VLADIMIR Putin's elite marine force of 5,000 men have been obliterated like "turkeys in a shooting range" during Ukraine's bloodiest battle thus far.
The huge loss of Russian troops happened during their attempted siege of Vuhledar, a strategic hamlet in Donetsk.
The elite 155th naval infantry lost almost an entire brigade and 130 units of equipment including 36 tanks as it stormed the mining town, trying to seize the high ground.
It was one of the heaviest concentrated military losses the Kremlin has suffered since the war began on February 24.
According to POLITICO, the marine brigade of 5,000 men was wiped out.
Russian forces were reportedly losing 150 to 300 marines a day since the planned offensive began in January.
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Ukrainian officials claimed the swathe of enemy troops were killed, wounded or captured.
The catastrophic losses come just days after footage emerged of 31 Russian vehicles being blitzed as they encroached the region.
The total carnage and tactical failures were lambasted by Russian hardliners.
Igor Girkin, a Russian former intelligence officer, called for public show trials to punish incompetent generals responsible for the battlefield embarrassments.
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Girkin said: "Some of them are complete cretins – all the mistakes that were made before, were repeated."
During the battle, Ukrainians held higher ground and were able to pick off the marines.
Girkin described the scene "like turkeys in a shooting range".
The mining town, home to 14,000 people before the war, sits on high ground close to the only rail link between Crimea and Donetsk.
It was fortified with Ukrainian artillery after withstanding three months of attacks from the Spetsnaz special forces, armoured battalions and infantry troops.
The heaviest waves of assault came last week, leading to the bloodbath of marines.
Evgeny Nazarenko, a spokesman for one of the Ukrainian units involved, said the Russian advances were easily spotted from high-rise buildings where they were positioned.
He said: "We are at the top and they are at the bottom.
"They are perfectly visible."
Ukrainian forces also published a video of Russian troops piling up on the battlefield as they approached Vuhledar from open fields.
During the video, a Ukrainian gunner can be heard saying: "Go make a cemetery.
"Gosh, the first column went there and blew up and then the second one went exactly the same route."
Tom Cooper, a military historian who has studied the battle, described Vuhledar as "a big, tall fortress in the middle of an empty, flat desert".
The shameful defeat comes just days after Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said his troops had control of the area.
Kyiv’s Defence Ministry responded with a video showing the destruction of a Russian military column in the area.
The footage showed Russian tanks driving into minefields, bombs destroying armoured vehicles, panic-stricken troops and bodies of soldiers strewn across the ground.
Ukrainian officials claimed the majority of the losses were from the Pacific Fleet’s 155th Marine Brigade, based at Vladivostok.
The 155th became infamous for looting around Kyiv last year.
The brigade was nicknamed Russia’s "unhappiest" unit after suffering heavy losses in several failed attacks.
Colonel Oleksiy Dmytrashkivskyi, a Ukrainian military spokesman, said: "The 155th brigade already had to be restaffed three times.
"And now almost the entire brigade has been destroyed."
Russian eastern commander, Lieutenant General Rustam Muradov, was blamed for the mass casualties.
A group of hardline military bloggers and media channels close to Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin have launched an online tirade slamming Muradov.
One social media channel linked to Wagner threatened Muradov with assassination after calling him a "sissy b****".
Another blogger with half a million followers demanded public trials "to punish officers, especially high-ranking officers, who over and over again demonstrate failures on the battlefield".
The chronic failures in Vuhledar has damaged Putin's bravado, who has repeatedly claimed a massive "new offensive" is coming in weeks to coincide with the first anniversary of the war.
The Kremlin is believed to have hundreds of thousands of soldiers, thousands of tanks, and hundreds of warplanes preparing for the new assault.
Putin has also ordered that by next month his troops should fully occupy the Donetsk region.
Currently, half of the city is under Russian control.
However, the Vuhledar fiasco has encouraged Kyiv to believe Moscow has failed to heal divisions among senior commanders.
Oleksandr V Danylyuk, head of the Centre for Defence Reforms think-tank in Kyiv, told the Daily Mail: "This is a serious setback with huge losses from one brigade.
"If they continue to use their troops in this way, it could lead to a collapse of Russian military forces during their expected major offensive."
Vuhledar is about 100 miles from Bakhmut, the epicentre of the war’s fiercest fighting for several months.
Both sides have sustained heavy losses there after Russia hurled vast numbers of conscripts and prisoner recruits into "the meat grinder".
Ukraine officials claim 824 Russian soldiers are dying on average a day.
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The British Ministry of Defence confirmed the figure as "likely accurate".
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