Even the solutions turn into problems for Vladimir Putin in Ukraine — big problems. Less than a month after announcing a “partial” mobilization, Russian conscripts have entered into combat in Luhansk. And it appears that they are exiting almost as quickly, provoking even more backlash from nationalist milbloggers who are increasingly balking at Putin’s propaganda.
The Ukrainians reported their arrival in combat areas yesterday. Serhii Haidai, the top military official in Luhansk Oblast, claimed that the first conscript wave consisted mainly of ex-convicts:
Russian conscripts have started arriving in Luhansk Oblast. The vast majority of them are men who were serving sentences in Russian prisons at the time of conscription. …
“Conscripts are being deployed in the occupied territories. These are the newly drafted [soldiers] [Haidai is referring to the most recent wave of mobilisation that Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on 21 September – ed.]. There are both civilians and citizens of the Russian Federation who were serving sentences in prisons [at the time of conscription]; that is, convicts have been deployed [to fight in Ukraine]. And quite a lot of them at that.”
The Russian milbloggers didn’t take long to confirm the arrival of conscripts — and to complain about what happened next. ISW picked up on their chatter about the rapid demise of these untrained troops and their unhappiness with the chain of command:
Public reports of the first deaths of ill-prepared mobilized Russian troops in Ukraine have sparked renewed criticism of the Russian military command. Russian media reported that five mobilized men from Chelyabinsk have already died in combat in Ukraine just three weeks after President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of partial mobilization on September 21. The report led many pro-war milbloggers to claim that the number of dead and wounded among mobilized servicemen is likely higher than this due to lack of promised training, equipment, unit cohesion, and commanders, as well as repeated instances of wrongful mobilization.
Russian milbloggers claimed that Commander of the 58th Combined Arms Army of the Southern Military District (SMD), Mikhail Zusko, ordered the immediate deployment without any pre-combat training of newly mobilized servicemen of the 15th Regiment of the 27th Motor Rifle Brigade from Moscow City and Moscow Oblast to the collapsing frontline around Svatove around October 2nd and 3rd. Ukrainian outlets had previously reported that the Kremlin has arrested Zusko due to combat losses, and it is unclear why an SMD commander would issue orders pertaining to a unit within the Western Military District (WMD). Milbloggers noted that relatives found half of the 15th Regiment personnel wounded in a Belgorod Oblast hospital after the unit got caught in heavy artillery fire when attempting to reach the Svatove frontline. Milbloggers noted that the regiment had no orders, military command supervision, signal, or supplies, and that the other half of its personnel is still at the Svatove frontline. Another milblogger noted witnessing the coffins of mobilized men arrive in Chelaybinsk, Moscow, and Yekaterenburg, and claimed that many mobilized men are surrendering to Ukrainian forces. One Russian milblogger complained on October 13 that newly mobilized men are being deployed in a haphazard way that will lead to 10,000 deaths and 40,000 injuries among them by February 2023.
Putin may have hoped that the conscription — a much-demanded action from nationalists — would convince them to stick to the Kremlin’s talking points. However, that ignores a reality that matters even in authoritarian systems, including in Russia’s imperial/inferiority-complex culture. When dead bodies come back from the front, families and communities start asking questions. When those dead bodies belong to conscripted-by-force family members, questions aren’t the only thing raised.
ISW notes that nationalist milbloggers have begun to read that writing on the wall as well:
Russian military units reportedly disperse mobilized men among different units without keeping proper records of their deployed locations on the frontlines, causing families to complain to military leadership. Russian military officials are also continuing to assign men with previous military experience to units that do not match their expertise. One milblogger even warned that Russian MoD’s inability to properly update families of the whereabouts of their relatives will lead mothers and wives to form human rights groups that “will break Russia from within.”
It’s not going to get any better with these conscripts, and even the milbloggers seem to be belatedly realizing it. Putin and the Kremlin don’t have the resources or the time to properly train and equip them. They’re using conscripts to plug holes in lines that have been moving backwards for six weeks, up against crack combat troops with high morale and lots of hard-earned experience. This phase of cannon-fodder deployment will only gain Putin a few weeks, if that, and afterward the Russians will be in worse shape. After all, who will replace both these troops and the well-trained troops being killed or captured in Kherson and Luhansk?
We’ll tackle that question and more with Dr. Fred Kagan of ISW this morning, as I’ll be filling in for our pal Hugh Hewitt on his syndicated radio show, airing from 6-9 am ET, live from the home studio deep in the heart of Texas! We will have a great lineup of guests and regular contributors:
- Sonny Bunch
- Tarzana Joe
- Scott Johnson of Power Line
- Tyler O’Neill of the Daily Signal
- Dr. Larry Arnn of Hillsdale College
We’ll also take your calls to the show at 800-520-1234, and you can watch the show live at The Hughniverse. There’s a great chat room that goes with it, and lots of original content in the troll-free websurfing experience for subscribers. The audio also streams at HughHewitt.com.