Salute = Sniper Check

Hard lessons in Ukraine

Guards Maj. Gen. Andrei Sukhovetsky, the commanding general of the Russian 7th Guards Mountain Air Assault Division, was killed in fighting in Ukraine last week.

It’s never a good idea to arrive with a series of other command cars and to have a gilded staff scurrying around and saluting you when there might be Ukrainian snipers in the area. Lesson learned, the late MGEN Sukhovetsky. They’ll shoot the big shot first. Of course, he’s easily replaced by another. In this case, it is Guards Colonel Aleksandr Vladimirovich Kornev. Maybe Kornev will dress like a common soldier and will learn the lesson?

7th Guards Mountain Air Assault Division unit patch. It is pretty, but it doesn’t belong on the shoulder of a combat uniform….

Russian Airborne Forces or Vozdushno-desantnye voyska Rossii, VDV, are a separate branch of the armed forces of the Russian Federation. They are a more professional, better-trained component of the Russian Army, composed of professional soldiers and not of srochniki – conscripted soldiers aged eighteen.

In Ukraine, they deployed primarily as light mechanized infantry maneuvering in advance of the main body of Russian forces as reconnaissance and shock troops.

They wear bright blue berets, a proud symbol of their special status.

Many rural Americans identify those UN color berets as natural targets. Obviously so do Ukrainians.

The VDV participated heavily in the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. During the opening hours of the invasion, the VDV attempted to secure key airports. In each case they were all but completely destroyed by Ukrainian ground forces.

This is how it Happened

The VDV dropped troopers by parachute and landed other troops by Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters in an effort to secure Hostomel Airport (near Kiev) in what became known as the Battle of Antonov Airport.

The VDV troops rallied on the airport runway. While they assembled, they were counterattacked by the Ukrainian National Guard’s 4th Rapid Reaction Brigade (technically a police unit), supported by the Ukrainian Air Force. They encircled the unsupported VDV troops and destroyed them, with a few escaping to nearby woods. The next day, the battle resumed, and the remnant of the VDV were rescued by the main force of Russian Armor arriving from Belarus and Chernobyl, taking the airport. 

40 kilometers south of Kiev in Vasylkiv, VDV paratroopers dropped attempting to secure the Vasylkiv Air Base. The Ukrainian Air Force claimed to have shot down two Ilyushin Il-76 heading to Vasylkiv, each carrying more than 100 paratroopers. Without any support from air or ground forces, the VDV troops in Vasylkiv were eventually destroyed, giving victory on the Battle of Vasylkiv to the Ukrainians.

VDV troops with BMD-2s and BTR-Ds were spotted, maneuvering south of Hastomel in Bucha near Kiev. VDV and Ground Forces’ units were destroyed on the same day by Turkish-made Bayraktar drones. The Ukrainian government claimed that, “more than 100 units of enemy equipment were destroyed”.

Guards Maj. Gen. Andrei Sukhovetsky, who had been appointed deputy commander of the 41st Combined Arms Army (in addition to his role with the VDV) was killed by a Ukrainian Spetznaz sniper on the outskirts of Kiev, as discussed above. At the same time that they bagged the deputy commander of the Russian Army in theater,  Ukrainian army forces destroyed a significant portion of the VDV between Bucha and Irpin (Kiev suburbs).

It seems that the Russian Professional Army has had its nose bloodied. President Putin was reportedly furious at the complete failure of the elite VDV in combat.


  1. all those years we feared them…..oh well, made us train harder i guess, so no loss. still a bit wary of their boomers. somebody said they called them black holes in the water. i supposed absence of sound could be an indicator of enemy presence much like a silent woods.

    • They sailed the Typhoons under the ice cap, blew ballast tanks and just drifted with the current until the patrol ended. They were difficult to find because the ice sound itself helped mask circulating pumps, etc.

  2. Excuse a sailor’s question, but isn’t a runway long and flat and the surrounding ground clear of obstructions, thus providing a clear field of fire for anyone who wants to start shooting at large groups formed up on the runway? Didn’t they read about the fallschirmjägers at Crete? What’s that other maxim about not spreading your forces too thin?

    • The Russian advance to date has been plagued with unsound tactics, a lack of understanding of cause and effect, poor command and control, and so forth. They are learning as they go, and they are paying in blood and equipment, but they are learning.

      In the case of the assaults the airports early in the war, they got off late and arrived over the target in broad daylight, good weather. The airports were ringed with AAA and had not been degraded. They jumped high, 3000 ft AGL and were perfect targets. The Ukrainian Air Force was out in strength dropping the helicopters. The AAA and MANPADS got what the Ukrainian MiGs missed, and they assembled on a runway in the face of Ukrainian troops in light armor that they were not equipped to defeat. The slaughter of the paratroops was a foregone conclusion.

      THEN the Russian tanks arrived and secured the airport but not the approach path. Russian troop transport aircraft arrived and Ukrainian Stingers dropped them. Lots of bonehead moves, but the Russians will learn.

      • The loss of the 7th Guards Mountain Air Assault Division, the best troops that Russia has, and they lost on the order of 90% of the division, hurt.

