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Ukraine war latest: 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers, 180,000 Russians killed in war, says Zelensky

by Alexander Khrebet and The Kyiv Independent news desk February 25, 2024 11:04 PM 10 min read
A colorful sunset over military graves in the Kharkiv cemetery 18 on March 15, 2023 in Kharkiv. The military section of this large cemetery is almost full as many fallen soldiers come from Kharkiv. (Paula Bronstein /Getty Images)
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Key developments on Feb. 24-25:

  • Zelensky: 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers killed in Russia's war
  • Western allies reaffirm support for Ukraine on 2nd anniversary of full-scale invasion
  • Yermak: Ukraine could invite Russia to global peace summit in future
  • Budanov: Russia's goals for 2024 same as previous two years
  • Umerov: 'Corruption during war is worse than terrorism'
  • EU to send 4.5 billion euros to Ukraine in March in first payment under new aid program
  • Ombudsman: 28,000 Ukrainian citizens in Russian captivity.

Around 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been recorded as killed by Russia's war, President Volodymyr Zelensky said at the "Ukraine. Year 2024" forum in Kyiv on Feb. 25.

"Each person is a very big loss for us. 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers died in this war," the president said. "It is very painful for us."

The announcement is the first time Zelensky has publicly stated a figure on the death toll of Ukrainian soldiers since the start of the full-scale invasion. The Ukrainian government has kept a tight lid on casualty numbers during the war.

Zelensky did not clarify if the number covers the entire 10 years of Russian aggression against Ukraine or is just for the last two years of the full-scale invasion. The number is those that have been officially accounted for as killed in the war. The actual figure is likely to be higher.

He also said that 180,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the war, and that along with the wounded, Russia has suffered 500,000 casualties.

"I won't say how many wounded (Ukrainians) there are because Russia will know how many people have left the battlefield."

Independent Russian media outlets Meduza and Mediazona reported in a joint study on Feb. 24 that 83,000 Russian soldiers had been killed in Russia's war.

Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed in Russia's war in occupied territories, Zelensky said, adding that the exact amount is unknown and it would only be possible to find out once the territories were liberated.

At least 10,582 civilians have been killed and nearly 20,000 have been injured in Ukraine since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022, the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) said on Feb. 24.

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Western allies reaffirm support for Ukraine on 2nd anniversary of full-scale invasion

Western allies have publicly reaffirmed their support for Ukraine on Feb. 24, the second anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion.

Two years ago, Russia launched its all-out war against Ukraine, the largest military attack in Europe since World War II. This day in 2022 also marked a turning point in a decade of ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine that started with the illegal annexation of Crimea and the onset of war in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in 2014.

Despite Russia's reported plan to "seize Kyiv in three days," Ukraine has defied the odds and kept fighting, managing to liberate swaths of territory that fell under Russian occupation. The fight has come at a significant cost.

"The future of Ukraine lies in the European Union," read a joint statement released by European Council President Charles Michel, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and European Parliament President Roberta Metsola.

"We will continue to address Ukraine's pressing military and defense needs, including deliveries of urgently needed ammunition and missiles," the statement continued. "Russia and its leaders will pay a growing price for their actions."

Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren announced that the Netherlands will sign a long-term security agreement with Ukraine and reiterated that country's military aid for Kyiv since 2022 has totaled 2.81 billion euros.

"We must continue to take a united stand against Putin's aggression," Ollongren wrote.

The Dutch Royal Family also released a statement conveying that the Netherlands remained "united for the men and women of Ukraine who are fighting for freedom, democracy, and justice," adding that Ukraine's resilience is "an example and inspiration to us all."

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto also stressed "the capacity and resources to support Ukraine in the long run" while also working toward peace, reiterating the Finnish government's support for Zelensky's Peace Formula.

The Danish Foreign Ministry wrote that it "stands with the Ukrainian people and their fight for freedom and justice," and released a video about its ongoing aid for the country. This includes the Ukraine Fund launched in 2023 to provide military and civilian support and engage private companies and civil society organizations in Ukraine's reconstruction.

On Feb. 23, U.S. President Joe Biden recalled his trip to Kyiv marking the first anniversary of the full-scale invasion and wrote that "a dictator bent on rebuilding an empire will never be able to erase the people’s love of liberty. Brutality will never grind down the will of the free. And Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia."

Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi thanked Ukraine's allies on Feb. 24 for their ongoing military aid, emphasizing that "every shell, every tank, every armored vehicle is first and foremost about saving the lives of Ukrainian soldiers."

In his statement marking the second anniversary of the full-scale invasion, Syrskyi also thanked Ukrainian soldiers, emergency service workers, and volunteers for their commitment, adding that "today, more than ever, we need unity."

"No one (believed that we would endure) except the Armed Forces of Ukraine, who engaged the enemy from the very first moments," Syrskyi wrote.

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Yermak: Ukraine could invite Russia to global peace summit in future

Ukraine could invite representatives from Russia to a future peace summit if an upcoming meeting of global leaders in Switzerland proves successful, Andriy Yermak, head of Ukraine's Presidential Office, said at the "Ukraine. Year 2024" forum on Feb. 25.

In January, Switzerland agreed to host a global peace summit on Ukraine. Over 160 countries will be invited to discuss Kyiv's peace formula and create a joint document on what needs to be done to restore the country’s sovereignty.

