ZHYTOMYR (Ukraine) -- After burying a Russian-killed veteran colonel, the cemetery workers prepared the next hole. The empty grave will not last long, as death is a constant occurrence in the frontlines of Ukraine.
Col. Oleksandr Makhachek left behind a widow, Elena, and their daughters Olena and Myroslava-Oleksandra. His grave was dug in Zhytomyr military cemetery, 90 miles (140 km) west of Kyiv, within the first 100 days.
He was killed in the Luhansk area of eastern Ukraine, where fighting is raging. Nearby, Viacheslav Dvornitskyi's burial notice states that he died on May 27th. Another grave showed other soldiers who were killed within days -- on May 10th, 9th, 7th, and 5th. This is only one cemetery in Ukraine, where soldiers are laid to rest.
This week, President Volodymyr Zilenskyy stated that the Ukraine is currently losing 60-100 soldiers per day in combat. For comparison, in 1968, the Vietnam War's most deadly year for U.S forces, 50 American soldiers per day died on average.
On Friday, Gen. Viktor Muzhenko was among the comrades in arms who paid their respects to Makhachek, a Ukrainian Armed Forces chief of general staff from 2019 until now. He said that the losses could get worse.
Muzhenko stated to The Associated Press that "this is one of the most critical moments in war," but it is not its peak. "This is the most important conflict in Europe since World War II. This explains why losses are so high. Ukraine needs to have powerful weapons that can match or surpass Russian weaponry in order to decrease its losses. This would allow Ukraine to respond in kind."
Many of the casualties in eastern regions are being caused by Russian artillery concentrations, which Moscow has been focusing on since the initial invasion launched February 24, failed to capture Kyiv.
Retired Lt. General Ben Hodges, who was the commanding general for U.S. Army forces Europe, called the Russian strategy a "medieval approach to attrition" and stated that "these types of casualties will continue until Ukraine is promised U.S., British, and other weapons to disrupt and destroy Russian batteries."
He said that the battlefield was more deadly than what we were used to during the 20-year period of Iraq and Afghanistan.
He said, "That level would include leaders and sergeants." They are often the most vulnerable, moving about trying to do different things and are often the ones who suffer the most.
Makhachek was a military engineer who led a detachment which laid minefields and other defenses. Col. Ruslan Shutev attended the funeral of his friend of over 30 years.
Before the war, Ukraine had approximately 250,000 uniformed men and women and was currently adding 100,000 more. The government doesn't know how many people have been killed in the fighting for more than 14 weeks.
It is impossible to know the exact number of civilians killed in Ukraine or how many soldiers have been killed on each side. It is almost impossible to verify claims of casualties made by government officials, who sometimes exaggerate and lowball their numbers for public relations purposes.
Analysts in Western countries believe that Russia has suffered far more military casualties than they think, with many thousands. Despite the losses, Ukraine must find replacements because of the harsh math of war. It has a population of 43 millions, so it has plenty of manpower.
"The problem is training, recruiting and getting them on to the front line," stated retired U.S Marine Col. Mark Cancian (a senior adviser at The Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington).
He said, "If war is now moving into long-term attrition battle, then you need to build systems to replace them." "This is a challenging moment for all army combatants."
Muzhenko, a general from Ukraine, stated that Zelenskyy's admissions of high casualties would galvanize Ukrainian morale, and that more Western weaponry could help turn the tide.
He stated that the Ukrainian people will resist more information about the situation at the front. Yes, there are huge losses. With the support of our allies, however, we can reduce and minimize them and move on with successful offensives. This will require the use of powerful weapons.
This report was contributed by Yuras Karmanau from Lviv.
Follow the AP's coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine