More than 560 Ukraine National Guard soldiers killed in war

Figures related to war casualties are rarely released by officials in Kyiv

Ukrainian servicemen carry the coffin of a killed soldier, one of many who have died in the conflict with Russia. Reuters

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More than 560 soldiers from Ukraine's National Guard, a force which includes the Azov regiment currently holed up in Mariupol's steelworks, have been killed since the war with Russia began, its leader said on Wednesday.

Besides the 561 dead, an additional 1,697 troops had been wounded since the invasion began on February 24, National Guard chief Oleksiy Nadtochy said in an online briefing.

Wednesday's statement marked a rare move as both Ukrainian and Russian officials have been tight-lipped about their losses in the war.

Figures about troops killed in battle have very rarely been released by Ukrainian officials, with neither the defence ministry in Kyiv nor its counterpart in Moscow offering any information on their own military losses.

In mid-April, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said between 2,500 and 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed while about 10,000 others had been wounded, admitting it was “difficult to say how many of them would survive”.

Ukraine's National Guard, which falls under the country's Ministry of Internal Affairs, was created in March 2014 when Russia seized control of the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and massed troops on Ukraine's eastern border.

By law, it can have up to 60,000 soldiers in its ranks and has notably absorbed several self-defence groups that were on the front line of the 2014 Maidan revolution, as well as various nationalist outfits such as Azov.

Previously known as the “Azov Battalion”, the unit was created in 2014 by far-right activists and first deployed against pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

It has since shaken off the far-right ideology and been integrated into the National Guard, experts say.

The “Azov Regiment” has a reputation for being a tough fighting unit.

Kyiv on Tuesday said more than 1,000 fighters remain trapped inside the besieged Azovstal steel plant in the southern port city of Mariupol, hundreds of whom are injured.

Some Azov soldiers have also died at the plant, but it is unknown how many.

Updated: May 11, 2022, 9:07 PM