Russian President Vladimir Putin has lost his ninth colonel in battle since launching his brutal invasion of Ukraine in February, as Moscow’s losses continue to mount up.
A funeral was held for Colonel Alexander Bespalov on Friday, April 8, 2022, in the closed Russian city of Ozersk, according to a local announcement, which said he was killed ‘during a special military operation in Ukraine’ – a term used by Moscow to avoid saying ‘war’.
The statement said Bespalov was the commander of the 59th Guards Tank Regiment, and become the latest senior Russian military officer to be killed in the war that has seen Kyiv’s forces surprise exerts with their fierce resistance.
Targeted strikes against slow-moving Russian tank units have allowed Ukraine’s forces to compensate for their inferior numbers, with latest estimates from Kyiv defence officials suggesting the Kremlin has lost more than 4,000 military vehicles.
In addition, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence estimates that Russia has sent more than 19,000 troops to their deaths. Meanwhile, thousands of Moscow’s soldiers have retreated from the Kyiv region to refocus Russia’s military efforts on eastern Ukraine.
However, a senior U.S. defence official said Friday that the Pentagon has determined that some of the Russian combat units that retreated from the Kyiv area in recent days are so heavily damaged and depleted that their combat utility is in question.
Some analysts have suggested that the focus on the Donbas and the pledge to de-escalate may merely be an effort to put a positive spin on reality: Moscow’s ground forces have been thwarted – and have taken heavy losses – in their bid to seize the capital and other major cities.
The Kremlin has a policy of playing down military casualties with a 2015 decree declaring all deaths in conflict a state secret, and last year any statement discrediting the military were criminalised.
A picture of Bespalov showed he was a highly decorated officer, with two rows of medals emblazoned on his chest. Tributes to the commander were shared with the announcement that was posted on local message board called ‘Overheard Novogorny’ – a small town near Ozersk.
The announcement of his funeral has since been deleted. Ozersk is a closed Russian city, meaning travel in and out is heavily restricted. Code-named City 40, Ozersk was the birthplace of the Soviet nuclear weapons programme after World War Two.
One tribute, from the colonel’s sister, said: ‘It is impossible to put into words what pain you feel when you lose a close and dear person,’ Tatyana Karsakova, wrote. ‘Dear brother, you will always be alive in our hearts!’
A fellow officer said: ‘I did not know and did not meet a more worthy person who had the right to call himself an officer than my first commander Alexander Bespalov, who became my friend, whose family I was closely acquainted with.’
The colonel is the latest in a long line of slain Russian military leaders, which experts say betray the Kremlin’s blundering tactics in the brutal invasion.
Is is believed there are now a total of nine colonels and seven generals who have been killed by defiant Ukrainian forces in the month-long war.
While Moscow has made efforts to conceal its true losses in Ukraine, Kyiv has boasted each time its forces have slain a high-ranking Russian officer.
On March 30, officials said it had ‘eliminated’ Colonel Denis Kurilo, commander of the 200th separate motorised rifle brigade, who led Russia’s bloody assault in Kharkiv where he was killed in battle.
The brigade had suffered massive losses in the fierce fighting, the Ukrainian army’s press office said.
A picture of Kurilo was shared with a red X through it to announce his death.
Two battalion groups in the 200th brigade were destroyed, with a staggering loss of 1,500 servicemen, Ukraine has claimed.
It was revealed on the same day that Lieutenant Colonel Dmitry Dormidontov was killed on March 20 as his funeral was held in Russia ten days later.
A source in the Tatarstan region of Russia said: ‘Commander of the rocket artillery division, Lt-Col Dmitry Pavlovich Dormidontov, died while on duty,’ said an account.
‘An enemy mine hit exactly in his dugout, where there were three officers: a division commander, a battalion commander and an aircraft controller.’
Another loss was Lt-Col Igor Zharov who was buried in Kirzhach town, Vladimir region.
‘He died during a military operation to demilitarise and deNazify Ukraine,’ said an obituary which revealed he had been honoured by Putin.
Local MP Igor Igoshin said: ‘Igor Zharov was posthumously awarded the Order of Courage.
‘Since childhood, he had wanted to become a military man. He studied at the famous Kirzhach School of the Army.’
