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Ukrainian reserve officer says Russia is forming special “Storm Z” units

Russian forces are reportedly forming new “Storm Z” units along their key front-line formations, according to a release obtained by a Ukrainian reserve officer.

The officer shared a copy of the document on their Twitter account, “Tatarigami_UA,” on Thursday, and said the release “outlines the objectives, organization, and logistical requirements of ‘Storm Z’ units.” While the claim could not be independently verified, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in its assessment Thursday that the document was obtained and released by a “reliable” Ukrainian officer.

According to the officer’s post, the Storm Z units are described as “independent, joint, tactical, combined-arms” units to be formed “for immediate operational use in performing particularly complex combat missions.” The companies will be formed within elements of Russia’s 8th Guard Combined Arms Army and the 1st Army Corps, the armed forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) in the Russian-occupied Donetsk region of Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, on Thursday meets with Denis Pushilin, the Moscow-appointed head of the Donetsk People’s Republic, in Moscow. Russian forces are reportedly forming new “Storm Z” units to deploy along the front lines of the Russia-Ukraine war in the Donetsk region.Gavriil GRIGOROV / SPUTNIK / AFP via Getty

The obtained Russian documents state that the specialized units will have “a flexible structure” and vary in composition depending on the unit’s combat goals and surrounding terrain. Storm Z companies are also to “conduct combat operations in a city or areas with difficult geographical conditions” and “capture important objects such as strongholds, command posts, communication centers, buildings and structures,” the Ukrainian officer said in his Twitter thread.

Training for the new units will typically require 10 to 15 days, completed in three different stages. According to the Ukrainian reserve officer, the Storm Z units will include recruited Russian inmates and each member will be paid a little over $2,500 a month.

ISW reported that it is “unclear” how the Storm Z units will fit into Russia’s current command structure. The think tank predicted that the special forces will likely be deployed along the front lines near the city of Donetsk, where Russian offensives have been “largely unsuccessful.”

Russian military command likely seeks to create ‘Storm Z’ companies and attach them to already-committed elements in order to reinforce minor tactical success and encourage further offensive operations and gains,” read ISW’s assessment. “However, due to the ramshackle construction of yet more ad hoc Russian units, as well as the already degraded quality and poor morale that is pervasive within DNR units in this area, it is unlikely that the use of these formations will lend Russian forces on this frontline a significant offensive edge.”

British intelligence assessed last week that Russian authorities were likely preparing to recruit an additional 400,000 troops for its ongoing invasion of Ukraine, several months after Russian President Vladimir Putin ended his widely unpopular mobilization in the fall.

Putin’s efforts in Ukraine have been largely thwarted by the Western-backed Ukrainian military, and the Kremlin’s troops have faced heavy losses in the face of improper training and morale problems. The U.K. defense ministry reported on Sunday that there has also been an “extremely high” number of “incidents, crimes, and deaths linked to alcohol consumption” among Russian soldiers.

Officials estimate that Russia has suffered up to 200,000 causalities since the start of the war in February 2022.

Newsweek has reached out to the Russian Ministry of Defense via email for comment.

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