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28 Apr, 2024 11:22

Zelensky deceived public on true scale of Kiev’s losses – WaPo

The Ukrainian president does not want to disrupt an already-struggling mobilization drive, a local MP told the paper
Zelensky deceived public on true scale of Kiev’s losses – WaPo

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has knowingly deceived the public about the true extent of his country's military losses in its conflict with Russia, the Washington Post reported on Saturday, citing sources. Zelensky did so to offset panic amid a struggling mobilization campaign, the paper claimed.

In February, after months of silence on Ukrainian casualties, Zelensky claimed that 31,000 troops had been killed in the two years since the start of the conflict, without disclosing the numbers of those wounded.

Russia, on the other hand, claims that Kiev has suffered devastating losses during the conflict. Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has estimated Ukraine's losses at nearly half a million troops.

An unnamed Ukrainian lawmaker said in an interview with the Post that Zelensky had “vastly downplayed the war’s true toll.” He argued that it “had to be presented as lower to avoid disrupting an already-struggling recruitment and mobilization drive.”

Kiev embarked on a flurry of legislative activity late last year in a bid to boost mobilization. After weeks of parliamentary debate, Zelensky signed two bills earlier this month, one of which lowers the age of conscription for men from 27 to 25, while another significantly tightens the mobilization rules. 

In late December, Zelensky said the Ukrainian military asked him to mobilize an additional 500,000 troops – a claim later denied by then-commander-in-chief Valery Zaluzhny. The disagreement was widely seen as one of the reasons for the conflict between the two which led to Zaluzhny’s dismissal in February.

The Ukrainian lawmaker, however, told the paper that while Kiev was indeed suffering from a shortage of troops, the situation has not yet reached a “red line.”

Meanwhile, after the US approved a long-stalled $61 billion aid package for Ukraine, officials in Washington have now turned their attention to Kiev’s other challenges, including the manpower deficit. James O’Brien, the US assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, urged Kiev this week “to make sure it has the people necessary to fight.”

One US official told the Post that while the issue is worrying, Washington does not want to nag Kiev about it. “Who are we to say, ‘You just need to draft more men to fight.’ But at the same time, it is a real concern,” he said, adding that while the new laws will help to fill in the gaps in the military, Kiev needs to “find a way to inspire more Ukrainian men to come to the front lines.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said last year that the West is prepared to fight Russia to “the last Ukrainian.”