According to estimates by American intelligence services, more than 20,000 fighters have already been killed in the fighting in Ukraine on the Russian side since December. About half of them are mercenaries from the private army "Wagner", who are mainly deployed around the heavily contested southeastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, said the communications director of the National Security Council, John Kirby, on Monday in Washington.
Most of the fallen Wagner fighters were Russian convicts who had been sent to war without adequate combat or combat training. The total number of soldiers killed and injured on the Russian side as a result of the fighting since December is estimated by the intelligence services at more than 100,000. Kirby did not provide any information on the number of casualties of the Ukrainian armed forces.*
The Pentagon Papers, which became public a few weeks ago, showed that the US estimated the total losses of the Russians in Ukraine since the beginning of the full-scale invasion at 35,500 to 43,000 fighters killed and 154,000 to 180,000 wounded (as of early March). Ukraine's losses were estimated at 15,500 to 17,500 killed and 109,000 to 113,500 wounded.
Civilians killed after cruise missile strikes
Several people were killed in Russian missile attacks and artillery battles in Ukraine on Monday. According to the General Staff in Kyiv, the Russian Armed Forces used cruise missiles and combat aircraft. Several civilians were killed or injured in attacks in the east of the country and in central Ukraine. In addition, numerous buildings were damaged or destroyed.
In the Zaporizhzhia region of central Ukraine, Russian and Ukrainian troops engaged in intense artillery duels during the day. At least two civilians were killed and 14 others injured in Russian-occupied Mikhailovka, the Russian state agency Tass reported, citing local authorities. Initially, the information provided by the warring parties could not be independently verified.
New explosions over the occupied Black Sea peninsula of Crimea caused unrest among the local population on Monday. According to Russian media, a Ukrainian drone was shot down by anti-aircraft defenses in the west of the peninsula. Just last weekend, a fuel storage facility in the port city of Sevastopol caught fire as a result of a drone attack.
Zelensky: Air defense must become more effective
After the Russian missile attacks on Ukrainian cities in recent days, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced more effective air defense. "We are working as actively as possible with our partners to make the protection of our airspace even more reliable," Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address on Monday. "Last night alone, from midnight to seven o'clock in the morning, we managed to shoot down 15 Russian missiles," Zelensky said – "but unfortunately not all of them".
The reason for his remarks was Russian attacks with cruise missiles and missiles on Monday night and during the day. In Pavlohrad in central Ukraine, several projectiles hit and injured at least 34 people. Numerous buildings were destroyed or at least damaged. "To any such attack, the Russian occupiers will receive our response," he said.
Ukraine's preparations for the expected spring offensive to recapture Russian-occupied territories are "in the final stages," according to Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov. "I believe in them," he said on state television on Monday. "A lot has been done for their success."
"There must be a verdict from an international tribunal"
"I believe that from today we can enter the home stretch and say: Yes, everything is ready," Reznikov stressed. "And then, based on the decision and understanding of the situation on the battlefield, the General Staff, the Commander-in-Chief and his team will decide how, where and when," the minister said. Like Ukraine's international partners, he is convinced of the success of the offensive. After all, Kiev's partners understand that success "is in the security interests of their countries and their peoples."
After the reconquest of the occupied territories by his troops, Reznikov is counting on a condemnation of Russia's political and military leadership. "There must be a verdict by an international tribunal for the military criminals of the Kremlin and this mafia gang," he demanded. Russian President Vladimir Putin "and his entourage must be seated." A conviction would send a clear signal to all successors and descendants in Russia: "Don't think about revenge."
*Editor's note: An earlier version stated, based on agency reports, that 20,000 Russian soldiers had fallen around and in Bakhmut alone. This is not clear from the American data. Instead, the figures refer to the whole of Ukraine. We have corrected the error.