Russian Punishment Battalions "Storm-Z" Deployed To Ukraine's Frontlines
Disturbing reports have emerged from Ukraine, as Russian punishment battalions "Storm-Z" deployed to Ukraine's frontlines.
These squads are composed of military and civilian offenders, including drunk recruits, insubordinate soldiers, and even convicts, who are sent to the frontlines in Ukraine.
The revelation of their deployment has raised serious concerns about human rights abuses and the treatment of these individuals.
According to sources with direct knowledge of the matter, including five fighters within these units, hundreds of individuals have been conscripted into these penal squads in 2023 alone.
The fate of those sent to these units is grim, with few surviving to share their experiences.
One regular soldier, who requested anonymity out of fear of prosecution in Russia, described the situation within these units as dire.
Deployed near the contested city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, he recounted an incident where he provided medical treatment to wounded Storm-Z fighters against orders from an unknown commander.
He claimed that this incident exemplified how these squads are considered of lesser value than ordinary troops by officers.
The soldier's account illustrates the harsh conditions and challenges faced by those in these units.
He expressed sympathy for their plight, revealing that individuals with the scent of alcohol on their breath are immediately sent to the Storm squads by commandants.
The individuals who provided information about the Storm-Z squads, including fighters, their relatives, and soldiers who interacted with these units, all chose to remain anonymous due to concerns of reprisals.
However, Reuters verified their identities through various means, such as criminal records and social media accounts.
These penal squads, each consisting of 100-150 individuals, are embedded within regular army units and often sent to the most exposed and dangerous areas of the frontlines.
They frequently sustain heavy casualties, with reports of several Storm-Z teams engaged in repelling Ukrainian counteroffensives in eastern and southern Ukraine.
Unlike other Russian paramilitary groups like the Wagner mercenaries, Storm-Z units come under the direct command of the Russian defense ministry.
The squads are a combination of convicts who volunteer to fight in exchange for a pardon and regular soldiers being punished for disciplinary breaches.
The Storm-Z squads serve the Russian defense ministry's interests as expendable infantry.
These fighters are often sent to the most perilous parts of the frontlines, both in defense and attack. The units are strategically used, taking the brunt of the danger.
While Russian state-controlled media has reported on the existence of Storm-Z squads, it has not disclosed how they are formed or the losses they endure.
Reuters is the first newsorganization to compile a comprehensive account of these units by speaking with multiple sources with direct knowledge of their operations.
The deployment of military offenders into combat units has historical precedents, such as Josef Stalin's orders during World War II to send panicked or indisciplined soldiers to "punishment battalions." However, the situation with the Storm-Z squads raises serious human rights and legal concerns.
The revelation of the Storm-Z squads has drawn international attention and concern. The fear for the safety and rights of those conscripted into these units highlights the gravity of the situation.
As the conflict in Ukraine continues, the treatment of individuals within these penal squads will remain a subject of global scrutiny and condemnation.
The exposure of the Russian penal units, known as "Storm-Z" squads, sheds a disturbing light on the brutal realities faced by military and civilian offenders sent to the frontlines in Ukraine.
These units, composed of individuals ranging from drunk recruits to convicts, operate in perilous conditions, often sustaining heavy losses.
The anonymity of sources, coupled with verified accounts, emphasizes the fear and secrecy surrounding these units.
The Storm-Z revelation has raised significant international concerns, underscoring the need for scrutiny and condemnation of the treatment of these individuals in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.