Ukraine kills 49 elite Russian paratroopers to stop them reaching front

Ukrainian forces killed 49 elite Russian paratroopers in a single day in an operation to prevent them from being deployed to a key section of the war’s southern front line.

The members of the 7th Guards Mountain Airborne Division were embroiled in a brutal fight after Ukrainian fighters pinned them down near the village of Staromaiorske in the eastern Donetsk region, Russian military bloggers[1] reported.

Troops from the 247th VDV regiment were sent in to retrieve the soldiers’ bodies after Russian commanders refused to oversee their recovery, one report said, citing an audio recording of a Russian soldier.

Ukrainian counter-offensive forces in the area, near the border with the southern Zaporizhia region, were thought to have successfully prevented members of the division from “laterally redeploying to critical areas of the front”, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported.

Staromaiorske sits on one of two Ukrainian axes of advance on the outskirts of the town of Velyka Novosilka.

A Kremlin-installed official in southern Ukraine had said previously that Russian forces had “tactically” withdrawn from Robotyne, the main axis of assault in Kyiv’s counter-offensive in the south.

The Russian army abandoned[2] – tactically abandoned this settlement,” Yevgeny Balitsky, the Russian-appointed head of Ukraine’s partially-occupied Zaporizhzhia region, said.

Ukraine's two southernly pushes [3]

He added that the small village, which Ukraine claimed to have liberated last week, had “ceased to exist” after lengthy battles[4] for its control.

“Holding onto a bare surface without a way to completely dig in and create a safe area for yourself doesn’t make sense,” Mr Balitsky said in an interview on state-run television.

Russian propagandists and Vladimir Putin have sought to downplay Kyiv’s recent successes[5] on the battlefield in southern Ukraine.

ukraine podcast 060923[6]

But Ukrainian forces have slowly edged forward after an initial penetration of Moscow’s heavily fortified defences in the area as they aim to prepare to launch a mechanised assault.

Military analysts Rob Lee and Michael Kofman said such a breakthrough was vital because a “narrow advance could leave its forces vulnerable to counter-attacks on the flanks”.

Complicated by Russian minefields

Ukraine’s next target in the area is thought to be a village called Verbove, which lies about six miles southeast of Robotyne.

Oleksandr Shtupun, a spokesman for Ukraine’s southern forces, said the Russian defences near the settlement were “not as strong” as the first line of fortifications.

But he warned that dense Russian minefields would complicate attempts to advance at speed through the area.

The broader aim of Ukraine’s forces appears to be to push towards the city of Tokmak[7], a road and rail hub, about 15 miles south of Robotyne.

From there, they hope to reach the port city of Melitopol near the Azov coast, to split Russian forces in the south and east and disrupt supply routes from occupied Crimea.

In response to the gains, elite Russian units have seemingly been redeployed from other areas of the front line in the hope of plugging the breach and preventing Ukraine from reaching Tokmak.

ISW, which monitors the battlefield, previously reported that elements of the 76th Guard Air Assault Division, considered as one of Russia’s premier fighting forces, had been shifted to Robotyne in a bid to counter Ukraine’s advance[8].


  1. ^ Russian military bloggers (
  2. ^ The Russian army abandoned (
  3. ^ Ukraine's two southernly pushes (
  4. ^ lengthy battles (
  5. ^ downplay Kyiv’s recent successes (
  6. ^ ukraine podcast 060923 (
  7. ^ push towards the city of Tokmak (
  8. ^ counter Ukraine’s advance (