Russia has endured 80,000 casualties, US official says; oligarch's $90 million plane may be seized: Aug. 8 recap

The Russian military has suffered as many as 80,000 dead and wounded since its invasion of Ukraine, Colin Kahl, U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, said Monday.

He called it an “extraordinary cost” inflicted by Ukrainian forces fighting for stakes that “are existential for them.” The figure is nearly twice the 42,340 Russian casualties estimated by the Ukrainian military, which does not report on its own combat losses. Neither does the Kremlin.

Russia has not achieved the objectives President Vladimir Putin’s intended when the invasion began Feb. 24, Kahl said.

“His overall objective was to overrun the entire country, to engage in regime change in Kyiv, to snuff out Ukraine as an independent sovereign and independent nation,” Kahl said. “None of that has happened.”

Russia also appears have lost as many as 4,000 armored vehicles, including tanks, Kahl said. Ukrainian officials peg that number at 4,070 armored vehicles and 1,811 tanks.

Pentagon officials had been reluctant to quantify casualties on both sides of the war, citing unclear estimates. By comparison, in 20 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, about 50,000 U.S. troops were wounded and more than 5,200 were killed.

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Latest developments:

►The Ukraine military said Monday that it destroyed a Russian ammunition depot in the Kharkiv region and shot down a cruise missile near Odesa.

►Daniil Medvedev, Liudmila Samsonova and Daria Kasatkina, three Russian tennis players who were banned from competing at Wimbledon because of the war in Ukraine, won tournaments over the weekend that serve as U.S. Open tune-ups. “We are all very angry about the situation,” Samsonova said of the Wimbledon ban.

US to seize oligarch's $90 million jet

Federal officials targeting Russian oligarchs are preparing to seize a jet they say is owned via a chain of shell companies and relatives by billionaire Andrei Skoch.

A New York-based federal judge has signed a seizure warrant for the Airbus A319-100, a model typically used to carry more than 130 passengers in commercial service. Federal prosecutors say the $90 million jet is sitting at an airport in Kazakhstan. The United States and Kazakhstan have a treaty requiring each country to honor the other's warrants and other law enforcement actions. Federal officials said they believe Skoch is also the owner of the $156 million yacht Madame Gu and the yacht's helicopter, both of which also have been targeted for possible seizure.

President Joe Biden has created and deployed a team of federal prosecutors and other experts to seize the assets of Russian oligarchs as part of efforts to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin and his allies for the invasion of Ukraine.

While federal officials routinely conduct this kind of work, Biden's Task Force KleptoCapture has gotten new resources and additional staffing to help and has already seized yachts it says are owned by oligarchs. Biden has proposed selling off the seized property to help fund Ukrainian reconstruction and defense efforts.

"A seizure like this, that's step No. 1 in a process that ultimately ends in forfeiture," said Stefan D. Cassella, a former top federal asset forfeiture prosecutor. "The biggest hurdle is proving that the particular airplane is owned by this particular person."

– Trevor Hughes

US sends $1 billion more in security aid to Ukraine

The Biden administration will send another $1 billion in ammunition, weapons and vehicles to Ukraine, the Pentagon announced Monday.

The latest military aid package includes ammunition for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, that Ukraine has used to destroy Russian ammunition depots and command posts dozens of miles behind the front line in eastern Ukraine. Defense officials have credited the weapon and stiff Ukrainian resolve with slowing the Russian advance there. The package includes conventional artillery ammunition, armored ambulances and anti-tank weapons.

This represents the largest single shipment of security aid among the 18 sent to Ukraine since August 2021, Pentagon spokesman Todd Breasseale said. The Biden administration has provided Ukraine with $9.8 billion in military aid, the lion's share of the $11.8 billion in security assistance the U.S. has sent the eastern European country since 2014.

Melitopol would be 'reunified' with Russia under referendum

The Russian-appointed leader of Ukraine's occupied Zaporizhzhia region signed an order Monday to hold a referendum on "reunification" with Russia that could take place as soon as next month. The announcement from Evgeny Balitsky came one day after the city's mayor, Ivan Fedorov, said Ukrainian forces used U.S.-supplied HIMARS rockets to strike Russian troops in the area, killing more than 100.

"I am signing an order to the Central Election Commission to start preparations for a referendum," Balitsky said at a public forum in the southeastern city of Melitopol. "We are together with Russia."

Russia stops allowing U.S. nuclear arsenal inspections that are part of treaty

At a time of increasingly strained relations, Russia said it will stop allowing the U.S. to inspect its nuclear arsenals, claiming Western sanctions imposed because of the assault on Ukraine have hampered similar tours of U.S. facilities by Russian monitors.

In halting U.S. inspections under the New START nuclear arms control treaty for the first time, Moscow said sanctions on Russian flights, visa restrictions and other obstacles are keeping Russian military experts from inspecting U.S. nuclear weapons sites, giving the Americans “unilateral advantages.”

The development came on the same day UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged countries with nuclear weapons to abide by their commitment to not be the first ones to use them, warning that the nuclear arms race has returned amid growing international tension.

Moscow, Kyiv blame each other for shelling at nuclear plant

"Suicidal" shelling of Europe's largest nuclear plant must be halted and international inspectors must be granted access to ensure its safe operation, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said Monday. Moscow and Kyiv blamed each other for a series of attacks at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station that the International Atomic Energy Agency said has created "the very real risk of a nuclear disaster."

Ukraine's military intelligence chief, Andriy Yusov, said his organization had received credible information from several sources that Russian forces have planted explosives at the plant to head off an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive in the region. The Ukraine power company Energoatom quoted a Russian general as saying, "The station will be either Russian or nobody's."

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of carrying out the rocket attacks. The Russian Embassy in Washington issued a statement blaming Ukraine for the shelling, claiming a "disinformation campaign" in the U.S. media is falsely blaming Russian forces.

Ukrainian officials have previously said Russia is launching attacks from the plant and using Ukrainian workers there as human shields.

Embargo eased, Ukrainian grain shipment is first to reach destination

A cargo ship carrying 12,000 tons of Ukrainian corn arrived Monday in Turkey, the first vessel to arrive at its destination under a deal that eased Russia's tight blockade of Ukrainian ports.

The Turkey-flagged Polarnet docked at Derince port in the Gulf of Izmit, three days after setting off from Chornomorsk. The first ship to depart Ukraine, the Sierra Leone-flagged Razoni, left Aug. 1 but had not reached its destination in Lebanon and was anchored off Turkey’s southern coast, according to the Marine Traffic website.

The ships are sailing under a deal to unblock grain supplies and stave off a global food crisis. Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the first ship's arrival "sends a message of hope to every family in the Middle East, Africa and Asia: Ukraine won’t abandon you. If Russia sticks to its obligations, the 'grain corridor' will keep maintaining global food security."

Six more ships carrying agricultural cargo have received authorization to leave Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, carrying more than 236,000 tons of grain. Ukraine has 20 million tons of grain sitting in silos.

Battered infrastructure could lead to humanitarian crisis

The eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk has no running water because of unrelenting Russian bombing, so residents must fill bottles by hand at public pumps throughout the city. The city's remaining population has adapted, but local officials warn that the arrival of winter could set the stage for a humanitarian crisis. Most of the eastern Donetsk region is without gas for heating, and public wells and municipal water pipes are likely to freeze in winter.

Lyubov Mahlii, 76, collects 5 gallons of water twice a day from a public tank near her apartment, dragging the plastic bottles up four flights of stairs.

“When there are bombings and sirens, we keep carrying it," she said. "It’s a great risk for us, but what can we do?”

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ukraine recap: US providing another $1B in weaponry