The heavy losses of an elite Russian regiment in Ukraine - by Mark Urban - BBC Newsnight 02.04.22

In any war, there are units that distinguish themselves and others that become symbolic of failure. The 331st Guards Parachute Regiment had high hopes of being the first, but now represents the disintegration of Russia's plan for a quick war.


The regiment's commanding officer, Col Sergei Sukharev, was killed in Ukraine on 13 March, and was posthumously awarded the Hero of the Russian Federation medal. At his funeral, deputy defence minister Gen Yuri Sadovenko said the colonel "lived for the future, for the future of our people, a future without Nazism".


Casualties among Russian forces are not widely reported in Russia itself, but using open source material, the BBC has pieced together the story of their advance, and found that at least 39 other members of the elite 331st regiment have died.


The men were part of a column that advanced into Ukraine from Belarus, led by Russia's airborne forces, known by the acronym VDV. Their presence underlined the priority of their objective - advancing on the capital, Kyiv.


That advance swiftly got drawn into a destructive stalemate in districts on the outskirts of Kyiv which soon became synonymous with the viciousness of the war: Bucha, Irpin, and Hostomel.

Videos that emerged online from these battles showed combat vehicles used by Russian airborne forces with "V" signs painted onto them.


One video we found shows several damaged light armoured vehicles from the VDV, abandoned after an attack by Ukrainian special forces. Another shows several vehicles from the Russian airborne forces apparently abandoned.


The men in the 331st regarded themselves as the pick of Russia's army. In a video posted online last May, a general tells soldiers of the 331st Parachute Regiment that they are "the best of the best". The unit 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.


The 331st was also a showcase for Russia's policy of replacing national service soldiers with contraktniki - professionals under contract. It is understandable why the generals should have given it an important role in the invasion.


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The heavy losses of an elite Russian regiment in Ukraine - by Mark Urban - BBC Newsnight
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Some of the Russian elite troops from of the 331st Guards Parachute Regiment


The BBC has so far verified the deaths of 39 soldiers from the 331st regiment: Klim Abramov, Cpl Artem Arbuzov, Oleg Bedoshvili, Capt (Co Cdr) Yurii Borisov, Snr Lt Ilya Chernyshev, Cpl Yuri Degtaryov, Konstantin Dobrynin, Sasha Dolkin, Sgt Sergei Duganov, Kiril Fedoseyev, Andrey Kovalevsky, Maj Sergei Krylov, Stanislav Kutelev, Cpl Yanosh Leonov, Sgt Alexander Limonov, Snr WO Sergei Lobachyo, Cpl Ivan Mamzurin, Cpl Ilya Martynenko, Lt Lev Ovchinnikov, Maksim Ovchinnikov, Cpl Leonid Panteleyev, Maj Oleg Patskalyev, Sgt Stanislav Petrutik, Sgt Roman Pomelov, Snr WO Pavel Rudenko, Snr Lt Alexander Shalygin, Sgt Nikolai Smirnov, Col Sergei Sukharev, Maxim Svetlenko, Snr Lt Nikolai Symov, Daniil Titov, Maxim Trokai, Ivan Turyev, Sgt Maxim Vorotyntsev, Capt Alexei Vyshegorodtsev, Alexei Yelimov, Cpl Artem Yergin, Sgt Ravshan Zhakbaev, Cpl Danila Zudkov


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