Kiev kicked off its counteroffensive on June 4 after being pumped up with heavy weapons by NATO.
A month-and-a-half on, Ukrainian forces have little to show for their operations apart from heavy losses in troops and equipment.
The Ukrainian military has lost “more than” 26,000 troops in the course of its counteroffensive, President Putin has said.
“According to US estimates, the irretrievable losses of Ukraine’s Armed Forces amount to 26,000 personnel,” Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said in talks with Putin in St. Petersburg on Sunday.
“It’s more. It’s now more than that,” Putin responded.
Putin also commented on the operations of foreign mercenaries fighting on Ukraine’s side, saying they have been taking heavy losses due to their “stupidity.”
“As far as foreign mercenaries are concerns, they are also taking heavy casualties,” Putin said.
“Heavy losses due to their tactics,” Lukashenko interjected.
“Yes, due to their stupidity,” Putin added.
“Members of the general public of the countries whose governments are sending people to the conflict zone today should also be aware of what is happening there. And we will bring this to the attention of the people so that they can evaluate the actions of their rulers,” Putin added.
The Russian military estimated Saturday that nearly 5,000 foreign mercenaries had been killed fighting in Ukraine since the start of Russia’s special military operation last February, with over 4,900 fleeing the combat zone and leaving Ukraine.
Lukashenko said that according to his information, over 15 Leopard tanks and 20 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles had been destroyed in the space of 24 hours.
Putin appeared to confirm these figures, saying that “so many foreign [pieces of armor] had never been destroyed in one day like this,” and that Russian forces seem to have struck units equipped entirely with foreign equipment.
“It’s necessary to wage a war against the entire NATO bloc,” Lukashenko chimed in.
“We can only guess how many soldiers from the Ukrainian Army died there, when so much equipment was destroyed. I know about this because I served as an officer on armored equipment in my own time. So I know what it means to destroy so many armored vehicles, and, most importantly, these vaunted Leopards,” he said.
Polish Plans for Western Ukraine
“There’s been a lot of talk recently about bringing Ukraine into NATO ‘piece by piece’. What is behind this? It’s all just a smoke screen. Behind this is the goal of tearing off the western piece of Ukraine under the guise of being accepted into NATO, so that the population approves it; they want to chop off western Ukraine and have Poland annex it. That’s the price for the Poles’ active participation in this operation against Russian forces. The Americans support it,” Lukashenko said.
Minsk and Moscow would oppose such a scenario, and be ready to assist the population of western Ukraine resist Polish annexation, Lukashenko added.
Putin and Lukashenko also discussed other matters during their meeting, including economic affairs.
“All our plans are being implemented, and at an even better pace than we expected. I would also like to point out the great state of the economies of both Russia and Belarus,” Putin said, pointing to projections of Russian GDP growing by over 2 percent, and Belarusian GDP by 3.75 percent. “At any rate, Russia and Belarus will go through this year calmly and with confidence,” he said.
“We are fully and completely implementing all the plans related to the construction of the Union State, we are moving confidently in this direction. Trade is growing, it is estimated slightly differently at different currencies. According to our data, if we talk in dollar equivalent, it is $43.7 billion, while according to Belarusian statistics it is almost $45 billion. This is a very good indicator,” Putin said.