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Massive casualties in Ukrainian counteroffensive

Updated: Mar 14

Dramatic rise in the number of dead in Ukraine.

BBC reporter Quentin Sommerville is one of the few journalists reporting from the front lines in Ukraine. Sommerville describes dramatic scenes of piles of bodies of young men senselessly killed.

Fierce fighting continued over the weekend in the Zaporizhia and Kupyansk regions. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that Ukraine lost 570 men on September 1 and 655 men on September 2.

Earlier in August, Russia claimed that Ukraine had lost 43,000 men in the first two months of the counteroffensive. Daily reports on losses from the Russian Defense Ministry put Ukraine's losses in August at over 16,000, meaning that Ukraine's total losses in the counteroffensive were about 60,000.

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar has threatened to prosecute anyone who publishes casualty figures.

"The heavy losses of the Ukrainian Army in the course of the so-called 'counteroffensive' are caused by effective strikes of Russian forces on Ukrainian armored vehicles at a great distance," the Russian Defense Ministry claimed. "The Ukrainian Army High Command is blindly sacrificing its men, letting them cross Russian minefields without fire support."

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry calls Russian figures on Ukrainian casualties exaggerated.

Nameless soldiers lie piled high in morgue

BBC reporter Quentin Sommerville reported "a dramatic rise in the number of dead in Ukraine," based on latest estimates from U.S. officials.

Sommerville is one of the few journalists reporting from the front lines "where the grim task of counting the dead has become a daily reality," he writes.

"The nameless soldiers lie piled high in a small brick morgue not far from the front line in Donetsk, where 26-year-old Margo has the unthankful job of counting the dead," Sommerville writes.

Ukraine - Massive rise of number of casualties

"Ukraine does not give an official count of its war dead - Ukrainian forces have stressed that their war casualties are a state secret - but Margo knows the losses are enormous," Sommerville reports.

It's all about helping the boys get home now

"The hardest thing is when you see a young man who hasn't even turned 20, 22 years old. And understand that they didn't die for themselves," Margo told BBC reporter Sommerville. "They were killed for their country. That's the most painful thing. You can't get used to it. It's all about helping the boys get home now."'

The hardest day of her life, Margo told the BBC, was the day her husband of 23 years, Andrii, was taken to the morgue on Dec. 29, 2022. "He died defending his home, " Margo said.

Sommerville spoke to a deputy battalion commander of the 68th Fighter Brigade near Kupyansk in the north. The man goes by the call sign "Lermontov" and was in a "somber mood" because he expects the war to "last another 10 years."

As we spoke, Lermontov's phone buzzed. It was the mother of a soldier who had been killed the week before. She wanted to know why young men were being sent off with guns to attack Russian trenches when Ukraine had been given so many modern Western weapons.

But on this 600-mile front line, many brigades lack the latest armored vehicles or long-range guns. The reality is that many Ukrainian soldiers have to improvise in the trenches.

"I don't have an answer for her, she doesn't understand...we don't have everything," Lermontov told Sommerville.

Sommerville asked Col. Oleksii of the 68th Fighter Brigade what he says to the families of the fallen. "All I ask is forgiveness for not providing enough security. Maybe I was a bad leader, bad planning. And I thank them for what they gave for this fight."

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