Russian troops have reported an “incomprehensible battle” in Donetsk after apparently suffering heavy losses during a week of intense fighting in the key region of eastern Ukraine.
Moscow has been trying to breach Kyiv’s defenses around the city of Pavlivka for at least the past seven days, but appears to have made little progress with up to 300 men killed in action, according to an open letter published to a prominent Russian. military blog monday.
Men from the Russian Pacific Fleet’s 155th Marine Brigade launched scathing criticism of a senior Russian official in a rare show of defiance, accusing authorities of “hiding” the death toll “for fear of being held responsible” .
The letter, purportedly sent from the front lines to a Russian regional governor, came amid Moscow’s volatile offensive into a region President Vladimir Putin claims it illegally annexed just over a month ago.
“Once again, we were thrown into an incomprehensible battle by General Muradov and his brother-in-law, his compatriot Akhmedov, so that Muradov could earn bonuses to make him look good in the eyes of Gerasimov (the chief of the Russian General Staff ), the men said in the note, sent to the governor of Primorsky Krai.
“As a result of the ‘carefully’ planned offensive by the ‘great commanders’ we lost about 300 men, killed and wounded, with some MIA during the last four days.
“We have lost 50% of our equipment. This is our brigade alone. The district command together with Akhmedov are hiding these facts and distorting official casualty statistics for fear of being held responsible.”
They implored Governor Oleg Kozhemyako: “How long will mediocrities like Muradov and Akhmedov be allowed to continue planning military actions just to keep up appearances and win prizes at the cost of so many people’s lives?”
Russian military commentators have also criticized the army’s approach to Donetsk.
“The situation in Pavlivka has been discussed at the highest level for several days, and the blood doesn’t stop,” Aleksandr Sladkov, a Russian military journalist who works for state-run All-Russia TV and Radio, told Telegram .
“The troops say that there is now a dilemma: exhausted units cannot be withdrawn without bringing in new ones. There are no new units and no possibility of withdrawal and replacement due to constant layoffs,” the journalist also posted on Telegram Russian military Alexey Sukonkin.
“Why did we retreat from Pavlivka and have to take it back now?” Aleksander Khodakovski, a commander in the Russian-backed so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, criticized Moscow’s tactical approach to the region.
Khodakovski said Russian troops had been using the basements as defensive positions, which meant they had not seen any flanking movements by the Ukrainians.
“That’s why many marines, including company commanders, were taken prisoner then. Not because they were weak in spirit, but because they were held hostage by their defense organization,” Khodakovski said, adding that Ukrainian reconnaissance troops had used high-rise buildings in nearby Vuhledar and cameras fixed to the top of mine shafts to guide artillery. . strikes
“The defenders of Pavlivka will be taken hostage again. Supplies and rotations will be difficult, it will be impossible to move around Pavlivka,” he said.
CNN cannot verify how many soldiers signed the letter or their ranks, but Governor Kozhemyako confirmed he had received a letter from the unit.
“We reached out to our Marine commanders on the front lines. These are guys who have been in combat since the start of the operation,” the governor said on Telegram.
Kozhemyako added that the combat commander had stressed that the deaths of the troops (Primorsky) were greatly exaggerated.
“I also know firsthand that our fighters showed real heroism and unprecedented courage in Pavlivka, as well as throughout the entire special military operation. We inflicted heavy damage on the enemy.”
Kozhemyako said the complaint filed by the soldiers had been sent to the military prosecutor’s office.
Russia’s defense ministry issued a rare public response to criticism of the military operation in Donetsk, denying that its forces had suffered “high and pointless losses in people and equipment”.
Russia’s losses in the area of Vuhledar and Pavlivka in the Donetsk region “do not exceed 1% of the combat force and 7% of the wounded, a significant part of which have already returned to service,” he said on Monday the Russian ministry. the state media agency TASS reported.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the fierce battle for Donetsk “remains the epicenter of the greatest madness of the occupiers” and refuted Kozhemyako’s claims that Moscow’s losses “were not so great”.
“Hundreds die every day,” Zelensky added. “The ground in front of the Ukrainian positions is literally littered with the bodies of the occupiers.”
Noting that the governor was about 9,000 kilometers (about 5,500 miles) from the front lines, Zelensky said: “The governor can probably see better from there how many soldiers and in what way are being sent to kill from his region. Or he was simply ordered to lie.”
Social media and drone videos in recent days show scores of Russian tanks and other armored vehicles hit around Pavlivka, which is about 50 kilometers southwest of Donetsk and has been on the front lines for several months.
The Ukrainian military released images showing two Russian T-72B tanks and three BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles hit by Ukrainian artillery and anti-tank systems, with senior officials referring to repulsed attacks from heavy shelling in the area
“The enemy is losing the opportunity to implement their plans,” Oleksii Hromov, deputy head of the Operations Directorate of the General Staff of Ukraine, said on Thursday.