31,000 soldiers – Zelensky gives Ukraine’s first official death toll

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says 31,000 soldiers defending the country from Russia’s invasion have been killed, in what is the country’s first official figure for military casualties in more than two years of fighting.

“I don’t want to mention the number of wounded,” Zelensky said at a press conference on Sunday.

US and Russian officials had previously said between 100,000 and 300,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed in the conflict, figures which Zelensky dismissed as “nonsense.”

Zelensky meanwhile put Russian losses at 180,000 dead and 500,000 wounded.

This is the first time that one of the warring parties has put out its own official casualty figures. The veracity of this cannot be officially verified.

The Russian casualty figures cited by Zelensky are significantly higher than the daily updated toll by the Ukrainian armed forces, which on Sunday put the total number of Russian losses at 409,820 – dead and wounded.

Zelensky declined to comment on the casualties among the Ukrainian population and said such figures are not currently known.

Exact casualties among military personnel have so far been kept strictly secret by both sides. US estimates from mid-2023 put the number of Ukrainian soldiers killed at around 70,000 and the number of Russian soldiers killed at 120,000.

In mid-February, the US Department of Defence estimated the number of Russian soldiers killed or wounded at 315,000.

Ukrainian prosecutors meanwhile say they have recorded more than 120,000 instances of war crimes committed by Russian troops since the February 2022 invasion.

“There is no crime that the Russians have not committed during this war,” Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin told journalists at the Ukraine 2024 forum in Kiev, noting that investigations had already led to 80 convictions in Ukrainian courts.

Ukraine is aiming for tribunals modelled on the Nuremberg trials held after World War II at which Nazi war criminals were tried. Kostin cited the example of crimes committed in the southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which fell to Russian forces in May 2022.

Russian forces have regularly been accused of executing unarmed Ukrainian prisoners of war.

Ukraine says the situation on the battlefield is being impacted by the late arrival of half of military aid from Western allies.

“Fifty percent of what has been promised does not arrive on time,” Defence Minister Rustem Umerov told journalists in Kiev, as Ukraine enters its third year of fending off a Russian invasion with Western support.

According to Umerov, Kiev’s defence campaign continues to be hampered by the lack of air superiority. Ukrainian pilots are currently undergoing training on Western F-16 fighter jets, which are due to arrive in Ukraine in the first half of the year.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during 'Ukraine. Year 2024' conference, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine. -/Ukrainian Presidency/dpa

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks during ‘Ukraine. Year 2024’ conference, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine. -/Ukrainian Presidency/dpa

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