Vladimir Putin has lost yet another high-ranking military officer amid bitter fighting in Ukraine as his forces suffer a series of humiliating setbacks.
Lieutenant Colonel Pavel Kislyakov, 40, was buried today with full military honours in his hometown in Moscow region.
Kislyakov, commander of a prestigious unit of Russian paratroopers, is the 57th colonel to have been killed since Putin ordered his troops over the border on February 24.
No details have been given about where in Ukraine he was killed – but his death highlights the appalling losses of high-ranking officers suffered by Russia.
The war, which has now raged for more than four months, has also seen the slaying of at least 11 Russian generals – though the true death toll may be higher given the tendency of Russian authorities to conceal its death tolls.
It comes as fresh footage from the Ukrainian military showed how its soldiers deployed an M777 howitzer long-range artillery weapon to obliterate a Russian base.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported Russia has lost about 35,600 personnel, 1,573 tanks, 3,726 armoured combat vehicles, 790 artillery units, 246 multiple launch rocket systems, 104 air defence systems, 217 warplanes, 185 helicopters, 641 drones, 143 cruise missiles, 14 warships, and 2,602 motor vehicles and fuel tankers since the invasion began.
Pavel Kislyakov, commander of a prestigious unit of Russian paratroopers, is the 57th colonel to have been killed since Putin ordered his troops over the border on February 24
Kislyakov, 40, was buried today with full military honours in his hometown in Moscow region
Stonefaced Russian servicemen stand to attention at the military funeral of Colonel Kislyakov who was buried today after being killed in action on the frontlines in Ukraine
This is the moment shells fired by an M777 howitzer slammed into a Russian base and warehouse of military vehicles
The Ukrainian Centre for Strategic Communications (StratCom) said in a statement yesterday: ‘Three howitzers (M777) on the occupiers’ armoured vehicles, headquarters and warehouse’
The Ukrainian military said they used British-made M777 howitzers to destroy the Russian base – though this information could not be independently verified
Biden reveals ramp-up in US forces in Europe
The US will ramp up its forces and equipment across Europe to respond to threats coming from Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, U.S. President Joe Biden announced during a NATO summit in Madrid.
POLAND: The US will permanently station the V Corps Headquarters Forward Command, an Army garrison headquarters, and a field support battalion in Poland, making these the first permanent US forces on NATO’s eastern flank.
ROMANIA: Washington will position a rotational Brigade Combat Team in Romania. It will complement the other Brigade Combat Teams stationed and operating in Europe.
BALTIC REGION: US will enhance its rotational deployments which include armoured, aviation, air defence, and special operations forces to reinforce security there.
SPAIN: Washington is working with the Spanish government to raise the number of destroyers based in southern Spain from four to six.
BRITAIN: Washington will send two F-35 squadrons to Britain, to complement one existing F-35 squadron and three F-15 squadrons.
GERMANY: The US will forward station an air defence artillery brigade headquarters, a short-range air defence battalion, a combat sustainment support battalion headquarters, and an engineer brigade headquarters – approximately 625 military personnel in total.
ITALY: Washington will forward station a short-range air defence battery totalling approximately 65 personnel.
Impressive footage obtained yesterday showed the moment a volley of shells fired by Ukrainian-operated howitzers slammed into a Russian base which reportedly housed several military vehicles.
The Ukrainian military said they used British-made M777 howitzers to destroy the Russian base – though this information could not be independently verified.
The Ukrainian Centre for Strategic Communications (StratCom) said in a statement yesterday: ‘Three howitzers (M777) on the occupiers’ armoured vehicles, headquarters and warehouse.’
Manufactured by the Global Combat Systems division of BAE Systems, the M777 is a highly-capable lightweight artillery gun which can fire shells at an effective range of up to 25 miles and could play a pivotal role in Ukraine’s efforts to strike Russian targets at long-range.
Kislyakov, who was killed in a separate attack, served as head of the operational department of the headquarters of the 11th separate airborne assault brigade in Buryatia.
District official Denis Semenov said at the funeral: ‘He died in the line of military duty during the special operation in Ukraine.’
The father of two was described as ‘a true hero and defender of the Motherland’.
His death pushes the number of high-ranking Russian military officials killed in action close to 60, and comes just three days after the announcement that Col. Andrey Vasilyev, also a paratrooper commander, had been killed.
Vasilyev was struck in one of Ukraine’s first uses of a 43-mile-range HIMARS missile sent to Ukraine by U.S. President Joe Biden.
The colonel had previously been awarded the Russian Order of Courage and led the 137th Guards Airborne Regiment of the 106th Guards Airborne Division.
Vasilyev’s death occurred the same night that footage first emerged of Ukrainian forces opening fire with HIMARS, with video also taken at night.
It is not clear whether the strike captured on film and the strike that killed Vasilyev were one and the same, but the timing of his death means he is almost certainly one of the first Russian officers to be killed by the weapon.
