From seven to fifteen according to estimates: this would be the number of senior officers who fell in battle in the Russian army. If Moscow recognizes only one, some criticize him for tactical migrations and lack of caution.
The scale of the Russian losses in Ukraine, although the numbers remain uncontrollable, naturally reached significant proportions, symbolized by a phenomenon observed from the first days of the conflict: the deaths of many generals and senior officers.
On Friday, Ukraine claimed to have killed the commander of Russia’s 49th Southern District Army, General Yakov Rezantsev, who it said was the seventh such officer since the start of the war. The death of Andrei Paliy, deputy commander of the Black Sea Fleet, was also confirmed in the battles around Mariupol by the governor of Crimea.
The adviser to Ukrainian President Mykhaïlo Podoliak last week described the “extraordinary” death rate among Russian officers, seeing it as a sign of “total unpreparedness” in the Moscow army. “Dozens of middle-ranking officers (lieutenants, captains, editor’s note) were killed,” he said. The media, citing Russian communications intercepted by the Ukrainians, has even mentioned his own soldiers’ murder of a Russian officer, agitated.
Only one general according to Moscow
Moscow, for its part, admitted the death of only one general. Some sources mention 15. Independent verifications are impossible at this stage. “I look at these numbers with great caution,” said Colin Clarke, research director at Soufan Center, a New York-based think tank. “But whether we are talking about five or fifteen, the very fact that they are losing generals shows that the Russian command and control chain is extremely weak.”
Although the former Red Army had a flattering reputation, it showed major weaknesses in the quality of its intelligence, its logistics, its tactical migrations. These weaknesses “force leaders to go very far on the lines of contact,” notes a senior French military official. He puts forward hypotheses: “Orders are misunderstood or poorly received, units do not obey, or there is a major moral problem that forces the generals to take the lead.” And that confirms a probable Ukrainian strategy. “When you want to disrupt a chain of command, you aim for heads.”
With a missile or a drone
On the ground, operational leaders can almost be identified with the naked eye, says Alexander Grinberg, an analyst at the Jerusalem Institute for Security and Strategy. The commander’s vehicle is recognizable on its “antennas and the other vehicles that protect it”. The Ukrainians can then “target it with an anti-tank missile or, even better, with an attack drone”. Western observers point out that the Kremlin does not pay much attention to human losses, and that Russian military culture, which is still marked by Soviet heritage, is traditionally dependent on its quantitative power.
“Numbers matter, especially senior officers,” says Colin Clarke. “That Putin is sacrificing conscripts and mercenaries as cannon fodder is one thing, but if the information is accurate” about these very high losses, “the information will reach public opinion and cause headaches for the public.” “Russian elite”.
Moscow does not comment on these issues. The fact that no denial is published is considered by some sources as a de facto confirmation. Leonid Volkov, a close ally of the detained opponent Alexei Navalny, noted that no Russian media had mentioned the funeral on March 16 of General Vitali Gerasimov, killed at the beginning of the conflict. He will be buried without his name on his grave, he said.