Morale among Russian troops in Ukraine’s Donbas region is “exceedingly low” at the moment.

“Multiple reports indicate that the morale and psychological state of Russian forces in the Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts are exceedingly low,” according to ISW.

The mental state among Russian soldiers in Donetsk and Luhansk resulted from troop desertion, inadequate battle preparation, and casualties, all of which occurred late last month when Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the regions annexed.

Historically, Russia has not had a good relationship with the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The regions have been considered part of Ukraine, and Putin has long desired to gain control over them. So when he declared the regions annexed last month, many of the Russian soldiers in those areas were surprised and did not agree with the decision. As a result, morale declined even further, and many troops deserted.

The annexation of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions is just the latest in a long history of Russian involvement in these areas. Since the early 1990s, Russia has been backing separatist movements in both regions. In 1994, Russian troops were deployed to the Donetsk region to support a separatist uprising. And just before the annexation, Russia sent troops and artillery into eastern Ukraine to support the separatists there.

The battle preparations that were made prior to Russia’s annexation of the regions were inadequate, resulting in many Russian soldiers being killed or injured. The Russian military had not expected such fierce resistance from the Ukrainian army, and as a result, they were not properly prepared for battle. In addition, many of the troops were not properly trained, which also contributed to the high number of casualties.

Vladimir Putin
President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin during the address “On the conduct of a special military operation” on February 24, 2022 (Source: Presidential Executive Office of Russia/Wikimedia)

Since annexing the regions, Putin has come under fire from both domestic and international sources. Domestic sources have criticized him for his decision to annex those regions without widespread approval from the troops. International authorities have condemned him for his actions in Ukraine; some have even implemented sanctions against Russia. As a result of all this criticism, Putin’s approval rating has plummeted in recent weeks.

According to ASTRA, Russian authorities have imprisoned more than 300 mobilized men in a basement in Zaitseve, Luhansk Oblast, for refusing to return to the battle lines. According to reports, several detention centers for Russian citizens have been identified in the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts.