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Zelensky Reports 31,000 Ukrainian Soldiers Killed in Two-Year War

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In a somber announcement on Sunday, President Volodymyr Zelensky revealed that approximately 31,000 Ukrainian soldiers have lost their lives since Russia’s full-scale invasion began two years ago. This marked the first time in the conflict that a concrete figure had been disclosed regarding Ukraine’s casualties.

During a news conference in the capital city of Kyiv, Mr. Zelensky expressed the magnitude of the loss, stating, “This is a big loss for us.” However, he chose not to divulge the number of wounded or missing personnel, citing concerns that Russia could potentially leverage this information to assess Ukraine’s active forces.

While Mr. Zelensky’s figure cannot be independently verified, it significantly contrasts with estimates provided by U.S. officials earlier this summer. The officials had indicated much higher casualties, with nearly 70,000 Ukrainians killed and 100,000 to 120,000 wounded. Additionally, they reported that Russia’s military losses were approximately double that of Ukraine’s.

By disclosing the extent of Ukraine’s losses, Zelensky aimed to challenge Russian propaganda and contradict other assessments that had placed Ukrainian casualties at even greater numbers.

The acknowledgment of Ukraine’s significant military toll comes at a time when the country’s armed forces are facing increased pressure from Russian troops along the vast 600-mile front line. Recently, Moscow successfully captured the city of Avdiivka, a key stronghold in eastern Ukraine, and has been advancing westward, capitalizing on this success.

General Oleksandr Syrsky, Ukraine’s top military leader, made the decision to withdraw troops from Avdiivka in order to prioritize the safety and well-being of his soldiers, emphasizing that their lives are of paramount importance. Unlike Russia, Ukraine has a limited pool of soldiers and must strategically conserve its forces.

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As the conflict persists, Ukrainian military officials have consistently emphasized the need for additional troops to offset battlefield losses and endure continued intense combat. A mobilization bill currently under consideration in Ukraine’s Parliament could potentially facilitate a significant draft of up to 500,000 soldiers, although concerns about potential social unrest linger.

In a bid to instill hope and resilience, Ukraine’s government convened a conference in Kyiv to unveil forward-looking plans as the nation enters its third year of all-out war with Russia. Despite the challenges and sacrifices endured, the determination and spirit of the Ukrainian people remain unwavering in the face of adversity.

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Chats and reflections on the present moment.

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Lydia Polgreen

Credit…Will Heath/NBC, via Getty Images

It is a rare thing in our rapidly secularizing country to be confronted with piety and devotion in popular culture. So it was a surprise, and a balm, to watch a man who prays daily and talks openly about his devout faith storm a bastion of earthly godlessness: “Saturday Night Live.”

I am referring, of course, to the comedian Ramy Youssef, who hosted the show on what he described in his opening monologue as “an incredibly spiritual weekend,” noting Ramadan, Easter and the arrival of a new Beyoncé album.

“I’m doing the Ramadan one,” he quipped, to peals of laughter, unspooling a very funny bit about how loving Muslims are. Youssef has mined his experience as a believer among the profane in gentle standup specials and a namesake sitcom. His entire monologue glowed with a welcoming warmth — Muslims, he seemed to say: We’re just like you.

In a country that is supposedly obsessed with diversity and inclusion, it is remarkable how rare it is to hear from a practicing Muslim in America.

Surveys by the Institute for Policy and Understanding, a nonpartisan research organization focused on Muslim Americans, have consistently found that Muslims are the most likely group to report religious discrimination in the United States. According to a Pew survey conducted in 2021, 78 percent of Americans said that there was either a lot or some discrimination against Muslims in our society. Muslims are no more likely to commit crimes than members of any other group, but crimes in which Muslims are suspects get outsized media coverage, research has shown.

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It is no surprise, then, that Islamophobia is perhaps the most tolerated form of religious prejudice. Right now, Senate Republicans appear to have persuaded several Senate Democrats to vote against a Muslim judicial nominee after smearing him, with no evidence at all, as an antisemite.

Many of the skits that toyed with religion on “S.N.L.” on Saturday were funny — Ozempic for Ramadan! Genius. But part of me winced through them as well, because I saw in Youssef something that other members of minority groups have had to do to “earn” their place in the safety of the mainstream: the performance of normalcy, of being nonthreatening and sweet, the requirement to prove that your community belongs in America just like everyone else’s.

I loved Youssef’s monologue, in which he bravely pleaded, “Please, free the people of Palestine. And please, free the hostages. All of the hostages.”

“I am out of ideas,” Youssef declared toward the end of his monologue. “All I have is prayers.”

To which this nonbeliever can only say: Same, Ramy. Same.

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