In a rare admission, the Kremlin said Russia has suffered “significant losses” in Ukraine amounting to a “huge tragedy” for the country.
“Yes, we have significant losses of troops and it is a huge tragedy for us,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Sky News on Thursday.
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Russia launched its military offensive against Ukraine on February 24, causing the world’s fastest refugee crisis – with more than 4.3 million fleeing to neighbouring countries.
At least 1,500 civilians have been killed so far, according to the United Nations, which fears the real number to be far higher.
Casualties on the Russian side have been harder to assess with the country’s defence minister saying on March 25 – its most recent update – that 1,351 of its soldiers have been killed in combat, while 3,825 were wounded.
Ukraine says 19,000 Russian soldiers have been killed.
However, experts say figures by both parties cannot be trusted as Kyiv is likely to inflate them to boost the morale of its troops, while Russia is probably downplaying them.
Commenting on the Russian troop withdrawal from certain areas in Ukraine, including from Kyiv’s northern region, Peskov said that it was an “act of goodwill” to “lift tensions” during negotiations between Russia and Ukraine.
Western countries are sceptical of Russia’s stated motive, rather believing that Moscow is stepping back due to the unexpected resistance shown by Ukrainian forces, which managed to stop its advance towards the capital.
In line with Russia’s stance on the alleged atrocities it is accused of in Bucha, Peskov insisted that images showing dead bodies were staged.