National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Monday new estimates of Russian casualties in Ukraine are based on "some downgraded intelligence that we've been able to collect." Photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI | License Photo
May 2 (UPI) -- Russia on Tuesday rejected an estimate by the U.S. government that Russia has suffered more than 100,000 casualties, with over 20,000 killed, since December in the Ukraine war.
"Washington simply does not have the possibility to name any correct figures," Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the estimate, given Monday, was based on "some downgraded intelligence that we've been able to collect."
Kirby said that almost half of the Russian forces killed since December are believed to have been fighters from the Wagner mercenary group, which recruits from Russian prisons and has been implicated in war crimes on multiple continents.
The group's founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has been openly feuding with the Russian Ministry of Defense over who deserves credit for Russian advances.
Kirby did not comment on Ukrainian casualty numbers, saying he would let Kyiv release its own data.
"We've never talked about Ukrainian casualties in the war," he said. "I don't suspect that we're going to change that posture."
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, had placed the number of Russia killed or wounded since the full-scale invasion at 100,000 in November, while adding the conflict had also killed some 40,000 civilians.
"Putin has lost a tremendous amount of military capability, and they have suffered a tremendous amount of military loss. I think the Russians have severely underestimated the Ukrainian people," Milley said at the time.
Documents leaked onto Discord by 21-year-old Air National Guardsman Mark Teixeira earlier this year revealed another U.S. estimate for Russian casualties, with the totals ranging up to 223,000, with up to 43,000 killed. Additionally, the leaks revealed an estimate of up to 17,000 Ukrainian fatalities.
Kirby's latest estimate came as Russia has been pouring troops into battle in the Bakhmut area for months in an attempt to take the city.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has downplayed the threat of Russia overtaking Bakhmut, saying in March that "it is more of a symbolic value than it is strategic and operational value."