A leading Russian paratroop commander has been killed in battle in Ukraine in the latest setback for Vladimir Putin’s war, with several senior military officers having died since the invasion started last month.
Colonel Sergei Sukharev, of the 331st Guards Parachute Assault Regiment from Kostroma, and his deputy Major Sergei Krylov were killed on Thursday, according to the Ukrainian government and Russian state TV.
The colonel was “liquidated” after he “got lost in the ‘[military] exercises’, but returned home the right way”, Ukraine’s Centre for Strategic Communication and Information Security (Stratcom) said in a statement.
“It is known that Sukharev’s regiment had fought against Ukraine outside the city Ilovaisk in Donbas back in 2014 and also took part in both Chechen wars and the Russian-Georgian war of 2008,” the centre added.
Senior sergeant Sergei Lebedev, sergeant Alexander Limonov, corporal Yuri Degtyarev, and captain Alexei Nikitin – of the same paratroop regiment – were also killed, according to the BBC. The deaths were also reported by Russian news outlet GTRK Kostroma.
At least four of Vladimir Putin’s generals, and more than 10 senior officers in total, have been killed since he launched the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.
Russian troops are experiencing low morale that had led to an “increase in the number of desertions” and “significant exhaustion of human resources”, Stratcom said.
About 7,000 Russian troops have reportedly died during the conflict, but the true number is not certain as Moscow has only once released its estimated death toll since the start of the full-scale invasion.
Putin’s forces are also facing food and fuel shortages, according to a military intelligence assessment by the UK’s Ministry of Defence – adding that the troops are “faltering” in their ongoing assault on Ukraine.
In 2014, Mr Sukharev had fought in the Battle of Ilovaisk, which started in August 2014, when Ukraine’s army and pro-Ukrainian paramilitaries began a series of attempts to capture the city of eastern city of Ilovaisk from pro-Russian insurgents
At least 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers died amid the fighting, according to Andriy Senchenko – who had led the Ukrainian parliament’s investigative committee’s probe into the incident. Kyiv has described it as a massacre.
A Ukrainian soldier who survived the battle described it as a “real meat grinder” – the Kyiv Post reported.
The conflict also reportedly saw more than 500 Ukrainian soldiers be taken prisoner by pro-Russian forces.
More recently, in January, Mr Sukharev was seen on Russian TV leading “peacekeeping” troops back from Kazakhstan where they had been sent following a wave of protests sparked by a sharp rise in liquified gas prices.
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