Russia has lost another of its generals in the war in Ukraine, Kyiv has said, along with seven members of an elite force under Vladimir Putin’s direct command as Ukraine inflicts punishing losses on Moscow’s war machine.
Major-General Oleg Mityaev, 47, commander of the army’s 150th motorised rifle division, died fighting around the besieged city of Mariupol, Ukraine’s interior ministry said late Tuesday as officials released a photo of what they claimed was his corpse on the battlefield.
It marks the fourth Russian general that Ukraine claims to have taken out and the 13th officer overall, as Putin’s invading forces suffer heavy losses at the hands of dogged Ukrainian defenders.
Seven elite SWAT fighters from the feared Dzerzhinsky Division of Russia’s national guard were also revealed to have died in the fighting.
A mourning picture was released in Russia showing the photographs of six elite ‘maroon beret’ special forces fighters from the Vityaz Special Purpose Centre of the Dzerzhinsky Division, named after Soviet secret police founder Felix Dzerzhinsky. It was later revealed that a seventh had been slain.
Meanwhile respected test pilot Captain Alexander Garnaev quit a number of positions over the ‘completely incomprehensible’ war. ‘Sooner or later society will know the final number of losses [and] will be horrified,’ he added.
A Hero of Russia and Honoured Test Pilot, he launched a scathing attack on the way Ukrainian cities have been ‘bombed and crushed with tanks’.
Major-General Oleg Mityaev, 47 (left and right), has been killed by Ukrainian troops near Mariupol – Kyiv has said – marking the fourth Russian general they claim to have killed in three weeks of fighting
Seven members of an elite SWAT unit under the direct command of Vladimir Putin were revealed to have died fighting in Ukraine, with pictures of six of them arranged at a funeral service back in Russia (above)
Russia’s war casualties
Major General Andrei Kolesnikov: Commander of the 29th Combined Army Army
Major General Vitaly Gerasimov: First deputy commander of Russia’s 41st army who took part in operations in Syria and Crimea
Major General Andrei Sukhovetsky: Deputy commander of the 41st Combined Arms Army of the Central Military District killed during a special operation by a sniper
Major General Andrei Kolesnikov of the 29th Combined Arms Army was killed last week in another blow to the Kremlin
Major General Vitaly Gerasimov (left) was killed last week and was the first deputy commander of Russia’s 41st army. Major General Andrei Sukhovetsky (Right), 47, deputy commander of the 41st Combined Arms Army of the Central Military District, was also killed in Ukraine
Colonel Andrei Zakharov: Killed in a Ukrainian ambush near Kyiv
Lieutenant Colonel Dmitry Safronov: Leader of marine brigade killed after Ukrainian forces recaptured Chernihiv
Lieutenant Colonel Denis Glebov: Leader of air assault troops killed in Chernihiv
Colonel Konstantin Zizevsky: Leader of air assault troops killed in the south of Ukraine
Lieutenant Colonel Denis Glebov (left) and Lieutenant Colonel Dmitry Safronov (right) died in a battle in Chuhuiv and
Colonel Konstantin Zizevsky (left), who led air assault troops died in the south of Ukraine and Captain Alexey Glushchak (right), of the GRU intelligence service, who died fighting near Mariupol
General Magomed Tushaev: Chechen special forces leader killed in an ambush near Hostomel
Vladimir Zhonga: Leader of neo-Nazi Sparta Batallion backed by the Kremlin
Georgy Dudorov: Deputy commander of the reconnaissance company for the 137th regiment of the 106th Tula Guards Airborne Division
Aleksey Aleshko: Paratroop intelligence officer that was a graduate of the prestigious Ryazan Guards Higher Airborne School
Blunders early on in the campaign including poor planning and logistics that saw vehicles stall due to breakdowns, run out of fuel and get bogged down in mud are thought to be behind the eye-watering officer death toll – as commanders were forced to the front to fix the problems before being picked off by Ukrainians.
Moscow has remained tight-lipped about its losses in Ukraine, having only acknowledged the death of one general and around 500 men. Ukraine puts the figure at 13,500 troops including thousands of vehicles and tanks. Western estimates are slightly lower, between 2,000 and 6,000, but that would still amount to punishing losses for Putin.
To put the figures in context, it means Russian forces suffering the same casualties in three weeks of fighting in Ukraine as all US forces killed in Afghanistan and Iraq in two decades.
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 where the cost of victory – if he can still achieve it – may be too high to justify.
Among the elite SWAT troops to be killed was Major Viktor Maksimchuk, 44, commander of a motorised rifle regiment, who died fighting near Mariupol. A father and grandfather, his funeral is due today in Krasnodar region.
Mikhail Belyakov, a 30-year-old sergeant from Penza region, died fighting in Ukraine on February 27 with his death announced Tuesday. Belyakov, a father-of-two, was awarded the Order of Courage posthumously.
