United States House lawmakers who attended a classified briefing Wednesday on Ukraine said Biden administration officials informed them that more than 75,000 Russians have been killed or wounded during the war on Ukraine. The briefing also said the Russian military is fatigued, but Ukrainians are looking for additional reinforcements as they aim to launch a counteroffensive in the south before the winter.
“We were briefed that over 75,000 Russians have either been killed or wounded, which is huge, you've got incredible amounts of investment in their land forces, over 80% of their land forces are bogged down, and they're tired,” Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee and recently visited Ukraine, told CNN. “But they’re still the Russian military.”
US and Western officials have said in recent weeks that the next few weeks of war will be crucial, because the Ukrainians are going to try to mount a major counteroffensive in the south. Richard Moore, the head of the UK's secret intelligence service, MI6, said last week at the Aspen Security Forum that he believes the Russians will begin to lose steam in the coming weeks because they are running out of manpower. US and western officials believe Ukraine will aim to take back the southern city of Kherson, which has been occupied by Russia since March.
“The sort of main conversation in the briefing was, you know, what more we can and should be doing for the Ukrainians, literally in the next three to six weeks, very urgently. Ukrainians want to go to the south and do operations in the south. And we want them to be as successful as possible,” Slotkin said.
“I think that what we heard very firmly from President Zelensky and reinforced today is that the Ukrainians really want to hit Russia in the teeth a few times before the winter comes, put them in the best position possible, particularly hitting them down south," Slotkin added.
During the briefing, Slotkin said there was bipartisan support for sending Ukraine long-range missiles, known as ATACMS, that can strike as far as 180 miles away (more than 280 kilometers). The Ukrainians have been urging the US to provide these systems for months because the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) can only strike distances of around 49 miles (more than 78 kilometers).
But US national security adviser Jake Sullivan reiterated last week at the Aspen Security Forum that the US would not be providing the ATACMS because they could be used to strike into Russian territory, which would escalate the war even further.
The US Senate will also get its own briefing on Ukraine. It was originally scheduled for today but had to be rescheduled.