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Ukraine claims to destroy Russian military ship as NATO says Russia may have lost 15,000 troops in just a month of war

War in Ukraine stretches into second month
NATO estimates 7,000 to 15,000 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine 03:24

Zhytomyr, Ukraine — Ukrainians have suffered immensely in Vladimir Putin's war on their country, but it appears the conflict is not going well for Russia's forces. By some estimates, Russia has already lost as many troops in 28 days as it did during ten years of war in Afghanistan during the 1980s.

CBS News senior foreign correspondent Holly Williams and her team were in Ukraine a month ago when Russia launched its first strikes, but instead of the lightning invasion that Putin may have anticipated, she said his ground forces appear stalled. Ukraine claims it has killed six Russian generals, and on Thursday the country's military said it had destroyed at least one Russian naval ship in an occupied port town on the south coast.

Just a couple days after Russian state media showed video of the military landing ship Orsk offloading armored vehicles and tanks at the port of Berdyansk, in southern Ukraine, Kyiv's navy said Wednesday that it had destroyed the ship. Unverified video and photos posted online showed thick black smoke rising from the dockside.

An image taken from a video posted online on March 24, 2022 purportedly shows smoke rising from the Russian navy landing ship Orsk at the Russian-occupied port of Berdyansk in southern Ukraine. CBS News could not independently verify the video, but Ukraine's navy said it had blown up the Orsk in Berdyansk just days after Russian state TV said the vessel was offloading military hardware there to bolster Russia's invading forces in southern Ukraine.

Russia said earlier in the week that it had a total of 10 ships ready to dock along Ukraine's southern coast, carrying dozens of tanks, armored personnel carriers and other equipment to bolster its push to capture other vital port cities in the region. Putin's forces are hammering southern Ukraine with air and artillery strikes, trying to seize a swath of ground across to create a land corridor between the occupied Crimean Peninsula and Russian territory, but cities like the besieged port of Mariupol stand in the way, and Ukraine's forces have refused to give up the fight to hold onto them.

Given the significant losses Russia is suffering — even if Putin's regime isn't telling the Russian people about them — there have been many rumors of his senior advisors coming under intense pressure. 

On Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was asked about the "disappearance" of Russia's normally frequently seen Minister of Defense, Sergei Shoigu, who hadn't been seen or heard from publicly in days.

"Well, the Minister of Defense now has a lot of worries, as you understand," Peskov told reporters. "Now is not quite the time for media activity. This is quite understandable."

Soon after, the Russian government released a short video clip showing Putin holding a meeting — via video conference call — with his national security team, and Shoigu was visible on the screen in Putin's office. The defense chief wasn't heard to say anything in the short clip, but the Kremlin said he had "reported progress in the special military operation and efforts being made by the military to provide humanitarian aid, ensure security, and restore vital infrastructure on the liberated territories."

Biden meets with world leaders in Belgium for emergency NATO summit 02:41

The human cost of Russia's invasion — not only for Ukraine, but for Putin's own military — has been horrifying. If the Russian leader thought he'd score an easy victory in Ukraine, Williams said he undoubtedly knows better now. In just one month, between 7,000 and 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed, according to an estimate by a NATO official.

Ukraine's forces are still outgunned, but in some places, particularly on the outskirts of the capital Kyiv, they're clawing back territory from the invaders.

But as Williams reports, it is Ukrainian civilians paying the highest price for Putin's brutal invasion. The besieged city of Mariupol has been laid to waste, and with more than 100,000 civilians still thought to be trapped inside, Russia continues pummeling them from the air.

Ukrainian family who escaped city under siege describes what they experienced 06:21

Masha, 15, made it out of Mariupol, but her right leg had to be amputated after it was torn apart by a Russian strike. Her doctor said she was so traumatized that she couldn't eat for days.

In a video message Wednesday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of trying to wipe his people off the face of the Earth.

"It breaks my heart, heart of all Ukrainians, and every free person on the planet," he said, calling on the U.S. and its NATO partners to provide more weapons to help his country repel the Russian invasion.

Biden meets with NATO allies as Ukraine urges more support 05:10

Zelenskyy warned that if Ukraine isn't given what it needs to stop Putin, the Russian leader could take his fight beyond Ukrainian soil.

"This is only the beginning for Russia on the Ukrainian land," he said. "Russia is trying to defeat the freedom of all people in Europe, of all people in the world."

In an address to NATO leaders gathered in Brussels, including President Joe Biden, Zelenskyy said Russian forces were using weapons banned under international law for the devastation they cause.

"Phosphorus bombs were used. Russian phosphorus bombs," Zelenskyy said, referring to banned type of incendiary munitions. "Adults were killed again, and children were killed again."

U.S. declares Russia committed war crimes in Ukraine 03:23

In the town of Zhotymyr, west of Kyiv, Williams and her team met Serhei as he sifted through the wreckage of the home he spent 12 years building it for his family. He said Russian airstrikes destroyed it earlier this month, killing four people in his neighborhood.

One of those killed was Serhei's daughter Katya, who left behind a one-year-old daughter. 

"I wish I died in her place," Serhei told CBS News. "The pain doesn't go away."  

"Of course, I blame Putin," he said. "If I had him in my hands I would butcher him like a goat."
Serhei told Williams that he would raise his granddaughter and, like other Ukrainians, he's determined to rebuild his country.

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