Ukraine: 31,000 soldiers killed in war with Russia, defence minister says territory being lost

Peace summit planned for April but Zelenskiy has vowed never to negotiate with Putin, whom he considers a war criminal

Ukraine said 31,000 of its soldiers had been killed during two years of full-scale war with Russia, in a rare disclosure of such figures, as its defence minister said the country was losing troops and territory because half of all promised western weaponry arrives late.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy revealed the death toll – Kyiv’s first such announcement in more than a year – during a press conference on Sunday, during which he expressed confidence that US Republicans in Congress would lift their block on vital military aid for Ukraine.

“Thirty-one thousand serving Ukrainians have died in this war. Not 300,000, not 150,000, as Putin and his circle of liars falsely claim. But nonetheless, each of these losses is a great loss for us,” Mr Zelenskiy said, referring to Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“I won’t say how many injured we have, because then Russia would know how many people have left the battlefield,” he added, while claiming that Moscow’s had lost 180,000 soldiers to death and up to 500,000 more to injury.


None of the figures could be verified and Russia does not release casualty data. Last August, the New York Times cited unnamed US officials as saying up to 120,000 Russian soldiers had been killed and up to 180,000 injured since the war began in February 2022. They estimated Ukrainian losses at close to 70,000 killed and up to 120,000 wounded.

Mr Zelenskiy said he did not know how many Ukrainians had gone missing during the war or how many civilians had been killed, but estimated the latter at “tens of thousands” – including many in areas that are now occupied, such as the city of devastated Mariupol.

“If we are strong enough with weapons ... we will win this war,” he said, as Russian forces attacked along the 1,000km front line in eastern Ukraine and a $60 billion [€55 billion] US military aid package remained frozen due to Republican opposition.

“There is hope for Congress. I am sure there will be a positive outcome. Otherwise, I just don’t understand what kind of world we are starting to live in,” he added.

Earlier on Sunday, Ukrainian defence minister Rustem Umerov said “the allocation [of arms] does not always mean provision – 50 per cent does not arrive on time. If what is allocated does not arrive on time, then we lose personnel, we lose territory.”

Two years into Europe’s biggest war since 1945, peace is a remote prospect: Ukraine says Russia must leave all occupied territory, including the Crimean peninsula that it annexed in 2014, and the Kremlin said Kyiv must accept that swathes of its land are lost forever.

Ukraine said it planned to co-host a peace summit this spring in Switzerland, at which representatives of more than 150 states would be asked to back a peace plan drafted by Kyiv.

Russia could then be invited to a follow-up summit, to be “presented with this document, in case whoever is representing the aggressor country at that time really wants to end this war and return to a just peace,” said Mr Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak.

Mr Zelenskiy has vowed never to negotiate with Mr Putin, whom he considers to be a war criminal: “We will offer a platform on which he can agree that he has lost this war and that it was a big mistake,” he said on Sunday.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe