Though the total number of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine remains in the debate – with the Kremlin suggesting just slightly more than 5,000 soldiers have lost their lives since it launched its “special military operation” in February. By contrast, Ukraine has claimed that upwards of 57,000 Russians have been killed or wounded, and western analysts now believe the number is actually on the higher side.
What is also well-established is that a number of high-ranking Russian military personnel have been killed, even as the total number remains disputed. This week, it was reported that Colonel Boris Totikov, head of the automobile service of guards military unit No. 74268, along with Captain Oleg Lebedev were laid to rest in the Russian city of Ryazan.
Totikov was apparently killed in an HIMARS MLRS strike on the headquarters of the Russian invaders in the town of Izyum in Kharkiv Oblast, just ahead of the counter-offensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine near Balakliya. The news of Totikov’s death was reported by Ukrainian journalist Yuriy Butusov.
“It was the headquarters of the 35th combined army that was responsible for commanding the troops in this area – the breakthrough occurred in their area,” the journalist said in a Telegram messenger post on Sept. 26, adding, “And now, as we can see, there are reasons to say that the Russian command suffered significant losses in this area. The chief of missile troops and artillery is one of the key elements in modern warfare. Now it is clear that the defeat of the Russians was largely connected with the loss of control and the accurate determination by Ukrainian intelligence of the location of Russian headquarters and their precise defeat.”
Rob Lee, of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, also confirmed the death of the two officers, tweeting, “Colonel Boris Totikov was the chief of Missile Troops and Artillery in the 35th Combined Arms Army. He and Captain Oleg Lebedev of the VDV’s 234th Air Assault Regiment were killed in Ukraine.”
HIMARS Doing the Job in Ukraine
In June, President Joe Biden announced a $700 million drawdown package for Ukraine. As part of the aid for Kyiv, the United States Department of Defense (DoD) included four M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), which are capable of launching multiple, precision-guided rockets.
In addition, the DoD included Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (GMLRS) that have a range of striking targets more than 40 miles away.
The HIMARS, which was developed by defense giant Lockheed Martin, is largely seen as one of the most effective mobile rocket launch systems currently in service in the world today. It is essentially a rocket launcher that is mounted on the back of a dedicated truck. Unlike, towed artillery, which needs to be set up and then fired, the HIMARS is self-propelled and can allow the vehicle to drive away immediately after firing.
This provides both range and mobility and enables quick strikes while avoiding retaliation from the enemy.
Latest Officer Killed in Ukraine
The exact number of Russian officers killed remains unclear, but some reports suggest the number may be as high as 317. In addition, at least a dozen general officers have been killed in the fighting, along with an equal number of colonels. Simply put, Russia had lost military leaders in Ukraine at an astonishing rate in the early stages of the fighting.
Troops and equipment are difficult enough for any military to replace, but command leadership is something that takes time to train. These were experienced soldiers, and all were reportedly combat veterans, so their loss has been a devastating blow to Russia’s war effort.
Still, of the thousands – possibly even tens of thousands – of Russian dead, most are in the ranks. That suggests the Kremlin of now, much like in World War II, cares little for the lives of its soldiers and is willing to see high casualities to achieve victory. This time, however, the losses mount, while victory remains elusive.
A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.