Russian tactics near Bakhmut: Ukrainian commander on discipline through threat of execution
Andriy Biletskyi, the Commander of the Third Assault Brigade and the founder of Azov, outlined two distinct tactics employed by the Russian Federation in the Bakhmut area
He shared these insights during an interview with Ukrainska Pravda.
“Now, let's break down the Russian strategies into two categories: those of the Wagner Group and those of the regular Russian troops. What made the Wagner Group effective? Two main factors: capturing prisoners and maintaining discipline through the threat of execution. We had many prisoners, including a significant number from the Wagner Group. Not one of them had avoided witnessing the execution of a fellow soldier who refused to participate in an attack,” says Biletskyi.
Biletskyi pointed out that the Wagner private military company lacked quality armored support, especially in terms of artillery. According to him, there weren't enough artillery pieces. So, they relied heavily on their manpower.
“In other words, they sent soldiers on dangerous missions. When one group finished their attack, another would follow within 20-30 minutes. These attacks weren't haphazard or stupid; they were well planned, led by competent commanders. Another aspect that often goes unnoticed is their defense. The Wagner Group's defense was extremely tough and challenging,” he emphasizes.
In Syria, they used a defense strategy similar to ISIS. Instead of traditional platoon fortifications like trenches and dugouts, they dug individual foxholes. These were isolated firing positions, and there were many of them, although not all were occupied. These foxholes were deep, according to Biletskyi.
"In my opinion, this defense strategy— which we've started using in some places ourselves— is incredibly effective. When you make a hole on the side of a foxhole, create a cover in the shape of the letter 'L,' and hide inside during enemy attacks, it's nearly impossible to dislodge you. This made the Wagner group a challenging adversary when on the defensive," the commander believes.
In Biletskyi's view, Russia's regular ground forces, particularly its infantry, are basically “done”.
"I've consistently observed this: Russia's ground forces, especially its infantry, tanks, and armored vehicles, have been underperforming since last summer. They've struggled, and it doesn't seem like they'll improve. They have made advancements in other areas, such as electronic warfare, unmanned systems, and more effective use of their artillery and aviation. But their ground forces, in terms of infantry and armored units, are done, and I believe it will continue to be so," Biletskyi added.
For reference: Andriy Biletskyi is a Ukrainian military leader, politician, and former National Guard colonel. He was arrested in 2008 during the "defenders of Rymarska St." case. After the 2014 Euromaidan protests, he was granted amnesty as a political prisoner. When the Russian-Ukrainian war began, he founded and led the Azov battalion. Later, he became the leader of the National Corps political party and served as a People's Deputy in Ukraine's 8th convocation. In 2022, during the full-scale Russian invasion, he assumed leadership of the Azov regiment in Kyiv, which was later reorganized into the 3rd Separate Assault Brigade.
The General Staff reported that Ukrainian defenders repelled three enemy attacks in the Andriivka settlement of the Donetsk region, near Bakhmut. Ukrainian defense forces are continuing their operations south of Bakhmut in Donetsk, causing losses to the enemy in terms of both personnel and equipment while consolidating their positions at the newly established boundaries.