Russia’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday that 497 Russian troops had been killed and 1,597 injured to date since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine last Thursday.
A military adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky offered a sharply different estimate hours later, saying that over 7,000 Russian soldiers had been killed so far and hundreds had been taken prisoner, Reuters reported.
The high number of Russian casualties in Moscow’s first official tally of the war comes as Ukrainian forces have mounted a robust defense of their homeland that seems to have taken the Kremlin by surprise.
Senior Pentagon officials said in closed-door briefings Monday that the number of Russian and Ukrainian military deaths appeared to be the same, the New York Times reported, with about 1,500 killed on each side over the course of the first five days of the conflict.
On Wednesday, Ukraine’s State Emergency Service put the number of Ukrainian civilians killed even higher. “More than 2,000 Ukrainians died, not counting our defenders,” the service said in a statement.
The United Nations human rights office, meanwhile, said Wednesday that 136 Ukrainian civilians, including 13 children, had been killed in the fighting, while another 400 had been injured.
“The real toll is likely to be much higher,” Liz Throssell, a U.N. spokesperson, told reporters.
On Wednesday, Russian forces stepped up their offensive on Ukrainian cities, and Ukrainian casualty totals have yet to be updated.
Protests against Putin’s war have broken out across Russia, resulting in the arrests of more than 6,800 people. Jailed Putin critic Alexei Navalny appealed to his countrymen to continue to take to the streets to protest the war.
“Let’s at least not become a nation of frightened silent people. Of cowards who pretend not to notice the aggressive war against Ukraine unleashed by our obviously insane tsar,” he said through a spokesperson in a message posted to Twitter.
Daniel Hoffman, a former top CIA expert on Russia, told Yahoo News on Wednesday that the worst casualties of the war were yet to come.
“So Vladimir Putin, he’s going to burn down Ukraine’s house, and he feels like he can’t exist on this planet if Ukraine is striving for freedom, liberty, and democracy and economic links to the West,” Hoffman said on the “Skullduggery” podcast.
When Russia laid siege on the Chechen capital, Grozny, from December 1994 through February 1995, an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 civilians were killed, according to the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University. Moscow put the official number of Russian soldiers killed at 1,376, but U.S. officials believed the tally to be much higher.
During the Syrian government’s four-year siege of the city of Aleppo, Russia aided in that country’s relentless bombing campaign that left an estimated 31,000 civilians dead.
“I am deeply fearful we’re going to see something like Grozny or Aleppo, where Russia goes scorched earth, because they have failed, utterly failed, thus far,” Hoffman said.