Russian troops from the Asian province of Buryatia, thrown into a recent attack in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, were decimated by drone-controlled artillery and mortar strikes caught on brutal video recently recorded by defenders, official Ukrainian military sources said on Tuesday.
The video, made by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, showed in graphic detail a failed assault reportedly attempted by Russia’s 37th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade, a formation raised near Russia’s border with Mongolia, against positions held by Ukraine’s 58th Motorized Infantry Brigade.
Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of the Ukrainian ground forces, has used his Telegram channel to post a video, with the message that "The russians launched an unsuccessful 'meat assault' on the positions of the 58th Motorized Infantry Brigade." https://t.co/Lum6u4zbRw pic.twitter.com/agH4Mq18wz— Dénes Törteli 🇪🇺🇭🇺🇺🇦 (@DenesTorteli) November 14, 2023
In the drone images, a Russian armored column led by a mine-clearing tank driving across a farm field pulls up near a wood line, where Russian infantrymen jump out of armored carriers following the tank. A BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicle and a BTR personnel carrier are shown. Flight data from one video angle indicates the Ukrainian drone recording the Russian attack was 1.7 kilometers (1.1 mile) distant at altitudes between 90-100 meters.
Ukrainian military journalist Yury Butusov reported the engagement was recorded by a volunteer drone detachment operating near the frontline village of Staromlinivka.
The Siberian unit’s assault was thrown back with heavy losses, Butusov reported. Other Ukrainian military information platforms identified the Buryatia-based 37th Brigade as the attacking formation – however, Kyiv Post was not able to independently confirm the identity of the Russian unit in the video.
An operator associated with a reconnaissance group with knowledge of the action told Kyiv Post the Presidential Brigade's Bulava unit and the Wild Hornets strike drone team participated in the fight. The operator said the video was recorded in the vicinity of the village Urozhaine, in the southern Kherson sector.
The recording shows more than 20 Russian ground fighters jumping out of vehicles and advancing on a wood line, some men firing their rifles.
A Ukrainian howitzer shell strikes 10-15 meters from the infantry some 20 seconds after soldiers exit their carriers. Shell splinters appear to cut down at least two Russian soldiers, and to force the others to throw themselves flat.
The video breaks, and the next images are of Russian infantrymen, near the same location, lying on open ground giving them little cover or concealment.
Multiple explosions typical of cluster munitions detonate among them. After another break in the video an MTLB light armored personnel carrier drives up and unloads 10 infantrymen.
A rocket-propelled explosive hits the left rear of the MTLB, and then at least 12 explosions possibly from automatic grenades detonate among the soldiers and around the vehicle. The MTLB driver appears to back away from the location in panic.
The tracked armored vehicle is shown to run over at least three soldiers that had been taking shelter underneath.
Four soldiers appear to be wounded and immobile on the ground following the MTLB’s departure. Two are treated by medics. Three soldiers are shown to be crawling on the ground along the dirt trail left by the MTLB. One soldier, limping, manages to get up and attempts to follow in the MTLB’s tracks, but falls back to the ground after two or three steps. He watches as the armored vehicle drives away.
At the end of the video, Ukrainian mortar or artillery shells strike near two MTLB tracked armored carriers seeming to be immobilized near the site of the Russian attack. One round scores a direct hit on the MTLB’s engine deck, setting it and a crewman on fire. Two other crewmen, either dead or very seriously wounded, lie next to the front of the MTLB. A second, immobilized infantry carrier is hit by an artillery or mortar shell at the end of the video.
According to open sources, Russia’s 37th Brigade is based in the city Kyakhta in central Siberia.
The Kremlin, at the beginning of its February 2022 invasion, committed the unit to combat as part of a failed offensive to capture Kyiv and force regime change.
The brigade took very heavy losses, according to some reports, in excess of 50 percent, attempting to outflank the Ukrainian capital from the west. Ukrainian officials have accused some members of the unit of committing war crimes, including torture and murder, against dozens of civilians living in the area – particularly in the towns of Motyzhyn and Bucha.
Ukrainian and international media have widely confirmed the fact of atrocities committed against civilians during Russian occupation of Kyiv’s outskirts, but not identified guilty individuals. In the Kyiv region, subsequently liberated by Ukrainian forces, Russian units from Chechnya, Buryatia and the Pacific coast developed a reputation for being the most inclined to attack civilians.
Ukraine’s UNIAN news agency on Tuesday published video attributed to Russian service member Andrei Stepanov, according to the report an ethnic Buryat from the Russian city Ulan-Ude, and recently taken prisoner after his tank hit a Ukrainian land mine, wounding him. By his account, he was hit in combat in the southern Urozhaine sector, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the eastern Staromlinivka sector.
In the 1:40 minute mark of the video recorded by his captors, Stepanov accuses the Kremlin of throwing Buryat troops into attacks with no chance of success, and using state-controlled media to suppress information about near-total destruction of units participating. The practice amounts to a Moscow-sponsored “textbook genocide” (Russian: натуральный геноцид) of Buryats, he said.
“There is a huge number of losses. Nobody is talking about them. They (senior commanders in the Russian military) are trying to hide everything. Even bodies, when I was wounded… there were entire warehouses that are totally filled by trucks bringing corpses day and night. I see what kind of respect they (Russian commanders) give to our people, the Buryats… of the reservists that were mobilized from Buryatia, probably 90 percent have died,” Stepanov said.
According to a research paper published in June by University of Exeter researcher Alexey Bessudnov, Buryats and members of the neighboring central Siberian group, Tuvans, are dramatically more likely to die in combat in Ukraine, than a member of an ethnic Slav group.
“The two groups exhibiting the highest relative risks (RR ≈ 4) are Buryats and Tuvans, who inhabit ethnic republics in Eastern Siberia near the Russian–Mongolian border. As the relative risk indicates, their proportion among the killed military personnel is approximately four times greater than their share in the overall population,” Bessudov wrote in findings based on open-source Russian Federation records of citizens confirmed killed in Ukraine.
Very high mortality rates among Russian troops, across the Russian Federation, are closely correlated with regions with low levels of education, income and economic development, Besssudov said.
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