Russia has admitted it has suffered a “significant loss” of troops and 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 troop losses. It is a great tragedy for us,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Sky News on Thursday amid steady opposition from Ukraine.
Though Moscow has declined to give an exact figure, Ukrainian authorities have claimed that at least 18,900 Russian soldiers have been killed in combat since the invasion began on February 24 on Thursday.
Moscow’s unprovoked aggression has resulted in more than four million people fleeing the country and thousands killed or injured.
More than 5,000 civilians, including 210 children, were killed there, Vadym Boichenko, mayor of the southern port city of Mariupol, said on Wednesday.
In Bucha, near the capital Kyiv, Ukraine said there may be between 150 and 300 in a mass grave near a church where Putin’s forces reportedly massacred people.
Russia has been accused of war crimes over the Bucha killings and has been hit with new sanctions from the West, including against Mr Putin’s daughters.
He dismissed suggestions that the Russian president would appear before a war crimes tribunal, saying: “We don’t see the possibility of that, we don’t think it’s realistic.”
After the Bucha killings, the UN General Assembly suspended Russia from the UN Human Rights Council, expressing “deep concern at the ongoing human rights and humanitarian crisis”.
Russia responded by withdrawing from the Council.
Moscow had previously denied attacking civilians and said images of bodies in Bucha were a “monstrous fake” to justify further sanctions and derail peace talks.
“Ukraine has had a very successful experience of actually investigating war crimes committed by some Ukrainian troops after the initial stage of the 2014-2015 war. These crimes were investigated. These people were tried and convicted,” Peskov said in a counterattack on Ukraine.
The war-torn nation has urged its allies to stop buying Russian oil and gas and strengthen it militarily amid divisions in Europe.
In a late-night address to the nation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday: “Ukraine needs weapons that will give it the ability to win on the battlefield, and that will be the toughest sanction against Russia.”
He said the situation in Borodyanka, some 15 miles from Bucha, was “distinctly more dire”.
UN humanitarian aid chief Martin Griffiths said Thursday he was not optimistic about reaching a ceasefire to halt the fighting as Russia shifted its focus to the eastern region of Donbass.
“I don’t think it will be easy because, as I now know, the two sides have very little trust in each other. I’m not optimistic,” said the Secretary of State.
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