Wagner recruits are 'being sent in as suicide squads in Bakhmut'

Wagner recruits are being sent in as suicide squads to be killed by Ukrainian forces – who are then flanked by Russian special forces – expert says

  • Ukrainian soldiers say the tactic is to help reveal the enemy’s position
  • Professor William Philpott of King’s College said it is different to the ‘human wave’ attacks Putin’s army has been using

Russia is using ‘suicide squad’ tactics reminiscent of the Somme in the battle of Bakhmut which could backfire and threaten Vladimir Putin’s regime, an expert has said.

Ukrainian soldiers say hapless Wagner mercenaries are being used as bait to lure Kyiv’s men into shooting them and revealing their positions, before Russian special forces try to outflank them and take them out.

Professor William Philpott of King’s College said today that the tactic is different to the ‘human wave’ attacks Putin’s army has been using, and sounds more like ‘suicide squads.’

Professor Philpott added that such tactics resemble the early days of the Somme when untrained troops were thrown head-on into battle against a professional army, creating a bloodbath that remains one of the deadliest battles ever fought.

He said: ‘Human wave attacks where you send in large numbers of troops to try and overwhelm a position are one thing, but this is sending a suicide squad in to try and get people to reveal their position.

Putin crony Yevgeny Prigozhin trains prisoners to become ‘real cannibals’ in war with Ukraine

Wagner mercenaries at Popasna, the Sievierodonetsk district of the Luhansk Oblast, Ukraine

‘There is nothing unfamiliar here when you compare it to the tactics of fighting from defensive position to defensive position during the First World War.

READ MORE: Inside Wagner’s ‘human wave’ death squads: Insider reveals the details of horrifying tactics that see convicts sent to their doom


‘The novelty is in sending troops forward to get them killed in order to expose positions.’

He added: ‘There are historical examples of poorly prepared troops being thrown into mass attacks, [such as] during the first days of the Somme or Verdun.

‘But I can’t come up with examples of small groups of troops being sacrificed to draw an enemy out.’

Professor Philpott said such attacks are also usually preceded by an artillery barrage to weaken enemy defences, giving troops a fighting chance.

But this does not appear to be happening in Bakhmut, suggesting that Russia could be running low on shells that proved vital to its advances in Donbas last year.

While brutal, he agreed that such tactics make sense for Putin’s bedraggled army – which has a ready supply of poorly trained prisoners and conscripts filling its ranks, but lacks professional soldiers who can attack effectively.

Making sure the conscripts draw most of the fire while using the crack troops to move in and make the kills makes the best of what the Russian commanders have left.

But he also warned it could backfire if word that soldiers are being thrown heedlessly to their deaths makes it back home.

Before Ukraine, private Wagner Group mercenaries were deployed in Syria, Sudan and central Africa while allowing the Kremlin to deny any official Russian involvement

Graves of Russian Wagner mercenary group fighters are seen in a cemetery near Bakinskaya

Professor Philpott added: ‘In an authoritarian system like Russia, you can get away with [these tactics] to an extent.

‘But when news of people getting sacrificed gets back it will have an effect on the regime in time.

‘It was the death toll at the Somme and Verdun that shifted perspectives and relationships between military leadership and society during the First World War.

‘If this goes on without any result, it could end badly [for Putin.]’

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