Russian soldiers are going into battle high on drugs, according to a recent report.
A military expert said the practice is common in warfare.
“This is what some institutions do to make sure their soldiers still run at machine guns,” Mick Ryan said.
Russia has taken to chemically lowering its soldiers’ inhibitions to guarantee these ill-trained civilians and convicts continue to fight no matter the odds in the ongoing war in Ukraine, according to a UK defense think tank.
The Royal United Service Institute published a May report examining how Russia’s military tactics have evolved in the second year of conflict, citing Ukrainian military personnel who said the Russian soldiers they encounter often appear to be “under the influence of amphetamines or other narcotic substances”
The men most likely to be battling while high are Russia’s “disposable infantry,” which primarily consists of conscripts from the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, prisoners drafted by the Wagner Group, and mobilized draftees, the report said.
According to the Royal United Service Institute report, these “disposable” troops are sent in small groups to “skirmish” with Ukraine’s defense “until killed.” Ukrainian troops have noted that many of the Russian soldiers continue to advance even after being hurt.
Material recovered from the battlefield suggests Russian soldiers are most likely taking the substances in liquid form, the report said.
The drugging of active-duty soldiers may be a bleak battlefield strategy, but it’s not an uncommon one, according to Mick Ryan, a retired Major General in the Australian Army and a military strategist, who said he witnessed the tactic when he was on the border of East Timor with an infantry battalion in 2000.
“This is nothing new, sending troops forward under the influence of drugs, it’s actually pretty common in military history,” Ryan told Insider.
As Insider reported earlier this year, several countries have a history of supplying their soldiers with performance-enhancing drugs. British stores used to sell syringes of heroin as gifts for troops during World War I; the Nazis pumped their men full of meth to increase awareness and vigilance on the battlefield; and the US military distributed painkillers and “pep pills” — also known as speed — to soldiers headed toward long-range reconnaissance missions during the Vietnam War.
Russia has its own checkered history with drug and alcohol use during war. A UK intelligence update in April suggested Russian soldiers are dying in Ukraine as a result of alcoholism.
A captured Russian soldier told CNN earlier this year that his commanders in Ukraine were high on their supply of painkillers and ordered troops to do dangerous, nonsensical things, like run under mortar fire.
The tactic is likely a necessary measure to ensure Russian troops continue to fight even when their leaders have given them little worth fighting for, Ryan said.
The Ukrainians, he said, have “heaps of purpose.” They know exactly who they’re fighting and what they’re fighting for — an enemy that wants to destroy their nation, Ryan said.
The Russians aren’t so lucky.
“Sometimes you replace good purpose and good leadership and good team building with drugs,” Ryan told Insider. “This is what some institutions do to try and make sure their soldiers still run at machine guns.”
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