Russia is using elite paratrooper units as regular infantry, with the rest of its forces overstretched, UK intel says

Russian paratroopers during the rehearsals for the Victory Day Military Parade at the polygon, on April 18, 2022 in Alabino, outside of Moscow, Russia
Russian paratroopers during the rehearsals for the Victory Day Military Parade in April 2022 in Alabino, outside of Moscow, Russia.Contributor/Getty Images
  • Russia is using elite paratroopers as regular infantry, the UK MOD said.

  • The VDV force isn't at full strength and is being used to help overstretched Russian lines, it said.

  • The VDV's hierarchy is likely unhappy with the situation, it added.

Russia is using elite paratroopers as regular infantry to compensate for overstretched forces in Ukraine, even though the units likely aren't even at full strength, according to UK intelligence.

The UK Ministry of Defence said in an intelligence update on Monday that at least five regiments of Russia's elite parachute force, the VDV, "are likely now concentrated within several kilometers of the frontline village of Robotyne."

At full strength, this would be about 10,000 paratroopers, the MOD said. "However, almost all units are highly likely dramatically under strength," it said.

The situation is one that is unlikely to please the elite force's hierarchy, it added.

The VDV forces have likely reinforced Russia's 58th Combined Arms Army, part of Russia's ground forces, according to the UK MOD, with the situation coming about as Russia's military finds itself overstretched.

"Throughout the war Russian commanders have attempted to regenerate the airborne forces as a highly mobile, striking force for offensive operations. Once again, they are being used as line infantry to augment over-stretched ground forces," the MOD said.

Experts at the Washington DC-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War previously said that Russia was calling up VDV troops for defensive efforts, which suggested that "Russian forces may be using relatively elite units to reinforce critical sectors of the frontline."

However, the ISW said that this will hinder its efforts to use these troops at a later date when it wants to take more offensive action, which is something it has used these troops for in the past.

The VDV has experienced huge losses in Ukraine since Russia began its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

The UK MOD said in August that at least 50% of the 30,000 Russian paratroopers who were deployed to Ukraine "have been killed or wounded" since the start of the full-scale invasion.

Their performance in Ukraine has also had some experts and Russian media figures questioning their elite status, Insider reported back in February.

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