“There was a lot of suffering,” Millie said.
The Pentagon did not explain how it counted the casualties, which The Washington Post could not independently verify. Official figures released by Russia’s Defense Ministry last September put the number of Russian casualties at 5,937, which military experts and Western officials say underestimates the country’s losses.
Ukraine has not reported any casualties among its troops. In an interview with CNN earlier this week, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Russia’s death toll was ten times higher than Ukraine’s.
Kyiv officials were quick to dispute Milli’s assessment on Thursday. “We have suffered losses and every life is a tragedy,” said Yuri Sak, adviser to the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine. “But we don’t use meat grinder tactics, saving soldiers’ lives is our number one priority.”
In a new setback, Russia has ordered Putin to withdraw his troops from Kherson
Pentagon figures, however, show the brutality of the fighting along the 1,000-mile front line around eastern Ukraine. Much of the fighting takes place from World War I-era trenches, where soldiers dug into mud fortifications withstand continuous artillery bombardment until retreating.
According to the estimates of the victims, during the 260 days of the war, an average of 769 soldiers were killed and wounded per day.
According to Defense Department statistics, nearly twice the 60,000 Americans killed and wounded in the 20-year war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more than twice the 50,000 wounded in the Soviet Union’s 10-year war. The annual war in Afghanistan.
Nearly 70,000 Afghan soldiers and 50,000 civilians have been killed in two decades of fighting with the US-backed coalition. However, these figures are lower than the figures for Ukraine.
Other recent wars have been bloodier, but in the longer term, civilians bear the brunt. The United Nations estimates that 400,000 people died in the first five years of the war in Syria, most of them non-combatants.
Milli suggested Wednesday that Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson and the approaching winter could provide an opportunity for negotiations. The Biden administration and other Western allies have recently been trying to get Ukraine to negotiate with Russia.
The US is privately asking Ukraine to be more open to negotiations with Russia
The winter months, when Ukraine’s temperatures drop below freezing, are likely to put a halt to the fighting as Russia looks to regroup and retrain, Milley said.
“There must be mutual recognition that a military victory in the true sense of the word may not be possible militarily,” he added, “so you have to look to other ways.”
But last September’s victory in Ukraine through the cities of Kharkiv in the northeast and Kherson in the south has made Kiev reluctant to negotiate. Ukrainian officials expressed confidence that Russia could be completely defeated militarily on the battlefield, and Zelenskyi set out preconditions for the deal, including a complete withdrawal of Russia from Ukrainian territory and a promise to pay reparations, conditions that Russia would never accept.
Milli said that the US will continue to support Ukraine until its demands are met. “The United States will continue to support Ukraine and its struggle for freedom,” he said. “It’s good if there’s a deal. If not, we’ll probably continue fighting until spring.”
What you need to know about the Russian withdrawal from Kherson
The Kremlin has also said it is open to talks, but its own preconditions are at odds with Ukraine’s: After Russia illegally annexed four regions of Ukraine, Putin said the “only way to peace” is for Ukraine and the West to recognize it. The people of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporozhye declared that they “became our citizens forever”.
Millie said both sides should strive to stop fighting, despite the huge differences.
“If you can get peace, grab it,” he said said. “Seize this moment.”