A ninth Russian colonel has been killed in Ukraine as Vladimir Putin’s casualties continue to pile up since his invasion began in February.
Colonel Alexander Bespalov – who led the 59th Guards Tank Regiment – was buried in downtown Ozersk on Friday.
No details were given of his death after it was revealed in a now-deleted post on a local news board – but the commander’s death follows the killing of eight other senior officers in the conflict.
Ukraine estimates another 19,000 Russian rank and file soldiers were killed, although NATO puts the number at somewhere between 7,000 and 15,000.
For comparison, the Soviet Union lost only five generals and 15,000 soldiers during the ten years of fighting in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
A picture of Bespalov showed that he was a highly decorated officer, with two rows of medals emblazoned across his chest.
Tributes were shared on Overheard Novogorny – an online forum based in the Ozersk region – following the now-deleted announcement of his funeral.
One, said to be from the colonel’s sister, Tatyana Karsakova, said: “It is impossible to put into words the pain one feels when losing someone close and dear. Dear brother, you will always live in our hearts.”
A fellow officer said: “I did not know and met 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 die in a brutal charge against Moscow’s reckless invasion.
Several of the nine are believed to have been shot down after they neared the front line to help slacking morale among the soldiers, who were encountering far more deadly resistance than they had anticipated.
Ukraine’s ability to target such commanders, meanwhile, is said to be due to the invading army being forced to use unencrypted communications channels, effectively exposing their locations to Western intelligence agencies.
Discussing the sheer casualties suffered by the attackers, Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, said on Friday that the country tried to bring the bodies of 3,000 regular troops to Russia early in the war, but Moscow refused .
He told the Washington Post: “They said, ‘We don’t believe in amounts like that. We don’t have that number. We are not ready to accept them.”
Ukraine’s Interior Ministry has since set up a website and Telegram channel for Russians to look for photos of the dead and prisoners of war.