by Ryan King
February 25, 2022
About 2,800 Russian soldiers have died in the first 36 hours of Russia’s bloody invasion, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine claims.
If true, Russia‘s losses in the first days following its invasion of Ukraine top the casualties U.S. soldiers faced during the 20-year military operation in Afghanistan. Ukraine also says it destroyed nearly 600 tanks and armored vehicles and over 17 warplanes and helicopters.
“This morning, we are defending our country alone. Just like yesterday, the most powerful country in the world looked on from a distance,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an apparent reference to the United States on Friday. “Russia was hit with sanctions yesterday, but these are not enough to get these foreign troops off our soil. Only through solidarity and determination can this be achieved.”
The U.S. Pentagon has not independently confirmed the casualty count in Ukraine, and warring nations have incentives to exaggerate the numbers.
“We cannot quantify what casualties either side has endured, other than to say that we certainly have seen reports of casualties in Ukraine, and we have no reason to dispute that. But in terms of quantifying them, I simply can’t do that. And I believe we’ll, we’ll be able to do that,” a senior defense official told reporters on Friday.
However, if the figures from Ukraine are true, Ukraine has inflicted severe casualties on Russia in a very short period. The Department of Defense estimates there were 4,431 U.S. casualties during Operation Iraqi Freedom and 2,352 in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The DOD data counted U.S. soldiers and not military contractors.
Ukraine has exerted fierce resistance to Russian aggression despite being significantly outmanned and outgunned. Russia has encircled Ukraine and pummeled it with a barrage of airstrikes. Some military experts believe the strategy is to overwhelm Ukraine to get an opening in Kyiv to install a new government.
Zelensky has remained in the city despite intelligence that he is the No. 1 target of the Russian military. He also warned European leaders that he may soon be killed off by Russian forces, Axios reported.
Ukrainian allies in Europe and the U.S. have left the nation to fight against Russia alone without any kinetic support. But allies have spent years sending billions of dollars’ worth of lethal military aid to Ukraine and helping train the Ukrainian army. Ukraine has begun handing out guns to civilians to help resist Russia and reportedly managed to retake a critical airport Thursday night.
Still, U.S. intelligence believes the Ukrainian capital will ultimately succumb to Russia’s overwhelming military power.
A grim moment for Kyiv: Sources familiar with the intelligence tell @jimsciutto and me that the initial US assessment from before the invasion—which anticipated that the Ukrainian capital would be overrun within one to four days of a Russian attack—remains unchanged.
— Katie Bo Lillis (@KatieBoLillis) February 25, 2022