As soon as they'd finished burying a veteran colonel killed by Russian shelling, the cemetery workers readied the next hole. Inevitably, given how quickly death is felling Ukrainian troops on the front lines, the empty grave won't stay that way for long. Col. Oleksandr Makhachek left behind a widow, Elena, and their daughters, Olena and Myroslava-Oleksandra. In the first 100 days of war, his grave was the 40th dug in the military cemetery in Zhytomyr, 90 miles west of the capital, Kyiv. He was killed May 30 in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine where the fighting is raging. Other graves also showed soldiers killed within days of each other—on May 27, May 10, May 9, May 7, and May 5, per the AP. And this is just one cemetery, in just one of Ukraine's cities, towns, and villages laying soldiers to rest.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said this week that Ukraine is now losing 60 to 100 soldiers each day in combat. By way of comparison, just short of 50 American soldiers died per day on average in 1968 during the Vietnam War's deadliest year for US forces. "This is one of the critical moments in the war, but it is not the peak," says Gen. Viktor Muzhenko, the Ukrainian Armed Forces' chief of general staff until 2019. "This is the most significant conflict in Europe since World War II. That explains why the losses are so great. In order to reduce losses, Ukraine now needs powerful weapons that match or even surpass Russian weaponry." Concentrations of Russian artillery are causing many of the casualties in the eastern regions that Moscow has focused on since its initial invasion launched Feb. 24 failed to take Kyiv.
Ukraine had about 250,000 men and women in uniform before the war and was in the process of adding another 100,000. The government hasn't said how many have died in more than 14 weeks of fighting. Nobody really knows the number of Ukrainian civilians who have been killed or how many combatants have died on either side. Western analysts estimate far higher Russian military casualties, in the many thousands. Still, as Ukraine's losses mount, the grim mathematics of war require that it find replacements. With a population of 43 million, it has manpower. Muzhenko says Zelensky's admission of high casualties would further galvanize Ukrainian morale and that more Western weaponry would help turn the tide. "The more Ukrainians know about what is happening at the front, the more the will to resist will grow," he notes.
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