Amid reports of Moscow’s forces retreating from Kherson, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley has said that “well over” 100,000 Russian soldiers may have been killed or wounded in Ukraine. He added that the winter statement may provide an opportunity for talks between the two sides.
According to a report by the Associated Press, Milley, who said that “there has been a tremendous amount of suffering, human suffering,” due to the war, said a statement in the fighting during winter could offer an opportunity for both sides to negotiate peace.
Speaking about the Russian decision to retreat from Kherson, Milley said Moscow had amassed 20,000 to 30,000 troops in the region and a full retreat could take several weeks.
“The initial indicators are they are in fact doing it,” he said. “They made the public announcement they’re doing it. I believe they’re doing it in order to preserve their force to reestablish defensive lines south of the (Dnieper) river, but that remains to be seen,” Milley added.
While pointing out that the Russians could use the retreat to reset their troops for a spring offensive, Milley said: “There’s also an opportunity here, a window of opportunity for negotiation,” now that both sides have expressed openness to talks.
However, Milley said negotiations only have a chance to succeed if both countries reach a “mutual recognition” that a military victory “is maybe not achievable through military means, and therefore you need to turn to other means.”
As reported on Monday, fearing that war fatigue was setting in among allies, Washington had privately encouraged Kyiv to show an openness for peace talks and drop its hardline position of refusing to engage with Moscow for as long as Russian President Vladimir Putin remains in power.
Although Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky proposed a negotiated peace in the weeks following the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, officials in Kyiv hardened their stance in recent months, particularly since late September after the Russian annexation of four Ukrainian regions — Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia — in the east and in the south.
Following the annexation, Zelensky issued a decree declaring it “impossible” to negotiate with the Russian leader.
“Ukraine will not hold any negotiations with Russia as long as Putin is the president of the Russian Federation. We will negotiate with the new president,” the Ukrainian president said.
Following the nudge from Western allies, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said he was open to “genuine peace talks” with Russia. Ukraine has said that it is open to peace talks with Russia to end the war provided Russia agrees to return all occupied lands, offer compensation for war damage and face prosecution for war crimes.