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Pro-Kremlin military blogger dies days after reporting massive Russian losses in Avdiivka

A prominent pro-war Russian military blogger, Andrey Morozov, has reportedly died by suicide just days after he reported that Russia suffered huge losses during its months-long assault on the Ukrainian town of Avdiivka.

Morozov, known as “Murz” on Telegram, was an ultra-nationalist commentator and vocal supporter of Russia’s war in Ukraine, having fought alongside Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014 and during the full-scale invasion in 2022.

Writing on Sunday to his 120,000 followers on Telegram, Morozov said Moscow had lost around 16,000 soldiers and 300 armored vehicles since it launched its assault on Avdiivka in October, which forced Ukrainian troops to retreat from the eastern town last week. After the post drew severe criticism from Russian propagandists, Morozov said he had been forced to delete the post but did not specify who gave the order.

Several well informed pro-Russian military bloggers and Russian state media reported Wednesday that Morozov had died by suicide. His lawyer and friend, Maxim Pashkov, confirmed his death and said he had spoken to Morozov the day before.

“We spoke with him at night, two or three hours before what happened. We agreed to write it off in the morning,” Pashkov wrote Wednesday on Telegram. “You were a true friend.”

Morozov had written a series of posts on Wednesday morning announcing his apparent intention to take his own life. He called on his readers not to mourn him and asked that he be buried in the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) – the Russian name for the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk, whose annexation by Moscow is considered illegal by most of the international community.

Spurred partly by the abortive mutiny last year of former Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin last year, the Kremlin has cracked down on military bloggers like Morozov, who had previously enjoyed some freedom to analyze and sometimes criticize the way Russia’s Defense Ministry is waging war in Ukraine.

Igor Girkin, another Russian pro-war blogger, was sentenced last month to four years in prison by a Moscow court after being found on extremism charges. Girkin had played a crucial role in Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in 2014, but was arrested in July after becoming increasingly critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his military’s mishaps in Ukraine.

Russia’s true casualty numbers remain shrouded in secrecy, but Western officials believe Russia has had more than 300,000 troops killed or injured on the battlefields of Ukraine since the full-scale invasion began nearly two years ago.

A source familiar with a declassified US intelligence assessment provided in December to Congress told CNN that Russia has lost a staggering 87 percent of the total number of active-duty ground troops it had prior to launching its invasion of Ukraine and two-thirds of its pre-invasion tanks. Moscow has been able to offset some of these losses by boosting the size of its army and ramping up domestic production of armored vehicles.

CNN has seen evidence that Russia suffered heavy casualties during its offensive on Avdiivka, but cannot verify the estimates published by Morozov.

The Ukrainian retreat from Avdiivka marked Russia’s first significant territorial gain in months, won partly through Ukraine’s dwindling supplies of weapons and ammunition due to the US Congress’ not passing a $60 billion package of aid.

In his final messages, Morozov complained he was being bullied because of his report and said he was ordered to delete the post by someone he described as “Comrade Colonel.”

“Your command forced you to give this order, relying on good old army collective responsibility. If he doesn’t remove it, we won’t provide supplies,” Morozov wrote. In his last few posts, he complained about the shortage of weapons for Russian troops at the front and also shared his will.

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