Putin loses 100th colonel as US says 80,000 Russian soldiers dead or wounded

Putin loses 100th colonel as US says 80,000 Russian soldiers dead or wounded

Vladimir Putin has now lost at least 100 colonels in the war in Ukraine. According to US figures, up to 80,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded in the fighting.

Lt. Col. Vitaly Tsikul, 36, and a tank commander, was pronounced dead by Russian media showing footage of his funeral, which took place in the central Russia town of Chebarkul.

His death became known when Colin Kahl, the third-highest official at the Pentagon, said as many as 80,000 Russian soldiers had been killed in less than six months of the war.

Lieutenant Colonel Vitaly Tsikul

Lt. Col. Vitaly Tsikul, 36, and a tank commander, died in combat somewhere in Ukraine last month, with his death confirmed in recent days when his funeral was held

That means about half of the 150,000 to 190,000 men Putin is said to have assembled on the Ukrainian border before the war have been removed from the battlefield.

Kahl said the estimate was “quite remarkable” considering that “the Russians failed to achieve any of Putin’s goals early in the war.”

He added: “Russia’s overarching goal was to overrun the entire country, bring about regime change in Kyiv and wipe out Ukraine as an independent, sovereign and democratic nation. None of that happened.’

His estimate is roughly in line with that of a Democratic congresswoman briefed on the war last week, who said “at least” 75,000 Russian soldiers were killed or injured.

This number is believed to include thousands of Ukrainians drafted into the army from occupied territories and thousands more mercenaries linked to the Wager military group.

Russia is also believed to have conscripted soldiers from Syria to fight and has launched a recruitment campaign for new “volunteer battalions” in recent weeks.

Pre-bonus wages of up to £3,400 a month are reportedly being offered to combat-ready officers, with private individuals having pledged £2,400 – a fortune for those living in the poorer regions of Russia or Donbass, where recruitment is said to be concentrated.

Tsikul, a married father of two, was buried in his hometown of Chebarkul in central Russia in recent days, with his funeral covered by Russian media

Tsikul, a married father of two, was buried in his hometown of Chebarkul in central Russia in recent days, with his funeral covered by Russian media

Tsikul served in the 90th Russian Armored Division in Russia's Central Military District before his death in Ukraine.  Where and how he died is unclear

Tsikul served in the 90th Russian Armored Division in Russia’s Central Military District before his death in Ukraine. Where and how he died is unclear

Tsikul served in the 90th Russian Armored Division in Russia’s Central Military District before his death in Ukraine.

A married father of two, he received all military honors at his funeral, which was held at an Orthodox church in Chebarkul.

Tsikul was killed last month, but details of his funeral have only emerged after his body was repatriated.

Russia is often reluctant to send bodies home to hide the true toll of the war.

It’s not exactly clear how or where in Ukraine Tsikul met his end.

Although Putin has suffered a large number of casualties in Ukraine, he has neither officially declared war nor initiated a general mobilization of the Russian population.

That’s probably because he fears an uprising by ordinary Russians against his increasingly authoritarian leadership.

Instead, he largely relies on conscripts from Russia’s poorer or most remote regions, conscripts from occupied Ukraine, volunteers, and mercenaries to fight for him.

Putin's Ukraine offensive has largely stalled, and Ukraine is now striking back - including apparent missile attacks on Crimea today

Putin’s Ukraine offensive has largely stalled, and Ukraine is now striking back – including apparent missile attacks on Crimea today

It is believed that tens of thousands of new recruits from these areas have been thrown onto the front lines since the beginning of the war, often with little training, poor equipment and the information that they would not be sent to combat.

That has helped ratchet up Russia’s casualties and also means that its attacks have made little headway in recent weeks.

Moscow’s offensive in eastern Ukraine has largely stalled after capturing most of Luhansk province, with several major cities still standing between Putin’s men and their goal of taking all of Donbass.

Meanwhile, a counterattack is underway in the southern Kherson region, which Ukrainian officials have predicted will be back under their control by September.

And today, around a dozen explosions hit Crimea, which Russia has occupied since 2014 and which Putin considers his own territory.

Ukraine has not commented on the attack, although there is little doubt that it was orchestrated by Kyiv. Russia says it is “investigating”.

If confirmed, it would be the first major attack in Crimea since 2014.

The peninsula lies far behind the front line, and Ukraine is not known to possess weapons that can reach that far.

This means that saboteurs were either able to mount a bold attack behind enemy lines, or Kyiv was equipped with long-range missiles, as its western allies have previously admitted.

The likely candidate is ATACMS, a long-range ballistic missile-like missile that can be launched from the rear of HIMARS or M270 multiple-missile systems.

Calls for the weapons to be shipped to Ukraine have been growing louder in recent weeks, but President Biden had previously ruled out sending them – saying he would not supply weapons with the range to hit mainland Russia.