An intelligence update yesterday said Russia’s army is running out of decent kit and is deploying its reserve infantry in outdated personnel carriers.
It came two days after the Russian president claimed he “by and large hasn’t started anything serious yet”.
His remarks came amid reports that Russia was training new forces to send to Ukraine where its troops are regrouping after completing their capture of the Luhansk region, half of Donbas.
The UK confirmed the Russian force deployment — but added that the MT-LB vehicles the Russian infantry is rolling out are worn out and lightly armed.
“Russia has long considered them unsuitable for most front-line infantry transport roles,” it said. “It was designed in the Fifties as a tractor to pull artillery, has very limited armour, and only mounts a machine gun for protection.”
The low-slung MT-LB was designed as a Cold War "amphibious tractor" and can carry up to 10 soldiers in its cramped and airless hold, as well as a driver and a gunner.
Its simple design compares to the more sophisticated BMP-2 infantry fighting vehicles, used in Russia's initial invasion of Ukraine, which carries an autocannon and anti-tank missile launcher.
Russian media has reported that the Arctic Fleets' 200th Motorised Infantry Brigade has deployed to Ukraine, and Ukrainian intelligence has said that Russia is raising a new infantry corps near Nizhny Novgorod.
Rob Lee, a war studies student at King's College London, said that the 200th Motorised Infantry Brigade had been involved near Kharkiv where it had taken heavy casualties and lost a large amount of equipment.
He said the brigade now "has a mix of reservists, volunteers, and servicemen from military police, coastal defence units, and sailors from ships".
This cobbled-together deployment reflects the compromises that the Russian military is having to make to reinforce its armies in Donbas — after four months of war that has killed at least 20,000 of its soldiers and injured many more.
Telegraph Media Group Limited