Close Putin ally says 23 soldiers died in Ukrainian shelling attack

(Reuters) - Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, on Thursday said 23 of his soldiers had been killed and another 58 wounded in a Ukrainian artillery attack this week.

Kadyrov's comments were unusual, given that pro-Moscow forces have rarely admitted to major battlefield losses since the war started. In a statement on Telegram, Kadyrov said the incident had taken place in the southern Kherson region.

"All rescue operations at the site have been completed and there is a final list of dead and injured - 23 soldiers were killed and 58 wounded," he said.

Kadyrov, who heads Russia's southern Muslim-majority region of Chechnya, describes himself as a Putin foot soldier and says he has sent thousands of men to fight in the war.

"Yes, our losses in the early hours that day were great, but Chechens are participating in jihad ... and if they are destined to fall in the holy war, it is an honor and a great joy for every true Muslim," he said.

After the attack, Chechen forces carried out a revenge attack and killed about 70 Ukrainians, he said. Reuters was not immediately able to verify his account.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Chris Reese and Jonathan Oatis)