Due to the alleged mass refusal of Russian Airborne Forces (VDV) officers to participate in combat in Ukraine, Russian paratrooper command has begun trying to hire contractors to fill the vacant positions, but even they do not seem keen to fight, Ukrainian Intelligence said in a statement Saturday.
Russia has been increasingly using contracted professionals - contraktniki in Russian - to replace conscripts in elite military units.
After severe losses suffered by the Russian paratroopers as a result of clashes with Ukraine's army, the command of the airborne troops is attempting to restore the morale and combat capability of the units, the statement explained.
Special focus is being put on units in which more than 60 percent of personnel were killed in action and units in which demoralized soldiers have refused to continue their service.
The biggest issue for the Russian forces seems to be the mass refusal of the command staff of VDV units to participate in the fighting in Ukraine. Even contract workers, who were urgently assigned officer ranks, have reportedly refused to fill in positions from platoon commander to battalion commander.
Members of Russia's general staff in Ukraine were instructed to investigate each case of refusal and persuade the commanders to return to their units by promising social benefits and government awards.
Russia's Paratrooper divisions - considered one of the country's elite units and poster boys for the Russian military - have encountered a series of problems since the invasion of Ukraine, tarnishing the once prestigious designation the unit held.
Paratroopers abandoning posts
Back in July, Ukrainian intelligence reported that paratroopers from the 106th and 76th Airborne Divisions had been refusing to continue fighting in combat operations in Ukraine and were returning from the Luhansk Oblast to Russian Federation territory, according to Ukraine's Pravda.
Further showing the morale issues Russia is having with the VDV, at least 60 Russian paratroopers from one unit in Pskov province refused to fight in Ukraine, according to independent Russian newspaper Pskovskaya Gubernia.
The troops were fired, and some were threatened with criminal prosecution for desertion or failure to comply with an order, the paper wrote on its Telegram channel.
331st Regiment loses former glory
Another unit, the renowned 331st Guards Parachute Regiment which served in the Balkans, Chechnya, and the 2014 Russian intervention in the Donbas region of Ukraine, and regularly took part in Red Square parades in Moscow has also suffered heavy losses in March, according to the BBC.
The regiment's commanding officer, Col Sergei Sukharev, along with 39 other soldiers were killed while advancing on Kyiv. The men were part of a column that advanced into Ukraine from Belarus, led by Russia's airborne forces.
The 331st was also a showcase for Russia's policy of replacing national service soldiers with professionals under contract. It is understandable why the generals should have given it an important role in the invasion.