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Russian losses in Ukraine almost at 25,000; Russian frigate reportedly struck and on fire

In the 11th week of Russian invasion of Ukraine, the aggressors’ losses continue to mount, while comparably little pay-off for the bloodletting is visible, and the frontline appears to have stabilised. The awareness of what is going on in Ukraine appears to seep into the minds of the Russian people and dissent mounts among the soldiers and civilians alike.

According to the data of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on May 6, the estimated losses inflicted by the Ukrainian defenders on the forces of the Russian aggressors have now reached 24,900 troops, 200 within the previous 24 hours.

These are the indicative estimates of Russia’s combat losses as of May 6, according to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) May 6, 2022

While the losses in terms of manpower are estimates and they do not specify whether the casualties were killed or wounded, the losses in terms of material are much more accurate. The losses inflicted include at least 15 confirmed air targets, specifically 14 Orlan drones and one Su-30SM fighter jet.

Russia’s Black Sea flagship destroyed by Ukrainian forces

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Even more importantly, there are reports that a Russian frigate Admiral Makarov has been struck by Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missiles late at night on May 5 near the now-famous Snake Island. Neptune missiles were also responsible for sinking the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet’s flagship, the Moskva in mid-April. Unlike the Soviet-era Moskva, the Petrel-class Admiral Makarov is a modern ship that was launched in late 2017.

A reportedly fire broke out on board as a result of the missile strike. Nearby ships are coming to the rescue of the crew and rescue helicopters have been dispatched from their bases in the Russian-occupied southern Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

Mounting dissent among Russian people

Russian media are tightly controlled by Putin’s Kremlin regime, and the narrative that is peddled to the Russian people is completely different from what the rest of the World sees. According to the Kremlin, there is no “war” in Ukraine, merely a “special military operation”, intended to “demilitarise and denazify” Ukraine. Attempting to state otherwise may land one in prison for up to 15 years for spreading “disinformation”.

‘They are lying to us’: father of deceased Russian sailor

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But what was supposed to be a hike ending with a grand victory parade in the streets of Kyiv for the conquering invaders, has turned into a bloody slogfest. And even though Russian state-media have been moulding the minds of the Russian people for over two decades of Putin’s rule, the mounting casualties are causing some of the people to wake up to the horrendous reality of the actual situation, especially if their sons, husbands, and brothers have the conscience to let them know what is going on. Or if they have been taken prisoner, killed, or went missing-in-action.

One of the greatest single losses of life for the Russian military was probably the aforementioned sinking of the Moskva cruiser. Initially, the official line of the Kremlin was that the entire crew was evacuated, although this story was later changed to admitting that there was a minor loss of life and some wounded among the approximately 500-men-strong crew.

A father of a sailor who died in the sinking of the Moskva confronted the authorities about his son’s, Yegor’s, fate. When Dmitry Shkrebets’s appeals to learn the truth was dismissed, he published a heart-breaking appeal on the Russian-language vKontakte social network, pleading. His vK account was eventually deleted. But the authorities eventually did respond to him. According to Christo Grozev, an independent journalist working with the grassroots Bellingcat investigative journalism platform, Mr Shkrebets received a letter from THE MILITARY PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE, in which he is informed that his son has not reported for duty after the sinking, implying that he is not merely missing-in-action, but that he is a deserter.

Remember the father of the "missing at sea" soldier? He got this response from RU's military prosecution, claiming his son simply failed to report for duty without notice after "extraordinary circumstances brought the demise" of the ship "not involved in the special military op"

— Christo Grozev (@christogrozev) May 6, 2022

As the truth of the war inevitably reaches the Russian people, who realise that the lives of their loved ones’ are at stake in a gamble which Putin is losing, dissent begins to grow. Numerous reports of fires set to key infrastructure, such as fuel depots, chemical plants and bridges, located deep within Russian Federation’s territory are reported. It is not possible to determine with utmost certainty whether these actions were perpetrated by Ukrainian infiltrators, are a part of some Russian false-flag operation meant to justify a formal declaration of war (which is unlikely, considering the importance of the targets), or are performed by Russian anti-war activists.

But there are reports, supported by video evidence, of even non-strategic pieces of infrastructure being targets of attack, like an individual throwing Molotov cocktails at the local military draft office’s building in the trans-Urals town of Khanty-Mansiysk:

Video from @bazabazon showing a Molotov cocktail attack against a military recruitment office in Nizhnevartovsk, a city in Russia’s Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug. At least seven bottles.

