Sunday, December 10

Putin, faced with the problem of replacing the bulky casualties in Ukraine

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reviews troops during Victory Day in Moscow’s Red Square. / AFP

More than half of the Russian troops sent to the war would have been put out of action. The death toll is around 30,000 soldiers and the wounded would amount to about 60,000

Russia hides the real figures of the casualties suffered during the invasion of Ukraine, but, according to the General Staff of the Ukrainian Army, they amount to 26,000 dead soldiers. The Russian expert on military issues, Sergei Zhirnov, calculates that Russia sent 150,000 troops to Ukraine at the beginning of the invasion, of which, according to his data, 30,000 perished and, he stresses, “at least 60,000 could have been wounded.” More than half of the components of the operation or almost two thirds would have been out of action.

Given this situation, President Vladimir Putin could mobilize the male population and send it to fight in Ukraine in the event that there was a previous declaration of war. But the impact that such a measure would have on Russian society, where, in general terms, hardly anyone is willing to die in a war whose goals are vague (denazification, demilitarization, protecting Donbas from genocide, fighting NATO or eliminating the threat that Ukraine supposedly poses to Russia), they seem to advise limiting themselves to a simple “special military operation” for now, which is what Putin decreed on February 24.

The problem is that this formula does not legally allow anyone to be forced to fight or to lay hands on young people who are doing military service. All the weight of the operation falls exclusively on the professional military, those who previously belonged to the Russian Armed Forces and those who, by contract, are enlisting in the middle of the recruiting campaign that the Russian Defense Ministry is promoting to make up for the heavy losses that its troops add up every day in Ukraine.

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In Russia there is compulsory military service for all males between the ages of 18 and 27. It has a duration of 18 months, except for those with higher education, in which case they have twelve months of service and with the possibility of adjusting the terms to their academic needs. However, replacement soldiers cannot be sent into a conflict. This was announced in early March by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Recruits, to the front

Later it was discovered, however, that young people had been sent to the Ukraine, many just turned 18, who were serving in the military. Putin protested, demanded that it not be repeated and ordered an investigation to clarify how they had ended up on the battlefield.

The truth is that, much later, after the sinking of the Moskva cruiser on April 14, it was learned, thanks to requests made by family members for news about its whereabouts, that a large part of the crew that perished in the shipwreck were replacement sailors. Under the supervision of the Committee of Mothers of Soldiers, efforts are being made to prevent these “non-professional” young people from being sent to war.

So all the efforts of the Russian Ministry of Defense are now directed at recruiting as many “kontráktniki” as possible, civilians preferably with previous service experience in the security forces (Army, Police, National Guard or secret services), to that a professional contract is offered for a certain period of time and specific salary conditions. However, given the dire need for more soldiers on the front lines, it is possible that the Military Commissariats that carry out the enlistments in Russia are not too scrupulous when it comes to demanding skills in handling weapons.

Russian intelligence officer and former commander-in-chief of the Donetsk rebel forces, Igor Guirkin (Strelkov) has repeatedly denounced defections among contracted rank-and-file soldiers, who apparently cannot be subjected to martial law. . The salary of a private contract soldier ranges between 35,000 and 100,000 rubles (between 500 and 1,500 euros). But news of heavy casualties in Ukraine has many turning to desertion or disobeying orders. And many who had thought about enlisting in the first place end up backing out. Guirkin is convinced that “sooner or later we will have to decree general mobilization if we want to win the war.”

There is also controversy about the amount that relatives of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine receive as compensation. The Ukrainian media, citing government sources in kyiv, speak of a single payment of 10,000 rubles (about 150 euros), but the Chechen president, Ramzan Kadyrov, whose soldiers he has sent to Donbass and are participating in the assault on the Azovstal steelworks , assures that it is a “lie”. According to his information, “the family of a fallen soldier in Ukraine receives two million rubles” (almost 31,000 euros).

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