More and more Russians are getting blown up by Ukrainian drones while using the latrine outside their positions along the front line of Russia’s 22-month wider war on Ukraine.
These opportunistic drone-strikes aren’t new: for nearly two years now, Ukrainian operators regularly have posted recordings of their drones’ live video feeds depicting strikes on Russian soldiers squatting over holes with their pants around their ankles.
Yes, Ukrainian troops also get attacked while using the bathroom. But the preponderance of latrine-ambushes on Russian troops is noteworthy—and consistent with what, by now, is an established pattern.
As winter sets in and the front line in Ukraine turns muddy and cold, essentially freezing the fighting into World War I-style trench warfare, fieldcraft—that is, the conduct of daily life in a front-line dugout—takes on greater importance.
And when it comes to fieldcraft, experienced Ukrainian troops have a leg up on the poorly-trained draftees who make up a growing proportion of Russia’s force in Ukraine. “While weather and the terrain treat both sides equally … disciplined soldiers fare better,” pointed out Mark Hertling, a retired U.S. Army general.
The videos of Ukrainian drone strikes on defecating Russians all are evidence of poor fieldcraft by the victims.
In one recent video from the apocalyptic battle around Avidiivka, in eastern Ukraine, a Russian soldier sheltering in the wreckage of a destroyed armored vehicle breaks cover to use the latrine—and draws the attention of a Ukrainian first-person-view drone that blows him up before he can hoist his pants.
In another recent video, a Russian soldier strolls a few yards from his treeline dugout in order to use the bathroom. A Ukrainian quadcopter drone watches the whole time. An FPV drone waits to strike until the soldier has returned to his bunker.
In both daytime incidents, the Russians violated a basic rule of fieldcraft on a battlefield where enemy surveillance, and aerial firepower, is everywhere. “All latrine calls should be done during darkness, if possible,” the U.S. Army advises in its field manual for snipers.
On Ukraine’s drone-patrolled front line, all soldiers—even those who aren’t marksmen—must contend with the same fundamental problem that traditionally has been unique to snipers. Namely, concealment is survival. And using the latrine outside of your hidden position represents a profound risk.
Minimally-trained and poorly-led Russian conscripts might not know this. For the Ukrainians, this inexperience is an opportunity. “The winter once again poses an opportunity to maximize Russian losses,” analyst Jack Watling wrote in a recent essay for the Royal United Services Institute in London.
“If Russian troops are drawn into the defense along a wide front, with Ukrainian troops pushing into opportunities rather than trying to break through defended areas, then Russian forces will be outside, getting wet and cold,” Watling wrote.
“If targeted strikes can degrade their logistics, then the limited training and fieldcraft of Russian forces can maximize climatic injuries.” Including injuries resulting from ill-considered attempts to use the latrine during the daytime.