Former Kremlin official has said that prior to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s partial mobilization order in September 2022, Russia’s Airborne Forces had lost up to half of their personnel.
Mikhail Zvinchuk, creator of the Rybar Telegram channel, and former Kremlin military press agent, was speaking on his state TV show.
An excerpt of the program was posted on Twitter by Dmitri, a member of War Translated, an independent project that translates materials about the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
“The creator of Rybar channel who now has a live TV program admits that Russian VDV forces lost 50% of personnel by September last year,” Dmitri tweeted, sharing a 27-second clip of the broadcast.
Zvinchuk addressed what he said are concerns that the Russian military’s elite airborne forces, known by the acronym VDV, are not being seen on the front line.
Russia’s airborne forces led units of the country’s military in the initial advance into Ukraine from Belarusian territory after Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
High casualties figures for the airborne forces were reported within weeks of the conflict starting.
“Unfortunately, this is the objective reality: by the start of mobilization, our airborne forces lost 40-50 percent of staff,” said Zvinchuk, according to captions provided by War Translated.
He added: “As of now, out of the old and tested formations with designated equipment, not that many are remaining.”
Russia rarely discloses figures for its war dead, and there are doubts about those that are provided. The Russian military says 5,937 of it troops had been killed in Ukraine as of September 2022, while Western estimates put the figure at about 100,000.
On September 21 Putin announced a “partial mobilization” that supposedly would target some 300,000 reservists and ex-military personnel with “certain military specialties and relevant experience.”
The Kremlin said on October 31 that the partial mobilization had ended. A U.S. think tank, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), has previously assessed that Russia is “covertly” mobilizing troops.
Many have observed that Putin may be preparing to announce a second mobilization drive.
The British defense ministry said on Monday that Russian authorities are “likely keeping open the option of another round of call-ups” under Putin’s “partial mobilization.”
The ISW similarly assessed earlier in January that Putin may be preparing to announce a second mobilization drive.
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