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Ukraine’s defence minister estimated on Thursday that Russia had lost 14,000 troops in its invasion of the country as Britain said the three-week-old onslaught had “largely stalled”.
Oleksii Reznikov said Russian losses were mounting and denounced the Kremlin leadership as a “terror state” in a distressing account of the scenes unfolding in Ukraine.
In a briefing to the European parliament, he spoke of Ukrainians being buried alive under the rubble of destroyed buildings, rescue efforts being hampered by shelling and the city of Mariupol being “wiped from the face of the earth”.
But he said the Ukrainian resistance had destroyed 450 tanks and 750 planes, and that 14,000 Russian soldiers had been killed — a figure he said was higher than Russia’s losses during its wars in Chechnya in the 1990s.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who was meeting Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Berlin, called on Russian people to see what was happening to their young soldiers in the invasion.
"The fate of the people of Ukraine moves us deeply. We are also moved by the fate of the many young Russians who are being sent by their leaders into a pointless war against their own neighbours," he said.
"It is important that the fate of these young people also becomes known in Russia. Everyone in Russia must know that President Putin has the sole responsibility for their death or injury."
Russia has made only one acknowledgement of casualties, more than two weeks ago, when it said 498 soldiers had died and 1,597 had been wounded since its tanks rolled into Ukraine on February 24.
“We are not machines, we are not animals, but in the fields and in the cities of Ukraine, our military, our people are fighting those monsters that sit in the tanks,” said Mr Reznikov.
It came as a British intelligence assessment said the Russian invasion had “largely stalled on all fronts” and that its depleted forces were resorting to older, less precise weapons which were more likely to hit civilians.
Russia is accused by Ukraine of bombing a theatre in Mariupol where women and children had been sheltering and where the world “children” had been marked out on the ground before it was blown up. Moscow denies this.
It followed a strike on a maternity hospital and other alleged attacks on civilians which have prompted allegations, backed by US President Joe Biden on Wednesday, that Moscow is committing war crimes.
Mr Reznikov, who said the European Union should support this designation, told the parliament by video link that Mariupol was without water, light or electricity after being surrounded by Russian troops.
The city is regarded a key strategic target for Moscow, potentially linking Russian forces in Crimea to the west and the Donbass region to the east, and cutting off Ukrainian access to the Sea of Azov.
“By air, by tanks and by missiles it is being erased from the face of the earth,” Mr Reznikov said. “What the Kremlin is doing today is really barbaric.”
The UK’s Ministry of Defence said Russian troops had made “minimal progress on land, sea or air in recent days” and were suffering heavy losses in the face of a “staunch and well co-ordinated” defence of Ukraine.
Ukraine has received stocks of defensive weapons from allies but the West is not willing to support a no-fly zone requested by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, fearing it would risk bringing Nato into direct combat with Russia.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who describes the invasion as a special operation to demilitarise Ukraine, lashed out on Wednesday at people he called “scum and traitors” who were not supporting the war.
He accused a “fifth column” of dissenting Russians of trying to stir civil unrest in remarks in which he spoke of a “necessary self-purification of society”.