Also killed was Alexey Blinkov, a graduate of the Novosibirsk Institute of National Guard Troops. The fourth SWAT fighter to be named was Maxim Pustozvonov, a native of Samara region.
The body of another Russian soldier Aslanbek Mukhtarov was reported to have been found on the battlefield two-and-a-half weeks after he died. Air force pilot Captain Alexey Belkov was killed when his plane was downed.
Two others from the same city, Bratsk, in Siberia, who had been moved 3,500 miles to fight in the war – Ilya Kubik, 18, and Pyotr Tereshonok were also confirmed to have died as their funerals were held. ‘I bow my head before the valour of our soldiers and officers,’ said the city’s mayor.
Poor planning for Putin’s ‘special military operation’ – which appears to have included keeping many commanders and soldiers in the dark about the invasion until the last minute – is thought to have contributed to the high toll.
Captured Russian soldiers have recounted how they were told before going into Ukraine that the government had already fallen or was about to fall, and they were being sent in as liberators and to expect light resistance – only to run straight into Ukrainian forces armed with Western weapons and determined to fight them off.
That has led to reports of desertions, with Russian troops walking off the battlefield, surrendering with barely a fight, or wounding themselves in order to get out of combat. Others have reportedly refused to carry out orders.
Garnaev, speaking out against the war on Tuesday, also hinted at disquiet in the Russian ranks – saying it is ‘unbearable’ to watch the invasion unfold. ‘It is unbearable for me to see how much our men – including those I know personally – suffer,’ he said as he quit as chairman of the board of Russia’s Club of Heroes.
An apartment building in Kyiv takes heavy damage in the early hours of Wednesday after being struck by Russian artillery, as Putin’s forces continue to bombard the Ukrainian capital
Firefighters work to extinguish a blaze inside a Kyiv apartment block that was sparked after it was hit by a Russian rocket
Heavy damage is seen to the top floor of a Kyiv apartment block after it was struck by Russian artillery early on Wednesday
A plume of smoke rises into the morning sky as the sun rises over Kyiv, which has been under Russian bombardment for days
Two columns of smoke rise into the morning air in Kyiv, after another Russian artillery strike in the early hours
Amid the mounting death toll for Russia, there is increasing hope that some kind of peace deal can be struck in the coming weeks to either end or pause the fighting – allowing Ukraine to get much-needed humanitarian aid to besieged cities.
Volodymr Zelensky said on Wednesday peace talks with Russia were sounding ‘more realistic’ but more time was needed for any deal to be in the interests of Ukraine.
Zelensky made the early morning statement after his team said a peace deal that will end Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will be struck with Vladimir Putin within one or two weeks because Russian forces will run out of fresh troops and supplies by then.
‘The meetings continue, and, I am informed, the positions during the negotiations already sound more realistic. But time is still needed for the decisions to be in the interests of Ukraine,’ Zelenskiy said in a video address on Wednesday, ahead of the next round of talks.
Meanwhile Oleksiy Arestovich, one of Zelensky’s top aides, said the war would end within weeks and a peace deal struck when Putin’s troops run out of resources, but warned that Russia could bring in new reinforcements to bolster their attack, which could prolong the conflict further.
‘We are at a fork in the road now,’ said Arestovich. ‘There will either be a peace deal struck very quickly, within a week or two, with troop withdrawal and everything, or there will be an attempt to scrape together some, say, Syrians for a round two and, when we grind them too, an agreement by mid-April or late April.
‘I think that no later than in May, early May, we should have a peace agreement. Maybe much earlier, we will see.’
The assessment echoes that of UK defence sources who say that Kyiv has Moscow ‘on the run’ and the Russian army could be just two weeks from ‘culmination point’ – after which ‘the strength of Ukraine’s resistance should become greater than Russia’s attacking force.’ Advances across Ukraine have already stopped as Moscow’s manpower runs short.
Earlier, Zelensky said that Ukraine must accept it will not become a member of NATO – a statement that will be music to the ears of Vladimir Putin and could pave the way for some kind of peace deal between the warring nations.
Zelensky, who has become a symbol of resistance to Russia’s onslaught over the last 20 days, said on Tuesday that ‘Ukraine is not a member of NATO’ and that ‘we have heard for years that the doors were open, but we also heard that we could not join. It’s a truth and it must be recognised.’
His statement, while making no firm commitments, will be seen as further opening the door to some kind of peace deal between Ukraine and Russia after negotiators hailed ‘substantial’ progress at the weekend – without giving any idea what such a deal would look like.
Ahead of the invasion, Putin had been demanding guarantees that Ukraine would never be admitted to NATO along with the removal of all the alliance’s troops and weapons from ex-Soviet countries. After being rebuffed by Kyiv, Washington and NATO he launched his ‘special military operation’ to ‘demilitarise’ and ‘de-Nazify’ the country.
