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Friday, March 31, 2023

Russia’s reservists receive low-tech MPL-50 “combat shovels” – UK

Mobilized Russian fighters are likely using “shovel”-like tools for “close-in combat” while Moscow’s forces are grappling with an ammunition shortage, a new intelligence assessment says.

Reports from mobilized Russian reservists have previously indicated that soldiers were ordered to attack Ukrainian positions armed only with “guns and shovels”. This was announced by the British Ministry of Defense (MOD) on Sunday.

Ammunition shortages in the Russian armed forces have been well documented by Western analysts and loudly protested by the leader of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin.

The “shovels” the MOD refers to are believed to be entrenchment tools, like the standard issue MPL-50, the ministry said in its daily intelligence update.

The 1869 use of the MPL-50 as a weapon in Ukraine “highlights the brutal and technically simple combat that characterized much of the war,” the Defense Department said. However, the killing power of the rudimentary weapon was “particularly mythologized” in Russia, it said.

There has been an increase in close combat at the front lines, she added, likely because Russian infantry have limited access to artillery.

A new wave of offensive operations in eastern Ukraine was hampered by a shortage of ammunition. This was announced by the British Ministry of Defense in early February.

Russian reserve fighters were called up in September 2022 when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced partial mobilization. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, he was “compelled to do so by battlefield setbacks and lack of manpower”.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced on September 21 that 300,000 reservists would be called up, and the following month Putin said only well-trained fighters would go to the front lines in Ukraine, according to state media.

On November 5, however, the UK Ministry of Defense said Russia was “probably having difficulty providing military training for its current mobilization campaign and annual autumn draft”.

The more experienced officers and instructors of the Russian armed forces have already been killed in Ukraine, the government agency said.

“Newly mobilized conscripts are likely to have minimal training or no training at all,” she added.

Russia is sending its recruits to Belarus for training before deployment to Ukraine, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said on Saturday.

The Russian military “uses Belarusian training grounds and trainers to train mobilized Russians to offset Russia’s degraded training capacity,” the think tank said.

Also on Saturday, the ISW said that although Russia has likely gained “sufficient positional advantage” in the embattled eastern city of Bakhmut to conduct a “turning movement,” Ukrainian forces have not withdrawn from the devastated city. This could force them to abandon their defensive positions to avoid encirclement, the ISW argued.

The Russian Defense Ministry has been asked for comment.

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