— Kevin Rothrock (@KevinRothrock) May 4, 2022

Such attacks are much more likely to have been conducted by Russians opposing the possibility of draft, or of the invasion of Ukraine in general. Similarly to a fire that, according to Russian dissident Ilya Ponomarev, the only Russian MP to have voted against the annexation of Crimea and currently living in Ukraine, caused the destruction of several vehicles parked in front of the Federal Security Service’s (FSB’s) office in the Moscow Region, which surrounds the capital:

Сегодня ночью горели машины, принадлежащие сотрудникам Центра специального назначения ФСБ в Московской области.

Неужели в России началось партизанское движение?

— Ilya Ponomarev (@iponomarev) May 3, 2022

Russian Chief of General Staff wounded in Ukraine: media reports

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Not only are the Russian civilians increasingly antsy about the ongoing “special military situation” in Ukraine. The Russian armed forces are also suffering from extreme fatigue and under-supply due to the Ukrainian strategy to target supply convoys meant to deliver fuel for the equipment and other necessities, including food, which reduced the Russian troops to looting shops and expropriating food from the locals.

But more importantly, the Russians are reportedly beginning to avoid getting into combat with the Ukrainians whenever they can help it. According to the spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force, Yuriy Ihnat, Russian aircraft avoid flying into airspace controlled by Ukrainian Air Force or where they know it is well-defended by Ukrainian anti-aircraft batteries. “[The Russians] only operate where they managed to dislocate their own air defence, that is in the Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kherson regions,” said Mr. Ihnat. In his estimation these air tactics were put in effect several weeks ago, after the initial massive losses suffered by Russians. As of now, Ukrainians have reportedly shot down 199 aeroplanes and 155 helicopters of the aggressor’s forces.

What is more impressive, considering the authoritarian nature of the Russian state, soldiers have even begun to take the state to court. A group of 25 military men, who have been dismissed from service after refusing to go and fight in Ukraine, has filed a lawsuit against the top commanding officer of their military district over their dismissal.

According to Pavel Chikov, a Russian lawyer and human-rights activist, further similar lawsuits are pending, and anything between 20 and 40 percent of the military are unwilling to fight in Ukraine, including the Russian National Guard (Rosgvardiya), a branch of the armed forces responsible DIRECTLY to the head of state, in the current situation, Mr. Putin.

Speculations abound as to what will happen on May 9. The day is celebrated with great pomp and circumstance in Russia (as well as several post-Soviet states) to mark the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two. In Russia, the anniversary of German capitulation is always accompanied by a grand military parade held on Moscow’s Red Square, in front of the Kremlin.

But since the apparent goal of achieving a quick victory over Ukraine failed to materialise, speculations abound as to what will happen on May 9. There are several options, some of which include a formal, albeit illegal under international law, annexation of the Donetsk and Luhansk Regions in the east of Ukraine into the Russian Federation, and the south Ukrainian region of Kherson, almost entirely under Russian occupation at present, as well.

Another possibility is the Russian dictator will formally declare war against Ukraine. While Russia officially is not at war at present, a formal declaration of war would allow for drafting of men of military age into the army to send them to fight the losing battle in Ukraine. So far, the Kremlin was reduced to using backhanded ploys, such as summoning reservists to “military drills”, but then sending them to fight in Ukraine. But in the current situation, even the Russian people would not fall for that.

According to Kamil Geleev, a political analyst, journalist and independent researcher working with the Wilson Centre, there is a chance (1 in 5, in his estimate) that Putin will decide to formally declare war on Ukraine. But Mr. Galeev also says that it would be a massive mistake: while the apathetic and easily-led Russian society is willing to accept the illusion of not-being at war, mass conscription would cause mass dissent. More importantly, it would cause dissent in people who are unwilling to fight a foreign war, but who would now be armed, leading to a possibly revolutionary situation.

If Mr. Galeev’s assessment is correct, that would be the most impressive achievement of the Putin regime. It took Tsar Nicholas II 2.5 years of World War One to bring down the Romanovs’ Russian empire. If Putin managed to bring about a revolution in just 2.5 months of war against Ukraine, he will certainly go down in history. Although, probably not in the way he would want to be remembered…

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