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Up to 4,000 Russian soldiers may have died in Ukraine, U.S. general says

A Ukrainian soldier walks past debris of a burning military truck, on a street in Kyiv on Feb. 26. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)
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Up to 4,000 Russian troops may have died since President Vladimir Putin launched Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, a senior U.S. military officer said Tuesday, as the Kremlin’s military forces continued to face fierce resistance.

Lt. Gen. Scott D. Berrier, director the Defense Intelligence Agency, told House lawmakers that the best estimate is between 2,000 and 4,000 Russian fatalities. But he said he had low confidence in that figure, citing “some intelligence sources, but also open source” information. The general’s reference to open source information probably refers to assessments made public by credible outside groups monitoring the conflict.

The estimate is a significant indication of how badly the much smaller Ukrainian military has exacted a toll on Russian forces, even as the Kremlin wages a bombardment of both military and civilian targets in numerous Ukrainian cities. By comparison, the entire 20-year U.S. war in Afghanistan resulted in 2,461 American fatalities, according to Pentagon figures.

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Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, told the House Intelligence Committee during the same hearing that the conflict’s human toll already is “considerable, and only increasing” on all sides.

“Thus far, the Russian and Ukrainian militaries have probably suffered thousands of casualties along with numerous civilian deaths,” Haines said. “And of course, well more than a million people have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded.” The United Nations estimates that more than 2 million people have left for neighboring countries since the conflict began.

The comments came as Russia’s bombardment of numerous cities continued, and as Russian forces attempt an advance on Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. A senior U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the Pentagon, said Tuesday that the Pentagon is examining a range of estimates for Russian fatalities in the war, and that Berrier did the “best he could” to answer the question during the congressional hearing.

Rather than striking fear in Ukrainians, a stalled column of Russian vehicles has inspired people in Kyiv to join the resistance

For days, a miles-long convoy of Russian vehicles has been stalled beginning at the Hostomel airport about 15 miles northwest of Kyiv. But Russian forces also are now about 37 miles to Kyiv’s east, after they advanced southwest from the city of Sumy, the senior defense official said.

“This is a line of advance that we haven’t seen much of recently,” the official said. “They’re still farther away than the main advance coming down from the north.”

Berrier told lawmakers that with Russians attempting to cut food and water supplies to Kyiv, the situation “will become somewhat desperate in 10 days to two weeks.”

To the south, Russian forces continue to attack Mykolaiv, a city of about 485,000 near the Black Sea, having seized the cities of Kherson and Berdyansk. As of Tuesday, they appeared to be about 25 miles northeast of the city, whose seizure would appear to pave the way for a follow-on Russian assault of Odessa, a port city of nearly 1 million.

The senior U.S. defense official indicated that Russia has launched nearly 670 missiles since the invasion began. That figure has increased incrementally by a few dozen each day since Russia’s initial salvo before its ground forces crossed the border.

Berrier, asked if Putin had committed war crimes, suggested it could be close.

“Certainly the bombing of schools and facilities that are not associated with the Ukrainian military would indicate to me that he is stepping up right to the line if he hasn’t done so already,” he said.