Three weeks ago, a counterattack in the Ukrainian northeast dismantled one of the elite units of the Russian army: the 1st Guards Tank Army.
Now, the same counterattack is reported to have decimated a new mechanized infantry division that stood the Kremlin a few years ago in order to help protect the first GTA. Having suffered heavy losses around Bakhmut in recent days, it is likely that the 144th Guards Motorized Rifle Division is no longer effective in combat.
These losses are unsustainable for the Russian military — and explain why the Kremlin is willing to risk widespread turmoil as it forcibly muster 300,000 men and rush them to the Ukrainian front line in less than a day of training. The Russian professional army is disintegrating.
The Russian army formed the 144th Mechanized Guards Rifle Division and an escort division specifically for the war in Ukraine. Together, the two divisions make up the 20th Combined Arms Army. On paper, the 20th CAA oversees more than 20,000 soldiers riding 560 BMP combat vehicles and 300 T-72 tanks.
The army improved the 144 GMRD and the rest of the CAA 20 for semi-open spaces in the north-east of Ukraine and placed them in the south of Russia near the Ukrainian border. The 144th GMRD was originally operated from a base in Yelnia, 150 miles from the border and another 150 miles from Kyiv.
According to the CNA Research Center in Washington, DC, the plan was for the 144th GMRD and its sister division to enter Ukraine along with the first GTA and protect the left flank of the Tank Army in a hypothetical attack on Kyiv.
who – which virtual assault became a truly Assault in late February when the first GTA and its supporting divisions, including the 144th GMRD, attacked towards Kyiv. A month later, the Russians – with their supply lines eroding, and many of their generals dead – retreated across the Russian and Belarusian borders.
144 GMRD suffered badly In the Kyiv campaign, but with time and reinforcements she managed to return to the fighting – in the north-east. Reportedly, the 144th units of the GMRD were guarding the Russian Army’s secondary defensive line along the Oskil River in northeastern Ukraine. When dozens of Ukrainian brigades eager for the Russians’ external defenses pounded just east of Kharkiv, vanguard units – including the first GTA – fled east via Oskil.
The first GTA exploded in those early days of the Ukrainian counterattack that started in the first week of September. The Tank Army lost at least half of its 200 T-80 tanks. The survivors supplied the Oskil River, hoping that the river – and the 144 GMRD and other units defending its banks – would stop the Ukrainians.
they did not. The Ukrainian army crossed the river in at least five places and continued to push it east. 144 GMRD regiments “They are going to immortality,” A Russian spokeswoman lamented.
At least one of the 144 GMRDs reportedly took part in a doomed counterattack outside Bakhmut, 20 miles south of the Russians’ logistics center at Lyman, which is currently the center of the Ukrainian operation. The Ukrainian garrison held out at Bakhmut. That company of 144 GMRD no longer exists.
It took the Russian military years to form the 144th GMRD – and only a few months for the Ukrainian army to wipe it out. The division is just one of several units the Russians might try to reconfigure with aging, sick, and unhappy conscripts, and very old tanks and combat vehicles.
If the Russians succeed in retaking the 144 GMRD, the Ukrainians may be able to destroy them again.