From NEBI QENA and CARA ANNA

KIV, Ukraine (AP) – NATO estimated on Wednesday that 7,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers had died in four weeks of war in Ukraine, with fierce resistance from the country’s defenders denying Moscow the lightning victory it sought.

By comparison, Russia has lost about 15,000 troops in 10 years in Afghanistan.

A senior NATO military official said the assessment of the alliance was based on information from the Ukrainian authorities, on what Russia had published – intentionally or not – and on intelligence gathered from open sources. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in accordance with the basic rules established by NATO.

Ukraine has released little information about its own military losses, and the West has not given estimates, but President Volodymyr Zelensky said almost two weeks ago that about 1,300 Ukrainian servicemen had been killed.

When Russia launched an invasion of Europe’s largest offensive since World War II on February 24, a quick overthrow of the Ukrainian government seemed likely. But Wednesday marks four full weeks of fighting, and Moscow is mired in a brutal military campaign.

Zelensky, who drew attention to the world with special videos and speeches to legislators seeking military assistance for his country, grabbed the anniversary to ask people from around the world to gather publicly on Thursday to express support for Ukraine, saying the war breaks everyone’s heart. a free man on the planet ”.

“Come to your squares, to your streets. Make yourself visible and heard, ”Zelensky said in English during an emotional video address to the nation, recorded in the dark near the president’s office in Kyiv. “Say that people are important. Freedom matters. Peace matters. Ukraine is important. “

Speaking in Russian, Zelensky called on Russians to “leave Russia so as not to give their tax money to the war.” Tens of thousands of Russians have fled their country since the start of the war, fearing intensified repression against dissent, which included the arrest of thousands of anti-war protesters and the suppression of the media.

Zelensky, who will speak to NATO members on video on Thursday, also said he asked the alliance to provide “effective and unlimited” support to Ukraine, including any weapons the country needs to repel the Russian invasion.

With ground forces being slowed down or stopped by Ukrainian units armed with weapons supplied by the West, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s troops are bombing targets from afar, abandoning tactics they used to turn cities into ruins in Syria and Chechnya.

A senior U.S. defense official said Wednesday that Russian ground forces seem to be digging in and setting up defensive positions 15-20 kilometers (9-12 miles) from Kyiv, the capital, as they make little progress toward the city center.

An official speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss military assessments said forces no longer seemed to be trying to advance into the city, and in some areas east of Kyiv Ukrainian troops had pushed Russian soldiers further away.

Instead, Russian troops appear to prefer fighting in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts in the Donbas, which could be an attempt to cut off Ukrainian troops and prevent them from moving west to protect other cities, the official said. The United States has also seen the activity of Russian ships in the Sea of ​​Azov, including attempts to send assault ships ashore with supplies, including vehicles, the official said.

In a sinister sign that Moscow may consider using nuclear weapons, a senior Russian official said the country’s nuclear arsenal would help deter the West from interfering in Ukraine.

“The Russian Federation is able to physically destroy any aggressor or any group of aggressors at any distance in minutes,” – said in a televised speech the head of the state aerospace corporation “Roscosmos” Dmitry Rogozin. He noted that Moscow’s nuclear stockpiles include tactical nuclear weapons designed for use on the battlefield, as well as much more powerful intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. Roskosmos oversees rocketry facilities.

U.S. officials have long warned that Russia’s military doctrine provides for the option of “escalating to de-escalate” the use of nuclear weapons on the battlefield to force the enemy to retreat in a situation where Russian forces face imminent defeat. Moscow denies such plans.

Rogozin is known for his jokes, and he did not make it clear what Western action would be seen as interference, but his comments almost certainly reflect the Kremlin’s thinking. Putin warned the West that an attempt to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine would draw it into conflict with Russia. Western countries have stated that they will not create a no-fly zone to protect Ukraine.

When US President Joe Biden traveled to Europe to meet with key allies over new sanctions against Moscow and additional military aid to Ukraine, he warned that there was a “real threat” that Russia could use chemical weapons.

On the eve of the meeting with Biden, the European Union signed another 500 million euros ($ 550 million) in military aid to Ukraine.

Zelensky called on Western countries to remain united in their efforts to “lobby their interests” with “some partners” to transfer them to their side, and noted in his national address that Ukraine has received neither fighters nor modern air. -protection systems he requested. According to him, Ukraine also needs tanks and anti-ship systems.

“It was a month of protection from attempts to destroy us, to wipe us off the face of the earth,” he said.

The United States has determined that Russian troops have committed war crimes in Ukraine and will work to bring violators to justice, said Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. He cited evidence of indiscriminate or deliberate attacks on civilians and the destruction of apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, shopping malls and other facilities.

However, major Russian tasks remain unfulfilled, including in Kyiv, where near-constant shelling and gunfire shook the city on Wednesday as the parties fought for control of several suburbs. Mayor Vitali Klitschko said that at least 264 civilians had been killed in the capital since the start of the war.

Another journalist was also killed in the shelling on Wednesday. The independent Russian newspaper The Insider reported that Russian journalist Oksana Baulina was killed in the Kyiv district.

In the south, the besieged port city of Mariupol has endured the worst devastation of the war, withstanding weeks of bombing and, now, street-to-street fighting. But Ukrainian forces prevented his downfall by thwarting Moscow’s apparent attempt to fully secure a land bridge from Russia to Crimea seized from Ukraine in 2014.

Zelensky said 100,000 civilians remained in the city, which had 430,000 members before the war. Efforts to obtain desperately needed food and other supplies for those trapped often failed.

Zelensky accused Russian forces of seizing a humanitarian convoy. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Verashchuk said that the Russians were holding 11 bus drivers and four rescuers in their cars.

In their latest update, more than a week ago, Mariupol officials said at least 2,300 people had died, but the true number was probably much higher. Last week, air strikes destroyed a theater and art school where civilians were hiding.

In besieged Chernihiv in the north, Russian troops bombed and destroyed a bridge used to deliver aid and evacuate civilians, said regional governor Vyacheslav Chavus.

Ekaterina Mytkevich, who came to Poland after fleeing from Chernihiv, wiped away tears, telling about what she saw. There is no gas, electricity or water in the city, 39-year-old Mytkevich said, and whole neighborhoods were destroyed.

“I don’t understand why we have such a curse,” she said.

Despite much evidence to the contrary, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insists the military operation is “strictly in line” with plans.

A NATO spokesman said an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 Russian soldiers had been killed or wounded. In its latest update on March 2, Russia reported that nearly 500 servicemen had been killed and nearly 1,600 wounded.

Ukraine also claims to have killed six Russian generals. Russia recognizes only one dead general.

NATO figures represent the alliance’s first public assessment of Russia’s losses since the start of the war. The US government has largely refused to assess Russian and Ukrainian losses, saying available information is questionable.

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Anna reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Associated Press writers Robert Burns of Washington, Juras Karmanov of Lviv, and other AP journalists around the world contributed to the report.

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Follow the coverage of the AP war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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