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A 'baffling' offensive in Pavlivka Russian marines allege their unit lost 300 people in just four days. Their commanders deny, deny, deny.
In late October, near the village of Pavlivka in the annexed part of Ukraine’s Donetsk region, heavy fighting broke out between Russian and Ukrainian forces. On November 5, the Russian Defense Ministry reported that it had “defeated" Ukrainian forces on the southern Donetsk front; the following day, however, multiple Russian “war correspondents” posted a message from marines in the 155th Brigade of Russia's Pacific Fleet who took part in the offensive. The marines alleged that their unit had lost approximately 300 people and half of their equipment in just four days. They asked Oleg Kozhemyako, governor of Russia’s Primorsky Krai, to conduct an independent investigation into the actions of the officers responsible for the failed operation and for the heavy losses.
On November 6, Alexander Sladkov, a correspondent for the state-owned broadcaster Russian Television and Radio, wrote on Telegram that marines from Russia’s 155th Brigade had endured “pointless” manpower and equipment losses. He said that the men had reached out to Primorsky Krai Governor Oleg Kozhemyako and requested that he communicate the losses to Russia’s top military command so that an on-site commission could “urgently investigate the situation.”
Later, the Wagner-PMC-linked Telegram channel Grey Zone posted the full statement. In it, the marines allege that they were sent into a “baffling” offensive so that General Rustam Muradov would “earn bonuses” with Russian Army General Staff Chief Valery Gerasimov and so that Muradov’s “buddy,” [Zurab] Akhmedov, would be given the title Hero of Russia.
According to the marines, the offensive caused the 155th Brigade to lose half of their military equipment and approximately 300 people, including injuries, deaths, and disappearances, in just four days. They noted that those numbers only cover losses in their brigade, and that the total number of Russian losses resulting from the offensive could be higher.
The marines said that their commanders were counting on capturing Pavlivka by “slipping through” Ukraine’s positions, but that this ultimately caused the men to get trapped in a “kill zone.” Because the commanders are afraid to take responsibility for the failed maneuver, the marines alleged, they proceeded to “conceal and suppress” official data on the losses.
“We ask [Governor Kozhemyako] to reach out to the Supreme [Commander-in-Chief] to send a commission not from the Defense Ministry, where Gerasimov is protecting Muradov, but an independent one. Let them ask about the purpose of this operation, the preparations, and the results — without sugarcoating,” wrote the marines.
In response, Primorsky Krai Governor Oleg Kozhemyako said that he had contacted the brigade’s commanders and they had confirmed that there was heavy fighting going on around Pavlivka, but that they called the marines’ reports of high losses “significantly exaggerated.” He also said he had passed on the marines’ request to the military prosecutor so that “a separate analysis can be conducted for each of these cases.” The Russian news outlet Agentstvo has noted that this was Kozhemyako’s second response to the marines — his initial response was to suggest that their report might be “disinformation from Ukrainian intelligence services.”
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Telegram Monday that the losses sustained by the 155th Brigade over more than 10 days have not exceeded 1 percent of personnel, adding that the marines “are continuing their offensive in the assigned area of responsibility until the combat mission’s full completion.”
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