Ukraine war: Russian reservists fighting with shovels – UK defense ministry
Russian reservists are likely using “shovels” for “hand-to-hand” combat in Ukraine due to a shortage of ammunition, the UK’s Ministry of Defence says.
In late February, reservists described being ordered to assault a Ukrainian position “armed with only ‘firearms and shovels'”, the ministry said in its latest intelligence update.
It also mentioned MPL-50, a shovel.
According to the ministry, the tool was created in 1869 and has not changed much.
“The lethality of the standard-issue MPL-50 entrenching tool is particularly mythologized in Russia,” the ministry said.
It stated that the continued use of the shovel as a weapon “highlights the brutal and low-tech fighting that has become a hallmark of much of war.”
The update stated that one of the reservists was “neither physically nor psychologically” ready for the action.
It stated that recent evidence suggested an increase in close combat in Ukraine.
“This is probably a result of the Russian command continuing to insist on offensive action largely consisting of dismounted infantry, with less support from artillery fire because Russia is short of munitions.”
These reports have not been independently verified by the BBC. The ministry didn’t provide any information about the location of such battles.
Meanwhile, Russian forces appear to have secured a sufficient positional advantage in the besieged city of Bakhmut, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said.
Bakhmut has been the scene of months of fighting as Russia attempts to seize control of the city of 4,000 people.
Russia’s recent battlefield successes would make it a rare success, but the strategic value of the city has been in doubt.
According to the ISW, Russia’s positional advantage could enable a “turning motion” in the city.
The purpose of a turning movement is to force the enemy to abandon prepared defensive positions, and is different from the aim of an encirclement, which is to trap and destroy enemy forces, the ISW says.
“The Russians may have intended to encircle Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut, but the Ukrainian command has signaled that it will likely withdraw rather than risk an encirclement,” the ISW said.
However, the Ukrainian military said on Sunday that it had no intention of withdrawing from Bakhmut.
A statement by the Armed Forces General Staff acknowledged that Russian forces were still trying to surround the city, but said more than 100 attacks had been repelled in the eastern Donbas region in the past 24 hours.
Thousands of Russian troops have died trying to take Bakhmut, which had a pre-war population of around 75,000.