“They’re Just Meat” – the Grim Fate of the Russia’s Storm-Z Squads

In the heart of the ongoing Ukraine conflict, a sinister specter from history has reared its head as Russia deploys punishment battalions known as “Storm-Z” squads. These units consist of a motley crew: drunk recruits, insubordinate soldiers, and convicts, all pressed into service in the most dangerous of military endeavors.

Secretive Russian Storm-Z Squads Exposed

The world has long been aware of these squads, yet their formation and operations have remained shrouded in secrecy — until now.

An investigation from Reuters has painstakingly compiled a comprehensive account of these squads, shedding light on their composition and harrowing experiences by speaking to sources directly involved in the matter.

Storm-Z squads, typically comprising 100–150 members, are embedded within regular Russian army units. 

Frontline Deployments With High Casualties

These squads are frequently deployed to the frontline, often facing heavy casualties in intense battles. They represent a departure from Russia’s previous approach in Ukraine, where mercenary groups like Wagner sent convicts to fight. 

Unlike their predecessors, Storm-Z units operate under the direct command of the Russian defense ministry, combining convicts seeking pardon with regular soldiers facing disciplinary punishment.

Expendable Infantry

The utility of Storm-Z units to the Russian defense ministry is clear — they are expendable infantry sent to the most perilous areas of the frontlines, both in defense and attack. This grim reality has raised concerns about the human cost of such deployments.

Historical echoes of wartime punishments resonate as these squads are reminiscent of Soviet leader Josef Stalin’s “punishment battalions” during World War II, where soldiers who panicked or abandoned their posts were sent to the deadliest parts of the front.

“Just Meat” on the Frontlines

One ordinary soldier stationed near the fiercely contested city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine had this to say about the squad: “Storm fighters, they’re just meat.”

The stories emerging from Storm-Z units are heart-wrenching. Some recruits, like Artyom Shchikin, were incarcerated for crimes but chose to join the squads in exchange for the promise of a pardon and financial incentives. Their motivation ranged from seeking a clean criminal record to providing for their families.

Deployed to the southern Ukrainian region of Zaporizhzhia, where intense fighting raged, Shchikin and his fellow Storm-Z fighters faced a grim fate. 

In one devastating encounter, only 15 of the 120 members in their unit survived. Shchikin himself went missing in action, leaving his family in agonizing uncertainty.

Transfers to Storm-Z Without Due Process

While the core of Storm-Z squads consists of convicts, some regular soldiers are assigned to them as disciplinary punishment. Officers have transferred soldiers to these units for offenses such as being intoxicated on duty, drug use, or insubordination.

Notably, these transfers appear to occur without the legal due process typically required by Russian military law.

Rebellion in Zaporizhzhia

In an act of defiance, a group of Storm-Z fighters in Zaporizhzhia rebelled against their harsh treatment. They refused orders to return to the frontline and recorded a video detailing their appalling conditions. 

The soldiers revealed a lack of ammunition, water, and food, along with the grim sight of the dead and wounded left unattended. Despite facing beatings by military police in response to their rebellion, these fighters continue to endure.

Families Live in Fear

Despite these revelations, Russian officials have remained silent about the Storm-Z squads and have refused to comment on them. 

The families of these fighters live in constant fear, hoping for an end to the conflict that has forced their loved ones into this perilous situation.

The existence of Storm-Z squads paints a grave picture of expendable lives, a haunting echo of past wartime practices. As the conflict in Ukraine continues, the international community watches as history repeats itself on the battlefield.

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