The “partial mobilization” that took place in September resulted in the call up of about 300,000 new mobiks or conscripts. But as you’ve probably noticed the war effort hasn’t improved for Russia since then. In November their forces retreated from Kherson and moments into New Year’s Day Russia suffered the worst losses from a single air strike in the whole conflict.

And those are only a few of the highlights, so to speak. Other reports suggest Russia has been losing both experienced brigades and scores of untrained mobiks at the front lines for several months. So what is Putin to do? According to Ukrainian intelligence, Russia is planning another mobilization effort.

Ukraine’s military intelligence has claimed that Russia is set to order the mobilisation of as many as 500,000 conscripts in January in addition to the 300,000 it called up in October, in another apparent sign that Vladimir Putin has no intention of ending the war…

Russia has denied it is preparing a second wave of mobilisation, with Putin saying last month it was “pointless” to talk about a new call-up, claiming that only half of those already mobilised had been sent to Ukraine…

Contradicting the official line, several pro-war nationalist bloggers who have gained influence in recent months have said Russia had no choice but to soon announce a new mobilisation drive.

Igor Strelkov, a Russian ultra-nationalist commentator and former intelligence officer, predicted Moscow would announce a mobilisation next month.

“There will be a second wave of mobilisation. We will be forced to carry out the second, and maybe the third wave. To win in Ukraine, we will need to call up at least another half a million soldiers,” Strelkov said, adding that the new mobilisation drive would be held in late February, on the anniversary of the start of the war.

Again, Putin and his officials have denied this but then they denied it the first time too, right up until it was announced. The Ukrainians might have reasons to push claims about a new mobilization, since it was unpopular the first time and would probably create more trouble for Putin at home. But Igor Strelkov aka Igor Girkin has proven to be somewhat more accurate than official Russian sources when it comes to what is happening on the battlefield. Maybe he knows something?

Coincidentally, three days ago a group of Russian widows called for a new mobilization.

“We ask our President, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, to allow the Russian Army to carry out a large-scale mobilisation,” the Soldiers’ Widows of Russia group said in a post on Telegram.

“We ask our President, our Supreme Commander-in-Chief, to prohibit the departure of men of military age from Russia. And we have a full moral right to do this: our husbands died protecting these men, but who will protect us if they run away?”

After ordering what he cast as a “partial mobilisation” on Sept. 21, Russia’s first since World War Two, around 300,000 additional men were drafted, though several hundred thousand more Russian men fled abroad to avoid being called up…

The widows group began work about two months ago to assist the wives of soldiers killed in Ukraine and has contacts with the Kremlin administration, its representative said.

“We are in constant contact with the presidential administration, and if necessary, we transmit requests to it in order to receive this or that support,” the representative said.

I’ve never heard of this group and don’t know any more about it than what I read in this story but my first thought is that this sounds orchestrated. If Putin is thinking about a second mobilization, making it look like there is a groundswell of support coming from war widows would be smart politics.

The other thing Russia needs right about now is money. There’s a historically warm winter happening in Europe and that has allowed natural gas prices to drop to levels not seen since before the start of the conflict.

Wholesale European gas prices, as measured by the benchmark Dutch futures contract, have dropped almost 48% since mid-December to trade at €71 ($74) per megawatt hour on Friday — roughly where they stood on February 15 last year, a little over a week before Moscow’s unprovoked assault on its neighbor. Prices are now nearly 80% below their all-time August high of €346 ($364) per megawatt hour…

Europe can also thank a record-breaking spell of warm weather, as well as its own barnstorming effort last summer to fill gas storage, despite a slump in imports from Russia, its biggest supplier before the war.

That, combined with the price cap on Russian oil, is putting a dent in Russia’s ability to keep funding the war effort. Yesterday, Bloomberg reported on plans for some one-time taxes on big businesses to fill the gap. They’re calling it “revenue mobilization.”

Proposals include higher dividends from state companies and a “one-time payment” by fertilizer and coal producers, under instructions issued to officials by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin in mid-December and seen by Bloomberg.

The government order calls the effort part of “revenue mobilization.” It also orders 175 billion rubles ($2.4 billion) in extra spending to resettle 100,000 people from Kherson to Russia, an apparent admission that the Kremlin has little hope of retaking the parts of the Ukrainian region that its forces abandoned in the fall just weeks after illegally annexing it…

Some of the additional money is necessary to cover costs related to the war, according to people with knowledge of the matter. No decision has yet been taken on the size of dividends or the one-time levy, they said, as the amount will depend on how the budget fared in the full 2022 year.

So I guess we’ll see if Putin steps up the troop mobilization this month. Even if that doesn’t happen, they’re going to have to do it sometime this year if they want to see the course of the war change in their favor. And for the moment Putin doesn’t seem at all inclined to pull back despite all the bad news that keeps piling up. But as Ed mentioned yesterday, maybe his position in Russia is worse than we know.

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