Kremlin says “no agreement” has been reached on possible prisoner release

Ukrainian forensics experts examine the body of a Russian soldier exhumed in the village of Zavalivka, west of Kyiv, in a refrigerated rail car stacked with the bodies of deceased Russian soldiers on May 11. (Sergei Supinksky/AFP/Getty Images)

More than 75,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded during the war in Ukraine, Biden administration officials told US lawmakers during a classified briefing on Wednesday.

“We were briefed that over 75,000 Russians have either been killed or wounded, which is huge, you’ve got incredible amounts of investment in their land forces, over 80% of their land forces are bogged down, and they’re tired,” Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, a Democrat who serves on the House Armed Services Committee and recently visited Ukraine, told CNN. “But they’re still the Russian military.”

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov disputed the figure in regard to a New York Times report.

“This is not a statement from the American administration,” Peskov said during a call with journalists on Thursday. “This is a newspaper article. Nowadays, even the most reputable newspapers do not shy away from spreading all sorts of fakes. This, unfortunately, is a practice that is becoming more and more common. This is how it should be treated.”

It’s difficult to independently gauge casualty figures in the war. Both Russian and Ukrainian officials, seeking to gain the upper hand in propaganda efforts, have at times exaggerated military advancements and downplayed setbacks. The Kremlin does not regularly provide updates on casualties; on March 25, Russia’s Ministry of Defense said 1,351 of its soldiers had died in the first month of the invasion, but it has not shared any updates since.

Last week, Richard Moore, the head of MI6, said at the Aspen Security Forum that he believes the Russians will begin to lose steam in the coming weeks because they are running out of manpower. 

And the next few weeks of the war will be crucial, US and Western officials have said, because the Ukrainians are going to try to mount a major counteroffensive in the south before the winter. Ukraine is looking for additional reinforcements, lawmakers were told in Wednesday’s briefing.

Ukraine will aim to take back the southern city of Kherson, which has been occupied by Russia since March, US and western officials believe.

“The sort of main conversation in the briefing was, you know, what more we can and should be doing for the Ukrainians, literally in the next three to six weeks, very urgently. Ukrainians want to go to the south and do operations in the south. And we want them to be as successful as possible,” Slotkin said.  

“I think that what we heard very firmly from President Zelensky and reinforced today is that the Ukrainians really want to hit Russia in the teeth a few times before the winter comes, put them in the best position possible, particularly hitting them down south.”

During the briefing, Slotkin said there was bipartisan support for sending Ukraine long-range missiles, known as ATACMS, that can strike as far as 180 miles away.

The Ukrainians have been urging the US to provide these systems for months, because the HIMARS they possess can only strike distances of around 49 miles. 

But national security adviser Jake Sullivan said last week at the Aspen Security Forum that the US would not be providing the ATACMS, because they could be used to strike into Russian territory, which would escalate the war even further. 

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