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Zelensky Downplays Ukrainian Losses to Wheedle More Money Out of West

© AFP 2023 / SERGEI SUPINSKYUkrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses Ukrainian students during a meeting in Kiev on January 22, 2024.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses Ukrainian students during a meeting in Kiev on January 22, 2024.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.02.2024
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed that just 31,000 Ukrainian troops had been killed since the beginning of Russia's special military operation. Are these numbers realistic? What's behind Zelensky's assessment?
Speaking to CNN on Sunday, Zelensky again begged his Western backers for more money and weapons.
"Whether Ukraine will lose is dependent on you, our partners, the Western world," he said. "We will not lose this war if we get the weapons. We will win."
Zelensky's interview came on the heels of Russia's capture of Avdeyevka, a city in the Donetsk region, from the Ukrainian Armed Forces, which were forced into a further retreat.

The Ukrainian army is continuing to lose ground since the failure of the Kiev regime's summer offensive. The botched counteroffensive attempt alone resulted in 159,000 Ukrainian servicemen killed and wounded, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense.

Destroyed Ukrainian military equipment in Avdeyevka. File photo - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.02.2024
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Still, the Ukrainian president insisted at a Sunday press conference in Kiev that Ukraine has lost just 31,000 troops killed since the outset of the conflict.
But that contradicted the assessment of US officials last summer that Ukraine had alreadt lost close to 70,000 killed and 100,000 to 120,000 wounded, noted Alexander Mikhailov, analyst and head of the Bureau of Military-Political Analysis in Russia.
Speaking to US journalist Tucker Carlson in August 2023, Douglas Macgregor, a retired colonel of the United States Army and a political analyst, suggested that Ukraine's real losses amounted to 400,000.
"That was said before the battle for Avdeyevka and other major battles," Mikhailov told Sputnik.
"Zelensky’s statement in this context should be viewed as an indication of fear of [the Ukrainian] people. He has repeatedly lied. Apparently, he lies and talks about 31,000 killed in order to reduce social responsibility for what was happening," he noted.
The analyst referred to reports that Kiev officials were deliberately understating Ukrainian losses to avoid paying compensation to the families of the deceased.
While targeting his domestic audience in his speech, the Ukrainian president also sought to reassure Western viewers that Ukraine still has enough manpower — and that all that it needs to win are extra money and weapons.
"In general, Zelensky's statement was so senseless and implausible that I think it will cause a wide resonance, including in Ukraine," Mikhailov stressed.
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Does Zelensky Have a Plan for 2024?

The Ukrainian president also insisted that the Ukrainian military has a clear vision for 2024. Last November Ukrainian MPs lashed out at then-commander-in-chief General Valery Zaluzhny for his failure to outline a military strategy for the coming year.
Since he replaced Zaluzhny with Colonel General Oleksandr Syrsky, the Ukrainian president has claimed that Kiev now has not just one plan but was preparing "several" versions of its battlefield strategy for 2024.
Mikhailov considers that implausible, however.
"Zelensky just needs to say something so that the Democrats could convince the Republicans to sign $60 billion [in aid to Ukraine]," said the analyst. "Zelensky’s statement that there is a plan for 2024, that they had a plan for 2023 or for 2022" doesn't make much sense, he added.
"They had plans all the time, but these plans ended in nothing and were axed by the reality in which the Russian Federation achieves its goals and continues to fulfill the goals of the special military operation, on a larger scale than previously stated," Mikhailov said.
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Zelensky: 'Counteroffensive Plan Was Leaked to Russia'

The analyst also found Zelensky's comments about a change of strategy ironic, given his claim that Ukraine's summer counteroffensive plan was cracked by Russia.
"Our counteroffensive action plans were on the Kremlin’s table before the counteroffensive actions began," Zelensky told a press conference in Kiev.

"By stating that the Russians knew about the counteroffensive, he may be rubbing US intelligence's nose in it," Mikhailov said. "Because the Americans now control many processes: American and British intelligence agencies — Western intelligence agencies — control all plans of Kiev. And therefore, if it was leaked, it means they missed it."

Zelensky's claim "shows how well Russian intelligence works," he noted with humour. "On the other hand, what could he say, given that the counteroffensive failed? Here, no matter how hard you lie, everyone sees the failure of the counteroffensive, everyone knows it, and everyone is discussing it. You can't hide it."
According to Mikhailov, Zelensky is trying to justify the failures of the Kiev regime and the Ukrainian military — and so he suggests that Russians knew everything beforehand and blames their defeats on that. The analyst said it was pathetic how Ukrainian leadership plays the blame game.
"He pretends he is fighting for democracy, Europe, and America. 'Give me money, give me weapons, I will continue to fight to the last Ukrainian.' So I think he will continue to make such statements, which are petty in the eyes of specialists," Mikhailov concluded.
(FILES) The head of a 155mm artillery shell casing is turned during its manufacturing process at the BAE Systems factory in Washington, near Newcastle upon Tyne in north-east England on November 8, 2023. - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.02.2024
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