Russia’s announced withdrawal from Kherson, a regional capital of southern Ukraine it conquered early in the war, and a potential stalemate in fighting over the winter could provide both countries with an opportunity to negotiate peace, has said Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said Wednesday.
He said as many as 40,000 Ukrainian civilians and “over” 100,000 Russian soldiers were killed or wounded in the war, which reached its ninth month. “Probably the same on the Ukrainian side,” added Milley.
“There was a tremendous amount of suffering, human suffering,” he told the New York Economic Club.
RUSSIA SAYS WITHDRAWAL FROM KHERSON, POTENTIAL ‘IMPORTANT MOMENT’ OF WAR: GREG PALKOT
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Tuesday he was open to peace talks with Russia to end the war, but only on condition that Russia returns all lands occupied by Ukraine, provides compensation for war damage and both prosecuted for war crimes.
Russia said it was open to talks and this week announced it had begun a retreat from Kherson.
Zelenskyy warned that the Russians are pretending to withdraw from Kherson to lure the Ukrainian army into an entrenched battle in the strategic industrial port city, a gateway to the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula.
BIDEN COMBINES THE UKRAINIAN CITY OF KHERSON WITH THE IRACHENIAN CITY OF FALLUJAH
Milley, the highest-ranking US military officer, said Russia has amassed 20,000 to 30,000 troops in Kherson and a full retreat could take several weeks.
“The initial indicators are that they are actually doing it. They have made the public announcement that they are doing it. I believe they are doing it to preserve their forces to reestablish defensive lines south of the river (Dnieper), but that remains to be seen. “, he said.
Milley said it is possible that the Russians will use retreat to restore their troops for a spring offensive, but “there is also an opportunity here, a window of opportunity for negotiations.”
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But for the negotiations to have a chance, both Russia and Ukraine would have to achieve “mutual recognition” that a military victory “is perhaps not achievable by military means, and therefore it is necessary to turn to other means,” Milley said, citing the end of the First World War as an example.