Steep Russian casualties in key battles in eastern Ukraine have prompted an unusual public outcry — and sharp criticism of military commanders — by surviving soldiers and family members of recently conscripted fighters, who say their units were led to slaughter in poorly planned operations.
The uproar over battlefield losses near Vuhledar in the Donetsk region prompted an official statement from the Russian Defense Ministry, which sought to play down the reportedly high death toll among soldiers in the 155th Separate Guards Marine Brigade, which led Moscow’s offensive in the area.
It was the first time since the start of Russia’s invasion that the ministry has officially responded to reports of mass casualties and criticism of commanders on Telegram, the main platform used by officials as well as by reporters and bloggers covering the Russian war.
Criticizing the war — or even calling it a war rather than a “special military operation” — is illegal in Russia. But the Kremlin in recent months has tolerated criticism of the military’s poor performance by pro-war hawks who back the invasion, including some demanding even more brutal tactics in Ukraine. [Continue reading…]