Moscow said on March 25, its most recent update, that 1,351 soldiers had been killed since the start of the campaign, however Ukraine says the real number is closer to 20,000. Speaking from Kyiv in a video posted to social media, Zelensky also repeated calls for the West to step in now and prevent the use of chemical weapons on Ukrainian soil, saying any deployment of them would be “a humiliation for the democratic world”.
The address, posted early Wednesday morning in Ukraine, saw him address Putin’s suggestion the day before that Russia would achieve all of its “noble” aims and “rhythmically and calmly” continue what it calls a special operation.
Zelensky said: “In Russia it was once again said that their so-called ‘special operation’ is supposedly going according to plan.
“But, to be honest, no one in the world understands how such a plan could even come about.
“How could a plan that provides for the death of tens of thousands of their own soldiers in a little more than a month of war come about? Who could approve such a plan?”
The Ukrainian president asked how many dead Russian soldiers would be acceptable to Putin, giving a range of tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands.
Zelensky said that while some had made fun of the Russians, their failures in the field and inferior technology, their opponents were not all hopeless.
He continued: “We must understand that not all Russian tanks are stuck in fields, not all enemy soldiers simply flee the battlefield and not all of them are conscripts who do not know how to hold weapons properly.
“This does not mean that we should be afraid of them. This means that we must not diminish the accomplishments of our fighters, our army.”
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At the same time, Moscow has accused the West of derailing negotiations by raising war crimes allegations against Russian troops in Ukraine, which Moscow denies.
Speaking during an interview with Russian state television, the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov warned there was no reason to continue talks with Ukraine and insisted Moscow would not stop its military operation when the sides meet again.
He said Putin had ordered a suspension of military action during the first round of talks between the two countries at the end of February.