Russia deploys Kuril troops to Ukraine war amid apparent manpower crisis
Personnel from Russia’s 18th Machine Gun and Artillery Division appear to have been moved across the vast country from their roles defending the Kuril islands from a potential Japanese invasion to the frontline in the Ukraine war.
If confirmed, the redeployment would provide further evidence of serious holes within Vladimir Putin’s armed forces.
The 18th was formed to defend the Kuril islands, which the Soviet Union seized from Japan using amphibious landing ships secretly supplied by the United States in late August 1945 after Tokyo had surrendered at the end of the Second World War.
The Japanese population was expelled and replaced by Russian settlers. Japan has never abandoned its claim to the Kurils.
The Kurils struggled economically despite playing an important strategic role during the Cold War. They also have rich offshore fishing grounds.
In the 1970s Russia fortified the archipelago by setting obsolete tanks in concrete overlooking Kuril beaches. The 18th had an estimated 3,500 troops, approximately a quarter of an ordinary division, almost 8,000km east of the current Ukrainian frontlines.
The 18th currently specialises in artillery and has some armoured personnel carriers. Troops from the remote division were first reported in Ukraine on July 4 by presidential adviser Aleksei Arestovych in Kyiv.
Putin appears to be suffering from a shortage of infantry troops and has redeployed the Kuril personnel into roles they were not trained to perform.
A captured Russian soldier from the Kuril Islands appears to have confirmed the presence of troops from the 18th in Ukraine.
He reportedly said his company traveled to Ukraine by military cargo plane over five days and received a daily pay increase of US$56 in Ukraine.
The prisoner reportedly said his unit arrived on June 9 and waited several days for ground transport and about 20 personnel were wounded or killed by Ukrainian artillery fire.
He was then sent to a small cellar in the village of Krasnopillia, northwest of Siversk and Sloviansk, with around 20 other soldiers and told to await reinforcements.
He said they waited five days as shells landed, living off dry rations and food left in the cellar, without any commanders. “It was clear in the end we would all be killed,” he allegedly told his Ukrainian captors.
Ukrainian troops advanced, killed three of his comrades and 15 survivors surrendered.
The Kuril islands have a permanent defence force to resist any Japanese attempts to seize the islands. Picture credit: Inadigital