Russian reservists fighting with shovels, says UK intelligence

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London, Mar 6: Russian reservists are likely using "shovels" for "hand-to-hand" combat in Ukraine due to a shortage of ammunition, the UK's Ministry of Defence has said, according to a media report.

In late February, reservists described being ordered to assault a Ukrainian position "armed with only 'firearms and shovels'," the ministry said in its intelligence update, the BBC reported.

It mentioned a shovel known as 'MPL-50'. The tool was designed in 1869 and had changed little, the ministry said. "The lethality of the standard-issue MPL-50 entrenching tool is particularly mythologised in Russia," the ministry said, the BBC reported.

The continued use of the shovel "as a weapon highlights the brutal and low-tech fighting which has come to characterise much of the war", it said.

One of the reservists described being "neither physically nor psychologically" prepared for the action, the update added. "Recent evidence suggests an increase in close combat in Ukraine," it said, the BBC reported.

"This is probably a result of the Russian command continuing to insist on offensive action largely consisting of dismounted infantry, with less support from artillery fire because Russia is short of munitions."

Meanwhile, Russian forces appear to have secured a sufficient positional advantage in the besieged city of Bakhmut, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said.

Bakhmut has seen months of fighting, as Russia tries to take control of the small city, where around 4,000 civilians remain.

Taking the city would be a rare battlefield success in recent months for Russia, but the city's strategic value has been questioned, the BBC reported. The ISW said Russia's positional advantage could allow a "turning movement" in the city.

The purpose of a turning movement is to force the enemy to abandon prepared defensive positions, and is different from the aim of an encirclement, which is to trap and destroy enemy forces, the ISW says.

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