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Jul 31 46 tweets 11 min read
1/ Why do Russian soldiers break on the Ukranian battlefield? This third 🧵 in a series looks at at how their personal experiences of war have prompted some Russian contract soldiers to refuse orders, resign from their contracts and try to go home.
2/ For the first part, a look at the factors motivating ordinary Russian soldiers to fight in Ukraine, see below:
3/ In the second part, I've looked at the demoralising effect of inadequate training and lack of equipment for volunteers, as well as their supplies being looted before they even reached the front lines:
4/ It's worth noting at the outset that the nature of the Ukraine war is different from anything that Russia has experienced since the 1940s. Even those who have fought in the Caucasus or Middle East have never seen anything like the full-scale industrial war in Ukraine.
5/ The chances of becoming a casualty in Ukraine are far higher than in any of Russia's post-WW2 conflicts. On present trends, the Ukraine war is likely to become one of the deadliest conflicts globally in the last 200 years. washingtonpost.com/outlook/2022/0…
6/ In my first thread, I noted that many Russian soldiers are motivated by money, ideology, comradeship and/or experience. But none of those matters if you come back in a coffin. Motivation often falters in the face of certain death, especially if it's due to bad leadership. Image
7/ I've been looking at the war through the eyes of Viktor Shayga, a Russian who volunteered to join the army as a contract soldier in March 2022. He entered Ukraine in early April and fought with the 752nd Guards Motor Rifle Regiment near Izyum, east of Kharkiv.
8/ Russia has suffered heavy casualties in repeated attempts to capture the villages of Sulyhivka and Dovhen'ke south of Izyum. After 3 months of fighting, Sulyhivka is still contested. (Video shows artillery destroying Russian armour in Dovhen'ke).
9/ Shayga's company consisted of 13 people, supplemented after a week by 13 more newly recruited volunteers who had been sent directly from Russia with minimal training. Before the group moved to the front line, they were given the option of refusing to fight.
10/ "In the morning, our regiment’s zampolit [political officer] arrived. He said we are going to Satan’s ass, so those who want can refuse right here at the farm, since later he won’t be taking anyone back if someone wanted to return.
11/ One man refused – praporshik [ensign] Vasiliy from Moscow. Everyone else went."

It wasn't a good sign that the unit's senior NCO didn't want to fight. Shayga later found that its starshina [first sergeant] also kept himself out of the fighting.
12/ Their first offensive action was an attempt to take the Ukrainian-held village of Dovhen'ke. However, they came under heavy bombardment as they entered nearby Sulyhivka and got no further. Image
13/ "As we walked, the Ukrainian army noticed us and started shelling us from Grad [BM-21 multiple rocket launchers] and mortars.
14/ During the second, rather massive shelling I already said goodbye to my life – I thought that was it, that the next bomb will either rip my legs off or kill me instantly. It was really scary."
15/ The aborted attack was postponed until the next day, 20 April. However, there was not much enthusiasm for it among the Russian soldiers.
16/ "Many company commanders in the two battalions of the 752th regiment told their fighters that we are being sent to a sure death, since the Ukrainians are well prepared."
17/ "So they said – decide for yourself if you want to go or not. Four fifths of us (if not more) refused to go. So did I ... because I simply had no physical energy to keep going into an assault."
18/ The regiment did find enough volunteers, but seem to have had no vehicles. Instead they walked 7 km – taking 6 hours – across the open countryside to Dovhen'ke, under constant mortar, shell and tank fire. Many were killed; many more were wounded, including Shayga's commander. Image
19/ "When we reported to our battalion commander Major Vasyura about dead and wounded, he cursed: ‘leave them and keep advancing!!!’."
20/ The inexperienced officers didn't know what to do and turned to one of the volunteer contract soldiers, a 40-year-old combat veteran, who said: "Guys, we need to fall back, otherwise we will be smashed with mortars and those who stay alive will be finished off".
21/ They retreated to Dovhen'ke, only returning at 23:00. "One of the volunteers, Andrey from Kursk who came together with me said that many simply ran off while retreating. He yelled at them to help pull out the wounded, but they didn’t help."
22/ "He said he wanted to grab an assault rifle and start shooting in their backs… Thus, the grenade launcher platoon commander, Captain Nikolaev who was dragged for 4 hours, died from blood loss."