Russian negotiators have softened their stance a little since then, saying they want Ukraine to declare neutrality, disarm, recognise Crimea as part of Russia and recognise the whole of the Donbass as independent. Ukraine has been demanding a ceasefire and the immediate withdrawal of all Russian forces. Talks have been ongoing this week and Moscow has made no mention of wider demands on NATO in recent days.
The Ukrainians said the talks have included a broader agreement that would lead to the withdrawal of Russian troops, reports the Times.
Zelensky again urged Western allies to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine and deplored NATO’s refusal to do so thus far, adding that the dire situation in his country has ‘allowed us to see who our true friends are these past 20 days’.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has hailed progress in peace talks with Russia as losses mount, but said more time is needed to get a deal that is ‘in Ukraine’s interests’
Speaking to the Canadian Parliament, Zelensky said: ‘Can you imagine calling other friendly nations, and asking them ‘please close the sky, close the airspace, stop the bombing’. And in turn they express their deep concerns about the situation.
‘We talk to our partners and they say ‘please hold on a little longer’,’ Zelensky said. Military analysts have said a no-fly zone is unlikely because the U.S. and its allies believe it could escalate the war into a nuclear confrontation.
Meanwhile, talks aimed at ending Russia’s military attack on Ukraine face ‘fundamental contradictions’, while compromise is possible, a member of the Ukrainian delegation and presidential aide, Mykhailo Podolyak, said Tuesday.
‘We’ll continue tomorrow. A very difficult and viscous negotiation process. There are fundamental contradictions. But there is certainly room for compromise,’ Podolyak tweeted after talks resumed earlier in the day, with both sides having signalled progress. He said the talks will continue Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, another aide to Zelenskyy, Ihor Zhovkva, struck a more optimistic note, saying that the negotiations had become ‘more constructive’ and that Russia had softened its stand by no longer airing its demands that Ukraine surrender.
Any deal between Moscow and Kyiv would face a myriad of difficulties, including whether troops would honour a ceasefire and whether Russia could be trusted to keep its end of the bargain.
In a further escalation of Putin’s invasion, Russian troops seized a hospital in the city and are holding 500 Ukrainians hostage, using them as human shields.
Russian forces rounded up 400 people from houses neighbouring the seaport’s hospital number two, along with 100 doctors and patients who were already inside, and are refusing to let them leave, according to regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.
Conditions in other cities are also continuing to worsen. Shortly before Zelensky spoke, Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko put a three-day curfew in place in the capital – barring civilians from going outside and warning them to prepare for heavy bombardment by Putin’s men.
‘Today is a difficult and dangerous moment,’ Klitschko said in a statement on Telegram on Tuesday. ‘This is why I ask all Kyivites to get prepared to stay at home for two days, or if the sirens go off, in the shelters.’
Zelenskyy later said Russian air strikes hit four multi-story buildings in the city and killed dozens of people. The shelling ignited a huge fire in a 15-story apartment building and spurred a frantic rescue effort.
Putin’s stuttering invasion has forced even his close allies to admit, publicly, that things are not going to plan.
Russian National Guard chief Viktor Zolotov – once in charge of Putin’s personal security – admitted Tuesday that ‘not everything is going as fast as we would like’. But he still insisted Russia would achieve victory ‘step by step’.
Moscow has not captured any of Ukraine’s 10 biggest cities following its incursion that began on Feb. 24, the largest assault on a European state since 1945.
The Kremlin also said it may still opt to take control of large cities in Ukraine, despite false claims the purpose of its ‘special military operation’ is to ‘liberate’ the country.
But, as Russia’s invasion falters, its methods become more brutal – with cities increasingly coming under indiscriminate rocket fire. Kyiv, the capital, suffered another round of bombing on Tuesday morning as apartment blocks were set on fire by early-hours strikes.
Kharkiv came under attack again on Tuesday, with the city’s mayor saying that more than 600 buildings have been destroyed there since the start of Russia’s invasion.
‘Schools, nurseries, hospitals, clinics have been destroyed,’ said Mayor Ihor Terekhov in a televised interview on Tuesday. ‘The Russian army is constantly shelling (us) from the ground and the air.’
Ukrainian forces on Tuesday managed to repel the attack on Kharkiv, who tried to storm the city from their positions in Piatykhatky, a suburb 9 miles to the north, the head of the Kharkiv region said.
The Ukrainian army was able ‘to push the enemy back beyond its previous position,’ Oleh Synehubov said on the messaging app Telegram. He called it a ‘shameful defeat.’ There was no information about casualties on either side. But after dark, Russian forces increased their shelling of the eastern city, Ukraine’s second largest.
Ukraine’s military said four Russian helicopters, a jet, and a cruise missile were shot down by its forces which remained in control of all major cities – including the badly-hit southern port of Mariupol.