Russian tactical failures in Ukraine extend to airborne forces, UK says

A local resident stands next to a heavily damaged building in a Russian bombing opposite his house in Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. The town of Bakhmut has been coming under increasing artillery strikes, particularly over the last week, as Russian forces try to press forward to encircle the city of Sieverodonetsk to the northeast. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

The United Kingdom’s defense ministry on Thursday said that Russia’s airborne forces have been involved in “several notable tactical failures” throughout Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. 

In an intelligence update, the U.K. specifically said that the failures included “the attempted advance on Kyiv via Hostomel Airfield in March, the stalled progress on the Izium axis since April, and the recent failed and costly crossings of the Siverskyi Donets River.” 

It noted that the airborne forces, known as the VDV, were involved in some of the “most demanding operations,” adding that it “has sustained heavy casualties during the campaign.”

“The failure to anticipate Ukrainian resistance and the subsequent complacency of Russian commanders has led to significant losses across many of Russia’s more elite units,” the ministry said.

“Its mixed performance likely reflects a strategic mismanagement of this capability and Russia’s failure to secure air superiority,” intelligence officials added, referring to Russia’s airborne forces.

The update comes just more than three months into Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

This week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for “total help” from other countries as Russian forces press on in the eastern region of Ukraine.

“The Armed Forces of Ukraine, our intelligence and all those who defend the state are resisting the extremely fierce offensive of Russian troops in the east. In some areas, the enemy is substantially superior in terms of equipment, number of soldiers,” Zelensky said Wednesday. 

“The Russian authorities have made an illustrative decision — they have allowed to hire older people for contract service. That is, they no longer have enough young people, but the desire to fight still remains,” he added. 

In Thursday’s update, the U.K. also noted that the VDV, which includes professional contracted soldiers who receive additional pay, is typically sent on missions “better suited to heavier armoured infantry and has sustained heavy casualties during the campaign.”

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