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Putin’s Nightmare: Could Parts of the Russian Military Mutiny?

Russian Military TOS-1. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
Russian TOS-1 firing. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

The Russian Military on the Brink in Ukraine? The Russian military has taken a beating since invading Ukraine on February 24. Its troops have suffered from low morale, supply issues, and a lack of effective command and control at the small unit level. 

But those issues are now getting worse. As casualties continue to climb ever higher, some Russian soldiers are refusing to follow orders from Russian commanders to re-enter the battle.

On Tuesday, Ukrainian Security Services posted an audio recording on social media that it claimed its intelligence service intercepted from a cell phone conversation between a Russian soldier and his wife. In the recording, the Russian soldier said that troops nearly shot a general when they refused to follow his orders as Russian troops faced a tense standoff, pointing weapons at one another over the refusal to fight.

The Russian general, Valeriy Solodchuk, the commander of the 36th Army, had ordered the remaining 215 troops of the 600-man battalion back into battle in the Donbas. The soldier told his wife that nearly all of the troops refused to obey his orders.

“Almost all of our battery refused,” the soldier told his wife. The enraged General Solodchik then started waving his pistol and shooting, and said to the troops, “I’ll whack you if you don’t f***ing go there!” 

“Then, a kid says to him, ‘Go ahead, whack!’ F**k, he pulled out a grenade, pulled a pin, and says: ‘Come on, shoot me! We’ll blow up together.’ That’s it. The special forces guys also started pointing their guns at us. So, we pointed our guns at them.”

“In short, we almost shot each other, for f**k’s sake. He got on his bobik (Russian jeep) and left. 

“Our brigade can’t capture anything because there’s fucking nothing left of it,” the soldier said in the recording. It is unknown whether after the general left the troops followed his orders or not. 

British Ministry of Defense Says Mutinees Are Growing Among Russian Units

The audio recording from the Russian soldier is not an isolated incident according to the latest assessment by the British Ministry of Defense. The MOD reported on Monday that Russian officers are facing significant issues which are further limiting their effectiveness in combat. 

“With multiple credible reports of localized mutinies amongst Russia’s forces in Ukraine, a lack of experienced and credible platoon and company commanders is likely to result in a further decrease in morale and continued poor discipline, the UK’s Ministry of Defence posted on Twitter.

“Brigade and battalion commanders likely deploy forward into harm’s way because they are held to an uncompromising level of responsibility for their units’ performance… 

“Similarly, junior officers have had to lead the lowest level tactical actions, as the army lacks the cadre of highly trained and empowered non-commissioned officers (NCOs) who fulfill that role in Western forces.

“More immediately, battalion tactical groups (BTGs) which are being reconstituted in Ukraine from survivors of multiple units are likely to be less effective due to a lack of junior leaders,” additional posts by the Ministry of Defence went on to say.

About a week ago, 115 members of the National Guard were fired for refusing to return to Ukraine. And it appears that the economic sanctions levied by the West on Russia may have affected the issue. 

With the value of the Russian ruble plummeting, the National Guard troops’ pay during the February-to-April timeframe was about half of what was normally paid, due to the shrinking exchange rate of the ruble. 

Russian Military Tactics And Mistakes Continue In Ukraine:

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, nearly 100 days ago, its military has made countless strategic and tactical mistakes. And rather than learning from these errors and changing the way they conduct operations, many of those mistakes continue, with the effect of limiting their successes on the battlefield and causing more casualties. 

Even though they continue to advance in the Donbas industrial heartland, the casualty rate among the battalion tactical groups continues to be staggering, with an average loss rate of 20 percent. Pentagon estimates of Russian military tank losses are thought to be more than 1,000. That may explain the use of obsolescent T-62s on the battlefield recently. 

Russian overconfidence that the war would be over in a matter of days had the Kremlin made the mistake of trying to run the war from Moscow. After the bloody fighting showed the error of that strategy, the Russians didn’t do anything to change that. President Vladimir Putin then appointed Gen. Aleksandr V. Dvornikov to take over the stalled invasion. 

Dvornikov was known for his targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure during the Syrian civil war. Those tactics have once again come front and center across Ukraine. Speculation that he too may have been sacked has arisen in the past few weeks as he hasn’t been seen. 

His attempts to coordinate air and ground attacks are bearing only limited success, mainly due to the Russian Air Force continuing to fly risk-averse missions, conducting airstrikes, many times from Russian airspace, and then returning to their bases. Because of these tactics, the Russians, considered to have a vast superiority in both numbers and technology, have still not attained air superiority. 

As we’ve written many times here, the lack of a professional NCO corps, which is the backbone of the U.S. and other Western nations, is crippling the Russian invasion at the tactical level. Western NCOs and junior officers can make decisions on the ground. Russian troops have to follow rigid orders, which is why battalion and brigade commanders have to take the reins of attacks that would be handled by Western junior leaders. 

The Ukrainians have suffered heavy casualties as well, but after adopting Western tactics and systems of leadership, have punched well above their weight class. And despite the Russians continued advances in the eastern Donbas, the Pentagon has characterized it as “plodding and incremental.”

Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for and other military news organizations, he has covered the NFL for for over 10 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.

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Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He has served as a US Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 1945, he covers the NFL for and his work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.