Journalists have identified the names of 166 Russian commanding officers calling the shots in Ukraine. The list features 72 generals and admirals, 69 colonels, 16 lieutenant colonels, and five actual state councilors of the 1st class. One in eight officers has personal ties to Ukraine (has relatives there, was born or studied there), reports independent media Proekt in its investigation.
The journalists have also disclosed data related to their income, property, debts, and fines. According to the 2019 Ministry of Defense data, the average monthly income of Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and his deputies is 1.2 million rubles (~$21,000). Heads of military districts earn 900,000 rubles a month (~$15,700). General Staff officers get 300,000 rubles each (~$5,200), and army commanders 270,000 rubles (~$4,700). Division and brigade commanders wage wars for 160,000 rubles a month (~$2,800). Meanwhile, the average monthly income of army commanders’ wives equals 21,000 rubles a month ($360). The investigation points out that a private’s salary hardly exceeds 50,000 rubles a month ($870), but it still beats the average salary in many Russian regions. Thus, as Mediazona reports, soldiers from Russia's poorer regions account for the most of war losses. The majority of Russians killed in the war were from Dagestan, where the average salary in 23,600 rubles (~$410).
One in three commanders on the list has debts, including unpaid utility bills and alimony. Five have administrative offense records, and Commander of the 30th motorized brigade of the 2nd Combined Arms Army Igor Koleda was fined by a court decision in 2020 for refusal to fire a corrupt officer in line with the prosecutor's office directive. Koleda has also fallen behind on his alimony payments. One in five commanders listed have had traffic tickets and did not always pay them on time. Some have had their driving license suspended for drunken driving or causing a road accident.
The investigation pays special attention to the brutality of Russian troops, with their crimes including raping women and massacring civilians in Bucha. Parallels are drawn between these atrocities and a certain Russian military unit infamous for its internal issues. As Proekt specifies, one of the units that occupied Bucha was the 64th Separate Motorized Brigade of the 35th Combined Arms Army, which is stationed in the remote Far-Eastern village of Knyaze-Volkonskoye, Khabarovsk Territory. The locals call the military unit a “dreadful place”, and its call sign, Mlechnik, has become proverbial in the region.
The soldiers are poorly fed; the barracks lack heating; commanders hide some of the soldiers in the forest before inspections to conceal their abysmal physical state. On top of that, beating and extortion are business as usual. Soldiers rob their peers of cash, bank cards, and phones. In 2019, a conscript was sentenced to eighteen months in a penal colony for bullying his peer and extorting money from him, and in February 2022, a senior warrant officer and a sergeant beat up six privates. The warrant officer was drunk and used a stick on privates whose bedside table number did not match the number on their slippers. In 2014, Alexei Snakin, another conscript at Mlechnik, committed suicide after Major Nikolai Chabanov beat him with a broomstick, forced him to wear an armored vest and gas mask round the clock, and extorted money to buy a new computer. Initially, Chabanov got off with a suspended sentence, but after human rights advocates intervened, he got three and a half years of jail and was deprived of the right to hold commanding posts for another two.
As the publication specifies, all commanders mentioned in the piece were assigned to their positions a few years before the war. Due to the increased secrecy of the Ministry of Defense, it is impossible to verify if any of them were removed shortly before or after the invasion began.
Besides, the journalists learned that the so-called special operation has required the engagement of all units of the Russian Armed Forces capable of offensive action. All land forces have been deployed, including eleven combined arms and one tank army, all airborne troops with offensive capabilities, all reconnaissance units, the naval infantry of all four of Russia's fleets, self-propelled artillery forces, strategic bombers, ground-attack aircraft, and fighter jets.
Earlier, the British Ministry of Defense reported that a number of senior Russian commanders had been fired for poor performance in the early stages of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In particular, the British intelligence asserts that Lieutenant General Sergey Kisel was suspended for his failure to capture Kharkiv. Vice-Admiral Igor Osipov was fired for the sinking of the cruiser Moskva. Meanwhile, Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov has retained his post, but it is unclear whether he remains in Putin's good books.