Russia’s Defense Ministry took the unusual step of denying claims by a Russian marine unit that it had lost hundreds of men and equipment in a futile offensive in eastern Ukraine.
The ministry was responding to an open letter by members of the 155th Marine Brigade of the Russian Pacific Fleet published by Russian military bloggers. Members of that brigade complained that they had launched an “incomprehensible” attack against Ukrainian forces southwest of Donetsk.
“As a result of the ‘carefully’ planned attack by the ‘great generals’, approximately 300 people were killed, injured or missing within four days. (And) we lost half our equipment,” the letter said.
The text was published by Gray Zone, a popular military blog, and on The Insider website. The letter was addressed to Oleg Kozemiako, governor of the eastern Primorskyi region, thousands of miles away from Ukraine, where the unit is based.
Kozemiako appeared to admit that the letter is genuine, but argued that the extent of actual losses reported by the letter’s authors is inflated.
“We contacted the commanders. Yes, there were casualties, heavy fighting took place, but these are far from what is written in this letter,” he said in a video posted on his Telegram channel.
In its statement, the Ministry of Defense rejected the allegation that the Marine unit suffered “a large number of needless losses of men and equipment”.
Instead, within a period of 10 days (the unit) advanced 5 kilometers into Ukrainian defense positions, the ministry said. The statement specifically denies that the brigade commanders demonstrated incompetence.
“Due to the skills of the unit commanders, Marine losses for the given period do not exceed 1% of the combat force and 7% of the wounded, a significant part of which has already returned to duty,” it says.
The rare such denial by Russia’s foreign ministry suggests the reported casualties have struck a chord in the ninth month of war in Ukraine, as Russian forces come under heavy pressure in partially occupied areas of Ukraine that Moscow has declared its own territory. -actions denounced as illegal by Kyiv, the countries of the West and most countries of the United Nations.
Russian military bloggers, some of whom have a following of half a million or more on social media, have become increasingly critical of Moscow’s general failures since Ukraine recaptured large swaths of the country’s northeast in September.
The letter from the Marine unit criticized commanders by name, calling them mediocrity who treat their men like “meat” and are only interested in advancing their own careers. Regional governor Kozemiako said he had sent material to the military prosecutor’s office for further examination. “In the conditions of information warfare, any post on social media needs control. I am sure that in any case the situation will be analyzed and the competent authorities will give their assessment”, he concluded.