The U.K. Ministry of Defense (MoD) intelligence update on Sunday has suggested that Russian forces are forced to resort to using MPL-50 entrenching “shovels” for hand-to-hand combat.


What is the MPL 50 shovel?


The MPL-50 entrenching tool shovel is issued to all Russian troops. It has changed little since it was adopted in 1869. The tool is particularly mythologised within the [former Soviet] military as the MPL-50 saw a wide range of use by troops, during both world wars. This ranged from digging trenches, latrines and graves, as a cooking utensil and, as in Ukraine today, as a close-quarters combat weapon. Soviet Special Forces are reported to have been trained in its use as a “throwing weapon”.


The MoD reported: “In late February 2023, Russian mobilised reservists described being ordered to assault a Ukrainian strong point armed with only firearms and shovels. The continued use of a shovel as a weapon highlights the brutal and low-tech fighting which has come to characterise much of the war.”



A captured Russian reservist described being "neither physically nor psychologically" prepared for to fight in such a way.


"Recent evidence suggests an increase in close combat in Ukraine," the MoD said. "This is probably a result of the Russian command continuing to insist on offensive action largely consisting of dismounted infantry, with less support from artillery fire because Russia is short of munitions."

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The MoD consider this to be another example of the degradation of the fighting ability and morale of Putin’s mobilised troops that has been highlighted in previous intelligence reports.


These say that Russian troops are being called upon to fight, in spite of having “insufficient weapons, foodstuffs and shelter with many suffering from serious, chronic health conditions”.


Russian mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin has highlighted a critical shortage of ammunition and blamed Russian deaths in Ukraine on the failure of the defense ministry to give ammunition to his troops.



Elsewhere, there are further signs of the dire situation facing Russian troops as it was reported that commanders of Russia’s 155th Naval Infantry Brigade of the Pacific Fleet are now refusing to carry out the Kremlin’s orders.

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