Russian twin brothers have been killed on the same day while fighting in Ukraine in the latest in a string of heavy losses suffered by Moscow.
Sergeants Alexei and Anton Vorobyov, both 29, were killed fighting side by side on March 12, three weeks after Moscow’s forces invaded Ukraine on February 24.
The Vorobyovs were signalmen of the 150th Rifle Division, a World War-era unit that was reformed in 2013. It was one of several Russian units to take heavy casualties in the first weeks of the war.
The brothers, who both leave behind partners, one of whom is pregnant, were laid to rest in coffins draped with Russian flags in Novocherkassk on Tuesday in one of hundreds of funerals taking place across Russia.
‘Anton would say to me that he loved the service,’ Anastasia Novikova, a childhood friend, told the Moscow Times. ‘I have many memories about Anton, and all of them are good memories. We never had a single fight in 19 years.’
Moscow’s men have suffered heavy losses in the five week war and NATO estimates between 7,000 and 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the fighting. Ukraine claims as many as 17,000 have been killed.
Meanwhile Putin this week ordered 134,500 more conscripts aged 18 to 27 to join his army as part of the annual spring military draft, which runs from April 1 to July 15.
It comes as Ukrainian forces retook Hostomel air base on the outskirts of the capital on Thursday, where fierce fighting raged on the first days of the war, as Russia continues to pull back some of its forces.
Alexei (left) and Anton (right) Vorobyov, both 29, were killed fighting side by side three weeks after Moscow’s forces invaded Ukraine on February 24
In one of hundreds of funerals taking place across Russia, the brothers were laid to rest in coffins draped with Russian flags in Novocherkassk on Tuesday
Russia has also lost at least eight colonels and several other high ranking officers – including brigade commander Colonel Yuri Medvedev was run down with a tank by his own mutinous troops.
Colonel Nikolay Ovcharenko, chief of the Western Military District engineer troops, was killed in an ambush that left a total of 18 Russians dead by a pontoon bridge over the Siverskyi Donets River.
Colonel Alexei Sharov, commander of the 810th Guards Separate Order of Zhukov Brigade in the Russian Marines, was killed in Mariupol last week.
Colonel Sergei Sukharev, of the 331st Guards Parachute Assault Regiment from Kostroma, was ‘liquidated’ according to Ukraine in fighting earlier this month.
‘Commander of the Kostroma Airborne Regiment, Colonel Sergei Sukharev… got lost in the ‘[military] exercises’, but returned home the right way,’ said the Ukrainian statement.
His deputy Major Sergei Krylov was killed alongside him, said the report.
Colonel Andrei Zakharov was killed in an ambush near Kyiv in the opening days of the war, while Colonel Konstantin Zizevsky who led air assault troops died in the south of Ukraine.
Colonel Nikolay Ovcharenko (left), chief of the Western Military District engineer troops, was killed in an ambush, while Colonel Alexei Sharov (right), commander of the 810th Guards Separate Order of Zhukov Brigade in the Russian Marines, was killed in Mariupol last week
Pictured: A still grab from a video allegedly showing Russian Colonel Yuri Medvedev being stretchered into a hospital after suffering severe injuries to his legs
Colonel Sergei Sukharev (pictured), of the 331st Guards Parachute Assault Regiment from Kostroma, was ‘liquidated’ according to Ukraine in fighting earlier this month
Igor Zharov (left) was buried in Kirzhach town, Vladimir region, and was posthumously awarded the Order of Courage. Colonel Dmitry Dormidontov (right) was hit by an enemy mine
Lieutenant Colonel Dmitry Dormidontov was killed last week as his funeral was held in Russia today
Kyiv said it had ‘eliminated’ Colonel Denis Kurilo (pictured), commander of the 200th separate motorised rifle brigade, in fighting near Kharkiv
Elsewhere, Russian troops left the heavily contaminated Chernobyl nuclear site early on Friday morning after returning control to the Ukrainians, authorities said.
Ukraine’s state power company, Energoatom, said the pullout at Chernobyl came after soldiers received ‘significant doses’ of radiation from digging trenches in the forest in the exclusion zone around the closed plant. But there was no independent confirmation of that.
The exchange of control happened amid growing indications the Kremlin is using talk of de-escalation in Ukraine as cover to regroup, resupply its forces and redeploy them for a stepped-up offensive in the eastern part of the country.
Russia is also pulling back some of its forces in the northern Ukrainian regions of Kyiv and Chernihiv, the two regions’ governors said on Friday.
Russia said during negotiations on Tuesday that it would scale down operations in the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions. Fighting has continued in both regions and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said Russian forces are not withdrawing but regrouping.
‘We are observing the movement of joint (Russian) vehicle columns of various quantities,’ the Kyiv region’s governor, Oleksandr Pavlyuk, wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
Pavlyuk said some of the troops were heading towards the border with Belarus, a Russian ally. He said Russian forces had left the village of Hostomel, which is next to an important airport, but were digging in at the town of Bucha.
It comes after a video emerged on Wednesday of a group of young Russian soldiers conscripted to fight on the frontlines in Ukraine complaining that they’ve been ‘thrown into the s**t’.
In footage taken in the back of a military vehicle, one complains: ‘Know the truth! The Russian Ministry of Defence has no idea about us, or what we’re doing here.
‘We’ve been thrown into the s**t!’
Another adds: ‘Our rifles are from the 1940s! They don’t f***ing fire! They’re sending f***ing ordinary students into war’, according to The Times.
One boy soldier (left), 18, is seen wielding an AK-47 rifle first issued to Soviet soldiers in 1947
The soldiers, who were reportedly members of the 15th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade, filmed themselves in the back of a lorry near Sumy, close to the border with Russia.
One – wearing a Russian army helmet too big for his head – points to himself and says, ‘I’m 18 years old.’
He then holds up his AK-47 machine gun – first issued to Soviet soldiers in 1947 – and complains, ‘We’ve been given automatic rifles to take on Grads, artillery, mortar shells. We’re asking you to spread this.’
One quarter of Russia’s army is made up of conscripts aged 18-27, disproportionately from poorer backgrounds where families are unable to obtain legal letters or doctors’ notes excusing their sons from battle.
The issue of conscripts’ involvement in the war is highly sensitive.
On March 9, the defence ministry acknowledged that some had been sent to Ukraine after Putin had denied this on various occasions, saying only professional soldiers and officers had been sent in.
Putin’s spokesman said at the time that the president had ordered military prosecutors to investigate and punish the officials responsible for disobeying his instructions to exclude conscripts.
President Vladimir Putin has ordered 134,500 more conscripts to join his army as Russia’s forces continue to struggle to make significant gains in Ukraine. Pictured: A Ukrainian soldier takes a selfie next to a destroyed Russian tank in the Sumy region, Ukraine, 30 March 2022
Ukrainian soldiers carry a body of a civilian killed by the Russian forces over the destroyed bridge in Irpin close to Kyiv, on Thursday
New conscripts are often tortured and even raped as part of brutal initiations dating back hundreds of years.
The army’s culture of hazing (known as ‘dedovshchina’) involves using physical and psychological abuse to ‘toughen’ young recruits.
In 2019 alone there were 51,000 recorded cases of human rights violations among young Russian conscripts – and 9,890 sexual assaults, according to Moscow’s defence ministry.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 in what it called a special military operation to demilitarise and ‘denazify’ the country. The war has killed thousands of people and uprooted millions.