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With Ukraine losing its forces, how long can it keep fighting?


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ZHYTOMIR, Ukraine (AP) – Once the burial of a veteran colonel killed in the Russian bombing was completed, cemetery workers prepared the next pit. Inevitably, given the speed with which death brings down Ukrainian troops on the front lines, the empty tomb will not remain that way for long.

Colonel Oleksandr Makhachik left behind a widow, Elena, and their daughters Olena and Miroslava Oleksandra. The first hundred days of the warHis grave was Number 40 excavated at the Military Cemetery in Zhytomyr, 90 miles (140 kilometers) west of the capital, Kyiv.

He was killed on May 30 in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine, where the fighting is taking place. Nearby, a burial notice on the newly excavated grave of Vyacheslav Dvornitsky says that he died on May 27. Other graves also showed soldiers killed within days of each other – on May 10, 9, 7 and 5. And this is just one cemetery, in only one of the cities, towns and villages of Ukraine lays the soldiers to rest.

President Volodymyr Zelensky He said this week that Ukraine is now losing 60 to 100 soldiers every day in combat. By comparison, an average of fewer than 50 American soldiers per day died in 1968 during that The deadliest year of the Vietnam War to the American forces.

Among the comrades-in-arms who paid respects to 49-year-old Makhachik at his funeral on Friday was General Viktor Mozenko, chief of the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces until 2019. He warned that losses could be compounded.

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“This is one of the defining moments of the war, but it’s not the climax,” Muzenko told The Associated Press. This is the most important conflict in Europe since World War II. This explains why the losses are so great. In order to reduce losses, Ukraine now needs powerful weapons that rival and even surpass Russian ones. This will enable Ukraine to reciprocate.”

Russian artillery concentrations cause many casualties in the eastern regions that Moscow has focused on since its first invasion. Launched February 24 failed to take Kyiv.

Retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges, former commander-in-chief of US Army forces in Europe, described the Russian strategy as a “medieval attrition approach” and said that until Ukraine received promises of US, British and other weapons to destroy and disable Russian batteries, “these kinds of casualties will continue.” .

“This battlefield is much more deadly than we’ve all been used to over the 20 years in Iraq and Afghanistan, where we haven’t had numbers like these,” he said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

“This level of attrition will include commanders and sergeants,” he added. “They’re a lot of the victims’ brunt because they’re more vulnerable, and they’re constantly on the move trying to do things.”

Colonel Ruslan Shutov, who attended the funeral of his friend more than 30 years ago, said that Makhachik, a military engineer, led a detachment laying minefields and other defenses.

“Once the bombing started, he and a group of him hid in a shelter. There were four people in his group, and he asked them to hide in the bunker. He hid somewhere else. Unfortunately, an artillery shell hit the bunker where he was hiding.”

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Ukraine had about 250,000 men and women in uniform before the war and was on track to add another 100,000. The government has not reported the number of dead in the more than 14 weeks of fighting.

Nobody really knows how many Ukrainian civilians were killed or how many fighters died on either side. It is impossible to verify the allegations of government officials about the victims – who may sometimes exaggerate or lower their numbers for reasons of public relations.

Western analysts estimate much higher Russian military losses, amounting to several thousand. However, as Ukraine’s losses mount, the grim mathematics of war requires that it find alternatives. It has a population of 43 million and has a labor force.

“The problem is they are recruited, trained, and put on the front lines,” said retired Marine Col. Mark Kansian, a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“If the war is now moving into a protracted conflict of attrition, you have to build systems to get alternatives,” he said. “This has been a difficult moment for every army in combat.”

Ukrainian General Muzenko said Zelensky’s acknowledgment of heavy casualties would boost Ukrainian morale and that more Western weapons would help turn the tide.

“The more Ukrainians know about what is happening at the front, the greater the will to resist,” he said. “Yes, the losses are great. But with the help of our allies, we can reduce them, reduce them, and move on to successful attacks. This will require powerful weapons.”

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Juras Karamanu contributed to this report from Lviv.


Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at

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