Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
© Sputnik/Sergey GuneevRussian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Kiev has lost over 444,000 troops in two years of hostilities against Moscow, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu estimated on Tuesday.

His remarks come days after Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky claimed that his country's forces recorded some 31,000 fatalities in the two years of fighting. Western media have pointed out that the latest figure from Kiev is even significantly lower than a US estimate released in the summer of last year.

Shoigu said the high attrition rate on the Ukrainian side was evidence "that the US strategy to contain Russia at the cost of Ukrainian lives and passive economic and military support of the Kiev regime has no way forward." Speaking at a ministerial meeting, Shoigu said the average daily cost of the conflict for the Ukrainian army was more than 800 troops and 120 pieces of weaponry. He did not break down casualties into killed and wounded soldiers.

While making his claim on Sunday, Zelensky contrasted his 31,000 figure with Russian estimates, which he branded as lies. He declined to say how many Ukrainian soldiers were injured, explaining that revealing that information would benefit Moscow's military planning.

The New York Times noted that Zelensky's claim "differed sharply" from estimates by US officials last August. At the time sources said some 70,000 Ukrainians had been killed and 100,000 to 120,000 had been wounded in action.

A number resembling that cited by Zelensky was mentioned last week in a statement by the office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk, which marked the second anniversary of the hostilities. The mission in Ukraine claimed to have verified 30,457 civilian casualties since the conflict escalated in February 2022.

"Every Ukrainian citizen, and every military service member in particular, realizes that Zelensky is lying," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said of the claim on social media.

She suggested that the president may have downplayed the loss of Ukrainian lives in order to secure more foreign funding. Ukrainians "are not humans for Zelensky, but units, on which he can get more Western money," she claimed.