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UK Defense Ministry: Russia’s reliance on penal battalions shows lack of infantry capability

by Dinara Khalilova and The Kyiv Independent news desk October 24, 2023 12:01 PM 2 min read
A T-34 tank is transported along the Garden Ring road in front of a huge Z letter, a tactical insignia of Russian troops in Ukraine, towards Red Square for a rehearsal of the Victory Day military parade in central Moscow on May 4, 2023. (Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images)
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Russia mostly continues to rely on Storm-Z units staffed by convicts and regular troops on disciplinary charges for local offensive operations in Ukraine, the U.K. Defense Ministry reported on Oct. 24.

While Russian forces have often carried out an effective defense, the existence of Storm-Z “highlights the extreme difficulty" Russia faces in generating combat infantry capable of conducting successful assaults, the ministry wrote.

Russia likely initially viewed the Storm-Z units, first deployed in 2022, as “relatively elite organizations which could seize the tactical initiative,” reads the ministry’s latest intelligence update.

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However, since at least this spring, the company-sized groups have effectively turned into penal battalions.

“Multiple accounts suggest the units are given the lowest priority for logistical and medical support while repeatedly being ordered to attack,” adds the update.

Russian troops are launching heavy attacks in many sectors of the eastern front, including in the Avdiivka, Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, and Marinka directions, the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces reported on Oct. 23.

The past few days saw an unusually high daily number of clashes, sometimes double the mid-October numbers.

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