A Russian soldier says his unit was almost wiped out by Ukrainian fire and drones, with half killed on their first night in Kharkiv

A Russian soldier says his unit was almost wiped out by Ukrainian fire and drones, with half killed on their first night in Kharkiv
  • A Russian soldier has described heavy losses for his unit in Kharkiv, with only 12 of 100 remaining.

  • Russia launched a new front in Kharkiv on May 10, quickly capturing territory.

  • But the soldier's account adds to assessments that Russia has fumbled the offensive so far.

A Russian soldier has described the "massacre" of his comrades on Ukraine's Kharkiv front, saying only 12 of his 100-strong unit were left to fight.

Anton Andreev, speaking to the influential Russian Telegram channel Astra, said that half his unit had been killed on the first night of fighting in a key town.

The video interview was posted on June 2, around three weeks after Russia opened up a new front in the Kharkiv region in northern Ukraine.

Business Insider was unable to independently verify the video or its content.

Russia launched the attack on Kharkiv on May 10, with an estimated 30,000 troops taking advantage of ill-prepared Ukrainian defenses to quickly capture around 99 square miles of territory, reaching the strategic town of Vovchansk, some 28 miles northeast of Kharkiv city.

But Andreev said that after capturing one of Vovchansk's streets, his unit came under intense machine-gun fire and, targeted by drones, started taking heavy losses.

He claims his unit, the 5th company of the 1009th regiment, was sent forward armed only with machine guns and bulletproof vests, according to Astra.

"They just chop us up," he said, per The Guardian's translation.

"We are sent under machine guns, under drones in daylight, like meat. And commanders just shout 'forward and forward,'" he added.

The streets would seem quiet, but then "you get caught up in a massacre," he said.

Andreev was also critical of the military leadership who, he said, sent Russian soldiers to die "like meat."

Two days after Andreev's post, a Russian Telegram channel purporting to bring news to soldiers' families said that the 1009th regiment had been defeated. It also said another regiment refused to carry out orders.

The report was quickly dismissed as fake news by multiple state-friendly Russian outlets, who questioned the channel's origins and said that the Russian Ministry of Defence had not reported any such losses.

But Andreev's account, if confirmed, would give some weight to claims that Russian forces have been poorly equipped and supported in the offensive in Kharkiv.

Ukrainian forces have released a video that appears to show dozens of Russian soldiers surrendering in Vovchansk.

Experts told BI that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's May estimate of casualties in Kharkiv — that around eight times as many Russians were being killed as Ukrainians — was plausible.

Experts told BI last week that Russia had so far fumbled a golden opportunity in Kharkiv.

At the time of the initial Kharkiv advance, Ukraine was particularly stretched for both defenses and ammunition, which pressured it to move forces from its already-strained main front line.

The offensive has left some experts, like University of Bath military analyst Patrick Bury, commenting on "how little so far Russia has actually achieved."

Even so, Ukraine remains in a vulnerable position, and a broader and better-equipped Russian offensive in the north remains a possibility, RAND geopolitical strategist Ann Marie Dailey said.

Meanwhile, on June 7, White House National Security Communications Adviser John Kirby declared the Kharkiv attack as "all but over."

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