Several Russian front-line soldiers from recently established units report conditions that were actually only known from the Red Army in World War II: Apparently the Kremlin is using specific commands at the front to stop deserters and prevent the Russian troops from retreating – if necessary with them Armed force.

A video shows almost two dozen soldiers in green uniforms addressing a message directly to President Vladimir Putin. They are the remnant of an assault force – special forces deployed by the Russian Defense Ministry in January “specifically designed to breach the most complex and echeloned defense sectors of the Ukrainian armed forces,” as it was called at the time.

But apparently these specially trained offensive troops have become suicide missions. According to the statements of the soldiers, their unit originally consisted of 161 men. After 14 days under heavy mortar and artillery fire, they “suffered great casualties,” as explained by one of the soldiers, Alexander Gorin. “34 people were injured and 22 died, including our commander,” Gorin continued.

The force wanted to withdraw and report back to their headquarters. But their superiors refused them an orderly retreat. The Russian army is apparently resorting to a tactic used by the Red Army from World War II: so-called “blocking troops”, which are positioned behind the first front line and are intended to prevent units from retreating or deserting.

In the Soviet Army, these units, known as “Strafniki”, were considered particularly notorious. They often consisted of criminals, the politically persecuted or soldiers with disciplinary penalties. Their task was basically just following Joseph Stalin’s order 227: “Not a step back”. Accordingly, the task of the “Strafniki” was to shoot every fugitive and every coward in the event of a “disorderly retreat, and thus to assist the honest fighter in the defense of his homeland,” as Stalin put it.

Now the Kremlin under Vladimir Putin is apparently deploying similar troops, as the soldiers report in the video: “They have deployed blocking troops behind us and are not letting us move from our position… They are threatening to destroy us individually and as a unit. They want execute us as witnesses to a totally negligent criminal leadership.”

Their commanders are a criminal organization, there is no other way to put it, said another soldier, who identified himself as Sergei Moldanov.

Accordingly, the superiors would not only threaten their troops with shooting, but also blackmail their troops. Stormtroopers would be forced to pay their commanders money. Those who refused would be sent to the front.

These statements cannot be unequivocally proven. However, both the star and the British “Guardian” were able to independently confirm the identity of several soldiers. These also agree with reports from the British Ministry of Defense, which said in January that the Russian stormtroopers consisted largely of veterans who had already taken part in the first Russian offensive in Ukraine in 2014.

The video is the latest in a string of complaints that have surfaced on social media, particularly since Russia’s winter offensive, which began in January. Desperate front-line soldiers who suffered from poor equipment and poor treatment by their superiors repeatedly speak out.

The accusation of the so-called “barrier troops” is not the first. The British Ministry of Defense announced last November that the Russian military wanted to use such special units to prevent its troops from retreating. “The tactic of shooting deserters probably reflects the poor quality, low morale and indiscipline of the Russian armed forces,” the ministry said in a statement at the time.

Kremlin boss Putin contradicted the reports in a speech in December. Although there are a few deserters, this is not a mass phenomenon in the Russian army. It is much more the Ukraine that is “shooting in the back” its own soldiers with troops behind the front, Putin continued to claim. He did not give any evidence for this.

Sources: The Guardian, video of Russian soldiers, Stalin’s order in the original Russian