Moscow reveals number of foreign mercenaries killed in Ukraine
The Russian military has killed some 600 foreign mercenaries during its military operation in Ukraine, while hundreds more have fled the country, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has stated.
The number of non-Ukrainian combatants fighting on the side of Kiev has recently been reduced via strikes launched against them with high-precision munitions, resulting in fatalities, Shoigu said during a video conference on Tuesday.
“Over the past two weeks, over 500 mercenaries have left the country and about 600 more have been eliminated,” the minister said, adding that the Russian military was “continuing its targeted efforts aimed at tracking down and destroying them.”
Speaking about the military operation in general, Shoigu said its primary aim in the first stage had been fulfilled, with “significant damage being delivered to the Ukrainian Army.”
This allowed the Russian forces to focus next on liberating the breakaway Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.
Russia has carried out several strikes on bases hosting soldiers of fortune in Ukraine since the start of the campaign.
An attack on the Yavoriv range in the western Lvov region in mid-March left up to 180 foreign fighters dead, according to the Defense Ministry, although Ukraine reported a much less significant death toll. Another strike targeted a Ukrainian Special Operations Forces training center in the northern Zhytomyr region, where more than 100 Ukrainian troops and foreign fighters were killed.
Moscow sent its troops into Ukraine in late February, following a seven-year standoff over Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, and Russia’s eventual recognition of the republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it had been planning to retake the Donbass by force.