The fighting in Ukraine has gone badly for the Russians. They didn’t anticipate the resistance they would face, nor were they properly prepared for a long slog. But up until Thursday, the Kremlin had put on a brave face.

At a March 25 news briefing, Sergei Rudskoi, the first deputy chief of the Russian armed forces’ general staff, said that 1,351 Russian troops had been killed and 3,835 wounded, according to Bloomberg. Rudskoi told reporters that the invasion was “successful.”

At the time, outsider estimates of Russian casualties ranged between 7,000 and 15,000.

Two weeks have passed since the Kremlin’s briefing, and its brave face has slipped.

In an extraordinarily revealing interview Thursday with Mark Austin of Britain’s Sky News, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, tried valiantly to advance Russia’s version of the facts. But the unapologetic Austin wasn’t having it.

“You’ve lost thousands of troops. How many troops have you lost?” Austin demanded.

In a rare moment of candor, Peskov admitted, “We have, we have significant losses of troops. And it’s, it’s, it’s a huge tragedy for us.”

Pressed for a number, he demurred, saying the figures had not been “double confirmed.”

“Let’s be honest about this,” Austin told Peskov. “Ukraine posed no threat to Russia, and NATO is a defensive organization that also poses no threat to Russia.”

The SkyNews host kept going. “You’ve retreated from the capital, [Ukraine] President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy is still in power, you’ve lost thousands of troops, you’ve lost six generals, hundreds of tanks and other equipment,” he said. “It’s a humiliation, really, isn’t it?”

Clearly on the defensive and unwilling to even look at the camera, Peskov said, “No. No. That is a wrong understanding of what is going on.”

Peskov continued, “Now about two regions, Kyiv and Chernikov regions, so actually, the troops were really withdrawn from that region as an act of goodwill during the negotiations between delegations.”

As the press secretary tried to support this remarkable statement, Austin interrupted to say, “But it’s just not true, is it?”

“If it was a measure of goodwill, why then did you continue to bombard Mariupol in the way that you have to devastate that city. If you really wanted to facilitate peace talks, you would have had a ceasefire. … So it’s not really true, is it?” he asked.

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The men argued back and forth about the pounding of Mariupol, and Austin asked if Russia was determined to take the city regardless of the cost of civilian lives. Peskov insisted Russians were trying to liberate the city from eight years of Ukrainian attacks.

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Asked during the interview to explain the images of civilian corpses lying in the streets of Bucha after the Russian retreat, many of which showed signs of torture, Peskov told Austin that it was a “well-staged insinuation, nothing else.”

The photographs were a “bold fake,” he said. “We’re living in days of fakes and lies. … We deny the Russian military can have something in common with these atrocities and that dead bodies were shown on the streets of Bucha.”

Peskov told Sky News, “Our military are doing their best to bring an end to that operation. … And we do hope that in coming days, in the foreseeable future, this operation will reach its goals or will finish it by the negotiations between Russian and Ukrainian delegation.”

Kudos to Mark Austin for his revealing interview with Putin’s spokesman. Wouldn’t you like to see him have a similarly bold conversation with President Joe Biden?

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.