Fratricide reports among Russian Soldiers

There is a single report of fratricide among Russian forces in Ukraine. Colonel Yuri Medvedev was seen in a Russian video being transported to a hospital in Belarus being assisted by Chenchen soldiers. An enlisted tank driver was apparently upset over the casualties in his unit(on the order of 50%) and drove his tank over his commander mangling his legs.  The Colonel is reportedly alive, which is a break from the recent norm which has seen some 15 other officers of flag rank killed in the last month of fighting.

While a single incident of fratricide does not point to it being widespread, it is of note that the unit involved was the 37th Separate Guards Motorized Rifle Brigade which is one of the Russian army’s elite units.


GRU Spetsnaz units during the Georgian War in 2008

At Push of Bayonets

During the Napoleonic wars the British army had a way of ensuring their troops in formation would advance as ordered and keep advancing in a tough fight, the order was called an “Advance At Push of Bayonets.”  The soldiers in their rows would fix their bayonets and aim them at the back of the soldier in front of them. If that soldier stopped or tried to take a step backward in retreat, the soldier behind him would prod him forward with his bayonet. There are reports of Russian units being deployed to ensure other Russian units fight or kill them if they refuse. This practice is a throwback to Russian tactics employed during WWII when the Russians laid minefields behind their own units to prevent their retreat and roving patrols in the rear areas were employed to round up any soldiers who bugged out and summarily execute them for desertion in the face of the enemy.  The Soviets even had Penal Battalions made up of prisoners who were sent forward in human wave attacks(often unarmed) to make the Germans expend their ammunition.

The units most likely to be called upon to perform these duties today would be the Spetsnaz units of the Russian Army’s military intelligence (The GRU), units of the Federal Security Service(The FSB) and, units of Putin’s personal army, the Russian National Guard which answers only to him and numbers some 340,000 well-equipped troops.

These reports underline an apparent problem with units walking away from armed and fueled vehicles and surrendering when the first shot is fired. If these reports of units with orders to shoot deserting troops are true, the desertion problems must be significant.


Captured Russian military hardware on display in Kyiv. Photo; US Embassy, Kyiv