The U.S. believes nearly 500,000 Ukrainian and Russian soldiers have been wounded or killed during the expansive conflict that has raged in Ukraine since February of last year, according to a New York Times report citing unnamed officials.
The officials cautioned that casualty figures remained difficult to estimate because Moscow is believed to routinely undercount its war dead and injured, and Kyiv does not disclose official figures, the newspaper said.
Russia’s military casualties are approaching 300,000, including as many as 120,000 deaths and 170,000 to 180,000 injuries, the newspaper reported. Ukrainian deaths were close to 70,000, with 100,000 to 120,000 wounded, it added.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, commenting on the Times article, said only the General Staff could disclose such figures.
“We have adopted a model that only the General Staff has the right to voice the figures on the wounded, the disabled, people who lost limbs, and the missing, and, of course, the number of people who died in this war,” he said in a live broadcast on the YouTube channel of journalist Yulia Latynina on Friday.
Reuters said Ukrainian officials did not immediately respond to requests from its journalists for comment. Russia made no immediate comment on the report.
An ongoing counteroffensive has seen Ukraine trying to push back Russian forces along various front lines. The effort has been slow going, with Ukrainian forces trying to break through heavily mined Russian defensive lines without powerful air support.
U.S. approves F-16 deliveries
Officials in Washington and Europe said Friday that the United States had given its approval for the Netherlands and Denmark to deliver F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine — support Kyiv had been pushing for, but which is unlikely to immediately change the face of the conflict.
It was not immediately clear when the first F-16s might enter the conflict. Ukrainian pilots will need to undertake at least six months of training on the aircraft, according to officials.
U.S. Air Force Gen. James Hecker, commander of U.S. air forces in Europe and Africa, told reporters in Washington he did not expect the F-16s to be a game-changer for Ukraine. Getting F-16 squadrons ready for battle could take “four or five years,” he said.
But in Eastern Ukraine, attack helicopter pilots welcomed the news. They said Russia has a clear advantage in the skies, but the introduction of better fighter jets could dramatically shift the balance of power Kyiv’s way.
Ukrainian air forces supporting infantry are using decades-old Soviet-era planes, which are vulnerable to air-to-air missile attacks from Russian fighter jets, Capt. Yevgen Rakita, a spokesman for the 18th Army Aviation Brigade, told The Associated Press.
“A modern war cannot be won without aviation [capabilities],” Rakita said.
U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan said U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken sent a letter to his Dutch and Danish counterparts earlier this week, offering formal assurance that the U.S. would fast-track approval of all requests from third parties to transfer F-16s to Ukraine.
Danish Defence Minister Jakob Ellemann-Jensen said Friday that the training of Ukrainian pilots is starting this month.