Colonel Nikolay Ovcharenko, chief of the Western Military District engineer troops, was killed in an ambush that left a total of 18 Russians dead by a pontoon bridge over the Siverskyi Donets River.
Colonel Alexei Sharov, commander of the 810th Guards Separate Order of Zhukov Brigade in the Russian Marines, was killed in Mariupol in March.
Colonel Sergei Sukharev, of the 331st Guards Parachute Assault Regiment from Kostroma, was ‘liquidated’ according to Ukraine in fighting earlier this month.
‘Commander of the Kostroma Airborne Regiment, Colonel Sergei Sukharev… got lost in the ‘[military] exercises’, but returned home the right way,’ said the Ukrainian statement.
His deputy Major Sergei Krylov was killed alongside him, said the report.
Colonel Andrei Zakharov was killed in an ambush near Kyiv in the opening days of the war, while Colonel Konstantin Zizevsky who led air assault troops died in the south of Ukraine.
Russian brigade commander Colonel Yuri Medvedev was even run down with a tank by his own mutinous troops.
A Western official claimed the commander had been killed by his own troops, ‘as a consequence of the scale of losses that had been taken by his brigade’.
‘We believe he was killed by his own troops deliberately,’ the official said, noting he was ‘run over’.
He added it was a further sign of ‘morale challenges that Russian forces are having’.
‘They really have found themselves in a hornet’s nest and they’re suffering really badly,’ the official said.
Colonel Sergei Porokhyna is another high-profile casualty among Putin’s forces.
On top of the colonels, at least seven Russian generals have been killed in fighting, more than during the entire 10-year brutal Soviet campaign in Afghanistan in the 1980s where five generals died.
And in late Mach, Russian Army Commander General Vlaislav Yershov, of the 6th Combined Arms Army, was sacked by Putin due to the heavy losses and strategic failures.
The latest to die, Lieutenant General Yakov Rezanstev, was a commander of Russia’s 49th Combined Arms Army in its southern military district, the official disclosed.
Among the others said to have been killed is General Magomed Tushaev, of the Chechen Special Forces deployed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine.
Another is believed to have been Lieutenant General Yakov Rezantsev, 48, commander of the army’s 49th combined arms division, who became the fifth general to be killed after being taken out in a strike by the Ukrainian armed forces.
Rezantsev, who bragged on just the fourth day of the war that it would be over in a matter of hours, was apparently killed after the Ukrainian army destroyed the commanding post of the 49th Russian Army in southern Ukraine.
Major-General Oleg Mityaev, 47, commander of the army’s 150th motorised rifle division, died fighting in the besieged city of Mariupol while Major General Vitaly Gerasimov, 45, was killed on March 7 outside the eastern city of Kharkiv.
Meanwhile Major-General Andrey Kolesnikov, Commander of the Guards Tank Kantemirovskaya Division, was also killed in fighting on March 11.
Major-General Andrei Sukhovetsky, 47, was killed during a special operation by a sniper on March 3.
The number of both rank-and-file Russian troops and senior officers allegedly killed in the month-long war has shocked Western military and security officials.
It has been blamed in part on communications and logistics issues, leading senior officers to use unencrypted channels which has exposed them to Ukrainian forces.
Putin is thought to have planned for a short and sharp invasion lasting only a few days, aimed at decapitating the government and installing a puppet regime. Instead he has found himself sucked into a hugely demanding war of attrition.
On Friday, Ukraine boasted it has the corpses of 7,000 unclaimed Russian soldiers in morgues and refrigerated cars, while the total Kremlin death toll is as high as 19,000.
Oleksiy Arestovych, the adviser to the head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, said they tried to return the bodies of 3,000 troops early on in the war but Russia refused, saying it did not believe their casualties were so high.
He told the Washington Post: ‘They said, ‘We don’t believe in such quantities. We don’t have this number. We’re not ready to accept them.”
Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs has since set up a website and Telegram channel for Russians to search photos of the dead and prisoners of war.
The Kremlin has been playing down its huge death toll in the faltering war, only admitting the loss of 1,351 soldiers.
But on Thursday, Putin’s mouthpiece Dmitry Peskov finally acknowledged the heavy casualties: ‘We have significant losses of troops. And it’s a huge tragedy for us.’
Source: Daily Mail