A recent Times (UK) article reported that the British Ministry of Defence stated that the Russian Army may have units instructed to fire on Russian soldiers attempting to retreat during the current war in Ukraine, a tactic reminiscent of WW2.

Unfortunately it's behind a paywall, but the "readable" preview bit states...

Russia’s army has “probably” instructed special units to fire on retreating soldiers in Ukraine in an echo of Stalinist practice during the Second World War, the Ministry of Defence has claimed.

“Due to low morale and reluctance to fight, Russian forces have probably started deploying ‘barrier troops’ or ‘blocking units’,” it said in an intelligence update. “These units threaten to shoot their own retreating soldiers in order to compel offensives and have been used in previous conflicts by Russian forces.”

Retreating Russian soldiers may be shot, says MoD

The Ministry of Defence tweeted a similar claim:

Due to low morale and reluctance to fight, Russian forces have probably started deploying "barrier troops" or "blocking units". These units threaten to shoot their own retreating soldiers (...)

However, when someone says "probably" they can often mean anything from just themselves supposing as far as having evidence that this is very likely.

A search around the 'net reveals articles stating different levels of certainty but pointing back to the same "probably" quote from the MOD, without offering any further evidence.

So my question is, is there anything other than this quote, or any elaboration on this quote (or what is meant by "probably" in this case) to indicate the likelihood that Russia are shooting their own retreating soldiers?

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    There seems to be a lot of unknown information about this and it will likely be a while before much is learned about it.
    – Joe W
    Commented Nov 7, 2022 at 18:37
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    The primary source for this statement would be the official UK MoD social media news channel (link to the twitter post). There's basically no additional information there, though. Other "intelligence update" posts there sometimes provide the sources for their info (mostly statements by Ukrainian officials), but otherwise it all seems to be "unconfirmed", "likely" and "probably". Commented Nov 8, 2022 at 4:37
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    I am trying to understand the question. You aren't looking for evidence that the MoD did/didn't make the claim, right? Are you looking for evidence for/against that retreating Russian soldiers have been shot at by fellow troops? That Russian soldiers have been threatened? That Russian soldiers have been issued orders? I'm worried the claim seems far softer: "We reckon that's just the sort of thing our enemies would do."
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 0:04
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    @Oddthinking I don't doubt that the MoD made the claim. I'm sceptical about the claim itself. I believe it coming from the MoD and the fact that it has spread throughout the news media (in the west at least) makes it "notable" as far as this site is concerned. However, the word "probably" - a very woolly term IMHO - and the lack of corroborating evidence makes the claim very concerning, especially given that same spread throughout the media. So I'm wondering if any such evidence exists, or, OTOH, if it comes to light some time in the future, this question can be answered at that point.
    – komodosp
    Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 9:45
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    @Oddthinking The trouble with judging the MOD position is that it could be based on intelligence evidence they can't share readily. I think the spirit of the question is whether there is other evidence that is available that might corroborate the claim. And in this war where many pieces of video evidence have been shared and where the Russians are often communicating on social media, that evidence might well exist.
    – matt_black
    Commented Nov 9, 2022 at 14:40


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