Ukraine invasion: Russian army loses generation of young officers

Russian forces are likely to be less effective on the battlefield in future because of a lack of junior military leaders following devastating losses among the army’s lower ranking officers, according to British intelligence.

The UK Ministry of Defence said that brigade and battalion commanders were being deployed into harm’s way because they were “held to an uncompromising level of responsibility for their units’ performance”.

Junior officers have also been forced to lead low-level tactical assaults because the Russian army lacks the cadre of highly trained non-commissioned officers who fulfil that role in western forces, the assessment said.

A destroyed tank is pictured in Mariupol on May 30 amid the ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine. Picture: AFP

“The loss of a large proportion of the younger generation of professional officers will likely exacerbate ongoing problems in modernising its approach to command and control. More immediately, battalion tactical groups which are being reconstituted in Ukraine from survivors of multiple units are likely to be less effective due to a lack of junior leaders,” the MoD said.

It cited reports of localised mutinies among Russian forces, adding that a lack of “experienced and credible platoon and company commanders is likely to result in a further decrease in morale and continued poor discipline”.

A western military source said earlier this month that President Putin and General Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff, had been making low-level tactical decisions of the sort normally decided by a colonel or brigadier.

Senior commanders have been fired for their seemingly poor performance during the invasion, with western officials claiming that a culture of cover-ups and scapegoating has emerged.

Ukraine’s general staff of the armed forces claimed that Russian soldiers were “ready to kill their generals” who had forced them to go on the offensive in the eastern Donetsk region, which is part of the Donbas.

According to a telephone conversation intercepted by Ukrainian intelligence, Russian “contractors” almost shot Lieutenant General Valery Solodchuk and his guards, who came to stop a riot and force troops to continue to fight. Solodchuk is commander of the 36th Combined Arms Army.

“The soldiers refused to obey the order and were ready to blow up the ‘high guests,’ ” the Ukrainians posted on Facebook on Monday. It was claimed that the commander had left the front line as a result.

The MoD’s latest assessment comes as it issued a challenge to British companies to think of “battle-winning” ideas to help Ukraine overcome the Russian invaders. As part of a pounds 25 million campaign the ministry is calling for the UK defence industry to develop autonomous or remotely-controlled vehicles to help protect Ukraine’s coast, equipment to keep supply lines going, and new electronic warfare technology such as GPS jammers and drones.

Defence chiefs are also asking for proposals on how to support the resupply of ammunition and the maintenance of Soviet-calibre 122mm and 152mm weapon systems amid concerns that Ukraine’s stocks are running low.

Meanwhile, a French cameraman has been killed in Ukraine after his vehicle was hit by Russian shells as he was filming an operation to evacuate civilians. Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff, 32, was covering the war for BFM, a French news channel; Maxime Brandstaetter, a BFM journalist working alongside Leclerc-Imhoff, suffered leg wounds in the same attack. The two were filming near the city of Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine. President Macron said that he “shared the pain of the family, relatives and colleagues” of the victim.

The Times


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