Colonel Andrey Vasilyev, 49, was killed in a HIMARS strike in Ukraine. The colonel had previously been awarded the Russian Order of Courage and led the 137th Guards Airborne Regiment of the 106th Guards Airborne Division
Video shows blown-out buildings and burning cars following the strike, which Kyiv claims killed 40 Russian soldiers
Footage emerged on Friday of Ukrainian forces attacking with a HIMARS battery somewhere in the east of the country, after America agreed to supply the weapons
Russia’s defence ministry announced this morning that its forces had withdrawn from Snake Island, a key strategic outpost 80 miles off Ukraine’s southern coast, in a move which British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said shows the futility of the Russian leader’s ambitions in Ukraine.
Putin’s remaining troops on the island fled in the middle of the night in two speedboats with the rocky outcrop left ‘covered in fire’ following a fresh volley of rocket attacks on remaining Russian positions, Ukraine’s military said as Kyiv celebrated the retreat.
The head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, Andriy Yermak, published a jubilant message upon learning the news this morning.
‘KABOOM! No Russian troops on the Snake Island anymore. Our Armed Forces did a great job,’ Yermak wrote on Twitter, sharing a photo of smoke rising from the island following last night’s attacks.
The 100-acre parcel of land 80 miles off Ukraine’s southern coast was seized by Kremlin forces in the early days of the war but has been pounded by Ukrainian forces in recent weeks in a major offensive involving long-range weapons.
Head of Zelensky’s office Andriy Yermak this morning shared a photo of smoke rising from the island following yet another attack last night
‘KABOOM! No Russian troops on the Snake Island anymore. Our Armed Forces did a great job,’ Yermak wrote in a jubilant social media post
Russia’s defence ministry immediately tried to paint the retreat as a ‘gesture of goodwill’ designed to help the flow of grain exports as it confirmed the withdrawal of its troops.
But the retreat represents a humiliating strategic blow for Putin in a war that has seen him lose tens of thousands of soldiers and vast amounts of military equipment.
‘In the end, it will prove impossible for Putin to hold down a country that will not accept his rule,’ Boris Johnson told a news conference after a NATO summit in Madrid.
‘We’ve seen what Ukraine can do to drive the Russians back. We’ve seen what they did around Kyiv and Kharkiv, now on Snake Island.
‘I think the right thing for us is to keep going on the course that NATO has set out, no matter how difficult.’
It comes as NATO leaders continue to hold talks in Madrid where Joe Biden yesterday announced that America will deploy thousands more troops to Europe along with fighters, air defences and ships in a major reinforcement of the alliance’s eastern flank in a new Iron Curtain to protect the continent from Russia.
Europe’s new Iron Curtain: The defences designed to keep Putin out as Biden announces a new permanent base in Poland – while Sweden and Finland are formally invited into alliance and Russia blasts ‘destabilising’ move
By CHRIS PLEASANCE for MAILONLINE
America will deploy thousands more troops to Europe along with fighters, air defences and ships, Joe Biden announced today, as NATO reinforces its eastern flank in a new Iron Curtain to protect the continent from Russia.
Joe Biden, speaking at a NATO summit in Madrid today, announced the creation of a new base for the US Fifth Army Corps in Poland – the first permanent American base in the country – along with 3,000 extra soldiers to be sent to Romania and ‘enhanced’ troop rotations for the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
Two more squadrons of F-35 fighters will be deployed to the UK, Biden added, along with additional air defence systems for Germany and Italy, and another two destroyers which will be stationed at Rota Naval Station in Spain, bringing the total to six.
Meanwhile NATO formally invited Finland and Sweden to join the alliance after Turkey dropped its opposition, and announced it will boost troops on its eastern flank by almost 4,000 compared to March this year.
It comes after alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg yesterday announced NATO’s high-alert force – troops which are not deployed but can be quickly sent into battle in the event of war – is being increased from 40,000 to 300,000.
Moscow reacted with fury to the news, saying NATO expansion will be ‘destabilising’ for Europe.
‘We consider the expansion of the North Atlantic alliance to be a purely destabilising factor in international affairs. It does not add security either to those who are expanding it, those joining it, or to other countries that perceive the alliance as a threat,’ Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.
The original ‘Iron Curtain’ was a phrase coined by Winston Churchill to describe the way Soviet Union and allied eastern European states sealed off contact with the West after the Second World War.
NATO was founded in 1949 to deter a Soviet invasion of Western Europe, with most of the alliance’s troops based in West Germany after it joined in 1955. Now many of NATO’s forces are moving into the former-Soviet East European states to deter new aggression by Putin’s Russia.
