There Has Been a Series of Ukrainian Combat Refusals

Abandoned by officers, torn to shreds by artillery...

On two separate occasions units from the Ukrainian 79th Airborne withdrew from the front without order and refused to return. They complained of being poorly led by incompetent and cowardly officers. They complained about being poorly supplied and supported. They also complained about combat losses.

The men are mainly reservists called up after February 24, but there are also contract soldiers among them.

The 79th is fighting in Donbass along the Severodonetsk river to the east of Izyum. This sector has been one of the most active ones recently. It seems the 79th has been mauled heavily, but the unit remains in the field and has also inflicted casualties itself. (Eg 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.)

There has also been at least one instance of a unit from the Territorial Defense, the 101st from Transcarpathia, refusing to transfer to Donbass.

They complain that they have not been properly equipped and trained for the job. And that transfer to Donbass wasn’t part of the deal when they signed up — originally territorial militias were guaranteed they would not be transferred out of their regions.

It is truly a shame that there has been such a self-imposed conspiracy of silence on the state of the Ukrainian military by Western reporters and commentators that prevents us from knowing more. Doubtlessly the Ukrainian military is suffering severe blows and is struggling to cope with a variety of problems, including unskilled or cowardly command and morale problems. Nonetheless it remains in the field, it continues to offer resistance, and it continues to make Russia’s aims very, very difficult.

Also I think that these types of videos are part of the reason why Putin is so resistant to partial mobilization or even just using conscripts even though the Russian war effort so clearly cries out for more infantry. When things go awry battle formations composed solely of contract soldiers aren’t going to go public and start making protest videos, but reservists and conscripts very well might.

Using reservists and conscripts is messy in more ways than one. It entails a lot more bartering, persuasion and collaboration with the people you are nominally ordering around. I think that Putin isn’t quite yet ready to have to be bartering with the society and the soldiers in this way, and his system perhaps isn’t capable of it. (Not that Ukrainian system is any better but they simply have no choice but to mobilize anyway.)

Anyway back to the combat refusal videos. They’re all worth a watch. Very grim and revealing stuff. Brave men in more ways than one.

10 Comments
  1. Pink Unicorne says

    If Putin doesn’t throw Russian youth into the meat grinder now, he is slowly but surely losing the war, despite the glacial gain his army is making in Ukraine. Eventually, the daily attrition in Donbas will add up, and he will not have a functioning professional army for much longer.
    If Putin does throw Russian youth into the meat grinder, not only will Russia’s future be put to an end definitively, but foreigners will be investing in a Russian economy turned into a war machine in any foreseeable future. Sure, the Soviets mobilized in a major way in WWII, but Russia back then was a serf-dominated economy with a high fertility rate, not a fragile society in varying rates of decline that it is now.

    1. Oscar Peterson says

      Well, as this piece suggests, the meat grinder is working on both armies.

      And media reporting focuses mostly on the casualties of only one side.

      So it’s hard to determine at any given point just how the overall situation is developing.

  2. Ulrich von Kafkanien says

    The fact is that all of us know far too little to have a qualified opinion on the development of this war (or non-war for the Putinists). I remember that very early in the special military operation, “the Saker” opinionated his hope that the Russians would not advance too fast. I was stunned by this opinion, contrary to my own. Today I read a German pro-Putin journalist suggesting that the Russians do almost not advance at all, because they want the Ukrainian army to collapse from lack of supplies. Might be, but how is then anyone of us to ascertain to which degree the Russian army succeed in consistently bombing the Ukrainian supply lines?

    1. Oscar Peterson says

      I agree.

      It’s interesting how little we are able to gather about the overall tactical situation in this television/internet era.

      Funny how things have evolved since Vietnam. Where are the journalists? Have they all decided that the front is too dangerous or are they simply not permitted by the two sides to get close (unless they agree to report favorably for one side or the other)?

      Is there such a thing as a “war correspondent” now?

      It’s all leaks, anonymous “officials,” etc.

  3. Agarwal says

    I’m getting the suspicion that Putin is looking for a minimalist (from my perspective) political settlement that includes no NATO membership, some official protection for the Russian language in parts of Ukraine, recognition of Donbas and Crimean independence, and at least some sanctions relief. I think Putin will even cede Kherson back to Ukraine if he gets guaranteed water rights for Crimea.

    At this point in time Ukraine and the West will not even agree to that, but perhaps Putin thinks that Ukrainians will get tired of the destroyed economy and attritioning of their young men, and Europe will get tired of very high energy prices, inflation, and the prospect mass immigration driven by famine in Africa & the Middle East.

    That Putin refuses to strike decision-making centers in Kyiv, refuses to cut off gas to Europe, refuses to do conscription, suggests to me that he wants to go back to something like the status quo before the war. He is not ready for the brave new world of a Russia isolated from the West, his friends and co-elites unable to hang out in London, Miami, Switzerland, South of France etc, and Russia having to do things hard things like science & technology on its own and associate only with China & the global south.

    1. Oscar Peterson says

      Key in any resolution is the ability of Russia to go back in if Ukraine reneges.

      That, of course, was the issue with Minsk.

      I think the threat of holding Ukraine’s economy hostage over the longer term is going to play a major role in negotiations. Again, Moscow’s two goals–de-NATOization and healing the Russia-Ukraine breach–have been at cross-purposes from the beginning, and the latter will have to be sacrificed to the former in the short/medium term at least.

      I don’t see how de-NATO-ization will not still be part of the package of demands.

      Obviously, the biggest part of all this is what Russia can actually accomplish on the ground.

  4. KeZa says

    Very stupid men on both sides! Period!! If you are so dumb not to see that murder nor war is never the answer and these man on both sides have also no real idea what is the real cause of this war… you need to stop BSing here bc you also have still no clue whatsoever and are supporting the wrong side! Which side does not matter and this is a fact Bro. Just go back fishing with your dumb brainwashed mind that cannot even know how to tie your own shoes, let alone give clear unbiased statements about this situation. Grow up little boy!

    1. Dan Farrand says

      You will have to come back in 2 or 3 months to see if war was the answer or not. It’s a bit formulaic to say “war is not the answer”, when history does show that war is very often the answer. It is often used to answer the questions diplomacy fails to answer.

      In this case, diplomacy was not even given a chance to answer by the West as provocation and war was the intention of the brilliant minds at the Department of State since 2014.

  5. RegretLeft says

    In WWI – early 1918 – many American soldiers – just arriving that the front – were sent there without even a personal rifle. When “going over the top” on mass assaults they were told to grab one from a fallen comrade.

    Officers Suck!

    1. Oscar Peterson says

      I don’t know what army you are referring to but it wasn’t the US Army in WW I.

      US units were not going “over the top” in early 1918. The first real action was Cantigny at the end of May.

      And if there is one thing “arsenals of democracy” don’t need to do, it’s pick up enemy rifles because of an shortage of its own.

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