Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, estimates that more than 100,000 Russian and Ukrainian troops have died or been wounded each in nearly nine months of war and urged both sides to move toward peace after Russia announced its withdrawal of troops from the southern city of Kherson on Wednesday.
An effort to retreat from the key Kherson city, announced Wednesday by Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defense minister, will take Russia “days and perhaps weeks,” Milley said, adding that he believes they will do so despite Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky’s comments suggesting it is an effort to ambush his forces.
Miller’s comments contradict reports by both Russia and Ukraine as Shoigu estimated a loss of 5,937 troops in September, while Ukraine Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi offered an estimate of nearly 9,000 casualties in August.
Between 15 million and 30 million Ukrainian civilians have become refugees as they fled war, while 40,000 have probably died, Miller added, which is dramatically more than a United Nations estimate of 7.8 million refugees who have fled Ukraine.
Milley opened a discussion with the Economic Club of New York about the possibility of peace between Ukraine and Russia, adding there is “a window of opportunity for negotiation” moving forward. “When there’s an opportunity to negotiate, when peace can be achieved, seize it,” Milley said. “Seize the moment.”
What To Watch For
Though Zelensky and Miller share opposing opinions over Russia’s announcement to withdraw from Kherson—the regional capital to fall to Russian forces since the invasion began—some residents have reportedly seen Russian forces occupying vacant apartments. Mykhailo Podolyak, one of Zelensky’s advisors, cast additional doubts that Russia is leaving the region, as more believe Russia is attempting to draw Ukraine forces in toward urban conflict.
Miller’s comments follow an ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensive to reclaim areas surrounding Kherson. The shipbuilding city is located about 340 miles from Kyiv along the Dnipro River, and is noted for its access to the Black Sea and Crimea while also working as a gateway to invading Russian forces on the country’s southern coastline. Since an early Russian capture of the city in March, Ukraine has pushed back Russian forces across much of the country, liberating more than 75 settlements in the region.
During a nine-year conflict between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan between 1979 and 1989, the Soviets had an estimated 14,500 casualties. The Soviet occupation resulted in the death of 1 million civilians in addition to 90,000 Mujahideen fighters and 18,000 Afghan troops.