A ninth Russian colonel has been killed in Ukraine as Vladimir Putin’s losses continue to pile up since launching his invasion in February.
Colonel Alexander Bespalov – who led the 59th Guards Tank Regiment – was given a funeral in the central city of Ozersk on Friday.
No details have been given about his death after it was revealed in a now-deleted post on a local messaging board – but the commander’s demise follows the killing of eight other senior officers in the conflict.
Ukraine estimates that a further 19,000 rank and file Russian soldiers have been slain, although NATO puts the figure at somewhere between 7,000 and 15,000.
For context, the Soviet Union lost just five generals and 15,000 soldiers during ten years of fighting in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
A picture of Bespalov showed he was a highly decorated officer, with two rows of medals emblazoned on his chest.
Tributes were shared following the now-deleted announcement of his funeral on ‘Overheard Novogorny’ an online forum based in the Ozersk area.
One, purporting to be from the colonel’s sister Tatyana Karsakova said: “It is impossible to put into words what pain you feel when you lose a close and dear person. Dear brother, you will always be alive in our hearts.
A fellow officer said: “I did not know and did not meet a more worthy person who had the right to call himself an officer than my first commander Alexander Bespalov, who became my friend.
The colonel is the ninth commander to perish in what experts say is a brutal indictment of Moscow’s blundering invasion.
Several of the nine are thought to have been picked off after moving closer to the front line in a bid to shore up failing morale among soldiers finding themselves met with far deadlier resistance than they had been warned to expect.
Ukraine’s ability to target such commanders, meanwhile, is said to be because the invading army has been forced to use unencrypted communication channels, effectively exposing their locations to western intelligence.
Speaking about the attackers sheer losses, Oleksiy Arestovych, adviser to the head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, said on Friday that the country had tried to return the bodies of 3,000 regular troops to Russia early on in the war but Moscow had refused.
He told the Washington Post: “They said, ‘We don’t believe in such quantities. We don’t have this number. We’re not ready to accept them.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs has since set up a website and Telegram channel for Russians to search photos of the dead and prisoners of war.