A senior Ukrainian official has claimed during a state television interview that "10,000-13,000" of the country's soldiers have been killed so far during the war in Ukraine.
"We have official evaluations by the General Staff, official evaluations by the commander-in-chief [Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy], and they range from 10,000 to 12,500-13,000 killed," Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy, said in an interview on Ukrainian TV outlet Channel 24 on Thursday evening.
Podolyak's remark stands in abrupt contrast to previous statements by Ukrainian officials. Indeed, just the day before Podolyak's pronouncement, Bohdan Senyk, the Head of the Public Relations Department of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, informed Ukrainian media that the country's casualty figure is "classified information".
"We cannot confirm this [casualty] figure... the losses of the Ukrainian army are classified information and are subject to restrictions on publication," Senyk told Ukrainska Pravda, a Ukrainian online newspaper.
An intriguing gaffe
Ukraine's admission comes against the backdrop of an intriguing gaffe made on Wednesday by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who claimed that more than 120,000 Ukrainians have died in the conflict so far.
"It is estimated that 20,000 civilians and more than 100,000 Ukrainian military officers have been killed so far," von der Leyen said in a video published on the European Commission's official social media channel.
Here we have the original video, the one you deleted pic.twitter.com/Xs29au7Yy7— Julio 🇪🇸🇷🇸 (@Julioohhhhh) November 30, 2022
The video, as well an accompanying transcript published on the European Commission website, were then quickly – and mysteriously – deleted. In the republished versions, no reference was made to the Ukrainian fatality figure.
Dana Spinant, the Director of Political Communication for the European Commission, later claimed that the figures cited by von der Leyen were "inaccurate", and that "the estimation used, from external sources, should have referred to casualties, i.e. both killed and injured".
Many thanks to those who pointed out the inaccuracy regarding the figures in a previous version of this video.The estimation used, from external sources, should have referred to casualties, i.e. both killed and injured, and was meant to show Russia‘s brutality. https://t.co/GesDe7bK8v — Dana Spinant (@DanaSpinant) November 30, 2022
Notably, the numbers originally cited by von der Leyen were even higher than those previously estimated by the US; earlier this month Mark Milley, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, estimated that 100,000 Ukrainian soldiers (and approximately the same number of Russians), have been killed or wounded since Russia launched its full-scale invasion on 24 February.
"You’re looking at well over 100,000 Russian soldiers killed and wounded," Milley said, adding: "Same thing probably on the Ukrainian side."
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In September, the Russian Defence Minister claimed that a mere 5,937 Russian soldiers had been killed since the start of the war. This figure, however, is widely considered to be a significant underestimate. Indeed, just two months into the war, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov admitted during a televised interview with the BBC that Russia had suffered "significant losses of troops".