Moscow has admitted that nearly 500 of its troops have been killed and 1,600 more have been injured in its first report of casualties from fighting since President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s savage invasion of Ukraine.
The figures, released on Wednesday, come days after Russia claimed it had not suffered any casualties in the war.
The Kremlin has engaged in a propaganda campaign designed to favourably mould the narrative through state-owned media channels, but has insisted its losses are considerably lower than the figures offered by Ukraine.
Ukrainian authorities have said more than 5,800 Russian soldiers have been killed in the last week as the country mounts a fierce resistance against Putin’s forces.
Speaking today, spokesman of the Russian Defense Ministry Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said 498 Russian troops have been killed and 1,597 more sustained wounds.
Konashenkov rejected reports about ‘incalculable losses’ of the Russians as ‘disinformation’ and revealed Russia’s military casualties in Ukraine for the first time since the start of the attack last Thursday. He assured that families of those killed are receiving all necessary assistance.
The Russian general also claimed that neither conscripts, nor cadets have been involved in the operation in Ukraine, dismissing media reports alleging otherwise. The is despite a number of prisoners of war being captured by Ukraine’s forces and shown to be young men – some barely into adulthood.
The report came after Ukraine’s armed forces announced that they have killed 5,840 Russian troops since the beginning of the invasion – updating its tally that has been consistently published since the war began.
The general staff claimed Ukrainian soldiers had also destroyed 61 aircraft, over 200 tanks, 862 armoured vehicles, 85 artillery systems, nine anti-aircraft systems, 60 fuel tanks and had seized 40 Russian rocket launchers via a Facebook post. These statistics could not be independently verified.
Earlier today, pictures emerged from the streets of Ukraine showing the smouldering wrecks of Russian tanks destroyed amid brutal urban fighting as Putin’s invasion of his neighbour continues.
Huge convoys of Russian armour have rumbled into several Ukrainian cities, only to be met with defiance and well-armed troops using a mixture of their own and NATO-supplied anti-tank weapons to wreak havoc on the invaders.
Some of the most shocking images of the devastation inflicted on Russian armour came from the town of Bucha on the outskirts of Kyiv, where an entire column of tanks and armoured vehicles were obliterated.
Taken yesterday, the pictures show how the burnt-out husks and charred debris from the vehicles had completely blocked one of Bucha’s main roads, a mere 20 miles from the centre of the capital.
Images from Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv also show a litany of scuttled Russian vehicles – though a sustained bombing campaign over the past three days has since laid waste to the city with many administrative and residential buildings turned to rubble.
Russian paratroopers landed in Kharkiv, while Zhytomyr and Kyiv saw further missile strikes, as the conflict in Ukraine rumbled into its seventh day today, but Russia’s forces are racking up considerable losses amid bitter urban fighting.
Konashenkov said Russian forces had dealt significant damage to Ukrainian defences in kind.
‘A total of 311 tanks and other armoured military vehicles, 42 airplanes and helicopters, 51 multiple launch rocket systems, 147 field artillery weapons and mortars, and 263 specialised military vehicles have been destroyed,’ he claimed yesterday.
Russia’s invasion – which met with heavy defeat in its initial plan to seize key targets and infrastructure in precision strikes – entered a new phase on Monday, with the aim seemingly to surround and bombard cities such as Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mariupol, Sumy and Kherson.
Kherson has been overrun by Russian forces according to the Kremlin, but Ukrainian army units and civilian defence forces have otherwise put up fierce resistance and largely stalled the Russian onslaught on the ground, prompting Putin to launch an indiscriminate bombing campaign of Ukraine’s two largest cities – Kyiv and Kharkiv.
The civilian death toll has increased significantly in the past three days since Russia began its bombardment, with Ukrainian authorities yesterday reporting 352 civilian deaths since the start of the invasion, including 14 children.
Roughly 874,000 people have fled the country, with the UN refugee agency warning the number will likely cross the 1 million mark soon. Countless others have taken shelter underground in metro stations, basements and makeshift shelters.
The overall death toll from the seven-day war is not clear, with neither Russia nor Ukraine releasing an official number of troops they have lost.
Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said more than 2,000 civilians have died, though it was impossible to verify that claim.
The UN human rights office on Monday had tallied 136 civilian deaths, but acknowledged the actual toll was surely far higher.
The civilian death toll is likely to have increased dramatically since then in the wake of sustained bombing campaigns of several cities, with missiles slamming in to several administrative and civilian targets including schools and hospitals.
The move has seen Putin accused of war crimes, after multiple reports of the use of cluster bombs on residential high-rises and non-military structures.
International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan confirmed Monday that a probe will be launched into Russia’s bombing campaign: ‘I wish to announce that I have decided to proceed with opening an investigation into the situation in Ukraine, as rapidly as possible’.
‘I am satisfied that there is a reasonable basis to believe that both alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Ukraine,’ he added.
This morning, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has become a symbol of Ukrainian defiance and courage since the war began, told his people that Russians ‘know nothing about our capital. About our history. But they have an order to erase our history. Erase our country. Erase us all.’
The president, unshaven and wearing a military-style khaki T-shirt, said the West’s response was not enough, calling for more international support, including backing Ukraine’s bid to join the European Union.
‘This is no time to be neutral,’ he added.
As he spoke, troops were preparing barricades to defend the city of Zaporizhzhia – including setting up defences around the reactors of Energodar power plant. Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to Ukraine’s interior ministry, called on generals to bypass the city while warning they could create a ‘new Chernobyl’ if the plant is damaged.
‘Because of Putin’s madness, Europe is again on the brink of a nuclear catastrophe,’ he wrote on Facebook. ‘The city where the largest nuclear power plant in Europe is located is preparing for a battle with the invaders.
A military source told MailOnline that videos of the onslaught showed ‘cluster’ munitions had been used.
‘The BM-21 Grad is a multiple launch rocket system used for ‘area denial’, dropping cluster bombs on a concentrated area,’ the expert said.
‘It’s mainly used on enemy troops before an offensive. Used against civilians, it’s not only a war crime, but has only one purpose – to spread terror and alarm among the civilian population.’
But despite Russia’s ruthless bombing campaign and sustained ground assault, the Ukrainian army and its territorial defence forces have remained resolute.
Dozens of images and videos published on Monday showed Ukrainian forces parading defeated Russian soldiers who were captured as the remainder of their units retreated or were killed.
Footage posted online show tied up ‘demoralised and exhausted’ prisoners of war captured after they failed to break through defences in Kyiv and Kharkiv over the weekend.
Several of the videos were posted on a Telegram channel set up on Saturday by Ukraine’s Interior Ministry called ‘Find Your Own’.
Many Russian troops claimed that they believed they were conducting training exercises in the border regions and did not know they were being sent to invade Ukraine.
The Russian onslaught seems to have been slowed considerably, but there are fears that this lack of success on the ground will give rise to a prolonged bombing campaign designed to inflict maximum damage and beat Ukraine’s cities into submission.