Washington Post: Russian special forces gutted by war in Ukraine, according to leaked classified documents

Sarah Dean in London

Russia’s Spetsnaz special forces have been gutted by President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine, the The Washington Post reported Friday, citing more classified US intelligence documents leaked online.

CNN has not reviewed the documents and cannot verify the content.

The Washington Post reports that the documents – obtained through the Discord social media platform — reference intelligence intercepts, which assess that the 346th Spetsnaz Brigade has lost almost its entire unit with “only 125 personnel active out of 900 deployed.”

US officials believe that the large numbers of casualties that Russia has sustained will have a dramatic effect in Ukraine and anywhere else its forces are operating. And US officials believe the highly trained forces will need up to a decade to be replenished, the Post reports.

It also published satellite imagery from the leaked documents that — although not conclusive — suggest a depletion of vehicles among the 22nd Separate Spetsnaz Brigade’s motor pool in southwestern Russia. The images show a contrast in the size of its motor pool between November 2021 and November 2022; the later date, the Post reports, shows the force following its return from Ukraine last summer.

CNN has contacted the Pentagon for comment. CNN has also contacted the Russian Ministry of Defense for comment.

According to Ukrainian officials, Russian special forces are currently deployed in the eastern city of Bakhmut, where the fiercest and heaviest fighting is currently being waged.

Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Thursday that “despite the fact that the enemy has concentrated its most professional units in Bakhmut, including Wagner fighters, airborne assault units, and special forces, the Russians cannot achieve their goals there.”

Some key background: Russian special forces were poorly deployed early in the invasion, especially around Kyiv, and took heavy losses. In the early days of the war, CNN’s Matthew Chance reported live as Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) engaged in a firefight with Ukrainian forces at Antonov Airport in Hostomel, a suburb of Kyiv, before they were heavily defeated and retreated by the beginning of April.

CNN has previously reported how the Russian invasion has also been marked by an inordinate number of casualties among high-ranking Russian officers.

In the first months of this year, CNN also reported how Russian forces were badly hit in the hotly contested town of Vuhledar in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, where the 155th Marine Brigade were prominently involved. At least two dozen Russian tanks and infantry vehicles were disabled or destroyed in a matter of days, according to videos, which were released by the Ukrainian military and analyzed by CNN and military experts.

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