(adds Millie notes, background)
Written by Phil Stewart and Idris Ali
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A senior U.S. general estimated on Wednesday that the Russian military had seen more than 100,000 soldiers killed and wounded in Ukraine and added that Kyiv’s armed forces “probably” suffered the same level of casualties in the war.
Reuters could not independently confirm the estimates.
But Milley’s comments offer the highest US estimate of casualties so far in the nine-month conflict, and come as Ukraine and Russia face a possible winter lull that experts say could provide an opportunity for some kind of negotiation.
When asked about the prospects for diplomacy in Ukraine, Milley noted that the early refusal to negotiate in World War I compounded human suffering and led to millions of casualties.
“So when there is an opportunity to negotiate and when peace can be achieved … seize the opportunity,” Milley told the Economic Club of New York.
Earlier on Wednesday, Russia announced that its forces would withdraw from the western bank of the Dnipro River near the strategic city of Kherson in southern Ukraine, in a major setback for Moscow and a potential turning point in the war.
Some experts say Moscow’s latest setback may allow Ukraine to negotiate from a position of strength while others argue that Russia may use negotiations to buy time to readjust and retool its forces for a renewed spring offensive.
Milley said initial indications are that Russia is continuing its withdrawal from Kherson. But he cautioned that it might take some time.
“It wouldn’t take them a day or two, and it would take days and maybe weeks to pull those troops south of that river,” Milley said, estimating that Russia would likely have 20,000 to 30,000 troops north of the Dnipro River. In this area.
The United States and its NATO allies have stopped short of direct intervention in Ukraine, but they are arming, advising, and enabling its military to defend Kyiv against the invading armies of Russia.
So far, Milley said, the conflict has turned 15 million to 30 million Ukrainians into refugees, and has likely killed 40,000 Ukrainian civilians.
“You’re looking at more than 100,000 Russian soldiers killed and wounded. The same thing maybe on the Ukrainian side. A lot of human suffering,” Milley said.
Despite the high casualty numbers, US officials say Moscow has been unable to achieve its goals in Ukraine and have raised questions about how long Russia will be able to withstand an invasion that has also destroyed much of its mechanized ground forces and depleted artillery stocks. (Reporting by Phil Stewart and Idris Ali; Editing by Sandra Mahler and Stephen Coates)
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