Russia Losing 1,000 Soldiers a Week in Zaporizhzhia, Mayor Says

1/9/23

This composite image shows Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov on April 17, 2022 in Vatican City, imposed over Ukrainian artillery troops firing a French-made CAESAR self-propelled howitzer at Russian positions in eastern Ukraine on December 28, 2022.FRANCO ORIGLIA/GETTY IMAGES / SAMEER AL-DOUMY/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of Ukraine’s occupied southern city of Melitopol, has said that Ukrainian soldiers—in cooperation with local partisans—are inflicting punishing losses on Russian troops in southern Zaporizhzhia Oblast as Kyiv’s forces prepare for fresh counterattacks they hope will liberate all occupied territory.

Speaking to Newsweek from the city of Zaporizhzhia, which sits just behind the southern front line, Fedorov said the Russian forces in the region appear intent on defending his native city with fresh troops and defensive positions appearing regularly.

“They’ve built new military buildings and military [fortifications],” Fedorov said. “We see that they want to defend the temporarily occupied territories, and every week our citizens who have stayed in the occupied territories tell us that new Russian troops, newly drafted soldiers, arrive.”

Melitopol, which had a pre-war population of 150,000, is one of the largest Ukrainian cities occupied since February that is still held by the Russian invaders. It was among the first to fall in the days following the February 24 invasion, with Fedorov captured and briefly held by Russian forces until freed in a prisoner exchange.

Melitopol is 40 miles from the front line to its north, which runs south of the city of Zaporizhzhia. Around 70 miles to the west is the Dnieper river, which since the liberation of Kherson in November has separated Ukrainian and Russian forces. Melitopol is a key road and rail hub, vital for Russian supply of its troops on the east bank of the Dnieper and in Crimea.

Ukrainian troops appear to be preparing the ground for a drive in the south, using long-range artillery and special forces strikes to destroy Russian logistics hubs and troop concentrations. Last month, for example, Fedorov said a Ukrainian HIMARS strike on a Russian barracks in Melitopol killed as many as 200 occupiers. Russian authorities reported only a handful of casualties.

“It is very important,” Fedorov said of Ukraine’s ability to hit valuable targets deep in Russia’s rear. “Every week, the Ukrainian military reports that they’ve killed more than 1,000 Russian soldiers in Zaporizhzhia region alone.”

Newsweek has contacted the Russian Defense Ministry to request comment.

Melitopol, Fedorov said, is “the key to Crimea” and “an administrative and logistical center of the occupied territories.” The city is expected to be a priority for coming Ukrainian counteroffensives, and its liberation would imperil the Crimea-to-Russia land bridge that stands as one of Moscow’s few tangible achievements since February.

“Now Ukrainian soldiers need more long-range weapons, because we need to destroy their delivery routes and their connections between Crimea, Russia and the Zaporizhzhia region,” he said.

“Of course, it is very important for us to liberate not only our territories but it’s also very important to liberate our citizens that are now held hostage by the Russian troops. Nobody can answer as to when it will be possible. Now, we need to give all the support that our soldiers need for this liberation.”

Recent commitments by the U.S., Germany, and France to provide new infantry fighting vehicles—Bradleys, Marders, and AMX-10 RCs, respectively—are encouraging, Fedorov said. “All of us hope that tanks and ATACMS will be next,” the mayor added, referring to the longest-range munitions available for NATO-supplied multiple launch rocket systems, including the American HIMARS.

‘A New Wave of Terror’

Liberating the Zaporizhzhia region will be no easy task. Moscow is throwing hundreds of thousands of new recruits into the war zone, with rumors of another round of mobilization imminent. The counteroffensive to free Kherson was a slow push, and though successful, it left the city on the front line under constant Russian fire.

“We’ve all seen what the Russians are doing in Kherson,” Fedorov said. “Every day they shoot at civilians, every day they shoot at civilian buildings. I hope my native city won’t be destroyed.”

“Our soldiers will never shoot civilians or citizens. But all of us understand that for Russian troops, civilian lives cost zero. We all understand that the Russians can do anything they want and destroy everything.”

Those who want to flee are reportedly being stopped. Russia is continuing its “Russification” of the region, handing out Russian passports, blocking communication lines with the rest of Ukraine, deporting those deemed valuable, or disappearing those deemed a threat.

A Russian serviceman walks near the site of a car bomb explosion outside a building housing a local TV station in the Russian-held city of Melitopol in southern Ukraine on October 25, 2022. Local partisans have been conducting a guerrilla campaign against the occupation authorities.STRINGER/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Fedorov said more than 750 children have been taken from the Melitopol area to Russia in recent months, with no indication of whether they will be returned. Residents of the region are also being stopped from leaving Russia, he said.

“Russians understand that they can’t physically control our territories, or control our citizens,” he said. “They can’t control their minds. That’s why the Russians are starting to be more and more angry. More and more Russian troops come to our territories and go to our houses; it’s a new wave of terror for our citizens.”

Partisans, Fedorov said, are helping keep the pressure on the occupying forces. Guerrilla cells are identifying targets for Ukrainian deep strikes, supporting special forces operations, waging an information war, and launching their own covert attacks on collaborators and their Russian puppet-masters.

Our partisans have the greatest connection with our soldiers, and they show the Russians that we’re not glad to see them on our territory,” Fedorov said. Since the city was occupied in February, the mayor said there have been more than 100 successful partisan attacks.

Fedorov has previously told Newsweek that Ukrainian authorities are maintaining a list of suspected collaborators to be dealt with after liberation. Those cooperating with Moscow, he has said, face either Ukrainian justice or Russian death squads once their value is exhausted.

“Some families of collaborators have fled the city, some collaborating teachers fled from the city,” Fedorov said. “But it is not very often, or in the quantity that we need.”

“All of us want to see the pictures of Russians starting to run from our occupied territories, but now we don’t see such a situation.”

2 comments

  1. “It is very important,” Fedorov said of Ukraine’s ability to hit valuable targets deep in Russia’s rear. “Every week, the Ukrainian military reports that they’ve killed more than 1,000 Russian soldiers in Zaporizhzhia region alone.”

    With the right tools and in sufficient numbers, Ukraine could increase that figure to double or more, not to mention destroying valuable targets in the further rear of the cockroach lines. Therefore, this trickle-down system of supplying Ukraine with a little here and a speck there has to stop. This is like an occasional and short light rain in a parched land. The killing and suffering must be put to an end and, as contradictory this sounds like, it must begin with the killing of more orcs. Many more.

What is your opinion?