The next day, almost everyone from Shayga's unit refused to join another attack.
23/ Other units attacked Dovhen'ke, but with no more success. In one attack, "8 tanks and infantry entered Dovhen'ke but decided to keep going rather than taking positions, so the tankmen went forward and almost all of them got hit, and then the infantry was also pushed out". Image
24/ Special forces (spetsnaz) and airborne units also attempted to take Dovhen'ke but were repulsed. A unit of trained reservists arrived and spent a month assaulting the village. "In total, 340 of them arrived in Ukraine. After a month of shelling only 57 remained."
25/ "Moreover, half of the survivors were at the headquarters. Most of them were wounded. They never had a single firefight, all the losses came from Ukrainian artillery fire."
26/ New volunteers were immediately thrown into the attack on Dovhen'ke when they arrived in Ukraine. By May, all of the officers had either been killed, wounded or were refusing to attack.
27/ "There were no more officers so they were picking the most hardened ones among the volunteers (ones who fought in Chechnya and Syria), appointed them as seniors, gave them radios and sent them to assault Dovhen'ke."
28/ In one failed assault, described in the Russian Telegram channel 'Military Informant', a group of volunteers was sent to assist a Russian company – normally about 100 soldiers – that was down to 20 infantrymen, 4 BMP infantry fighting vehicles and one tank.
29/ Fierce Ukrainian resistance pinned the Russians down and forced them to retreat. "The tank had not even begun to work on the positions of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and the BMP distinguished itself only by shelling its own [side]." The plan of attack quickly failed.
30/ The unit's wounded commander was left in the village with only a grenade to blow himself up. Three Russians were killed. Every surviving Russian combatant was wounded. Not even veterans of the Donbas, Syria, Libya and Chechnya had experienced such intense combat before.
31/ Some of the shell-shocked remnants from the assaults, including Shayga, hitched rides on trucks back to Izyum. Others "scattered around the forests after those insane assaults by our unit." Image
32/ "They fled because they were immediately thrown into battle and they didn’t even know each other all that well. I’ve heard they now wander in the forests in small groups, not letting anyone approach them. If someone yells at them – ‘We’re yours!’, they start shooting anyway."
33/ Contrary to popular myth, the Russian army doesn't have WW2-style 'blocking units' which shoot deserters. Instead, Shayga says, "one of our PMCs [Private Military Companies = mercenaries] had an objective of collecting such people in the forests and fields of our area."
34/ (This was likely the notorious Wagner Group, whose soldiers were photographed in the forests east of Dovhen'ke in early June.) Image
35/ "They picked up two of our guys in shrubbery near Sulyhivka… They fed them, gave them new uniforms, since after two weeks in Sulyhivka their uniform was completely worn out, and brought them to Izyum."
36/ Back in the rear, Shayga and other 'refusers' were used as a labour battalion. "We dug trenches, carried earth bags to reinforce division headquarters, sawed pines for dugouts. Nearly every day they were bringing new ‘refusers’ to us."
37/ A steady stream of arrivals with stories "even more tragic than ours" further demotivated Shayga and his comrades. Coincidentally, the Ukrainian authorities intercepted a phone call from another soldier of the 752nd GMMR talking about his experiences, likely at Sulyhivka:
38/ "There were 107 people [in my company], 10 remain. From them 4 have left, 6 of us have stayed. From the 1st platoon I’m alone left. In the 1st platoon we’ve had 22 people, I am the only one left."
39/ "There was an offensive here two days ago, 752 [regiment] were attacking the ukrops and 25 people died. 25. 25 fucking guys have died. Simply, 25 have died, all “200” [dead]. It’s a complete slaughter. Total ass. What they are telling you on the TV, don’t believe it, don’t."
40/ "It’s a complete ass here. A fuckload of dead, a fuckload of fucked up tanks, it’s a fucking ass."

One of these attacks was filmed by the Ukrainians. Reportedly 5 BMPs and an unknown number of Russian soldiers were destroyed by Ukrainian artillery.
41/ After so many failed assaults, the area around Dovhen'ke resembled a slaughterhouse. Shayga heard from troops involved in subsequent attacks that when they approached the village, "very close to it there are bodies of our dead soldiers lying around."
42/ "Some have already begun decomposing and swelling back then. Some also said they saw bodies of our dead piled up in shrubbery, some were also tied to the trees ... They said our wounded were in one of the trenches for three days and no one could pick them up."
43/ Not surprisingly, Shayga is contemptuous of his commanders' decisions – a common theme in many Russian soldiers' accounts of the war. In the next thread, I'll look at what Russian soldiers have said about their side's poor command, tactics and strategy in the war. /end
Translations provided by the estimable @wartranslated – if you're not following him, you should!

