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Hundreds of Russian marines killed near Vuhledar and new shipments of surface-to-air systems. What’s happening on the front line in Ukraine?

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“Great commanders” and hundreds of dead Russian marines

On the evening of November 6, the Russian Pacific Fleet’s 155th Separate Guards Marine Brigade was revealed to be in critical condition. The soldiers stationed near Pavlivka (a village in the Marinka district of the Donetsk Region of Ukraine) in the Vuhledar area handed the governor of Russia’s Primorye a letter complaining about the command and asking him to send a commission to stop an ill-planned and unprepared attack on the Ukrainian army’s positions.

Losses of the Russian Pacific Fleet’s 155th Marine Brigade documented by drones of the 72nd AFU Brigade
Losses of the Russian Pacific Fleet’s 155th Marine Brigade documented by drones of the 72nd AFU Brigade

The letter was published in full in the Wagner PMC-affiliated Telegram channel “Grey Zone.” The Russian servicemen wrote that the 155th Brigade had lost 300 men killed, wounded and missing in action in 4 days of the offensive, and lost 50% of its equipment. Here’s an excerpt from that document:

“Once again we were thrown into an unexplainable offensive by General Muradov and his fellow countryman Akhmedov – for the sake of Muradov earning bonuses before [General Staff Chief Valery] Gerasimov. Muradov promised Akhmedov a ‘hero of Russia’ award. As a result, we and the Kamchatka Marines are advancing on Pavlivka. As a result of the ‘carefully’ planned offensive by our ‘great commanders’ we lost about 300 men killed, wounded and missing in 4 days, in addition to 50% of our equipment. That’s only our brigade. <...>
When will mediocrities like Muradov and Akhmedov stop planning military operations for the sake of their reports and awards at the cost of so many lives? They don’t care about anything other than showing off. They call people meat.”
Losses of the Russian Pacific Fleet’s 155th Marine Brigade
Losses of the Russian Pacific Fleet’s 155th Marine Brigade

On November 7, Primorye’s governor Oleg Kozhemyako admitted to the losses sustained by the 155th brigade during the “brutal attack” on Vuhledar, adding that the data on the loss of 300 men were “greatly exaggerated” (the day prior, Kozhemyako claimed that information about the losses could have been “planted by the Ukrainian special services”).

A few hours later, the Russian Ministry of Defense officially claimed that the losses of the 155th Brigade Marines didn’t exceed 1% of the combat personnel – all “due to the competent actions of the commanders.” The following is an excerpt from the ministry's official statement:

“Units of the 155th Marine Brigade of the Pacific Fleet have been carrying out effective offensive actions in the direction of Vuhledar for over 10 days. Due to the competent actions of the unit commanders, the Marines’ losses during that period didn’t exceed 1% of the total combat strength and 7% of the wounded, most of whom have already returned to service.
Meanwhile, enemy losses along the brigade’s line of contact are, on average, 7 to 1, and in some areas 9 to 1, in both manpower and equipment.”

Following that statement, the “Grey Zone” Telegram channel showed footage of the destruction of the Russian army with the caption “1%”:

Another similar video taken by AFU drones was published by military analyst Yigal Levin.

“And this is what the rout of the 155th Marine Brigade of the Russian Navy looks like from the drones of the 72nd AFU Brigade. The occupants climbed into a minefield and then they were polished off with artillery,” the video description reads.

The Grey Zone channel also drew attention to the implausibility of the Russian Ministry of Defence's version:

“The commanders are competent to the point of being able to change the almost ironclad statistics of combined arms battles, where the army on the offensive takes 3 times as many casualties as the one on the defensive (which is normal) – [according to them] we have an enemy on the defensive taking 7-9 times as many casualties as those attacking them.

The disgruntled reports on Marine losses and optimistic statements by the Ministry of Defense were published not only by the Wagner PMC, but also by other pro-Russian channels (such as that of blogger Anastasia Kashevarova with more than 200,000 subscribers or the “War Whistleblower” Telegram channel, which counts over 500,000 subscribers).

Mobilization complicates Ukrainian counter-offensive

Despite reports of riots by disgruntled draftees, despite information about their destruction by entire battalions, despite news of special camps where those who refuse to fight are sent – and finally, despite experts' predictions that mobilization would not help Putin change the course of the war – the situation on the ground has shown that the Ukrainian counteroffensive has partially slowed down. Here's how military expert Sergei Grabsky explained it to The Insider:

The mobilized Russians may be playing the role of a “viscous material” delaying the Ukrainian army. The mobilized are not yet fully equipped with equipment and weapons. There’s a mass of soldiers present, but it isn’t capable of any offensive action in the near future. The task of this mass is now to stop or delay the advance of Ukrainian troops – they’re not coping with that task too well right now, as there’s parity in terms of artillery, in the Kherson area in particular.

But it’s still easier to defend and keep stats in a trench. Ukraine doesn’t have enough artillery to carry out massive strikes. It’s physically impossible to provide the level of firepower with the available means, so having more men in the trenches slows down the advance. This mass of Russian troops, which counts up to 30 battalion tactical groups, is forcing Ukrainian troops into this defence and getting stuck in it. They’re being mowed down, but there are simply too many of them. Processing this mass requires serious effort, so the intensity is high. In addition to that, they’re defending themselves.

Note: As of today, according to Vladimir Putin, close to 80,000 mobilised Russians have been deployed to the so-called “special military operation” zone. Close to 50,000 draftees are taking part in combat operations.

Arms deliveries to Ukraine

Ukraine received the latest NASAMS and Aspide surface-to-air missile (SAM) defense systems as part of the country’s latest military aid package on November 7, tweeted Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov:

“These weapons will significantly strengthen #UAarmy and will make our skies safer. We will continue to shoot down the enemy targets attacking us.Thank you to our partners: Norway, Spain and the US.”

The NASAMS (Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System) is a Norwegian-American medium-range (up to 50 km) surface-to-air missile system capable of shooting down helicopters, drones, aircraft and cruise missiles.

Here's how military expert Leonid Dmitriev commented on these deliveries in a conversation with The Insider:

Ukraine now needs anything that can shoot down flying targets. Any systems in any quantity are essential in protecting the army and civilian infrastructure from shelling, so the NASAMS is most welcome. After the war, the entire range of air defense systems will have to be revised, as so many different systems complicate logistics and create confusion and difficulties with the maintenance and training of crews. But, as of today, that doesn't matter. If the world had hundreds or thousands of NASAMS instead of tens of them, that would be much better [for Ukraine], but now [Ukraine] has to grapple with the Aspide too – they’re all essential, every day.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian TV presenter and volunteer Serhiy Prytula posted a video of the “people's Bayraktars,” bought with donations to his fund:

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