NATO estimates that 7,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in Ukraine.

Russia-Ukraine

The body of a Russian soldier lies near destroyed Russian vehicles a day after fighting with Ukrainian soldiers on a highway outside Kharkiv, Ukraine, February 25, 2022. Tyler Hicks / The New York Times

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – NATO estimated Wednesday that 7,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in a four-week war in Ukraine, where fierce fighting by the country’s sharp-edged defenders denied Moscow that power victory. Gave what he had asked for.

By comparison, Russia in Afghanistan lost about 15,000 soldiers in 10 years.

A senior NATO military official said the coalition’s estimates were based on information from Ukrainian officials that Russia has released – intentionally or not – and intelligence obtained from open sources. The official spoke on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by NATO.

When Russia launched its offensive on 24 February in the largest invasion of Europe since World War II, Ukraine’s government was likely to fall rapidly. But with a full four weeks of fighting on Wednesday, Moscow is caught in a grinding military operation.

Ukrainian units armed with Western supplies have slowed or stopped their ground forces, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops have been bombing targets from afar, being used to turn cities into rubble in Syria and Chechnya. Falling back on strategy.

As US President Joe Biden leaves for Europe to meet with key allies about new sanctions against Moscow and more military aid to Ukraine, he warned there is a “real danger” that Russia could use chemical weapons. Is.

The US has also determined that Russian troops have committed war crimes in Ukraine, and will work to prosecute the perpetrators, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. He cited evidence of indiscriminate or intentional attacks against civilians and the destruction of apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, shopping centers and other sites.

Addressing Japan’s parliament, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said thousands of his people had died, including at least 121 children.

“Our people cannot even adequately bury their slain relatives, friends and neighbors. They are to be buried in the yard of the destroyed buildings next to the roads,” he said.

Nevertheless, the major Russian objectives remain unfulfilled. The capital Kyiv has been bombed repeatedly, but it has not been surrounded.

Almost constant gunfire and gunfire engulfed the city on Wednesday, with air raid sirens and plumes of black smoke billowing from the western outskirts, where both sides battled for control of several suburbs. Mayor Vitaly Klitschko said at least 264 civilians had been killed in the capital since the war began.

To the south, the besieged port city of Mariupol has seen the worst devastation of the war, enduring weeks of bombing and, now, street-by-street fighting. But Ukrainian forces have halted its collapse, thwarting an apparent bid by Moscow to fully secure a land bridge from Russia to Crimea, which was seized from Ukraine in 2014.

Zelensky said that 100,000 civilians live in the city where 430,000 were before the war. Efforts to deliver food and other supplies to those in dire need have often failed.

Zelensky accused the Russian army of seizing the humanitarian convoy. Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk said the Russians had taken 11 bus drivers and four rescuers with their vehicles captive.

In their last update a week ago, Mariupol officials said at least 2,300 people had died, but the true number is probably much higher. Last week airstrikes destroyed a theater and an art school where civilians were taking refuge.

Regional governor Viacheslav Chaus said that in the besieged northern city of Chernihiv, Russian forces bombed a bridge and destroyed a bridge that had been used for aid delivery and civilian evacuation.

Katerina Mytkevich, who had fled from Chernihiv to Poland, wiped her tears as she spoke about what she had seen. The city is without gas, electricity or running water, 39-year-old Mytkevich said, and entire neighborhoods have been destroyed.

“I don’t understand why we have such a curse,” she said.

Despite much evidence to the contrary, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted that the military operation was proceeding “strictly” as planned.

The most recent figure of Ukraine’s military losses came from Zelensky on March 12, when he said that about 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in the action.

A NATO official said between 30,000 and 40,000 Russian soldiers were estimated to be killed or wounded.

Russia has released little information on its casualties on March 2, saying that around 500 soldiers were killed and about 1,600 wounded.

Ukraine also claimed to have killed six Russian generals. Russia accepts only one dead general.

The NATO figures represent the coalition’s first public estimate of Russian casualties since the start of the war. The US government has declined to provide estimates of Russian or Ukrainian casualties, saying the available information is of questionable credibility.

With casualties rising and quick victories no longer visible, Russia has to work to suppress discontent and boost morale.

It has arrested thousands of anti-war protesters and cracked down on the media. In addition, under a law passed on Wednesday, soldiers in Ukraine will receive benefits similar to those of veterans of previous wars, including tax breaks, exemptions on utilities and preferential access to medical treatment.

Peskov told the Interfax news agency that in a clear reflection of the growing divisions in Russia’s top regions, Anatoly Chubais has resigned. Chubais, the architect of Russia’s post-Soviet privatization campaign, held several top positions over three decades. His latest role was as Putin’s envoy to international organizations.

Peskov would not say whether Chubais had left the country.

Western officials say Putin’s military is facing severe shortages in food, fuel and cold weather, with soldiers facing frostbite while Ukraine’s defenders are going more on the offensive.

Still, Russia’s far stronger, larger military has many Western experts who warn against overconfidence in Ukraine’s long-term obstacles. In past wars, the Kremlin’s practice has been to crush resistance by leveling cities, killing countless civilians and fleeing millions.

Talks to end the fight are on through video. Zelensky said talks with Russia are “step by step, but they are moving forward.”

In the coastal town of Odessa, the scene of sporadic Russian shelling, merchant sea captain Sivak Vitaly carried sandbags on each shoulder, loading them onto trucks to set up barricades in case of a Russian attack.

Building after building has been destroyed in cities such as Mariupol and Kharkiv, but Ukrainian troops defending their soil will not be defeated, he said.

“No matter how bad the situation in Mariupol, Kharkiv, it does not matter,” he said. “We will win.”

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Anna reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Associated Press writer Robert Burns in Washington, Urus Karmanau in Lviv and other AP journalists from around the world contributed to this report.

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