Putin is threatening to use “cordon units” to gun down deserters at the front, British intelligence claims

Vladimir Putin likely used “barrier units” to gun down Russian soldiers attempting to leave the front lines, according to British intelligence, in retaliation for Stalin’s brutal tactics in World War II.

It came as he urged officials deployed by Russia yesterday to forcibly evacuate residents still under occupation in Kherson in anticipation of a major military push by Kiev forces.

Putin said Kherson, the last Moscow-held city on the west bank of Ukraine’s Dnieper River, will soon become the country’s “most dangerous” zone for civilians.

With a major battle looming, British military officials said Moscow likely used so-called “barrier units” to shoot deserters who refused to fight to the death.

“These units threaten to shoot their own retreating soldiers to force offensives and have been used by Russian forces in previous conflicts,” the defense ministry said in its daily intelligence briefing.

“The tactic of shooting deserters [attests] to the low quality, low morale and indiscipline of the Russian Armed Forces.”

Blockade troops or “blockade units” are widely associated with the Soviet Union.

They were invented during the Russian Civil War when Leon Trotsky was trying to harden Red Army units.

However, they reached their peak in World War II. As the German Wehrmacht swept through the western Soviet Union, Stalin issued his Order No. 227, which resulted in their being deployed en masse and staffed with members of the NKVD secret police. “Not a step back,” he wrote at the time.

But the targets were mostly officers, with low-ranking troops usually being sent to gulags as punishment.

Even at a time when the Soviet Union could rally millions of men to fight, it was considered a waste of good soldiers to shoot men in cold blood.

The report comes amid Putin’s new orders to Russian officials to evacuate residents of the city of Kherson ahead of expected fighting.

“Now, of course, those living in Kherson should be removed from the zone of the most dangerous actions, because civilians should not suffer,” Putin told pro-Kremlin activists yesterday.

In recent days, eyewitnesses in Kherson have described scenes of Russian troops dismantling military checkpoints as if preparing to leave the important southern city.

But Ukrainian military officials insisted they do not believe the Russians will voluntarily withdraw to the opposite side of the Dnipro because they suspect it could be a ploy to ambush Ukrainian troops.

Instead, the Ukrainian military announced yesterday that around 1,000 freshly mobilized Russian troops had arrived in the region.

The Russian president’s comments, the first time he publicly advocated an evacuation, came after an activist said he had been involved in delivering Russian flags to Kherson.

The southern city is of strategic importance and historical value for Russia and Putin due to its proximity to occupied Crimea.

As a result, Russian soldiers in the area are expected to be ordered to fight to the death.

Putin announced yesterday that 318,000 men have been drafted into his war against Ukraine, of whom nearly 50,000 are already fighting on the front lines.

He also signed a decree allowing the conscription of civilians convicted of serious crimes.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Moscow of “energy terrorism” after repeated attacks on his country’s energy grid left more than four million people without power.

It came as the previously secretive private military group Wagner opened its first official Russia headquarters in Saint Petersburg yesterday.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]

https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/putin-threatens-use-of-barrier-units-to-gun-down-frontline-deserters-uk-intelligence-claims-42120400.html Putin is threatening to use “cordon units” to gun down deserters at the front, British intelligence claims

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