Russia has admitted to suffering a “significant loss” of troops and acknowledged its attack on Ukraine has not progressed as quickly as the Kremlin wanted, more than a month after President Vladimir Putin announced the invasion.
“We have significant losses of troops. It’s a huge tragedy for us,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told Sky News on Thursday amid a steady pushback from Ukraine.
Although Moscow has refrained from giving out an exact number, Ukrainian authorities have claimed at least 18,900 Russian soldiers have been killed in combat as of Thursday, since the onset of the invasion on 24 February.
Moscow’s unprovoked aggression has led to more than four million people leaving the country and has led to the killing or injuries of thousands.
Vadym Boichenko, mayor of the southern port city of Mariupol, said on Wednesday that more than 5,000 civilians, including 210 children, had been killed there.
In Bucha, near the capital Kyiv, Ukraine said there may be between 150 and 300 in a mass grave by a church where Mr Putin’s troops reportedly massacred people.
Russia has been accused of war crimes for the Bucha killings and has been slapped by new sanctions by the west, including on Mr Putin’s daughters.
Rejecting suggestions that the Russian president would appear in a war crimes court, Mr Peskov said: “We don’t see any possibility for that, we don’t consider it to be realistic.”
In the aftermath of the Bucha killings, the UN General Assembly suspended Russia from the UN Human Rights Council, expressing “serious concern at the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis”.
Russia reacted by quitting the council.
Moscow earlier denied targeting civilians and says images of bodies in Bucha are a “monstrous forgery” to justify more sanctions and derail peace negotiations.
“Ukraine has very successful experience of actually investigating the war crimes of some of the Ukrainian troops after the initial stage of the war in 2014-2015. Those crimes were investigated. Those people were brought to court and they were sentenced,” Mr Peskov said in a counter-attack on Ukraine.
The war-torn nation has called on allies to stop buying Russian oil and gas, amid divisions in Europe, and to boost it militarily.
In a nighttime address to the nation on Thursday, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said: “Ukraine needs weapons which will give it the means to win on the battlefield and that will be the strongest possible sanction against Russia.”
He said the situation in Borodyanka, about 15 miles from Bucha, was “significantly more dreadful”.
UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said on Thursday he’s not optimistic about securing a ceasefire to halt fighting as Russia shifts its focus to the eastern region of Donbas.
“I think it’s not going to be easy because the two sides, as I know now… have very little trust in each other. I’m not optimistic,” the undersecretary-general said.
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