Up to 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers are killed or wounded every day in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, with an average of 200 to 500 killed and many more injured, a senior Ukrainian official said on Wednesday.
The big picture: President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said June 1 that 60 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers were being killed every day as Russia stepped up its Donbass offensive. According to David Arakhamia, who is leading Ukraine’s negotiations with Russia and is one of Zelenskyy’s closest advisers, that number has increased significantly over the past two weeks.
- Ukraine has recruited a million people into the army and has the capacity to recruit two million more, Arakhamia said, so it has the numbers to continue the fight in Donbass, where Russia is gradually gaining territory.
- General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was asked on Wednesday about the number of Ukrainian casualties and said it was difficult to estimate but previous media reports of around 100 dead and up to 300 injured per day were “within our estimates”. He did not respond to the latest Ukrainian estimate.
- Milley also said Russia had taken “enormous” casualties and Ukraine had fought effectively.
What Ukraine is missing Arakhamia claimed they are the weapons and ammunition to rival Russia in “one of the greatest battles of the 21st century.” He said: “We have trained people to attack, to counterattack, but for that we need weapons.”
- “Our negotiating position is actually pretty weak, so we don’t want to be at the table when we’re in that position. We have to reverse it somehow,” Arakhamia said, stressing the need for a counter-operation to regain lost territory.
Driving the news: Arakhamia is leading a Ukrainian delegation in Washington this week to lobby the Biden administration and Congress to increase the pace of arms shipments and recognize Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism — an issue he said plan to speak with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
- President Biden spoke to Zelenskyy on Wednesday and briefed him on additional military and humanitarian assistance, the White House said. The $1 billion worth of weapons to be shipped to Ukraine include rockets and artillery shells.
- In a Wednesday roundtable at the German Marshall Fund, Arakhamia and other members of the delegation noted that while Biden signed a $40 billion package to help Ukraine in May, that was only very gradually translated into actual arms shipments.
- Meanwhile, Ukraine’s partners – particularly in Europe – are beginning to focus on replenishing their own supplies rather than arming Ukraine, Arakhamia said. He noted that the German government is still very reluctant to authorize export licenses to arm Ukraine, possibly because of “internal fears” of Russia.
Something to see: While formal negotiations are frozen, Arakhamia said he and his team were on the phone with their Russian counterparts “once or twice a week” to get in touch, although “both sides clearly recognize that there is no room for negotiations at the moment.” .
- He said that after the alleged war crimes in cities like Bucha and Mariupol, there was domestic backlash at the idea of negotiating with Russia at all, but also noted that the war must be ended through “compromises”.
More from the round table:
- Arakhamia said Russia is using neighboring Georgia to circumvent sanctions, with the approval of the “apparently pro-Russian” government, which Georgia denies.
- Arakhamia said “our militaries” were strongly opposed to the idea of demining Ukraine’s Black Sea ports in exchange for Russia allowing grain exports because there was “no guarantee” that Russia would not use these corridors for seaborne attacks.
- Ukraine’s chief negotiator said Russia is largely isolated from sanctions due to high oil prices but will feel the full impact in three or four years. “The question is, in three or four years, will we (Ukraine) still be here to enjoy the show?”
go deeper: View of a Ukrainian soldier from the front in Donbass
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with comments from Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley at a press conference.