Russia’s war on Ukraine has taken a major toll on its special forces after their heavy deployment to the front lines with skilled commandos suffering a high number of casualties, leaked US military documents show.
The overreliance by Russian commanders on the “spetsnaz” special operation units led to speculation by US officials that it will take Moscow several years to rebuild.
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American officials believe the commando forces have suffered a staggering number of casualties and were left depleted after Russian commanders deployed them in the early days of the war in order to seize momentum, according to a Washington Post report on the cache of leaked sensitive documents.
The assessment is based on before and after satellite images which, according to US officials, reveal “all but one of five Russian Separate Spetsnaz Brigades that returned from combat operations in Ukraine in late summer 2022 suffered significant losses”.
While the documents do not specify the number of spetsnaz commandos killed in the war, intelligence intercepts purportedly show Moscow lost nearly an entire brigade “with only 125 personnel active out of 900 deployed”.
According to the leaked documents, US officials have assessed it will take Russia up to a decade to reconstitute its special forces.
Images from the early days of the Ukraine war showed spetsnaz soldiers arriving in Kharkiv, Mariupol, and the Donbas after conventional motorised rifle units faced difficulty.
The documents said the heavy casualties among Russia’s special forces will have lasting effects, including the ability to train paramilitary groups, “which Russia has used to advance its interests abroad”.
China’s ‘lethal aid’
Additionally, a US intercept of Russian intelligence included in the leaked documents reveals China approved the “provision of lethal aid” to Moscow and planned to disguise military equipment as civilian items.
A February 23, 2023, US intelligence summary – based on eavesdropping on Russia’s foreign intelligence service – said China’s central military commission had “approved the incremental provision” of weapons and wanted it kept secret.
According to the Washington Post, a document titled The Watch Report is labelled top secret with highly restricted distribution and has information on China labelled “BEIJING”.
The revelations are part of top secret US military documents that continue to surface and contain sensitive state secrets, which include details of Ukraine’s preparation for a spring offensive and suggest the United States has been spying on its allies.
The Pentagon has confirmed the documents “appear to contain sensitive and highly classified material”, but stated at least some have been doctored.