EU Flubs Speech on Ukraine War Losses—to the Kremlin’s Delight

Anatolii Stepanov/AFP via Getty

Ukraine’s European allies found themselves in damage control mode Wednesday after European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen released a video claiming 100,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed so far in Russia’s war—only to quickly walk back that claim moments later. The death toll was quickly seized on by Russian state media before the video was replaced with a revised version that omitted the staggering figure. Dana Spinant, the deputy chief spokeswoman for the European Commission head, took to Twitter to explain that the first video had contained an “inaccuracy,” as the 100,000 figure, taken from “external sources,” referred not just to the number of those killed, but also those wounded. It “was meant to show Russia’s brutality,” Spinant said. Ukrainian officials reacted by demanding to know where that number had come from and refusing to confirm its accuracy. Pro-Kremlin propagandists, meanwhile, seized on the screwup to push the claim that Ukraine was “hiding” war losses from its citizens. That von der Leyen also said more than 20,000 Ukrainian citizens had been killed so far was largely lost in the ensuing uproar, while the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine stressed that the focus should be on “punishing those who committed genocide against the Ukrainian people.”

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