According to a new report, an elite Russian ‘Spetsnaz military brigade’ suffered so many losses while fighting in Ukraine that it was essentially “wiped out” and is expected to take a long time to rebuild.
When it was first sent into Ukraine, the 200th Separate Motor Rifle Brigade, stationed in northwestern Russia near its border with NATO-leaning Finland, had more experience, newer equipment, and better training than many other Russian units, The Washington Post reported on Friday.
But despite these advantages, the 200th suffered greatly in the months of combat that would follow.
Shortly after the invasion, units belonging to the 200th were attacked and ambushed, leaving numerous soldiers dead and equipment abandoned, according to the report.
The 200th spent the following weeks defending positions in the Kharkiv region and fending off Ukrainian attacks. By late May, documents obtained by the Post revealed, hundreds of soldiers had been lost in Ukraine from two battalion tactical groups. Several months later, the 200th was routed during Ukraine’s lightning counteroffensive in the northeast Kharkiv region.
One soldier serving in the 200th after being drafted as part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s September mobilization order told The Post this month that “the unit is in a state of decay” and he was given “painted helmets from 1941 and vests without plates.” Western officials told the paper that the brigade was riddled with dysfunction,. hindering its combat capabilities.
“Nothing of that brigade is left,” Col. Pavlo Fedosenko, the commander of Ukraine’s 92nd Mechanized Brigade, told The Post in a recent interview. “It’s completely wiped out.” One senior European intelligence official told the paper that “it will take years to rebuild the 200th” because it lost so many soldiers and officers.
The 200th is not the only high-profile band of Russian soldiers to have faced problems and depletion among its ranks while in Ukraine as Putin’s battlefield woes mount as the war drags on.
Paratroopers from the country’s elite airborne force, known as the VDV, took substantial loses as they encountered numerous failures during the early weeks of Russia’s campaign. One VDV unit saw its commander killed, and another ambushed during a Kyiv patrol.
More recently, the reconnaissance company of the GRU’s 3rd Guards Spetsnaz Brigade experienced substantial casualties during the battle for Lyman, as Ukraine pressed ahead with its blitz-style counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region.
After nearly 10 months of war, the exact number of Russian troops who have died while fighting in Ukraine is unclear, as the Kremlin does not regularly provide such information to the public. And when it does, the numbers are widely seen as unreliable. Earlier this week, UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said, “we estimate over 100,000 Russians are either dead, injured, or have deserted.”
That figure echoes a similar estimate from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, the highest-ranking US general, who said last month that over 100,000 Russian soldiers had been “killed and wounded.” Milley added that Ukraine has “probably” suffered similar casualties.
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