Colonel General Andrey Serdyukov.Statue Vladimir Tretyakov / AP

    The replacement of Colonel General Andrei Serdyukov was announced a few days ago by a spokesman for the board of Odesa. Now several Russian news sites and the American think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) confirm that the general has been relieved of his post. The Kremlin is said to be furious about its malfunctioning and the high death toll among the paratroopers.

    The fate of Serdyukov, who has led the elite soldiers since 2016, has been hanging by a thread for months. To the horror of President Vladimir Putin and the top generals in Moscow, one of the first actions of his paratroopers early in the invasion ended in humiliation.

    In amazement, the world then watched as already on the first day of the war, more than twenty Russian Mil Mi-8 helicopters appeared near Kyiv. Units of the VDV tried to take the Antonov airport in Hostomel in a daring operation. The capture of the airport should have cleared the way for the arrival of soldiers and heavy equipment. The images from the helicopters gave the impression that the battle for Kyiv could be short-lived and that the capital would fall quickly.

    What should have been a routine operation for the Russian airborne troops turned into a drama. The paratroopers did take the airfield, but they were then beaten back and after heavy fighting the plan to use the airport as a beachhead failed.

    Fatal river crossing

    Other operations of the airborne troops, which place great importance on speed, also ended in failure due to the persistent resistance of the Ukrainians. The 45,000-strong elite corps was also involved in the arduous efforts to advance from eastern Izhum to the Donbas. After two months, the Russians still have not succeeded. Also, the airborne troops were involved in the failed attempts in the Donbas to cross the Donets River. It turned into a bloodbath when Ukrainian artillery fired on the soldiers. According to the ISW, about five hundred soldiers were killed in this fatal crossing.

    “The VDV has been closely involved in several notable tactical failures since the start of the invasion,” the British Ministry of Defense said in May of the corps that had been highly regarded before the invasion. According to the British, the elite soldiers suffered great losses because they were often deployed on missions that could be better performed by mechanized units with heavy equipment. They were also vulnerable from the air because the Russians still do not control Ukrainian airspace.


    “The wrong deployment of the VDV shows how Putin’s significant investment in the military over the past 15 years has led to an unbalanced force,” the British ministry said. According to London, the Russians also blundered because they did not believe the stubborn Ukrainian resistance was possible. “This has resulted in significant losses to many of Russia’s elite units,” the British said.

    The latter was also revealed in an investigation by the Russian news site in April media zone† They investigated the deaths of 1,700 fallen Russian soldiers. About five hundred of them served with three elite units. The vast majority of this group, 351, were part of the airborne troops.

    If more heads roll in the coming weeks, it will have an effect on the invasion force, the ISW warns. “More layoffs and possible internal purges of senior Russian officers are likely to further erode poor Russian command and confidence among Russian officers,” the institute that closely monitors the war said.