Zelensky says Ukraine has lost 31,000 soldiers in war and Russia’s losses are six times greater

Zelensky says Ukraine has lost 31,000 soldiers in war and Russia’s losses are six times greater

At least 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed fighting back against the Russian invasion that began two years ago, Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday, providing the first official death toll from Kyiv in more than a year.

"31,000 Ukrainian troops have been killed in this war. Not 300,000, not 150,000... (Russian president Vladimir) Putin is lying there... But nevertheless, this is a big loss for us," he said in a news conference at the Ukraine Year Forum in Kyiv.

Mr Zelensky said Russia’s casualties – both injured and dead – during the invasion stood at 500,000, of which 180,000 were Russian soldiers killed in the war, according to Kyiv’s estimates.

"I won’t say how many wounded (Ukrainians) there are because Russia will know how many people have left the battlefield," he said.

Russia’s foreign ministry has rejected the tolls provided by Ukraine. Russia has not shared its own tally of Russian soldiers killed and wounded in the two-year-long invasion of Ukraine, and treats the information as a classified state secret.

Mr Zelensky added that “tens of thousands of civilians” had been killed in occupied areas of Ukraine, but said that no exact figures would be available until the war was over. “We don’t know how many of our civilians they killed. We don’t,” he said.

In the last update at the end of 2022, Mr Zelensky’s aide Mykhailo Podolyak had said 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed since the invasion on 24 February in that year.

According to a joint report by Russia media outlets Meduza and Mediazona, at least 83,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the continuing invasion.

The war, now in its third year, has seen Russia throw huge numbers of soldiers into grinding battles for strategic footholds along the frontline, such as Bakhmut in the earlier stages of the conflict or more recently the eastern city of Avdiivka.

Mr Zelensky predicted the war is set to enter a fresh phase as he warned of a new offensive from Russia likely starting in late May or the summer.

"We will prepare for their assault. Their assault that began on 8 October has not brought any results, I believe. We, for our part, will prepare our plan and follow it," Mr Zelensky said, speaking to reporters in Kyiv.

He added that Kyiv has a clear plan to counter Russian forces but did not share details over fears of compromising the military counteroffensive.

"There is a plan, the plan is clear, I can’t tell you the details," he said.

Ukraine’s war effort, he said, depended on Western support, which has slowed significantly in recent months. He said the European Union had only supplied 30 per cent of the 1 million ammunition shells that were promised so far.

Mr Zelensky said he was nonetheless confident that the US Congress would approve a major new batch of military and financial assistance and that Ukraine needed that decision within a month.