggested it is in the “tens of thousands”.

“We don’t know how many of our civilians they killed. We don’t,” he said, noting that a firm figure on civilian deaths will likely not be determined until the war is over.

According to the latest report from the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, there have been at least 30,457 civilian casualties since the conflict broke out into full war in February of 2022. This estimate was comprised of 10,582 killed and 19,875 injured.

Contrary to Zelensky’s claims on Sunday, a report from the New York Times in August found that some 70,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in action, with a further 100,000 to 120,000 suffering injuries.

The report, which cited American defence officials, was also mostly comprised of estimates prior to the Ukrainian “counteroffensive” launched in June, during which both sides reportedly suffered “high casualties“.

The same report claimed that Russia had suffered some 300,000 casualties during its so-called “special military operation”, with an estimated 120,000 soldiers killed and another 170,000 to 180,000 injured.

Moscow has also shied away from giving specific casualty figures during much of the war, with the latest figure, released in January of last year, claiming that just 6,000 soldiers were killed during the first year of the invasion.

On Saturday, independent Russian news outlet Mediazona, citing a statistical analysis of a Russian inheritance claims database, said that around 83,000 Russian soldiers are likely to have died since February of 2022.

The claim from Zelensky that 31,000 soldiers had died comes as he is seeking to assure war-fatigued Western allies that his country still can win outright against the much larger Russian army while beseeching European and American politicians to continue funding the war effort.

However, in the wake of the failure of the counteroffensive to produce any significant victories, there appears to be growing concern among Europeans about the prospect of Ukraine succeeding on the battlefield, with a survey in 12 EU nations finding that just 10 per cent of people believe Ukraine can win the war, compared to nearly four in ten who believe a negotiated settlement will be the most likely outcome.

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