NATO will deploy and extra 4,000 troops to its eastern frontier as part of enhanced defences against Russia, boosting the size of its garrisons in Poland, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Latvia
Joe Biden has announced thousands of extra US troops will be sent to Europe – mostly to the Baltics and Romania – along with new fighter jets, ships and air defence systems that will be deployed elsewhere
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured talking to Joe Biden this morning) is expected to use his appearance at the NATO summit in Madrid to pledge extra troops for Estonia, potentially more than doubling current numbers
US President Joe Biden (L) and British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson (R) pose for a photo on the first day of the NATO Summit
US President Joe Biden smiles as British PM Boris Johnson (R) appears to crack jokes with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Madrid today
‘Together with our allies we’re going to make sure that NATO is ready to meet the threats from all directions across every domain,’ Biden said at a summit taking place today in Madrid.
‘In a moment where (Russian President Vladimir) Putin has shattered peace in Europe and attacked the very, very tenets of rule-based order, the United States and our allies, we’re going to step up,’ he said.
‘We’re stepping up, proving that NATO is more needed now than it ever has been.’
Stoltenberg said the alliance was facing its biggest challenge since World War II because of Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine, and welcomed Biden’s announcement.
‘This really demonstrates your decisive leadership and strength in the trans-Atlantic bond,’ Stoltenberg said, thanking Biden for the ‘unwavering support from you and from the United States to Ukraine.’
US forces already deployed to Europe
America has around 100,000 troops stationed in Europe, providing a large chunk of the continent’s defence forces.
The largest US troop deployments as-of April 2022 were…
Germany: 36,160 troops
United Kingdom: 9,766
Jakub Kumoch, foreign policy adviser to Polish president Andrzej Duda, welcomed the announcement of a new permanent military base on his soil – saying it sends ‘a clear signal to Moscow’ that NATO will defend its members.
‘It is a success which comes from long and consistent negotiations on this matter and, at the same time, a very clear sign that the Americans intend to increase, not decrease, their presence in Poland,’ Kumoch said.
Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz added: ‘Something that seemed impossible to many is becoming a fact today. We have a PERMANENT U.S. presence in Poland… It is also a clear signal to Moscow.’
However, the pledges fell far short of what some leaders had been asking for – particularly the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania which had been demanding a new garrison of 50,000 NATO troops on their territory.
Instead, NATO forces in the region have been moderately increased from 7,700 that were in place in March to 9,900. Biden did not specify exactly how many additional US troops will be sent as part of ‘enhanced’ rotations, but the figure is likely to fall far short of what had been called for.
NATO leaders are meeting at a crucial time for the alliance, which is scrambling to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Though Ukraine is not part of the alliance, it’s surrounded by members and many NATO countries have been supplying weapons to hold back Russia’s advance.
That has prompted Russia – via its state media propaganda networks – to warn of a ‘de-facto’ war with NATO, which it argues could spiral into a nuclear Third World War.
Poland, which shares a long land border with Ukraine, has been reinforced with NATO troops and has been rapidly buying up latest-generation American weaponry in recent months to try and deter Russia from attacking.
The Baltic states – long viewed as NATO’s Achilles heel – are also ramping up calls for reinforcements to fend off any threat of attack.
Kyllike Sillaste-Elling, head of NATO relations at Estonia’s foreign ministry, told The Independent: ‘We need a new, more robust posture that will significantly strengthen the deterrence and defense of the eastern flank.
‘Putin is not deterred. We should look at what Putin has been saying in his strategic aims including mentioning the former Soviet Union.
‘As a direct neighbor we can’t just overlook those statements. We are small, we are located far northeast next to Russia. We don’t have anywhere to retreat to, we have nowhere to go. That is why we need to have as much in place as possible.’
U.S. President Joe Biden, left, speaks with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the summit this morning
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) and U.S. President, Joe Biden attend a session of the North Atlantic Council during the Nato summit in Madrid, Spain. Picture date: Wednesday June 29, 2022
American aircraft carrier USS Kearsage is pictured on NATO drills in Sweden earlier this month, as the Scandinavian country is formally invited to join the alliance today
Fears over the Suwalki Gap ramped up last week, when Lithuania – one of the Baltic states – stopped Russia moving goods across its territory, in line with EU sanctions.
The Lithuanian route was a key supply line between Belarus, a close ally of Russia, and Kaliningrad – an enclave of Russian territory on the Baltic Sea.
The Suwalki Gap links Belarus and Kaliningrad, running through the territory of both Lithuania and Poland who are NATO member states.
They fear Putin could launch a lightning assault to occupy the territory, reopening Kaliningrad’s supply lines while also cutting off the Baltic states from mainland Europe and making reinforcement much harder.
That is why they are lobbying NATO to move sufficient forces into the region to hold back a Russian invasion now, rather than wait until an attack is already underway to deploy its armies.
When Russia invaded Ukraine in February this year, NATO had around 3,700 troops stationed across Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia as part of a so-called ‘tripwire’ force.