Russian war blogger dies after facing criticism for revealing Moscow’s losses

| | Moscow
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Russian war blogger dies after facing criticism for revealing Moscow’s losses

Friday, 23 February 2024 | AP | Moscow

A Russian military blogger has died in an apparent suicide after facing a barrage of criticism for revealing heavy losses in Ukraine, and his supporters have blamed Kremlin propagandists for his death. Andrei Morozov, who also served as a soldier on the front line in Ukraine, said in his last post Wednesday that he decided to “execute” himself to help his comrades in arms avoid fallout from his critical publications, which had angered the military command.

Maxim Pashkov, a lawyer who knew him, confirmed Morozov’s death in a messaging app statement, saying that he shot himself dead. Morozov was 44 years old. Morozov, who went by the nickname Murz, said in a recent post that about 16,000 Russian troops were killed and the military lost about 300 armored vehicles since October when the four-month battle for the eastern stronghold of Avdiivka began. Russian troops captured Avdiivka over the weekend after Ukrainian troops pulled back.

Morozov’s remarks drew angry comments from a top TV show host on Russian state TV and others who called for him to be prosecuted for “discrediting” the military. Several fellow bloggers blamed those who attacked Morozov for his death. In his last post before killing himself that he posted on his channel in Telegram, Morozov said he was forced by military officials to remove his post about the Russian losses. He harshly criticised the military command for turning a blind eye to losses and ignoring troops’ needs. Alexander Kofman, head of the Public Chamber in the Moscow-controlled part of the Donetsk region, described Morozov’s suicide as a “huge mistake” in a statement on his messaging app channel. Morozov’s death came as Russian authorities have become increasingly intolerant ahead of March’s election in which President Vladimir Putin is all but certain to win another six-year term.

It also follows chief Kremlin foe Alexei Navalny ‘s death on Friday in an Arctic prison that caused a global outrage and dealt a heavy blow to the beleaguered Russian opposition.

Russian war bloggers like Morozov have provided a more factual alternative to terse statements from military officials and a flow of propaganda on state TV channels, giving detailed accounts of the fighting. While all of them ardently supported the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine, they offered a glimpse into problems faced by Russian troops and assailed the military leadership for ill-conceived tactics and neglect for soldiers’ needs.

Many Russian military bloggers were supportive of mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin who had scathingly criticized the top military brass and then launched a brief mutiny in June that saw his Wagner private contractors march on Moscow to oust the top military leaders.

Most war bloggers toned down their criticism of military officials after Prigozhin’s death in a suspicious air crash two months after his rebellion, which was widely seen as revenge by the Kremlin.

One of the most popular war commentators, Igor Strelkov, was handed a four-year prison sentence last month on charges of extremism after he called Putin a “nonentity” and a person of “cowardly mediocrity.” He argued that a total mobilisation is needed for Russia to achieve victory and accused the Kremlin of indecision and weakness.

Strelkov, whose real name is Girkin, is a retired security officer who led Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014 and was convicted of murder in the Netherlands for his role in the downing of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet that year.

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