Russian President Vladimir Putin has lost his ninth colonel as tank commander becomes the latest senior Russian officer to be killed in the ongoing Ukraine war
A funeral was held for Colonel Alexander Bespalov on Friday in the closed Russian city of Ozersk, according to a local announcement, which said he was killed ‘during a special military operation in Ukraine.’ a term used by Moscow to avoid saying ‘war’.
The statement said Bespalov was the commander of the 59th Guards Tank Regiment, and become the latest senior Russian military officer to be killed in the war that has seen Kyiv’s forces surprise exerts with their fierce resistance.
In addition, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence estimates that Russia has sent more than 19,000 troops to their deaths. Meanwhile, thousands of Moscow’s soldiers have retreated from the Kyiv region to refocus Russia’s military efforts on eastern Ukraine.
However, a senior U.S. defense official said Friday that the Pentagon has determined that some of the Russian combat units that retreated from the Kyiv area in recent days are so heavily damaged and depleted that their combat utility is in question.
Some analysts have suggested that the focus on the Donbas and the pledge to de-escalate may merely be an effort to put a positive spin on reality: Moscow’s ground forces have been thwarted – and have taken heavy losses – in their bid to seize the capital and other major cities.
The Kremlin has a policy of playing down military casualties with a 2015 decree declaring all deaths in conflict a state secret, and last year any statement discrediting the military were criminalised.
The announcement of his funeral has since been deleted. Ozersk is a closed Russian city, meaning travel in and out is heavily restricted.
One tribute, from the colonel’s sister, said: ‘It is impossible to put into words what pain you feel when you lose a close and dear person,’ Tatyana Karsakova, wrote. ‘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, whose family I was closely acquainted with.’