The Russian army experiences a deadly inferno in Ukraine. According to two military researchers, Putin’s troops will have to deal with the aftermath for a long time. An example case shows what happened on the battlefield.

In March 2022, Wiktor Shayga volunteered. 752nd Guards Motor Rifle Regiment. Russian army. He wanted to fight in Ukraine.

His unit came to the Izjum region, east of the city of Kharkiv. Shayga and twelve companions should help take the village of Dovhen’ke. A short time later, another 13 men came for the regiment.

Then it started. “One morning our political officer came. He said we were going to hell. Those who do not want to fight can stay in the camp. Only one of us stayed behind. Everyone else went into battle.”

The group moved from Sulyhivka towards Dovhen’ke. But the Ukrainians expected them. Enemy artillery fired on Shayga’s regiment. “By the time the second salvo rained down on us, I was already saying goodbye to my life. I figured the next bomb would either rip my legs off or kill me instantly.”

The attack was postponed to the next day. “Many commanders of the two battalions told their soldiers that they were going to certain death because the Ukrainians were well prepared,” Shayga says in a diary. “So they said – decide for yourself whether you want to go or not. 80 percent of us – or even more – refused. I as well. I could not anymore.”

Those who went into battle came under massive fire. Many died. Others were amazed. Including Shayga’s commander.

The commander of the battalion ordered everyone to fight. But an older soldier advised them to retreat. Shayga says: “Many just ran away. They were supposed to help the wounded, but they didn’t.” The next day almost everyone in his unit refused to fight.

Other units attacked Dovhen’ke again. But even special units could not get through. Shayga narrates: A unit of well-trained reservists besieged the village for a month. “340 of them had come to Ukraine. After a month only 57 were alive. And they didn’t have a real fight. All casualties came from Ukrainian artillery.”

Also read:Military expert Mick Ryan – Ukrainian strategy fails in Donbass – but with Himars the “deep battle” succeeds

Two months after the attack on Dovhen’ke began, all officers were either dead, wounded, or refused to fight.

Shayga and other refusers were then used as workers. They dug ditches and built shelters. More refusers were added every day. “Many had worse stories than ours,” Shayga said.

For military researcher Chris Owen, this story is exemplary. He writes: “This war is unlike anything the Russians have experienced before. Even those who fought in the Caucasus or in the Middle East have never seen anything like it.” The probability of dying is far higher than in previous conflicts.

Owen says: “Russian soldiers are motivated by money, ideology, camaraderie or experience. But none of that matters when you come home in a coffin. Motivation often collapses in the face of death. Especially when the leadership is bad.”

It’s a very bad sign, Owen said, that the leaders — as in Shayga’s case — didn’t want to fight themselves. Even experienced sergeants refused to fight.

Dara Massicot from the US think tank Rand Corporation goes one step further. She looks at the long-term damage caused by the deadly war in Ukraine. “The long-term damage to the Russian army is immense. They go far beyond the death toll or the equipment destroyed. This is the story of a military generation being destroyed.”

Especially those who survive would become a problem. “They bring the trauma of war home with them. The War Crimes. The stress. They bring these problems straight to the barracks. This will be a toxic brew for those who join the army in the future.”

Owen sees it that way too. The military historian writes: “Russia is destroying its army.”

While Shayga’s narration has been around for some time now, much has happened on the battlefield. In their offensive in the east, the Russians initially managed to circumvent the successful war tactics of the Ukrainians. With massive attacks, supported by heavy artillery fire, the Russians prevented the Ukrainians from inflicting high artillery damage.

But in the end the tide turned again. In particular, the use of the American Himars guns allowed the Ukrainian artillery to return to the old, successful “corrosion” tactics. Now they meet the Russian troops and their supplies again sensitively far behind the front line. The burgeoning morale of Putin’s warriors is once again weakened.