Russia to reduce military activities after heavy losses
By Stefan J. Bos
Russia's deputy defense minister Alexander Fomin said Moscow would “radically reduce" military activities outside Kyiv and the northern city of Chernihiv. His comments quoted by Russian news agency Tass came after the NATO military alliance said Russian troops suffered at least 7,000-15,000 deaths in four weeks of fighting. By way of comparison, Russia lost about 15,000 soldiers over ten years in Afghanistan.
And even on the conservative side of the estimate, more than 7,000 Russian troop deaths are more than the number of American soldiers killed over 20 years in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
The reported announcement to reduce Russia’s military presence around key cities also came as another round of Russian-Ukrainian peace talks were underway in Turkey.
However, there are signs that Russia will focus its attention on eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists already control the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
British military intelligence says Moscow will send more than 1,000 mercenaries into eastern Ukraine as the Russian military suffered heavy losses.
A senior U.S. security source told me separately that Russia’s private military company, the Wagner group, had already deployed to eastern Ukraine.
That was to add to the suffering of people living there. In the devastated southeastern city of Mariupol, for instance, the mayor says as many as 160,000 residents remain trapped.
Nearly 5,000 people, including about 210 children, were reportedly killed in Mariupol amid relentless Russian attacks.
Amid the turmoil, musicians in Ukraine's second city of Kharkiv in the northeast performed an emotional concert in a metro underground station used as a makeshift shelter.
“Events like this are a ray of light," said Kharkiv resident Maria. "It helps us to trust in positivity and to be sure that soon everything will end and everything will be okay," she added.
It was a small sign of hope in Europe's bloodiest conflict in decades.
Kharkiv has been the target of intense Russian bombardment for weeks, leaving residents to take shelter in bunkers and metro stations. The concert marked the opening day of the Kharkiv Music Festival, held even in war times.