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More from @ChrisO_wiki

Dec 1
1/ Another member of the Wagner mercenary group has been executed by his own side – a convict soldier named Viktor Anatolyevich Sevalnev, who served with the Luhansk People's Republic People's Militia and retreated from the front line after his unit took heavy casualties. ⬇️ Image
2/ I've told Sevalnev's story in the thread linked below. He was recruited from a Russian prison to serve in the Luhansk region and was given command of a unit due to previous combat experience in Chechnya. However, half his unit was killed in battle.
3/ Sevalnev himself was injured and ended up in hospital. His son was killed in the same battle. While recovering from his wounds, Sevalnev was taken from his hospital bed some time in November and was told that he would be shot for allowing his unit to retreat.
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Dec 1
1/ The Wagner mercenary group has reportedly created a "Wild Company" made up of its most violent convict recruits, described as being "thugs among thugs". It follows in a tradition of Russian "Wild Companies" known for their savagery in previous conflicts. ⬇️
2/ Olga Romanova, head of the "Russia Behind Bars" prisoner rights group, says that the new Wild Company is based in Donetsk and is headed by Alexei Dikiy, the Minister of Internal Affairs of the 'Donetsk People's Republic'. Dikiy led DNR police units in the battle of Mariupol.
3/ It should be noted that Dikiy's surname means "wild" in Russian, so the company's name has a double meaning – reflecting his leadership, like the Dirlewanger Brigade of convicts who served in the German SS in WW2, but also it reflects a Russian tradition.
Read 11 tweets
Dec 1
1/ An accident involving an Airbus A320 landing with locked main gear brakes at Irkutsk on 2 November reportedly had an unusual cause: the pilot's bag got hooked on the brake control. Ural Airlines Flight 62942 suffered four burst tyres on landing.
2/ The Bazabazon Telegram channel reports that the Russian air safety regulator Rosavitsia has found that the A320's pilot put a bag filled with documents on the central control panel but accidentally snagged the parking brake switch while the co-pilot was in the lavatory.
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Read 9 tweets
Dec 1
1/ Non-Russians in Chelyabinsk are being given mobilisation orders, despite partial mobilisation supposedly having ended and despite not having Russian passports or even residence permits, which should make them ineligible. ⬇️ Image
2/ SOTA reports that employees of a sugar refinery in Chelyabinsk have been "handed mobilisation summonses on Monday through their management, demanding their attendance at the military registration and enlistment office" today (1 December).
3/ Among those receiving the summonses were citizens of Belarus and Uzbekistan, which as SOTA notes, ignores "their lack of Russian passports or even residence permits."
Read 8 tweets
Nov 30
1/ The report highlighted below by @shashj is well worth reading (link at the bottom of this thread). But I just wanted to pick up on a point it makes about systemic lying in the Russian armed forces – an issue I've also tackled.
2/ The authors (who include @Jack_Watling) write:

"A further fratricidal issue is the culture of reporting within the Russian military. Those who fail are usually replaced or threatened with punishment.
3/ Alternatively, for senior officers, failure can lead to a different organisation being given leadership for a specified task. Far from incentivising success, this often leads to dishonest reporting in which the blame for failure is transferred onto others.
Read 10 tweets
Nov 30
1/ The wife of Colonel Vadim Boyko, the Deputy Head of the Makarov Pacific Higher Naval School (TOVVMU) in Vladivostok, has condemned widespread failures by the Russian army for his death by suicide on 16 November after his involvement in Russia's troubled mobilisation. ⬇️ Image
2/ His wife Yulia says in an open letter addressed to Vladimir Putin that "there is a disaster happening, that something must be done, that the motherland is in danger". She says he was given impossible tasks and threatened with criminal prosecution for not fulfilling them.
3/ In particular, she names his supervisor who she says pressured him and in whose chair he shot himself five times, "not aiming for his head, not trying to end it as quickly as possible". Boyko wanted to send a message about "the disgrace that is happening ... in the Far East."
Read 30 tweets

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