US Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley said 100,000 Russian soldiers and 40,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed or wounded in the war in Ukraine.
At a conference at The Economic Club in New York, Milli said the same number of victims had been recorded “probably on the Ukrainian side.” “There was tremendous suffering, human suffering,” he added.
The military said on Wednesday that “initial indicators” showed that the Russian armed forces were indeed withdrawing 20,000 to 30,000 troops from the Ukrainian city of Kherson.
“I believe they are doing this to protect their forces in order to re-establish defensive lines south of the (Dnieper) river, but that remains to be seen,” the US military commander said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that the Russians may be faking the Kherson retreat to draw the Ukrainian army into trench warfare in the strategic industrial port city at the gateway to the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula.
Mark Mille said the Russians could use the withdrawal to deploy troops for a spring offensive, but insisted “there is an opportunity here, a window of opportunity for negotiations.”
Both Russia and Ukraine must achieve “mutual recognition” that a military victory “cannot be achieved by military means, so other means must be resorted to,” Milley noted, citing the end of World War I.
Kherson, in southern Ukraine, was one of the regions annexed by Russia in September, along with Luhansk, Donetsk and Zaporizhia, which was condemned by the international community.
In addition, Kherson was one of the targets of a counteroffensive launched by Kiev forces two months ago.
The city of Kherson is the only regional capital occupied by Russian forces in Ukraine’s more than eight-month war, which began on February 24 with Russia’s invasion of Ukrainian territory.
Zelensky on Tuesday said he was open to peace talks with Russia to end the war, but only on the condition that Russia return all occupied parts of Ukraine, reparations for war damages and accept prosecution for war crimes.
Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine has already displaced more than 13 million people – more than 6 million internally displaced people and more than 7.5 million to European countries – according to the latest UN data, which ranks the refugee crisis as the worst in Europe. World War II (1939-1945).
The Russian invasion was generally condemned by the international community, which responded by sending weapons to Ukraine and imposing political and economic sanctions on Russia.