Advertisement

Pro-war Russian blogger who revealed huge Avdiivka losses dies by suicide

<span>A village near the Avdiivka frontline. Morozov said Russia had lost 16,000 soldiers during its months-long capture of the city.</span><span>Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images</span>
A village near the Avdiivka frontline. Morozov said Russia had lost 16,000 soldiers during its months-long capture of the city.Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

Andrey Morozov, a prominent pro-war Russian blogger, has reportedly died by suicide following outrage over a post in which he claimed that the Russian army lost 16,000 soldiers during the capture of the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka.

Morozov, who went by the pseudonym Murz on Telegram, was an ultra-nationalist commentator who fought alongside Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014 and participated in Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022.

On Sunday, Morozov wrote to his 120,000 followers on Telegram that Russia lost 16,000 personnel and 300 pieces of armour during its months-long capture of Avdiivka. The post drew heavy criticism from senior Russian propagandists, who accused the blogger of “slandering the Russian defence ministry”.

In Morozov’s final messages on Tuesday morning, he announced his suicide and said he was pressured by his superiors to delete the post detailing the number of casualties in Avdiivka. Several people close to Morozov on Tuesday confirmed his death, with some saying that he had shot himself.

Triggered in part by the rebellion by then-Wagner head Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Kremlin last year largely cracked down on voices such as Morozov, who once was part of a loud group of ultra-nationalist hawks who criticised Moscow over shortages of weapons and accused the Russian military leadership of hiding the true death toll among its forces.

Russia hides its war losses and the true casualty toll from its invasion of Ukraine remains a secret, though western officials believe the war has cost the country more than 315,000 dead and injured troops.

Avdiivka, which once had a population of 32,000, fell to Russia on Saturday, presenting Vladimir Putin with his biggest battlefield victory since Russian forces captured the city of Bakhmut in May 2023.

The city holds particular symbolism for Russia as it was taken in 2014 by Moscow-backed separatists who seized a swathe of eastern Ukraine but then recaptured by Ukrainian troops.

Russia’s manpower and artillery advantage overwhelmed Ukrainian forces in Adviivka, but Moscow appears to have incurred a staggering number of casualties during the offensive.

The UK Ministry of Defence earlier estimated in a military briefing that Russia lost at least “400 tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, and other hardware, as well as likely thousands of personnel” during the campaign to capture Avdiivka.

Ukraine said that more than 17,000 Russian soldiers were killed in the five months-long fight for Avdiivka, a figure that closely matches the estimates made by Morozov.

Ukraine too suffered heavily during the defence of the city.

Citing western officials, the New York Times on Tuesday reported that hundreds of Ukrainian troops may have been captured by Russian units during Ukraine’s retreat from the city.

Ukraine has blamed the fall of Avdiivka on US failure to approve a critical aid package, amid fears in Kyiv that Russia will press on with its offensive with Ukrainian troops short of shells and vulnerable to Russian airstrikes.

“We wouldn’t [have lost] Avdiivka if we had all the artillery ammunition that we needed to defend it. Russia does not intend to pause or withdraw. … Once Avdiivka is under their control, they undoubtedly will choose another city and begin to storm it,” Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said.

Putin on Tuesday said his troops would push further into Ukraine to build on their success on the battlefield.

“As for the overall situation in Avdiivka, this is an absolute success, I congratulate you. It needs to be built on,” Putin told his defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, in the Kremlin.