June 13, 2024

Balkan Travellers

Comprehensive up-to-date news coverage, aggregated from sources all over the world

US leaks show that Russian Spetsnaz units were destroyed by the Ukraine war

The war in Ukraine has devastated Russia’s secretive Spetsnaz forces and will take Moscow years to rebuild, according to classified US estimates obtained by The Washington Post.

The discovery, which has not been previously reported, is among a cache of sensitive material leaked online through messaging platform Discord. American officials attributed their estimates to the Russian commanders’ overreliance on specialized units that were used as part of front-line infantry formations that, like the Ukrainians, suffered massive numbers of dead and wounded.

Typically, Spetsnaz personnel are assigned the kinds of high-risk stealth missions — including an apparent warrant to capture the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky — where they receive some of the Russian military’s most advanced training. But when Moscow launched its full-scale invasion last year, senior leaders eager to seize the momentum and skeptical of the ingenuity of their traditional fighters veered from the base and ordered elite forces into close combat, according to findings by U.S. intelligence and independent analysts who followed closely. spetsnaz deployments.

Observers say the rapid attrition of Russian commando units has transformed the dynamic of the war from the start, severely limiting Moscow’s ability to use covert tactics in support of conventional combat operations. American officials believe that the staggering losses these units have incurred will make them less effective not only in Ukraine but also in other parts of the world where Russian forces operate, according to the estimates, which range in date from late 2022 to early this year.

The cavity of these units appears to be visible in the satellite images visible among the leaked materials. Before-and-after photos — which show a base used by the 22nd Separate Spetsnaz Brigade in southern Russia, according to the document — reveal that “all but one of Russia’s five separate Spetsnaz brigades that returned from combat operations in Ukraine in late summer 2022 suffered significant losses.”

See also  India shows no sign of slowing down its purchase of Russian oil

The slide includes two overhead photos, one taken in November 2021, months before the invasion began, and one taken a year later. The first shows a crowd swarming with cars; The latter reveals what U.S. officials concluded was a severely depleted state, months after the brigade returned home with less than half of its pre-deployment Tiger tactical vehicles. Assessments say the 22nd and the other two Spetsnaz brigades have suffered an attrition rate of about 90 to 95 percent.

Exacerbating Russia’s problems is the loss of experience within its elite forces. US documents say Spetsnaz soldiers need at least four years of specialized training, concluding that Moscow could take up to a decade to reconfigure these units.

The documents do not say how many Spetsnaz soldiers were killed or wounded in Ukraine, but the materials, citing intelligence intercepts, estimate that one unit—the 346th—”lost almost the entire brigade with only 125 active personnel out of 900 deployed.”

American intelligence analysts have tracked every Spetsnaz unit that has returned home to southern Russia from Ukraine—except for one: the 25th Spetsnaz Regiment. The documents say that the heavy losses in personnel and equipment “could explain why there was no clear information [intelligence] Signing their return to the garrison.”

The US government’s assessments are consistent with analysts’ observations. Russia’s infantrymen are machine-gunned infantrymen, said Rob Lee, a Russian military expert and senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute Proving ineffective, the commanders sought to compensate by pushing elite airborne, marine and Spetsnaz units to the front, including a failed attempt to capture the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, and to campaign in the east and south.

See also  Former Brazilian President Bolsonaro's passport was confiscated as part of the coup investigation

He told me there was an immediate result to this strategy. Having burned the best trained fighters, the Russian commanders lost the valuable skills those forces possessed, including intelligence gathering and reconnaissance, from the start of the invasion until last fall.

“It affected the rest of the war because Russia lost all these basic capabilities up front which it couldn’t easily replace – both in terms of equipment and in terms of talent,” he said. “It affected what they could and could not do.”

Only days into the war, Lee told me, Spetsnaz forces arrived in the eastern city of Kharkiv in small numbers and without much support from conventional forces. He indicated that many of them were killed or captured. Several of their Specialty vehicles were destroyed, as videos and photos show.

He told me a similar situation occurred in Mariupol in the south and in the eastern Donbass region, where fighting often took place in wooded areas and where regular Russian motorized rifle units had difficulty operating. Lee said Spetsnaz forces also operated in the coal-mining town of Vohlidar in the Donetsk region, where Ukrainian and Russian forces have been fighting each other for months.

A soldier who served in Voldar with the Ukrainian 72nd Mechanized Brigade told The Post that while he could not confirm that his unit encountered Spetsnaz, that may have been the case because they carried advanced body armor combined with advanced night vision and thermal optics. Those hostile forces operate in small units, this soldier said, performing traditional reconnaissance and infantry missions. He spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of recent operations.

See also  How does Russia mock US sanctions in one photo?

Apparently Spetsnaz brigade commander killed He told me in Vohlidar in February that illustrates the scope of the problems facing Russia. If such a senior military leader was “that far away, something is likely not quite right. Either the casualties are too heavy for that unit, or they are being used in a way they are not supposed to be used.”

Russia’s spending on elite forces, the documents say, will have cascading effects, including losing some ability to train paramilitary groups in unconventional warfare tactics, “which Russia has used to advance its interests abroad.”

Obviously, Spetsnaz is a finite resource that cannot be easily replenished, he told me. What is not clear is whether Russia’s traditional leaders have learned from what happened in Ukraine or how best to use these elite forces. “It will take some time before there is a full understanding of how they adapt,” he said.

There are mentions on the Internet of the activity of the 22nd separate Spetsnaz brigade in Ukraine. Video from last summer shows members of the unit’s sniper section moving through buildings, using sophisticated equipment out of reach of many Russian regulars.

Other photos lack the same bravado. Pictures purported to show a young captain On 22, Alexey, circulated in March 2022 along with photos of A Granite monument For soldiers killed before the war up to two months old. Alexei’s name is written at the top.

Samuel Oakford in Washington, Anastacia Galushka in Kiev, Ukraine, and Evan Hill in New York contributed to this report.