Russia was left without military special forces: in Ukraine, up to 95% of militants died

Russian military commanders in the first months after the invasion often used spetsnaz brigades as ordinary infantrymen. As a result, the elite units, which take at least four years to prepare, have been gutted, The Washington Post (WaPo) writes, citing estimates by the U.S. military and experts, as well as satellite images that were among the leaked Pentagon documents.

This deprived the Russian army of the ability to conduct special operations, for which such units are intended. Pentagon documents show that it could take Russia about a decade to recreate combat-ready units. They say:

Of the five separate Russian special forces brigades that returned from hostilities in Ukraine in late summer 2022, all but one suffered significant casualties.

The scale of these losses is in particular evidenced by satellite images taken in November 2021 and November 2022. The first training ground of the 22nd separate special forces brigade in the Rostov region is literally crammed with military equipment. On the second one, taken a few months after returning from Ukraine, there is much less of it; According to the U.S. military, the number of Tiger Army armored all-terrain vehicles used by special forces troops has more than halved.

In total, the Russian troops lost 151 “Tigers” – at least for this number of vehicles, Oryx experts have documentary evidence.

Photos obtained by The Washington Post

US intelligence tracked the return of all Special Forces units except the 25th Separate Regiment. Perhaps the lack of a reconnaissance signal about his return to the place of deployment in the Stavropol Territory can be explained by large losses in manpower and equipment, the document reads.

On March 27, 2023, Vladimir Putin awarded the regiment the honorary title “Guards” for “mass heroism and courage”.

The Pentagon documents do not contain estimates of how many special forces were killed or wounded in Ukraine, but they are data for one unit – 346 separate GRU special forces brigades of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces. She “lost almost all of the composition, from directing [в Украину] 900 people in the ranks, only 125 remain. (The main military intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine reported in 2016 that fighters of the 346th brigade were involved in special reconnaissance training for DPR and LPR troops and took part in hostilities against Ukrainian forces).

According to US intelligence agencies, losses in the 22nd and two other separate special forces brigades amounted to 90-95%.

Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Institute for Foreign Policy Studies and an expert on the Russian military, explained to WaPo the reasons for such catastrophic casualties among elite units. Since motorized rifle units turned out to be extremely ineffective, the command sent special forces, air and sea paratroopers to the front. And if an attempt to land at the Antonov airfield in Gostomel for the subsequent capture of Kiev can still be considered a special operation, then on the southern and eastern sectors of the front the best units simply died on the front line. Thus, the Russian army from the very beginning lacked professionals capable of reconnaissance, sabotage and covert operations, says Li.

This, he said, influenced the entire course of the war. In February under Ugledar, as reported, the commander of the 14th Special Forces Brigade, Colonel Sergei Polyakov, died. This is another illustration of the problems facing the Russian army, says Lee:

If such a high-ranking commander is on the front lines, something must be wrong. Either this unit has too many casualties, or it needs to do something it shouldn’t.


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