Russian soldiers are being punished using medieval techniques as commanders clamp down on poor discipline, according to a tweet from UK’s Ministry of Defence. These soldiers are being thrown into caged holes underground, called ‘Zindans’, for actions such as being drunk, attempting to terminate their contracts with the Kremlin and refusing to fight in the Ukraine war. The UK’s defence ministry said in a tweet that it had heard multiple reports of the Zindans being in use. They consist of holes in the ground “covered with a metal grille”, it added.
“In recent months, Russian commanders have likely started punishing breaches in discipline by detaining the offending troops in ‘Zindans’ which are improvised cells consisting of holes in the ground covered with a metal grille,” the ministry said in its daily intelligence update on Sunday.
“Multiple recent reports from Russian personnel give similar accounts of being placed in Zindans for misdemeanours including drunkenness and attempting to terminate their contracts,” it further said.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 30 April 2023.
Find out more about Defence Intelligence’s use of language: https://t.co/SIvHuzvKuo
🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/n6EiQpwtpM
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) April 30, 2023
This is a major shift in strategy by Moscow as the Ukraine war continues, said the ministry, adding that the initiatives have become “increasingly draconian, especially since autumn 2022”.
‘Zindans’ were part of ancient punishment technique. According to Newsweek, they were previously used in parts of the former Russian empire. The outlet further said that there are photographs that show ‘Zindans’ in use in parts of central Asia in the early 20th century.
The change in Russian tactics happened when General Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s Chief of General Staff, took control of Moscow’s military operations in Ukraine, as per UK’s defence ministry.
General Gerasimov took up the position in mid-January after a reshuffle of Moscow’s top military officials. “His appointment was likely intended to improve Russian command and control at the start of the new year,” the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) think tank wrote on January 11.
Huffington Post said that Moscow has suffered up to 200,000 casualties since the invasion of its neighbour in February last year.