JSatellite and drone images taken over Bilohorivka tell a story of madness and destruction. Dozens of Russian tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and trucks were destroyed, some sinking into the waters of the Donets River through a broken pontoon bridge, indicating the latest disaster in Russia’s three-month war in Ukraine.
The toll of Russian attempts to cross the river, as part of its costly offensive in the east, is staggering: more than 485 killed and up to 80 vehicles destroyed, according to one estimate, although no number of casualties has been reported. has been confirmed.
As Russia continues to hide the extent of its losses in Ukraine, more and more information has leaked out, angering the families of Russian soldiers and discouraging even former supporters of the invasion.
“I see my government totally differently since the start of the war,” said Tatyana Efremenko, 39, whose son Nikita Efremenko was a draftee on the missile cruiser Moskva when it was sunk in a strike by Ukrainian missiles a month ago. She is still looking for her son. “There are some very harsh things I would like to say about our leadership, but maybe it would be better if I didn’t because they would put me in jail for it.”
In Russian-held eastern Ukraine, wives of fighters complained on camera that their husbands had been left behind as Russian soldiers retreated across the border near Kharkiv. “These are not deserters, just the ones who managed to get away with it,” a woman shouted at a local official.
kyiv has said it has the remains of thousands of Russian soldiers, but Moscow won’t accept them because it would force it to admit the high death toll in the war.
As evidence of Bilohorivka’s rout has become evident over the past week, even some pro-Russian cheerleaders seemed to lose faith in the wisdom of the country’s military rulers.
“Until we know the name of the ‘military genius’ who put a battalion battle group on the river bank and he doesn’t answer for it publicly, then there will never be any reforms in the army,” wrote Vladlen Tatarzky, the pseudonym used by a Russian blogger and former soldier who has more than 300,000 followers on Telegram. He generally supported the war. “How can we not remember Comrade Stalin here who, despite the difficult military situation, was not afraid to make difficult personnel decisions? If this is not done, then no mobilization will save us.
Rob Leea senior fellow with the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Eurasia program who documented some of this war backlash, noted that another popular blogger wrote that it was “idiocy or sabotage to make such a mistake three months after the start of the war.
And Igor Girkin, a Russian proxy field commander during the 2014 war who criticized the government during that conflict, seemed to feel vindicated: “I have already said several times what to do in the current situation. , while it has become It is clear that our forces are incapable of delivering even a limited defeat to the enemy in ground combat and when we have to prepare for a long, difficult and large-scale war.
A month after the sinking of the Moskva, the Russian government confirmed the death of only one crew member and declared 27 others missing.
But families of crew members say the death toll could be as high as 200, and many have received no confirmation of what happened to their husbands, brothers and sons.
“Nobody tells me anything,” Efremenko, whose son disappeared on the ship, said in an interview. “They asked me to sign a document that says I accept that my son is dead and then they want to compensate me for his death. They also sent the same document to all the relatives of all the other missing conscripts.
Efremenko said she was in a telegram conversation with more than 80 family members of missing persons. Many have been told not to speak to the press or go out in public. “They’re trying to buy my silence, but it’s not going to happen,” she said. “I will look for my son until the end.
“I promised the authorities not to speak publicly about my son, but already a month has passed and people are forgetting about Moskva. People are moving forward, but we still have so many unanswered questions: why the hell were there conscripts? Why were they fighting? No one has been able to tell me.
On Monday, the Ukrainian government also released new data claiming that the Russian 1st Guards Tank Army had lost 131 tanks in the first three weeks of the war, one of the bloodiest combat periods for the army. Russian.
Data on personnel and vehicle losses for the unit “could be genuine,” said Michael Kofman, research program director for the Russia Studies Program at the CNA think tank.
Russia last released casualty data in late March, admitting 1,351 Russian soldiers had been killed and 3,825 wounded in the first month of the war. The government has not released more information about the victims in the past month and a half, except to say they were “significant”.
Western estimates are 10 or even 20 times higher, with some suggesting Russia has lost more than 30,000 troops since the war began.
Kofman wrote, “The numbers are thrown around with wide ranges, and it’s hard to say what to make of these estimates, or estimates.”
As Ukrainian forces launch a counterattack that has reached the Russian border near Kharkiv, Russian soldiers are also accused of having abandoned their allies in the Donbass region of Ukraine.
A video allegedly shot in the Lugansk region showed women surrounding a local official and imploring him to help their family members.
“They are not allowed to enter Russian territory,” said one woman. “They didn’t give in. They were completely destroyed.”
The descriptions matched some images of mobilized conscripts from the Russian-held territories of Donetsk and Luhansk who were photographed with light body armor and Mosin-Nagant rifles that are very outdated on a modern battlefield.
“They’re facing tanks and all they had were guns,” the woman said.