By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
KYIV (Worthy News) – Ukraine’s embattled President Volodymyr Zelensky says his nation inflicted “powerful blows” and “significant losses” on invading Russian troops, but many Ukrainians continue to suffer relentless airstrikes and shelling.
“Over the past week, our heroic Armed Forces have dealt powerful blows to the enemy. Significant losses,” he said in a statement. He stressed that 16,000 Russian troops had been killed, but Russia claimed 1,351 had died.
Earlier this week, the NATO military alliance estimated that 7,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers were killed in four weeks of fighting. By comparison, Russia lost 15,000 troops over ten years in Afghanistan.
“They say that the Minister of Defence of Russia has disappeared somewhere,” Zelensky added, referring to the reported disappearance of Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu, who has not been seen in public since March 11.
Shoigu did, however, appear for a few seconds on Thursday after a nearly two-week absence in a televised meeting Putin was holding with government ministers.
Ukrainian officials said Shoigu suffered a heart attack amid mounting Kremlin anger about the slower-than-expected military progress. There was no independent confirmation from Moscow.
Yet reported fierce Ukrainian resistance has added frustration among many hungry and supplies starved Russian troops. On Friday, Western officials and other sources said a Russian brigade commander was killed by his forces.
The colonel, commander of the 37th Motor Rifle Brigade, was run over by an armored vehicle and suffered grave injuries to both legs, sources said. “The brigade commander was killed by his own troops, we believe, due to the scale of losses that his brigade has taken,” one official said.
“We believe that he was killed by his own troops deliberately. We believe that his troops ran him over.”
The confirmation followed a post on the social network Facebook by prominent Ukrainian journalist Roman Tsimbalyuk. He said troops had been angered by the 50 percent casualty rate suffered by the unit deployed to the Kyiv region.
One soldier driving the tank reportedly deliberately ran over the commander, shown in video posts being taken on a stretcher for treatment to neighboring Belarus. He was later reported to have died.
The Western official also confirmed Ukrainian reports that a lieutenant general commanding the 49th Combined Arms Army had died in the fighting. That made him the seventh Russian general to be killed in combat since the invasion began.
Ukrainian presidential spokesman Oleksiy Arestovych earlier named the lieutenant general as Yakov Ryazantsev and said he had been killed at the Chernobaevka aerodrome outside the southern city of Kherson. Despite fierce clashes, forces have repeatedly suffered losses in their campaign to break out from the Crimean peninsula to the northwest.
Russian forces have reportedly struggled with logistics supply and food shortages during the first month of their invasion of Ukraine.
Soldiers taken prisoner by Ukrainian forces told their captors they had been made to believe they would carry out exercises near the border of Ukraine rather than engage in war.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Ukrainian forces have been counterattacking and reoccupied towns and defensive positions up to 35 kilometers (22 miles) east of Kyiv, the capital. In the south, logistical problems and Ukrainian resistance are slowing the Russians as they look to drive west toward the port of Odesa, the ministry claimed.
And Russians are no longer in complete control of Kherson, the first major city to fall to Moscow’s forces, a senior U.S. defense official said. The official said the Ukrainians in heavy fighting are contesting the southern city.
However, Russia’s defense ministry has denied significant setbacks. It said Friday that the first phase of its military operation in Ukraine was complete.
The Russian military stressed it would focus on completely “liberating” eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, where pro-Russian separatists have declared independence from the rest of Ukraine.
Yet many Ukrainians suffer from several cities and towns reduced to ruins with Russian forces targeting civilian sites as they did in cities such ad Aleppo in Syria and Grozny, Chechnya.
And in the southern port city of Mariupol, where thousands remain trapped in reported Russian shelling, an estimated 300 people died in last week’s attack on a theatre, authorities said.
Food shortages have also emerged in several areas despite Ukraine being the “breadbasket of a Europe.” In Kharkiv, hundreds of panicked people took shelter in the subway, and a hospital emergency room filled with wounded soldiers and civilians, an Associated Press agency reporter witnessed.
Primarily older women lined up stoically to collect food and other urgent supplies this week, as explosions thudded in the distance. Fidgeting with anticipation, a young girl watched as a volunteer’s knife cut through a giant slab of cheese, carving out thick slices—one for each hungry person.
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