Russian troops have denounced an “incomprehensible battle” in Donetsk after apparently suffering heavy casualties during a week of heavy fighting in the key region of eastern Ukraine.
Moscow has been trying to break through Kyiv’s defenses around the town of Pavlivka for at least seven days, but appears to have made little progress with as many as 300 men killed in action, according to an open letter published on a prominent Russian military blog on Monday .
Men of the Russian Pacific Fleet‘s 155th Marine Brigade leveled scathing criticism at a senior Russian official in a rare show of defiance, accusing authorities of ‘hiding’ the number of casualties ‘for fear of being held to account. responsible”.
The letter, allegedly sent from the front lines to a Russian regional governor, came amid Moscow’s faltering offensive in an area that President Vladimir Putin claimed he illegally annexed just over a month ago .
“Once again we have been thrown into an incomprehensible battle by General Muradov and his brother-in-law, his compatriot Akhmedov, so that Muradov can earn bonuses to make him look good in the eyes of Gerasimov (head of state- major),,” 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 have lost around 300 men, dead and wounded, with some MIA over the past four days.
“We lost 50% of our equipment. It’s our brigade alone. The district command and Akhmedov hide these facts and distort 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 gain rewards at the cost of so many 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 continues to flow,” Aleksandr Sladkov, a Russian military journalist working for All-Russian state television and radio, said on Telegram.
“Troops say there is a dilemma now: depleted units cannot be withdrawn without new ones being brought in. There are no fresh units and no possibility of withdrawal and replacement due to fire constant,” Russian military journalist Alexey Sukonkin also posted on Telegram. .
“Why did we withdraw from Pavlivka and should we take it back now?” Aleksander Khodakovsky, a Russian-backed commander of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, criticized Moscow’s tactical approach in the region.
Khodakovsky said Russian troops were using basements as defensive positions, which meant they did not see any flanking movement from the Ukrainians.
“That’s why a number of Marines, including company commanders, were taken prisoner at the time. Not because they were weak-minded, but because they were held hostage by their defense organization,” Khodakovsky said, adding that Ukrainian reconnaissance troops had used high-rise buildings in the nearby town. of Vuhledar and cameras fixed at the top of the mine shafts to guide the artillery. strikes.
“Pavlivka defenders will again be taken hostage. Supplies and rotations will be difficult, it will be impossible to move through Pavlivka,” he said.
CNN cannot verify how many soldiers signed the letter or their ranks, but Governor Kozhemyako confirmed he received a letter from the unit.
“We contacted 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 pointed out that the death of the troops (of Primorsky) was greatly exaggerated.
“I also know firsthand that our fighters showed in Pavlivka, as well as during the entire special military operation, true heroism and unprecedented courage. We have inflicted serious damage on the enemy.
Kozhemyako said the complaint filed by the soldiers was forwarded to the military prosecutor’s office.
The Russian Defense Ministry issued a rare public response to criticism of the military operation in Donetsk, denying that its forces suffered “high and unnecessary losses in people and material”.
Russia’s losses in the Vuhledar region and Pavlivka in the Donetsk region “do not exceed 1% of the combat strength and 7% of the wounded, a significant part of which has already returned to service”, the ministry, Russian state media. TASS reported.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the fierce battle for Donetsk “remains the epicenter of the occupiers’ greatest madness” and refuted Kozhemyako’s claims that Moscow’s losses were “not so great”.
“They die by the hundreds 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 military personnel and in what way are being sent to the slaughterhouse. from his region. Or he was simply ordered to lie.
Social media and drone videos from the past few days show that many Russian tanks and other armored vehicles have been hit around Pavlivka, which is about 50 kilometers southwest of Donetsk and has been on the front line for several month.
The Ukrainian military has 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 repelled heavy shelling attacks in the region.
“The enemy is losing the opportunity to implement their plans,” Oleksii Hromov, deputy head of the General Staff’s Ukrainian operations directorate, said Thursday.