Russia is deploying some of its most elite troops in an effort to push back Ukraine’s advancing counteroffensive. While this might benefit its frontline troops, this strategic move may come at a cost. Moscow’s elite Airborne Forces, known for their paratrooping prowess, were recently summoned to defend against Ukraine’s offensive actions, marking a significant shift in their role.

Russian Paratroopers Losses

The VDV (romanized: Vozdushno-desantnye “parachuting/skydiving” voyska Rossii), a renowned branch of Russia’s military, has reportedly already suffered significant casualties in the ongoing full-scale war in Ukraine. Despite being historically utilized for offensive maneuvers, these troops are now being redirected to reinforce critical defensive sectors along the frontline. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a Washington-based think tank, points out that this lateral redeployment implies that Russia is employing its elite units to shore up vulnerable parts of the front.

According to the ISW analysis published Monday, Russian VDV units have been relocated from the Kherson and Luhansk regions to support defensive efforts in Zaporizhzhia and Bakhmut. While the Ukrainian counteroffensive has been making steady progress, Russian forces are facing challenges defending areas like Zaporizhzhia in the south and Bakhmut in the east, which they managed to claim and occupy earlier in the war.

Experts at ISW highlight the potential drawbacks of using elite units for both offense and defense. The high operational tempo has likely taken a toll on these forces, which could lead to their degradation over time. This depletion may weaken Russia’s capacity to sustain complex defensive operations and hinder any plans for large-scale offensive actions that rely on elite infantry.