Commentary on Political Economy

Wednesday 23 March 2022


Fifteenth Russian high officer killed in Ukraine

A charred Russian tank in the Kiv region. Picture: AFP
A charred Russian tank in the Kiv region. Picture: AFP

A 15th Russian commander has been killed in battle as President Vladimir Putin’s forces suffer their worst loss of military brass since World War II, Ukrainian army sources have said.

Colonel Alexei Sharov is said to have died fighting Ukrainian soldiers in the besieged coastal city of Mariupol. He was the commander of the 810th Guards Separate Order of Zhukov Brigade, an elite branch of the Russian Marines stationed in Sevastopol, Crimea. Sharov is the fifth colonel to be killed in the conflict and joins five generals as well several other top-ranked officers who have died.

Anatoliy Stefan, a Ukrainian officer, was among the first to ­report his death on social media, saying the colonel “got lost in the ‘training’ but will return home correctly”. Sharov’s death was confirmed by two independent sources close to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, according to the Russian-supporting news website ForPost.

He “died a heroic death”, the outlet said, adding a quote from Sharov saying that the present generation of Russian Marines “carry on with dignity the traditions of our predecessors”.

“The words ‘Where we are, there is victory’ have become the motto and guide to action for all Marines of the Black Sea Fleet,” Sharov reportedly said.

Earlier, a funeral service was held for the deputy commander of the Black Sea Fleet, who was shot dead by Ukrainian forces. Hundreds of people converged on ­Sevastopol to mourn Andrei Paliy, a first-rank captain.

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Konrad Muzyka, director of the Poland-based Rochan consultancy, told Reuters that the Ukrainian claims of Russian high-ranking casualties were plausible, but difficult to verify. He said that the true figure was probably smaller.

“Even if we are talking about two generals, that’s a big deal,” he said. “We’re not only talking about generals, we’re also talking about colonels who are, of course, also really high in the organisation.”

The deaths of high-ranking officials suggested Russia did not have a good understanding of Ukrainian artillery positions, he added. Muzyka suggested Ukraine was pinpointing the location of senior officers, possibly via their mobile phone signals.

Russian media reported that the invading forces had lost almost 10,000 troops, but the tabloid paper Komsomolskaya Pravda has since claimed its website was hacked and this was not accurate. Russia has not officially updated its casualty figures since claiming early this month that 498 servicemen had been killed and 1597 wounded.

In the weeks since, troops have faced further heavy resistance.

Calculations by Foreign Policy magazine have led to the conclusion that the Kremlin is suffering its highest casualty rate among top brass since the Second World War.

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