Elite Russian Force ‘Significantly Degraded’ After High Casualties: U.K.
One of Russia’s elite brigades has been “significantly degraded” following “tough” deployments in Ukraine, according to a new intelligence assessment.
Russia’s 155th Naval Infantry, which is “seen as an elite infantry force within the Russian military,” has experienced heavy losses in hotly contested areas of the eastern Donetsk region, the U.K.’s defense ministry said on Sunday.
The 155th has likely lost numerous military vehicles around the Donbas town of Vuhledar, the ministry said. Vuhledar, a mining town close to the Donetsk front line, has seen weeks of some of the heaviest fighting of the past year.
On Sunday, Ukraine’s General Staff said Russian forces had “no success” in offensive operations around Vuhledar, although the settlement had been “hit.”
Writing on Telegram on Sunday, Russia’s defense ministry said its forces had inflicted a “defeat” on Ukraine’s defense forces in and around Vuhledar, without giving further details.
On Thursday, the British defense ministry suggested Moscow may be preparing for a renewed offensive around Vuhledar “despite costly failed attacks in early February and late 2022.”
Russia’s 155th Naval Infantry Brigade has “been at the forefront of recent costly offensives,” the government department said on Sunday.
Units of the brigade have been assigned “some of the toughest tactical missions” of the invasion, and have “suffered extremely high” casualty rates, it added.
But the “supposedly enhanced capability” of the elite brigade has been compromised by inexperienced fighters joining its ranks, according to the ministry.
“This lack of experience is almost certainly exacerbating Russian officers’ tendency to micromanage, which in turn reduces operational agility,” the assessment argued.
These “degraded” units could be deployed again to fresh attacks near Vuhledar, the defense ministry said. It has previously been reported that “elite” brigades are suffering high casualties in eastern Ukraine, although Russia has made no mention of its losses in recent war updates.
Newsweek has contacted the Russian defense ministry for comment.
What Is Russia’s 155th Naval Infantry?
Dubbed the “Russian navy’s unhappiest marine brigade” by Forbes, Ukraine said “almost the entire brigade” had been wiped out near the mining town on February 12.
“The 155th brigade already had to be restaffed three times,” according to Oleksiy Dmytrashkivskyi, who heads up the press center for Ukraine’s defense forces’ Tavrisky district.
“The first time after Irpin and Bucha; the second time they were defeated near Donetsk — they recovered again,” he told Politico.
“And now almost the entire brigade has already been destroyed near Vuhledar,” he added.
The 155th is stationed in the Russian port city of Vladivostok, according to Russian independent investigative outlet Novaya Gazeta.
“The battalion has been reinforced seven times already,” one anonymous private reportedly from the 155th told the outlet in December. “There are very few contract soldiers, the main source is volunteers and draftees.”
But the 155th has become known for an open letter penned by the brigade following a botched assault on the Ukrainian village of Pavlivka in November. Around 300 Russian soldiers died during about four days of fighting, according to the letter.
The open letter, published on a Telegram channel associated with the Wagner mercenary group operating in Ukraine, said the 155th had been sent into an “incomprehensible offensive” by its commanders.
The letter, addressed to the Primorsky regional governor, Oleg Kozhemyako, said the brigade had lost half of its vehicles in the assault, adding: “In just 4 days, we have lost about 300 men killed, wounded and missing as a result of this ‘carefully planned’ offensive thanks to our ‘great commanders.'”
“The brigade was almost completely destroyed, it has already been re-staffed,” one 155th brigade member told MediaZona. “But you have to understand that it really depends on those old servicemen who train the young ones, that’s why the brigade is not totally useless in combat yet.”
Kozhemyako reportedly conceded there had been “losses” among the brigade, but said the conditions had been exaggerated.
The Russian defense ministry denied the reports, saying the unit commanders had been “competent” in decision-making.
“Due to the competent actions of the unit commanders, the losses of marines for the given period do not exceed 1 percent of combat strength, and 7 percent wounded, a significant part of whom have already returned to duty,” the ministry said, according to Reuters.