Russian reservists serving on the front lines in Ukraine have described being ordered to fight with shovels that are more than a century old, according to British intelligence.
In its latest update Monday, the UK Ministry of Defense reported that late last month, Moscow’s soldiers were forced to assault Ukrainian positions “armed with only ‘firearms and shovels.’”
The ministry commented that the shovels likely refer to the standard-issue MPL-50 entrenching tool used for hand-to-hand combat, which was designed in 1896, two years into Tsar Nicholas II’s doomed reign.
According to the bulletin, the entrenching tool used for hand-to-hand combat has remained largely unchanged over the past 127 years, and “its continued use as a weapon highlights the brutal and low-tech fighting which has come to characterize much of the war.”
One of the mobilized reservists was quoted as saying that he was “neither physically nor psychologically” prepared to attack Ukrainian soldiers with the shovel, whose lethal qualities have become the stuff of military lore among Russian servicemen.
According to British analysts, recent evidence suggests an increase in close combat in Ukraine, where Moscow’s forces have been trying for months to capture the key city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.
“This is probably a result of the Russian command counting to insist on offensive action largely consisting of dismounted infantry, with less support from artillery fire because Russia is short on munitions,” the update stated.
The intelligence assessment appears to confirm claims made by Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the mercenary Wagner Group leading the fight in Bakhmut, who again whined Monday that his fighters are in desperate need of ammunition.
Prigozhin boasted last week that his men had virtually encircled Bakhmut, but on Saturday he warned that the front would collapse should Wagner be forced to retreat.
Prigozhin, a catering mogul and close ally of President Vladimir Putin, has accused officials at the Russian Ministry of Defense of “treason” for failing to send sufficient ammunition to his mercenaries — a claim top military brass has vehemently denied.
A spokesman for Ukraine’s 10th assault brigade, Mykyta Shandyba, told Ukrainian television “it was clear” Russian forces faced a shortage of ammunition that had limited their advances in Bakhmut.
But that has not stopped the enemy from stepping up attacks in recent days to try to break through Ukraine’s defense lines.
In the past 24 hours, Ukrainian forces have repelled close to 100 attacks in the Donbas region, according to the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Volodymyr Nazarenko, a Ukrainian commander in Bakhmut, said there had been no order to retreat and “the defense is holding.”
“The situation in Bakhmut and around it is utter hell, as it is on the entire eastern front,” Nazarenko said in a video posted on Telegram.
With Post wires
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