Some 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed since the full-scale Russian invasion began two years ago, President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday, acknowledging for the first time in the war a concrete figure for the number of victims in Ukraine.

“This is a big loss for us,” Zelensky said at a news conference in kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. But he declined to reveal the number of wounded or missing, saying Russia could use the information to gauge the number of active Ukrainian forces.

Zelensky’s account could not be independently verified. It differs markedly from estimates by US officials, who, last summer, estimated losses much higher, saying that nearly 70,000 Ukrainians had been killed and between 100,000 and 120,000 had been wounded. Russia’s military casualties, officials said, were about twice as high.

Zelensky’s unusual recognition came as his country’s military is now on the defensive along most of the 600-mile front line, with Russian troops pressing attacks in the east and south. Ukraine’s military leaders have long said they need more troops to confront Russia’s relentless attacks; A mobilization bill that could pave the way for a large-scale recruitment of up to 500,000 troops is making its way through Ukraine’s parliament.

By Sam