Continuing reports that the Kremlin's military has deployed troops with the mission of shooting retreating soldiers appeared possibly confirmed on Monday with the appearance of battlefield video showing three armed Russian soldiers shooting at seven or more of their fellows as they ran away.
The video was claimed first to be published by Ishchi Svoikh, a Ukrainian volunteer-run channel with the declared mission of helping relatives of Russian soldiers killed in combat.
The 14-second drone video seems to show three armed Russian soldiers confronting seven retreating Russian soldiers, of whom six had discarded their weapons and most had thrown away their helmets.
The three, armed men are seen to fire into the air and, possibly, directly at two of the retreating soldiers. The unarmed soldiers all fall to the ground, but it is not clear whether any were injured by the gunfire.
The Telegram channel offered no date or location of the incident, saying only members of a “barrier unit” had shot Russian army service personnel.
UNIAN, a major Ukrainian news agency, on Monday confirmed the drone video’s authenticity and said that “barrier troops,” which are units with the mission of preventing soldiers running away from battle, using lethal force if necessary, have been deployed with the Russian army in Ukraine for months.
The British Ministry of Defense reported in November of last year that Russia had “probably started deploying ‘barrier troops’ or ‘blocking units.’”
It added: “These units threaten to shoot their own retreating soldiers in order to compel offensives and have been used in previous conflicts by Russian forces.”
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine - 04 November 2022— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) November 4, 2022
Find out more about the UK government's response: https://t.co/CWHuZrKery
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The Russian independent news agency Astra, in a May 27 report, published video recorded by members of the Russia’s 72nd Brigade, a unit deployed to the Bakhmut sector and, according to reports from Ukrainian units on the other side, suffering from poor morale.
In the video, the Russians soldiers accuse 72nd Brigade commander Roman Venevitin of having threatened soldiers assigned to the unit with execution, and their immediate commanders, for leaving an assigned position without orders. One soldier in the recording, identified as Major Aleksandr Prikazchikov, says he withdrew a unit from an attack because it received no support and it was not trained for assault, and was stopped by barrier troops who threatened to shoot him and his men dead.
Evgeney Prigozhin, head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, confirmed in mid-May that his private company used security troops with orders to shoot cowards to back up assaults.
On May 24 he said his formation would have to leave the Bakhmut sector because in six months of fighting it had taken more than 20,000 troops killed in action.
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