          • Russian divisions are much smaller than American divisions, but yes, it’s very much like losing the entire 101st in a few days of fighting.

        • Given all that then it is a good thing for Sukhovetsky that a sniper shot him, otherwise Putin would have too. Or maybe shoot his immediate supperior for the criminal incompetence.

      • Interesting on the drop altitude. In C-130’s we trained to drop paratroopers as low as 500 AGL. That was in essentially clear weather. That was 40 years ago. With better positioning equipment, GPS and inertial nav, you can drop in the clouds. Sounds as though the Russians haven’t got their stuff together on Airdrop.

        N.B. — I was a C-130 Tactical pilot.(But not Special Ops, i.e. MC-130)

        • This comes from a report from the Ukrainians. I can’t imagine a military drop into a hot zone from that altitude in broad daylight over significant AAA. The AAA may have driven the transport pilots higher and they just green-lighted. It’s difficult to say at this point. I training jumped once at 500 AGL over land and the canopy just has time to deploy. There is some pucker factor. Over water, it’s a different experience completely. I’d rather helocast – just jump from the low-flying helo into the water. The canopy tangles if it drops on you and at 500′ there is precious little time to cut away from the canopy.

          Coming down on a runway with AAA capable of raking it is …hell.

          • Sounds like a Series of Unfortunate Events. I simply can’t believe they didn’t even try to neutralize as many of the defenses as they could before they jumped in.

            That’s not a Hot Zone, that’s a Killing Zone…..

  3. So what you’re telling us is that the Russkies didn’t study the invasion of Panama where Panamanians thrashed elite US forces trying to take an airfield.

    And now we see…

    Their supply convoys are stalled or failed because of cheap Chinese tires. No, really, it’s been reported that the truck and other wheeled transport tires, made by the ChiComs, are failing in record numbers. Dry rot, cracks, blown side walls, bad belts, the whole nine yards.

    Hmmm… You should never buy your mission-critical equipment from a potential foe.

    And the Russian fuel issue. Seems some vehicles that have partially full tanks are still not running, almost like there’s something wrong with the fuel.

    Makes me think that the ChiComs set up the Russians for a fall. I wonder if the ChiComs are eyeing Siberia and all its resources. After all, the cream of Mother Russia has been destroyed.

    • I was in Operation Just Cause, but not at the airfield. I interrogated Panamanian Special Forces POWs to get real-time, actionable intelligence. That’s a story in itself. It’s true though, SEALs were ordered to act like light infantry, move down a lighted runway at night, and seize an executive jet that Gen/Pres. for life Noriega might use to flee. The orders were not to damage the aircraft in any way. It would have been an easy thing to use the Barret 50, which they had, to shoot out a tire. We lost 4 by the hangar, not on the runway.

      The Russians in the north are definitely stalled. Reports from Ukraine that they’re looting for food and then set fires to cover their activity.

    • the belarus claim the russian troops were selling their fuel to buy alcohol during the ‘exercise” phase. they called them terrible soldiers. maybe they added water to cover up their theft, lol. some pow’s claim they thought it was just an exercise right up until the bullets started flying. how’s that for leadership?

      • When Viktor Belenko defected with his MiG 25 and landed in Japan, during his debrief, he discussed how the ground crew would drink the grain alcohol used to cool the big Turmansky Turbojets. It was a big enough problem that they didn’t have enough coolant to fly.

        • I thought the alcohol was used to cool the electronics, especially the big radar system. Belenko stated that they were not allowed to turn it on while grounded, as it could kill rabbits at two hundred meters distance. Said they could have done it some other way, but they continued to use alcohol in the aircraft as a way to supply the military with a necessary consumable.

    • I think the Chinese have been eyeing Siberia since at least the 1500s. Or it might be more accurate to say they have always assumed it was theirs to begin with.


    • “You should never buy your mission-critical equipment from a potential foe.”

      Nor should anyone depend on critical components and raw materials from a foe. Steel, drug precursors, integrated circuits; what else do we not (or barely) make domestically any more? I’d call the people who caused this traitors, but a too-large proportion of them probably never had loyalty to these US in the first place.

      • They’re still traitors. It’s amazing what even a little money will buy you in terms of treachery.

  4. “They’ll shoot the big shot first. Of course, he’s easily replaced by another.”. -LL

    I recall that in a battle during our Civil War the Union lost a general and two hundred head of horses.
    Lincoln’s staff did not understand why he was much more upset at the loss of the horses and not the death of the general
    Lincoln explained,” I can make another general. I can’t make two hundred horses.”

      • The supply system has shown some improvement over the years. Nowadays we don’t have any problem repopulating Congress when they get promoted out. Of course, now you’re talking horse’s asses and not the critter whole, but you’ve seen one horse’s ass in Congress, you’ve pretty much seen ’em all.

  5. Two weeks ago this was just a “small incursion”, as defined by our Vacant Leader and his Red-Headed Spokesliar, anything more and they were going to rain down the hurt on Vlad. Talk’s cheap from DC.

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