Defense

Russia has lost 15,000 soldiers in Ukraine, CIA chief estimates

William Burns, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, speaks to the Senate Intelligence Committee during a hearing examining worldwide threats on Thursday, March 10, 2022.
Anna Rose Layden
William Burns, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, speaks to the Senate Intelligence Committee during a hearing examining worldwide threats on Thursday, March 10, 2022.

CIA Director William Burns on Wednesday estimated that 15,000 Russians have died in Ukraine and some 45,000 have been wounded.

Burns, speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in an interview with NBC News chief Washington correspondent Andrea Mitchell, said intelligence estimates of battlefield casualties are “always a range.”

“There’s no perfect number,” Burns said.

“I think the latest estimates from the U.S. intelligence community would be something in the vicinity of 15,000 killed and maybe three times that wounded, so a quite significant set of losses,” he continued. “And the Ukrainians have suffered as well, probably a little less than that. But significant casualties.”

Ukraine has claimed even higher numbers of Russian casualties, estimating in April that its military had killed more than 20,000 Russian soldiers.

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights estimated last week that Russia’s invasion had resulted in 5,024 civilian deaths and 6,520 civilians injured.

Burns also weighed in on speculation about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s mental and physical health, saying that while he was “unstable,” the Russian leader has his “own way of looking at reality.”

“There are lots of rumors about President Putin’s health, and, as far as we can tell, he’s entirely too healthy,” Burns said. “It’s not a formal intelligence judgment.”

Burns added that Russia faced “catastrophic failures” in the first phase of its invasion, when it failed to take Kyiv and western areas of Ukraine, but noted how it has since realigned its efforts to focus on the industrial heartland in Ukraine’s east, known as the Donbas.

The CIA chief described the new phase of the war as a more “comfortable way of war” for the Russians, saying it enables them to use long-range weapons and avoid continued significant casualties even with “weaknesses” in their remaining manpower.

“The Russians and the Russian military have adapted,” Burns said. “One of my recent conversations with one of my Ukrainian counterparts, he pointed out that the dumb Russians are all dead.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has pleaded with Western countries to provide more heavy weapons to Ukraine to compete with Russian firepower. He recently called for the U.S. and allies to help bring an end to the war by December.

The U.S. since about early June has been sending Ukraine High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems so it can more precisely strike targets from greater distances.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday said the Biden administration will announce an additional security package later this week that will include four more of the launchers, bringing the total to 16.

Tags Andrea Mitchell russia Russia-Ukraine war ukraine Vladimir Putin Vladimir Putin Volodymyr Zelensky William Burns William Burns
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