Russian soldiers who drink and break rules get sent to punishment battalions where they are likely to die fighting, report says

storm z squad russia
A video shows fighters from Russia's Storm-Z squad saying they will no longer fight in Ukraine, citing their treatment by their officers, on June 28,
  • Russian soldiers who are caught drinking are sent to so-called punishment battalions, Reuters found. 

  • These "Storm Z" units have been sent to where the heaviest fighting is.

  • They are often used as cannon fodder on the front lines, the outlet reported.

Russian soldiers caught drinking alcohol are reprimanded heavily, being sent to so-called punishment battalions where they are likely to die, Reuters reported on Tuesday.

The units, people by soldiers who break the rules, are sent into heavy fighting as cannon fodder with poor chances of survival, the agency reported. Reuters said the units are known as Storm-Z battalions.

At least five of their teams were found fighting in the east and south of the country this summer, Reuters reported.

The battalions have been around since April this year, but the Reuters investigation — published on Tuesday — is the first in-depth look into how they function and what kind of people they recruit.

Reuters interviewed 13 people as part of the investigation, five of whom were Storm Z fighters. Each battalion is made up of around 100 to 150 people each and are usually embedded within regular army units, it said.

Reuters found that soldiers are sent to Storm Z for being drunk on duty, for using drugs, or for refusing to carry out orders.

"If the commandants catch anyone with the smell of alcohol on their breath, then they immediately send them to the Storm squads," a regular Russian soldier, who requested anonymity, told the outlet.

The soldier said he went against orders by giving medical treatment to a group of Storm-Z fighters who were wounded while fighting near the city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine.

"Storm fighters, they're just meat," he told Reuters, adding that officers usually consider the fighters of lesser value than ordinary troops.

The battalion also invites convicts to fight for them in exchange for a pardon, an approach previously used by the Wagner Group.

Russian Ministry of Defence set up its Storm-Z program at the beginning of the year in the apparent hope of supplanting Wagner, whose founder Yevgeny Prigozhin was proving unruly.

Serhii Cherevaty, a spokesperson for Ukraine's East military command said in June that there were more than 170,000 Storm Z fighters in their "operational zone", according to The Telegraph.

Ukraine has also previously said that Storm Z troops show extremely low combat capability, according to a press release translated by the Ukrainian outlet Pravda.

One Storm Z fighter told Reuters that almost everyone in his unit was killed in June around Bakhmut: 105 of the 120 men.

Relatives of a missing Storm soldier fighting in Ukraine told Reuters that Russia's Defense Ministry never responded when they asked where he was.

"He was from a Storm unit. For them, no one is going to be in a rush," one relative, who was not named, told the outlet.

In the summer, some Storm fighters said in a video that they refused to carry out combat missions due to their treatment.

"On the frontline, where we've been, we did not get deliveries of ammunition," a fighter in the video said, according to Reuters. We did not get water or food. The injured were not taken away: still now the dead are rotting."

Russia's Ministry of Defense did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

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