Numerous reports over recent weeks and months indicate that Russian morale has been steadily declining over mounting casualties and lack of progress in its ongoing invasion of neighboring Ukraine, and that morale may have just taken another significant blow, albeit not directly because of the war.
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced this week that a venerated World War II hero of the Soviet Red Army, Sergey Dmitrievich Romanovtsev, passed away Thursday at the age of 97.
Hero of the Soviet Union passes away
According to the Russian Ministry’s press release, Romanovtsev had been born in Tula in 1925 and joined the Soviet Red Army in 1943, during which he reportedly participated in multiple battles to push the German Nazis out of Russian territory and all the way back to Berlin.
He was described as having fought with “unparalleled courage” and received several awards for his service, most prominently the title of “Hero of the Soviet Union.”
Other awards that Romanovtsev was given included “the Order of Lenin, the Order of the Red Banner, the Order of the Patriotic War of the 1st degree, the Order of the Patriotic War of the 2nd degree, the medals ‘For Military Merit,’ ‘For the Victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945,’ ‘For the Liberation of Warsaw,’ ‘For the capture of Berlin,’ and other awards.”
After the war was over, he transferred to the reserves in 1947 and then attended military college before becoming a top diplomat in the 1950s in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He served on behalf of the Soviet Union in Canada, the United States, and Finland before returning home for good in the 1970s and retiring from public service in 1991.
“We express our deep condolences to the family and relatives of S.D. Romanovtsev. The bright memory of Sergei Dmitrievich, his military merits and excellent business qualities will forever be preserved by his colleagues and friends,” the Ministry said in the statement.
Russian generals were killed, and low morale was a problem in Ukraine
This news of the death of a great hero of the Soviet Union’s war against Nazi Germany would likely be devastating in and of itself for many proud Russian people and soldiers but is arguably even more so in light of the crushing losses Russia has reportedly suffered during its three months and counting invasion of Ukraine.
The Moscow Times reported on May 11, about a New York Times report, that it was estimated that at least 12 Russian generals had been killed so far in the fighting in Ukraine. Making matters worse were the claims that U.S. intelligence had helped Ukrainian forces locate and target those top Russian officers as part of a “proxy war” between the U.S. and Russia.
Around the same time as that report came, one from Fox News cited an unnamed senior U.S. Defense official as claiming that Russian forces deployed to Ukraine had only made “incremental gains” and were suffering from low morale and unit cohesion issues, though it was admitted that the “problem” was likely not widespread throughout the entire Russian military.
“We keep getting anecdotal indications … that morale and unit cohesion remains a problem,” the official said. “Soldiers not obeying orders, or not fighting as well or as aggressively as they are being told to or expected to — even to the point where some officers are refusing to obey orders.”
Conversely, Ukrainian forces had displayed “a very strong will to fight there,” and the official said, “Again, we don’t have perfect visibility into every unit, but we’re not seeing the kinds of unit cohesion and morale problems … in the Ukrainian armed forces.”