How Ukrainian Troops Capitalized on Russian ‘Friendly Fire’ Misstep

Russian Soldiers Struck by ‘Friendly Fire’ during Hasty Retreat

 Russian Troops Fall Victim to 'Friendly Fire' Near Opytne
Russian Troops Fall Victim to ‘Friendly Fire’ Near Opytne. Source: AFP

At least 60 Russian soldiers found themselves caught in a tragic crossfire of “friendly fire” as they hastily retreated from the village of Opytne, situated near Donetsk’s Sergey Prokofiev International Airport in eastern Ukraine. The incident, initially reported by Ukrainian Member of Parliament Yuriy Mysiagin on September 10, has since been corroborated by Russian milbloggers and various Ukrainian sources.

Mysiagin revealed that the Russian soldiers were in a chaotic and near-panic retreat, seeking new defensive positions. Tragically, confusion reigned as other Russian units mistook their own troops for Ukrainian forces attempting to reclaim territory near the airport, leading to a devastating artillery strike on their own ranks.

The result was a grim toll of 27 soldiers killed and 34 wounded, with several suffering the loss of limbs and equipment. Pro-Kremlin bloggers confirmed the incident, acknowledging that approximately 200 Russian troops were attempting to regroup in “more favorable positions” due to mounting pressure from Ukrainian forces around Opytne.

A Ukrainian Colonel, Konstantyn Mashovets, detailed the events in a Facebook post, attributing the catastrophe to a combination of panic and poor coordination among the Russian forces. He questioned the inexplicable decision of Russian artillery to fire on their own positions rather than suppressing Ukrainian firepower.

With the inadvertent assistance of the “friendly fire” incident, Ukrainian forces managed to advance through Opytne and push toward Pisky, a village southwest of Opytne. Despite Kremlin claims of launching counterattacks on Opytne, the village remains cut off from the Russian front line by a river, stalling their progress.

The lack of adequate training for conscripted Russian troops rushed to the battlefield has been widely blamed for several instances of friendly fire against their own comrades. This issue has persisted, as evidenced by an August 14 report in the New York Times, where a Ukrainian serviceman recounted Russian forces firing on their own troops near the village of Neskuchne.

According to the serviceman, identified as “Kherson,” Russian troops fired rockets at their own forces as they attempted to retreat, resulting in significant casualties. Reports suggest that Russian “friendly fire” may have accounted for up to 60 percent of total Russian casualties between May and November 2022, as claimed by former Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) Security Minister Aleksandr Khodakovsky in an ISW report from November.

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The unfortunate incident near Opytne stands as a tragic reminder of the challenges faced by troops on both sides of the conflict in Ukraine, where the fog of war continues to claim lives in unforeseen ways.

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