By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
KYIV/BUDAPEST (Worthy News) – British military intelligence says Moscow is due to send more than 1,000 mercenaries into eastern Ukraine as the Russian military suffered heavy losses.
A senior U.S. security source told Worthy News that Russia’s private military company, the Wagner group, has already deployed to eastern Ukraine. Britain’s Ministry of Defense suggested more than 1,000 mercenaries of the Wagner group all joined the fight.
It came amid allegations by Ukrainian President Zelenskiy of disrespect towards the families of their own dead soldiers. The Western NATO military alliance estimated that 7,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers had been killed in four weeks of the war in Ukraine.
By way of comparison, Russia lost about 15,000 troops over 10 years in Afghanistan. And even on the conservative side of the estimate, more than 7,000 Russian troop deaths are greater than the number of American troops killed over 20 years in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
Yet Zelenskiy claimed the Kremlin refused to agree on a scheme to have the remains of those killed in action returned to Russia. He said Moscow was affording less respect to those killed during its invasion of Ukraine “than is usually given to dead pets.”
The death toll mounted as local authorities said Ukrainian forces seized back complete control of the town of Irpin, a few miles (kilometers) from Kyiv. Irpin Mayor Oleksandr Markushyn said his town was “liberated” and that Russian soldiers were “offering to surrender.”
The claims were not confirmed by the United States, which is supporting Ukraine with weapons and, according to at least one security source, with troops. However, there were signs of reckless behavior among desperate Russian troops, who reportedly even killed a Russian general after suffering heavy losses near Kyiv, the capital.
In at least one incident, frustrated Russian soldiers who seized the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster drove unprotected through a highly toxic zone called the “Red Forest.” They were kicking up clouds of radioactive dust, Chernobyl workers told Reuters news agency.
The two sources said they had witnessed Russian tanks and other armored vehicles moving through the Red Forest, which is the most radioactively contaminated part of the zone around Chernobyl.
As fighting intensified, Ukraine’s government pledged to investigate allegations of wrongdoing by its military after footage apparently showed the torture of Russian prisoners of war.
The film, which was not yet verified, appeared to show Ukrainian soldiers removing three hooded Russians from a van before shooting them in the legs.
Ukrainians also suffered thousands of military and civilians causalities, especially in the devastated city of Mariupol. Almost 5,000 people, including about 210 children, were killed in Mariupol since Russia invaded Ukraine last month, a spokesperson for the mayor said.
Mayor Vadym Boichenko said Mariupol was on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe and must be completely evacuated, with some 160,000 civilians trapped in the city without power.
Elsewhere, Kyiv saw no signs on the ground Monday that Russia has given up a plan to surround the Ukrainian capital, Ukrainian defense ministry spokesperson Oleksander Motuzyanyk said. “For now, we don’t see the movement of enemy forces away from Kyiv,” he said in televised remarks.
Additionally, Ukraine experienced a significant cyberattack against telecom provider Ukrtelecom.
The State Special Communications Service of Ukraine (SSSCIP Ukraine) reported Monday that Russian forces launched an attack against Ukrtelecom, Ukraine’s singular telephone company
And Ukraine’s economy minister, Yulia Svyrydenko, said the war has so far cost Ukraine nearly 565 billion dollars in damage to infrastructure, lost economic growth, and other factors.
Eight thousand kilometers (4,970 miles) of roads and massive housing areas have been damaged or destroyed due to the fighting, she said.
Despite ongoing clashes, face-to-face peace talks between Ukraine and Russia on reaching a ceasefire and eventually peace were likely to start in Turkey on Tuesday.
Ahead of the meeting, both sides played down the chances of a breakthrough, and the media quoted a senior U.S. official saying Vladimir Putin did not appear ready to compromise.
And negotiators may be forgiven for watching their food more carefully: Revelations emerged Monday that Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and at least one Ukrainian peace negotiator suffered symptoms consistent with poisoning earlier this month.
They suffered the symptoms at peace talks on the Ukraine-Belarus border, sources close to him say. The Chelsea FC soccer club owner – who has now recovered – reportedly suffered sore eyes and peeling skin.
One report said the alleged poisoning was orchestrated by hardliners in Russia who wanted to sabotage talks, but that wasn’t confirmed independently.
Yet, despite mounting Western anger over Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine, U.S. President Joe Biden said he would “make no apologies” after calling for the Russian leader’s removal last week.
When asked if he regretted saying that Putin should not remain in power, Biden said: “I wasn’t then, nor am I now, articulating a policy change. I was expressing moral outrage that I felt.”
The White House had earlier rushes to deny that Biden’s controversial remarks suggested a call for regime change.
However, it has become more difficult for Russians to receive independent news about the war in Ukraine.
Novaya Gazeta, one of Russia’s last remaining independent news outlets, said it would suspend operations after receiving a second warning from the state censor for allegedly violating the country’s “foreign agent” law.
The warning came a day after its editor-in-chief, Dmitry Muratov, reportedly spoke with Zelenskiy in a group interview with Russian journalists. The state media watchdog, Roskomnadzor, quickly banned the interview.
Journalists face potentially lengthy prison terms and fines if they distribute what the Kremlin describes as “fake news,” such as calling the conflict in Ukraine “a war” or “invasion.”
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