Russia is relying heavily on so-called Storm Z penal units to launch fresh offensives in Ukraine, according to British intelligence.
Moscow’s forces are thought to have suffered massive losses on the eastern front in Ukraine near Avdiivka. This could be partly because commanders are launching human wave assaults with Storm Z units. Russia has also launched assaults towards previously occupied Kupyansk and Lyman.
The penal units have previously complained that they are sent on the most dangerous missions and receive worse equipment than regular Russian troops.
The UK Ministry of Defence said: “Russia largely continues to rely on specially designated ‘Shtorm-Z’ [sic] units for local offensive operations in Ukraine.
In an update on X, it added: “Since at least spring 2023, Shtorm-Z have effectively become penal battalions, manned with convicts and regular troops on disciplinary charges.”
The MoD said that “multiple accounts” suggest Storm Z units are neglected when it comes to support and medical care as they are the “lowest priority”.
Their use in offensive operations shows the “extreme difficulty Russia has in generating combat infantry capable of conducting effective offensive operations,” it added.
According to Kyiv, these units are often used in human wave attacks against hardened Ukrainian defences with huge losses. Now they are being increasingly employed in massive assaults against the town of Avdiivka with little success.
Russia has been attempting to seize the eastern Donetsk town since October 10. In the initial assault, the Russian 2nd Combined Arms Army and forces from the so-called separatist Donetsk People’s Republic stormed north and south of the virtually destroyed settlement Avdiivka.
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However, armoured forces ran into Ukrainian minefields, drones and artillery. Moscow is said to have lost hundreds of vehicles in the attacks which are still ongoing.
Following the failed massive armoured assault, Russian forces sent infantry groups and motorised rifle units.
Ukraine’s drones continued to sight Russian forces which were then targeted by artillery including American cluster munitions.
It’s unclear how many soldiers Russia has lost to Ukrainian defenders there but reports suggest that number to be in the hundreds if not thousands.
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