Desperate Putin sending amputees into combat as Russia makes hollow NATO claim

Vladimir Putin is sending combatants with “unhealed wounds” and amputated limbs into the fighting in Ukraine, the Ministry of Defence has said. The MoD has claimed members of Russia’s Shtorm-Z penal units are “highly likely” being returned to combat duties with wounds which haven’t healed, and even after amputations.

Shtorm-Z members are recruited from Russian prisons with the promise successful service will lead to a reduced sentence and earn them £1,700 ($2,200) per month.

In an intelligence briefing posted on X, the MoD said: “This follows credible reports members of Shtorm-Z, Donetsk militias, and Wagner Group have frequently received minimal or no treatment.

“It is likely that convict recruits – who make up a large proportion of Shtorm-Z units – are especially liable to receive poor treatment. One reason is that prisoners often lack the paperwork required to access military hospitals.”

The MoD said while it reduces pressure on an “overburdened military medical system”, the lack of “proper in-theatre medical attention” would transfer the administrative and medical burden back to troops’ home units.

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The MoD’s claim came days after Reuters reported a declassified US intelligence report said Russia has lost 315,000 killed or injured troops in Putin’s war in Ukraine. Moscow maintains Western assessments of its combat losses are exaggerated.

It cited a source as saying the report also showed losses in personnel and military vehicles has set back the modernisation of Russia’s military by 18 years. The source said Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year with 360,000 personnel, but since then about 87 percent of those it started the wider war with have been killed or injured.

Russia’s return of wounded Shtorm-Z unit members into combat perhaps suggests Moscow is struggling to maintain its fighting ability in Ukraine. Putin signed a decree in September which laid out Russia’s routine autumn conscription campaign, whereby 130,000 citizens- will be called up for statutory military service.

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It comes after reckless Putin insisted that Russia has “no interest” in invading NATO. However, a report by the Institude for the Study of War (ISW) has claimed that this promise rings hollow, given that the Russian leader previously claimed his country had no interest in invading Ukraine until the eve of the illegal invasion.

Analysing Putin took part in a lengthy interview on Russian state television on Sunday, a spokesperson for the ISW said: “Putin’s reassurances about his peaceful intentions toward NATO ring hollow in the context of the threats he and Kremlin pundits have recently been making against NATO member states.

Meanwhile, Ukraine appears to have repelled attacks by Russia using air-launched ballistic “KILLJOY” missiles, according to the MoD. It said the Russian Air Force “highly likely” carried out on December 14 the first use of a AS-24 KILLJOY air launched ballistic missile since August 2023.

The MoD said: “Russia launched at least one missile into central Ukraine, likely targeting a military airfield.”

One of six “super weapons” Putin announced in 2018, KILLJOY has been ear-marked to play “a major role” in Russia’s future military doctrine. Defence analysts from the MoD said Russia is reserving the weapon for what it perceives as high value, well defended targets, in the Ukraine war.

But the MoD said KILLJOY has “almost certainly” had a mixed combat debut, with many of its launches likely missing their intended targets, while Ukraine has also succeeded in intercepting attacks by this supposedly “undefeatable” system.

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Despite a disappointing counteroffensive this summer and signs of wavering financial support from allies, Ukrainian soldiers have said they remain fiercely determined to win.

But as winter approaches, some worry Russia is better equipped for battle and have expressed frustration at being on the defensive again in a gruelling war. After 22 months of war the two countries are essentially in a stalemate along the 620 mile-long (1,000km) front line.

Some analysts believe Russian forces plan to push deeper into eastern Ukraine this winter so Putin can cite this momentum as he campaigns for reelection. Emboldened by recent gains on the battlefield, Putin said last week he remains fully committed to the war and criticised Ukraine for “sacrificing” troops to demonstrate success to Western sponsors.

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