Russian troops are threatening to 'shoot their own soldiers' if they run away, with Putin's army set to withdraw from Kherson

4 November 2022, 19:06

Russian soldiers have formed 'blocking units' to shoot deserters
Russian soldiers have formed 'blocking units' to shoot deserters. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

Russia has probably set up "blocking units" to shoot their own soldiers if their morale wavers and they start to retreat, according to British defence chiefs.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Vladimir Putin's commanders are also thought to be trying to keep their forces in place "to the death" defensively - although the Russian army is reportedly set to retreat from Kherson, a strategically important port city north-east of Crimea.

Britain's ministry of defence said on Friday: "Due to low morale and reluctance to fight, Russian forces have probably started deploying ‘barrier troops’ or ‘blocking units’.

“These units threaten to shoot their own retreating soldiers in order to compel offensives and have been used in previous conflicts by Russian forces.”

The briefing added: “Recently, Russian generals likely wanted their commanders to use weapons against deserters, including possibly authorising shooting to kill such defaulters after a warning had been given.

James Cleverly: UK's support for Ukraine under Rishi Sunak is 'unwavering'.

“Generals also likely wanted to maintain defensive positions to the death.

“The tactic of shooting deserters likely attests to the low quality, low morale and indiscipline of Russian forces.”

Moscow-appointed authorities in southern Ukraine's occupied Kherson region said Russian troops were likely to leave the city of Kherson on Friday - a claim that Ukrainian officials greeted with some scepticism.

The Kremlin-installed regional administration has already moved tens of thousands of civilians out of the city, citing the threat of increased shelling as Ukraine's army pursues a counter-offensive to reclaim the region.

Ukrainian MP says Ukraine must be prepared after 'dirty bomb' claims

Authorities removed the Russian flag from the Kherson administration building on Thursday, a week after the regional government moved out.

Ukraine's southern military spokeswoman, Natalia Humeniuk, said the flag's removal could be a ruse "and we should not hurry to rejoice".

Read more: Ukraine’s cities plunged into darkness as Putin targets country’s energy network

Read more: Russia claims it has 'evidence' that the UK was involved in attack on its warships

Kyiv is experiencing power cuts because of Russian activity
Kyiv is experiencing power cuts because of Russian activity. Picture: Getty

She told Ukrainian television that some Russian military personnel are disguising themselves as civilians.

The Soviet Union also had blocking units in the Second World War to shoot troops who retreated when defending their country from Nazi invaders.

Josef Stalin's infamous order 227 in July 1942 told soldiers that they were not to take "one step back".

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Children look at a washing machine. British Gas customers can get paid to reduce their energy this evening

Nearly half-a-million British Gas customers can get paid to reduce energy this evening

Pontins' Prestatyn and Camber Sands sites are set to shut with “immediate effect”

Pontins closes holiday parks with 'immediate effect' leaving Brits ‘heartbroken’ and holidays in disarray

Aslef train drivers have voted to go on strike

Rail misery continues as train drivers vote to go on strike for another six months

Police powers are minimising the effectiveness of protests - with groups like Just Stop Oil now being arrested within just 10 seconds.

Police powers are minimising the effectiveness of protests with eco-groups arrested within seconds

Nepal Same Sex Marriage

Nepalese couple vow to continue campaigning after same-sex marriage recognised

Mehmet Koray Alpergin (right) and Gozde Dalbudak (left) were snatched as they returned home from an Italian restaurant in Mayfair, central London, last October, the Old Bailey was told

Thugs guilty of killing DJ after torturing him to death while kidnapped partner heard his dying screams

Madagascar Election

Madagascar’s top court ratifies presidential election result after boycott

Susan Hall said her wallet had been stolen and the incident was an example of crime being out of control in London

'She dropped it': Good Samaritan who returned Susan Hall's 'stolen' wallet reveals he found it between Tube seats

Aslef union has promised rolling strikes between 1 and 9 December

Will your train journey be affected over the Christmas period? December strikes explained

King Charles warned Cop28 that the 'hope of the world' rested on the Dubai summit's shoulders today

'Hope of the world' rests on Dubai climate summit, King Charles tells Cop28

A Met Police officer tasered a 10-year-old girl

Father of girl, 10, tasered by police says officer's actions are a 'green light to go around tasering anybody'

Dozens of schools have been forced to close amid the snowfall

Dozens of UK schools forced to close as Brits wake up to snow - see the full list

Japan US Osprey Crash

Japan voices concern about US military using Osprey aircraft after fatal crash

Thousands of families face being kicked out of their homes ahead of Christmas

'It's about not having anywhere for my kids to sleep': 12,500 families face eviction by Christmas

Engineers were called to the scene after an overhead cable failing left 700 passengers without power or working toilets.

‘Inhumane’ conditions as Eurostar passengers stranded for eight hours without toilets or power

Israel Palestinians

Israeli jets hit Gaza targets after week-long truce expires