If successful, the document could be presented to representatives from Russia at a second, future summit.

“They would be presented with this document in case whoever is representing the aggressor country at that time really wants to end this war and return to a just peace,” Yermak said, as quoted by a Kyiv Independent reporter.

“Everything that we understand by a just peace is set out in our peace formula.”

Yermak noted that the participating countries have different opinions and motivations on how to end the war. Nevertheless, they all recognize Ukraine’s independence and are ready to join the peace process, he added.

“A personal meeting of leaders is very important, where what we have been talking about all these months at the level of ambassadors and advisors will be recorded," he said.

Meanwhile, Russia’s strategic goals for 2024 remain the same as before, Ukraine's military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov told the Kyiv Independent at the "Ukraine. Year 2024" forum on Feb. 25.

He said that Russia’s goal is still to destroy Ukrainian statehood and reach the administrative border of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts to “keep what they already have," but that they "have been unable to do (so) by military means."

“In 2022-2023, they failed to do so, and in 2024 they will not be able to do so either,” Budanov said.

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EU to send 4.5 billion euros to Ukraine in March

The European Union’s new 50 billion euro ($54 billion) Ukraine Facility will make its first transfer of 4.5 billion euros ($4.9 billion) to Ukraine in March, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Feb. 24.

Von der Leyen announced this on the social media platform X after a meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in Kyiv. The two also discussed issues with Ukrainian exports at the land border and joint work in the defense industry, according to her post.

Von der Leyen arrived in Kyiv on Feb. 24, the second anniversary of the launch of Russia’s full-scale invasion. Also in Kyiv for the anniversary were Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.

All 27 EU members agreed to creating the 50 billion euro support package on Feb. 1, following a delay due to opposition from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Financial support from the EU has become increasingly vital in Ukraine's fight against Russia, as foreign aid from the United States remains stalled for months in the country’s Congress.

The EU has so far delivered 28 billion euros ($30.3 billion) in military assistance to Ukraine, according to von der Leyen.

Earlier in the day during a press conference, von der Leyen announced that the EU will open an office for Defense Innovation in Kyiv.  The new office will support Ukraine's integration with EU defense programs and allow European countries to learn from Ukrainian battlefield experiences.

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Umerov: 'Corruption during war is worse than terrorism'

Ukraine is committed to cleaning up corruption, Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said, speaking at the "Ukraine. Year 2024" forum in Kyiv, Ukraine.

"Corruption during war is worse for me than terrorism. There will be no negotiations with those who steal from our soldiers and our society," Umerov said, as quoted by a Kyiv Independent reporter.

According to Umerov, the Defense Ministry uncovered "violations worth tens of millions of hryvnias" during its regular inspections of food supplies to military units in recent months.

"We continue to work with the Security Service of Ukraine, the Prosecutor General's Office, the State Bureau of Investigation, and the NABU (National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine) to identify corruption schemes in the Defense Forces," Umerov continued.

Umerov added that the Defense Ministry is auditing its structural units and the military, noting that Ukraine must use its internal resources efficiently and effectively.

"Together with the United States, we have launched a joint inspection of the end use of weapons. The Defense Ministry's Inspector General actively cooperates with the Pentagon's Inspector General. Transparency and close cooperation with our partners is a very important priority," Umerov said.

Several corruption scandals have rocked Ukraine's defense ministry since the onset of Russia's full-scale war against Ukraine.

Just recently, on Feb. 13, the Appeals Chamber of Ukraine's High Anti-Corruption Court ordered the arrest of Oleksandr Liyev, the former head of the Defense Ministry's department in charge of weapons procurement.

Liyev's case was related to a corruption scheme revealed by the Security Service of Ukraine on Jan. 27 that involved the procurement of almost 100,000 mortar shells, amounting to almost Hr 1.5 billion ($40 million).

Meanwhile, on Dec. 18, 2023, Umerov introduced the state enterprise Defense Goods Procurement Agency, a new procurement body for Ukraine's Armed Forces to counter corruption and the misuse of funds related to food procurement for the military.

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Ombudsman: 28,000 Ukrainian citizens in Russian captivity

There are 28,000 Ukrainian citizens in Russian captivity, Ukraine’s Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets told reporters at the "Ukraine. Year 2024" forum on Feb. 25.

The captives are spread across Russia and the occupied territories, according to Lubinets. Many are religious figures, journalists, NGO workers, and representatives from local governments, he said.

“Some of them go a long time without any criminal investigations from the Russian side,” he added.

Ukraine has managed to return 3,135 citizens, including 147 civilians. Around 90% of Ukrainian prisoners of war are tortured every day, Lubinets said.

Speaking about the return of kidnapped children, Lubinets said that he believes partner countries, like Qatar, are more effective than international organizations. Currently, 70 countries have joined Canada’s “International Coalition for the Return of Ukrainian Children,” which was officially launched on Feb. 2.

The Ukrainian government has identified over 19,500 children who have been deported or forcibly displaced by Russia, less than 400 of whom have been returned to Ukraine.

“If we return one Ukrainian child every day, it will take us 55 years. Do we have that kind of time? No, we don't,” Lubinets said.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 17, 2023, over the deportation of Ukrainian children. The 123 member states of the ICC are required to arrest Putin if he steps foot on their territory.

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