Analysis of Russian Assault Video

These videos were posted to my Telegram channel (Max Velocity Tactical). They are very interesting on a number of counts, so I was motivated to do a blog post about what is happening in the videos. It is important to note that I do not have any real context for the videos, so I am simply going off what can be observed in the video’s themselves. I have seen reports that the videos are part of the Russian assault on Soledar, which was recently captured, mainly by troops of the Wagner PMC.

Here is the first video. The second video will be posted later in this article, and follows on with the action of the assault and helps to add context to the first video.

Video 1:

Translation for the video:

00:18 – Stop!

00:25 – Stop faggots! All stop! All stop!

      – [The man in the hole] We are on your side.

      – Drop your weapons! Drop you weapons I tell you! Drop you weapon, faggot! Give me your weapon [grabbed the gun]

      – [The man on the right] We are on your side.

The man on the left tries to say something illegible. I do not even understand what language he is using. Is it Ukrainian, Russian or something else? The guy behind the camera shoots them both.

01:22 – Hey [illegible] move behind that tree.

Note: the man on the left is already wounded up around his right eye.

The basic narrative of the video above is as follows:

  • The Russian soldier (lets call him Ivan!) is behind a tree. He steps out and throws a grenade towards the fighting position, which appears to detonate on the lip (or right next to) the position. At this time we cannot see any other Russian soldiers. The video lacks context and we have to put together what is happening from what we can see.
  • Ivan advances towards another tree halfway between where he was and the fighting position.
  • Ivan then moves up to a tree right next to the fighting position and starts yelling at the Ukrainians. Note how the fighting position is oriented towards the left, so he is approaching from the side or rear of the position.
  • The two Ukrainians in the position seem to have been suppressed and are laying down below the lip of the position. That likely speaks to their disorientation.
  • Ivan yells from outside the position, and then jumps into the position and tries to take their surrender. He ends up grabbing the rifle of the guy on the right. Note that before he got there, there was no attempt to surrender from the Ukrainians, they were just down and hiding.
  • From a translation, there was confusion and the Ukrainians try and tell him they are one of his, they seem to think they are on the same side. This may be due to his direction of approach. They probably have also not seen how close the Russian assault line is, because they have no situational awareness. The guy on the right does not give up his rifle. The guy on the left (language undetermined) may understand that Ivan is asking for their surrender, but the guy on the right doesn’t get it.
  • Unable to take their surrender, Ivan opens fire and kills both of them.
  • Ivan rolls out of the fighting position and that can lead to some confusion when you watch it, but if you use the green tractor as a reference point, you can now see the assault line of Russian troops to the right. The green tractor is also a reference point in the second video.
  • You might think he is the far left guy on the assault line, but there is actually a guy further left, beyond the position. This soldier is directly in line with Ivan’s assault on the fighting position. He is also the same guy who you see in the video leaning against the tree just to the left of the fighting position, so he obviously came up after the position was taken.

Highlighted in red in the photo below is the Russian soldier who is directly beyond the fighting position from Ivan:

Below is that same Russian soldier closed up on the fighting position once it is taken:

Below is the light green tractor as a reference point:

And from the second video:

Here is the right side Ukrainian soldier with his barrel pointed right at Ivan (who has grabbed the barrel and pulled it towards him):

Here is Video 2, for more context:

Translation for the video:

00:33 – I do not understand? It will be all right, commander!

00:42 – Fire! Machinegun – fire! Over there! 

01:00 – He run away, faggot. 

01:02 – [Somebody else] There are two more

01:09 – I will pull back to get more ammo.

01:16 – Hey guys, would you help? Fuck it. I am out of ammo, 

    they are running away. Hey, you got ammo? 

      – No, we got nothing

01:42 – What the fuck is that? 

01:51 – I need ammo.

02:02 – Fuck. Guys, move forward, fuck. We are out of ammo. 

02:12 – Fuck, I got no room, take mine [gives something to the other guy, I guess empty mags]

Here are some thoughts on what we can see from the videos:

It appears to me that the assault line is heading up towards the direction of the green tractor, where there may be a farm. So we have a number of Russians ‘on line’ and this may well be a platoon assault, given the numbers we see in the second video.

