Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed Friday that there was still a steady stream of volunteers wanting to join the Russian military, with 318,000 people already mobilised. Authorities previously said the goal was to mobilise some 300,000 reservists.
Putin said 49,000 were already in the army on combat missions, while the rest were still being trained. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday that 87,000 were deployed to Ukraine. The discrepancy could not be reconciled.
Putin also signed a law Friday permitting the military mobilisation of those with expunged or outstanding convictions, including those who have recently served time for murder, robbery and drug trafficking.
Reports suggest that many of the mobilised reservists are inexperienced, were told to procure basic items such as medical kits and flak jackets themselves, and did not receive proper training before deployment. Some were killed within days. After Putin’s order, tens of thousands of men fled Russia to avoid serving in the military.
But according to Russian pundit Dmitry Puchkov, inexperienced new recruits must be sent to the front as older Russian soldiers are now too damaged by “constant” drinking to properly fight the enemy.
During a discussion with Ivan Pankin, host of Radio Komsomolskaya Pravda, the creator of the Russian Media Monitor, film and video translator said: “We will have to create a normal people’s army where everyone who is fit will have to serve, they will have to serve the minimum of two years or three years in the navy. There is no way to get trained in the shorter term.
“Next, it will turn out that those trained 18-year-olds will have to be sent to the front to take part in combat instead of calling up 40-year-olds with higher education, a business, a wife and three children whose death at the front will cause the necessity of paying a pension to the wife, to the children etc.”
He added: “Instead, 18-year-olds will go, no matter how cynical this sounds, they will have to be sent. There is no way around it – no way. All of those talks about people who previously fought and served in hot spots.
“Citizens, do you have a clear understanding about the physical state of a Russian 40-year-old man or at 50 years of age? Can he run, jump, sleep on the cold ground? How is his prostate? How are his kidneys after a constant consumption of alcohol?
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“What is he to you, some kind of monster? No. Children will have to go serve in the army, they’ll serve for two years and take part in combat. This is the only way. And this is the kind of army we can anticipate. That’s what I believe.”
Last month, the UK Ministry of Defence claimed the Russian army is lacking officials to lead new recruits on the battlefield.
In a statement, the MoD said: “Eight months into the invasion, major elements of Russia’s military leadership are increasingly dysfunctional. At the tactical level, there is almost certainly a worsening shortage of capable Russian junior officers to organise and lead newly mobilised reservists.
“Eyewitness testimony suggests that the shooting of 11 Russian soldiers near Belgorod by a fellow recruit on 15 October 2022 occurred after an officer’s abusive comments towards ethnic minority recruits.
“Poor lower-level leadership is likely worsening the low morale and poor unit cohesion in many parts of the Russian force.
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“Four of the five generals with direct operational command of elements of the invasion in February 2022 have now been dismissed. Their replacements have so far done little to improve Russia’s battlefield performance.
“The lack of command continuity will likely be more disruptive than in a Western military because under Russian doctrine the development of plans sits largely with the commander personally, rather than as a collective effort across a broader staff.”
The Belgorod incident mentioned by the MoD refers to the shooting of 11 people at a military training ground near the Ukrainian border by two gunmen.
Russia’s RIA news agency, citing the defence ministry, said two gunmen opened fire with small arms during a firearms training exercise on Saturday, targeting personnel who had volunteered to fight in Ukraine. RIA said the gunmen, who it referred to as “terrorists,” were shot dead.