Russian Reservists Being Sent Into Combat With ‘Firearms and Shovels’

Photo Credit: Stringer / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Stringer / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

As the Russo-Ukrainian War passes the one-year mark, it appears the invading Russian forces may be struggling more than ever with a lack of equipment. According to Western intelligence, Russia’s reservists are facing the Ukrainian military with little more than firearms and shovels.

MPL-50 and its cover laid on a wooden floor
Post-World War II MPL-50. (Photo Credit: One Half 3544 / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

Word of the Russia’s equipment struggles comes from the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence, which, in an update posted to Twitter, indicated that commanders are sending reservists into battle with just shovels and firearms, leading to an increase in the amount of close-combat infantry operations in Ukraine.

Among the entrenching tools being used by the Russians is the MPL-50, a Danish infantry spade that dates back to 1869. It’s been equipped by infantrymen ever since, and over the century and a half it’s seen action, little has changed in regard to its design.

Along with being used as a shovel, the MPL-50 can be wielded as an axe and hammer. Spetsnaz operators are also trained to use it in hand-to-hand combat.

According to the UK’s Ministry of Defence, “it’s continued use as a weapon highlights the brutal and low-tech fighting which has come to characterise much of the war.” In particular, this can be seen in the ongoing Battle of Bakhmut, where the majority of the fighting has descended into close-quarters trench warfare.

CNN reports that Russian artillery fire has decreased as much as 75 percent, signaling to many that the country’s military is rationing artillery rounds due to supply shortages.

Since the start of the Russo-Ukrainian War in February 2022, issues with the amount of available equipment, munitions and other supplies have plagued the Russian military. Early on, video footage showed soldiers looting Ukrainian grocery stores for food, and, just this past fall, reports emerged of recruits complaining of a lack of training, poor food and medicine stores, and abhorrent accommodations.

On top of this, the Associated Press reported many reservists were having to purchase their own body armor and grenades.

Russian reservists standing together in uniform
Conscripted Russian citizens following the country’s partial mobilization, October 2022. (Photo Credit: Arkady Budnitsky / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images)

More from us: Russia Loses 130 Armored Vehicles In Biggest Tank Battle of Russo-Ukrainian War

In October 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin created a new committee to increase the level of production of weapons and supplies, telling Kremlin officials to cut through any and all bureaucracy to make sure troops were adequately equipped. In the meantime, he’s been forced to authorize the use of Cold War-era tanks and munitions, which have degraded in the decades since they were put into storage.

As winter gives way to spring and the fighting intensifies in Ukraine, only time will tell if Russia will be able to re-equip its forces or if close-quarters combat will continue to be the dominant form of fighting.

Clare Fitzgerald

Clare Fitzgerald is a Writer and Editor with eight years of experience in the online content sphere. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from King’s University College at Western University, her portfolio includes coverage of digital media, current affairs, history and true crime.

Among her accomplishments are being the Founder of the true crime blog, Stories of the Unsolved, which garners between 400,000 and 500,000 views annually, and a contributor for John Lordan’s Seriously Mysterious podcast. Prior to its hiatus, she also served as the Head of Content for UK YouTube publication, TenEighty Magazine.

In her spare time, Clare likes to play Pokemon GO and re-watch Heartland over and over (and over) again. She’ll also rave about her three Maltese dogs whenever she gets the chance.

Writing Portfolio
Stories of the Unsolved