Ivan is first seen in the video looking to what we now know is the left of the assault line. I think, given Ivan’s general actions as seen in both videos, that he is some sort of NCO or squad leader. We cannot see anyone else apart from the one other Russian who is further out to the left. Who is that guy? Is he just spread out too far, or is he posted out there as flank protection? Just one guy? It appears that there is a gap in the assault line, and that is right where this fighting position is situated. We always reinforce at class that it is important, when assaulting, not to converge or diverge too much, that the assault line should cover across the position with good spacing (and oddly this video looks exactly like some of our FoF (force on force) scenarios where we use fighting positions!).

So however it happened, there is a gap in the assault line, or the assault line does not go far enough left (but what about that guy all the way on the left?). Thus, Ivan spots the danger and throws a grenade at the position. He then assaults it (let’s not raise the issue of safety angles with that other Russian soldier past the position on the left!). It looks like Ivan is assaulting ninety degrees to the left of the assault line, or from perhaps just behind it if that was his position as a squad leader?

I note that Ivan spends time standing beside trees. When moving onto an enemy position, that is one of the most dangerous times (from the position itself, and also from mutually supporting positions), but he is stood overlooking the fighting position for a while. He does at least have a tree. Later, when he gets out of the position, we can see the other guys on the assault line, and they are standing behind trees. That tells me that the overall enemy position is most likely well suppressed and the soldiers are not too worried and feel they can get away with standing behind trees, rather than being prone, due to lack of incoming fire. That is usual for when the assault line starts fighting through a position as the resistance is going to fade away with less and less effective enemy fire. We have the video starting when the assault is already well into the enemy position.

Regarding combat training, there should never have been an attempt to take their surrender. The assault line is moving through the position, Ivan is assaulting the fighting position, after he threw the grenade he should have moved up and opened fire into the hole, after which he should have confirmed it was ‘clear’ by getting into the fighting position. The reasons for this are several: you cannot afford to leave live enemy behind you, and as for the ‘law of armed conflict’ (LOAC) it is fair game, during an assault, to kill enemy you come across, given that they are in front of you. So prisoners are usually taken if you go back and there are wounded, hiding (or both) enemy on the position. It is possible to take prisoners as you are assaulting, but it’s a little cheeky on the enemy’s behalf, to make you deploy and assault and then they just surrender! It also has to be clear that they are surrendering, and you must be able to take the surrender.

LOAC applies in a proper declared war between states. If it doesn’t apply, it’s up to your own morals what you do and don’t do (and the law is always going to come back at some point). I’m not an attorney, and not a military attorney, but we were subject to many talks about LOAC. The talks get complicated about surrender. It goes into details such as a position surrendering, but another co-located position is still firing, then you can’t take the surrender. And of course taking a surrender implies you have the manpower to deal with enemy prisoners of war (EPW). So in this case, Ivan tries to force them to surrender, they were not asking for it (they were taken by surprise), and has difficulties with the two Ukrainians who are confused and argue with him.

I have noticed that in the course of the SMO, the Russians appear to have made a big effort to take prisoners, rather than simply kill Ukrainians as they take positions. Which is more than can be said for the Ukrainian position on the subject! Not only have they taken prisoners, they have treated them well and given medical aid, as it should be. This is perhaps based on the idea that Russians and Ukrainians are Slavic brothers? So is that what Ivan was thinking? He immediately tried to take their surrender, rather than kill them as he could so easily have done. He put himself at greater risk, and even had the barrel of the rifle pointed at him, by his own actions in grabbing the barrel. But there was confusion in the fighting position, the Ukrainians seemed to think he was one of theirs, and didn’t understand his demands to surrender. The guy on the right was actively arguing with him, and holding onto his weapon. Given the Russian assault line was right on top of them, Ivan had no choice but to open fire. The Ukrainians had no situational awareness due to being suppressed in the position. Given what we know about Ukrainian forces, we also have to ask what was their level of training?

When you watch the second video, you get more of an idea of the numbers involved, more like a platoon. The Russians seem to have settled into their fire support positions and this may be exactly what is happening. I guess that this platoon had assaulted to their limit of advance and were now moving to fulfill a support fire role? Hence Ivan moves back to the fighting position and is doing ammo replenishment. He moved back to the fighting position where it looks like the reserve squad is waiting (behind the two front squads who are online). Note also at the beginning of the second video, Ivan and the PKM gunner reloading in cover!