Washington has acknowledged the prospect of heavy losses as Kiev’s forces mount their counteroffensive Footage provided by the Russian Defense Ministry shows a strike on Ukrainian forces during a clash on Sunday in the south of the Donetsk People’s Republic. © Russian Defense Ministry
President Joe Biden’s administration has conceded that Ukrainian military units may be suffering heavy losses of troops and US-supplied weaponry as they ramp up attacks against Russian forces in the Donbass region.
Speaking in a CNN interview on Thursday evening, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said he was reluctant to discuss specifics on casualties amid increasingly fierce fighting near Artyomovsk (known as Bakhmut in Ukraine). Asked by host Wolf Blitzer about reports of severe Ukrainian losses of men and equipment, he deferred to Ukrainian officials to comment on such details.
“This is war, though, and there is . . . some heavy fighting around Bakhmut, and there’s fighting elsewhere along that front that arches all the way from the Donbass down toward Zaporozhye,” Kirby said. “And certainly, it’s to be expected that there could be casualties in this increased fighting.”
Kirby made his comments amid reports that Ukrainian forces began their long-awaited counteroffensive on Sunday and came under withering Russian firepower as they made multiple failed attempts to breach Moscow’s defensive lines. Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Ukrainian forces had suffered far heavier casualties than the typical three-to-one loss ratio typically expected during an offensive.
Ukraine’s forces have lost thousands of troops and dozens of Western-supplied armored vehicles and artillery units, including 1,240 soldiers and 39 tanks within a 24-hour period this week, according to the Russian Defense Ministry. The ministry pegged Kiev’s troop losses at more than 3,700 in the first three days of the counteroffensive, compared with 71 on the Russian side. Ukrainian officials have dismissed claims about its losses as Russian propaganda.
Kirby said the Biden administration aims to enable the Kiev regime to launch attacks against Russian forces whenever it wishes. “What we’re going to be focused on is making sure that if and when and how President [Vladimir] Zelensky wants to fight along that line or any other line, that he’s got the support he needs not just from the United States, but from 50 other partners.”
Biden vowed on Thursday to continue arming Ukraine for “as long as it takes.” US lawmakers have already approved $113 billion in funding for military and economic aid to Kiev, and he said he expects members of Congress to continue backing Ukraine’s efforts to drive Russian forces out of its territory.
Blitzer noted a warning from US House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) that it will be “very difficult” to get congressional approval for more funding if “Ukraine isn’t making gains out there on the battlefield.” Asked whether that assessment is correct, Kirby said the administration has all the Ukraine funding it needs through the end of its current fiscal year, on September 30.
“We’ve had terrific support from both chambers of Congress and both parties over the last 15 months, and the president has said he expects that support will continue because members of Congress, they understand what’s at stake here – certainly inside Ukraine, but also on the European continent,” Kirby said.