Ukraine conflict: 200,000 soldiers killed or wounded in Ukraine war, says US general as Russians leave Kherson

A total of 200,000 soldiers have been killed in the nine months since Russia invaded Ukraine, a top US general has said.

Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said as many as 40,000 Ukrainian civilians and “well over” 100,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded in the war. “Same thing probably on the Ukrainian side,” Mr Milley added.

“There has been a tremendous amount of suffering, human suffering,” he said at The Economic Club of New York.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Tuesday he was open to peace talks with Russia to end the war but only on the condition that Russia return all of Ukraine’s occupied lands, provide compensation for war damage and face prosecution for war crimes.

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Russia has said it is open to talks and this week announced it had begun a retreat from Kherson.

Mr Zelensky has warned that the Russians are feigning a pullout from Kherson to lure the Ukrainian army into an entrenched battle in the strategic industrial port city, a gateway to the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula.

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In an update, the Ministry of Defence confirmed in an intelligence report: “On 09 November 2022, Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu ordered the withdrawal of Russian forces from the west bank of the Dnipro river in Kherson, southern Ukraine.

"General Sergei Surovikin, commander of the Russian forces in Ukraine, confirmed they will withdraw to defensive positions along the Dnipro River, citing re-supply issues as the primary reason for the decision.

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Local residents walk on a street in Stepnohirsk on the east bank of the Dnipro River, south of Zaporizhzhia, on November 9, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Anatolii Stepanov / AFP) (Photo by ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images)

"Russia’s ability to sustain its forces on the west bank of the Dnipro river had been placed under pressure by Ukrainian strikes on Russia’s resupply routes.

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"In retreating, Russian forces have destroyed multiple bridges and likely laid mines to slow and delay advancing Ukrainian forces. The loss of Kherson’s west bank will likely prevent Russia from achieving its strategic aspiration of a land bridge reaching Odesa.

"With limited crossing points, Russian forces will be vulnerable in crossing the Dnipro River. It is likely that the withdrawal will take place over several days with defensive positions and artillery fires covering withdrawing forces.”

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Mr Milley, the highest-ranking US military officer, said Russia had amassed 20,000 to 30,000 troops in Kherson and a full retreat could take several weeks.

“The initial indicators are they are in fact doing it. They made the public announcement they’re doing it. I believe they’re doing it in order to preserve their force to re-establish defensive lines south of the (Dnieper) river, but that remains to be seen,” he said.

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He said it is possible the Russians will use the retreat to reset their troops for a spring offensive but “there’s also an opportunity here, a window of opportunity for negotiation”.

But for negotiations to have a chance, both Russia and Ukraine would have to reach a “mutual recognition” that a military victory “is maybe not achievable through military means, and therefore you need to turn to other means,” Mr Milley said, citing the end of the First World War as an example.