7,000 to 15,000 Russian troops dead, says NATO

Kiev: NATO estimated on Wednesday that 7,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in four weeks of war in Ukraine, where fierce resistance from the country’s defenders has denied Moscow the lightning victory it sought.

A senior NATO military official said the alliance’s estimate was based on information from Ukrainian authorities, what Russia has released intentionally or not and intelligence gathered from open sources.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by NATO.

Ukraine has released little information about its own military losses, and the West has not given an estimate, but President Volodymr Zelenskyy said nearly two weeks ago that about 1,300 Ukrainian servicemen had been killed.

When Russia unleashed its invasion Feb. 24 in Europe’s biggest offensive since World War II, a swift toppling of Ukraine’s government seemed likely.

But with Wednesday marking four full weeks of fighting, Moscow is bogged down in a grinding military campaign.

Zelenskyy who has riveted the world’s attention with ad hoc videos and speeches to legislatures seeking military aid for his country seized on the anniversary to plead for people around the world to gather in public Thursday to show support for Ukraine, saying the war breaks the heart of every free person on the planet.

Come to your squares, your streets. Make yourselves visible and heard, Zelenskyy said in English during an emotional video address to the nation, recorded in the dark near the presidential offices in Kyiv.

Say that people matter. Freedom matters. Peace matters. Ukraine matters.

Speaking in Russian, Zelenskyy appealed to Russians to leave Russia so as not to give your tax money to the war.

Tens of thousands of Russians already have fled their country since the war began, fearing an intensifying crackdown on dissent that has included the arrest of thousands of antiwar protesters and suppression of the media.

Zelenskyy, who will speak to NATO members by video on Thursday, also said he is asking the alliance to provide effective and unrestricted support to Ukraine, including any weapons the country needs to fend off the Russian invasion.

With its ground forces slowed or stopped by hit-and-run Ukrainian units armed with Western-supplied weapons, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops are bombarding targets from afar, falling back on the tactics they used in reducing cities to rubble in Syria and Chechnya.

A senior US defense official said Wednesday that Russian ground forces appear to be digging in and setting up defensive positions 15 to 20 kilometers outside Kyiv, the capital, as they make little to no progress toward the city centre.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military assessments, said it appears the forces are no longer trying to advance into the city, and in some areas east of Kyiv, Ukrainian troops have pushed Russian soldiers farther away.