Approximately 60 Russian soldiers are believed to have suffered casualties, either through death or injury due to friendly fire incidents, as they hastily withdrew from the village of Opytne, near Donetsk’s Sergey Prokofiev International Airport in eastern Ukraine.
This assertion initially surfaced through a statement by Yuriy Mysiagin, a Ukrainian member of parliament, on September 10 via Telegram. Subsequently, Russian military bloggers and various Ukrainian sources corroborated this claim.
Mysiagin explained that Russian troops had been engaged in a disorderly and almost panicked retreat, leading to confusion among their own forces. In the midst of this chaotic exit, some Russian units mistakenly identified their fellow soldiers as Ukrainian forces attempting to regain control of territory near the airport. This misunderstanding resulted in their own artillery fire targeting their positions.
The outcome was devastating, with 27 fatalities and 34 individuals sustaining injuries. Approximately half of the wounded soldiers suffered the loss of limbs, and valuable equipment was also lost.
Pro-Kremlin bloggers verified the incident, noting that around 200 Russian troops near the village of Opytne had been relocating to more strategically advantageous positions. The urgency of this movement led to disarray among some fighters, who retreated haphazardly and, in some cases, panicked.
Tragically, as a consequence of these disorganized actions, their own artillery fire caused the deaths of Russian soldiers.
Ukrainian Colonel Konstantyn Mashovets provided a detailed account of the incident in a Facebook post, attributing the debacle to a combination of panic and poor coordination among the Russian troops. He questioned why the enemy artillery targeted its own unit positions rather than focusing on suppressing Ukrainian firepower.
With the assistance of this friendly fire incident, Ukrainian forces managed to advance through the village and toward Pisky, located southwest of Opytne.
Despite claims from Kremlin spokespeople that Moscow’s forces are launching counterattacks on Opytne, they are encountering limited success, primarily due to the village being isolated from the Russian front line by a river.
The lack of training among hastily deployed Russian conscripted troops has been widely cited as a major contributing factor to several instances of friendly fire involving their own forces.
An August 14 report in the New York Times featured an account from a serviceman in Ukraine’s 129th Territorial Defense Brigade, known as “Kherson,” who observed Russians firing upon their own troops near the village of Neskuchne, which had been retaken from the Russians in June. Kherson recounted that as Russian forces began to retreat, they fired rockets at the battlefield, resulting in casualties among their own ranks.
Additionally, an ISW report from November quoted the former Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) Security Minister, Aleksandr Khodakovsky, who claimed that Russian friendly fire may have accounted for up to 60 percent of total Russian casualties between May and November 2022.