Following the Russian forces’ retreat from Northern Ukraine to resupply and plan their attack on its so-called liberation of the Donbas region, they have been said to have lost an enormous number of troops. This has led them to recall retired Russian veterans and troops from the unrecognized region of Transnistria in Moldova. This is in addition to reports that Russia is also drawing fighters from places like Syria.
On April 10, the British Ministry of Defense claimed that Moscow was doing this “in response to mounting losses” and that it was part of “efforts to generate more fighting power.”
Furthermore, the veterans were said to have been discharged from service as far back as 2012. While some relatively younger veterans may be fully capable of fighting their military experience is ten years old. It is an indicator that Russia is trying to get away from using raw conscripts and fill its depleted ranks with people that have some prior military experience.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 10 April 2022
Find out more about the UK government's response: https://t.co/8yjYrVmzHe
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) April 10, 2022
Intelligence coming out of Russia says that these retired soldiers could be more than 60 years of age, which may render their physical capabilities to be somewhat compromised. Furthermore, Editor of News from Lossi 36 Francis Farrel noted that troops in Transnistria were reported to have no military or wartime experience. He went on to say that Russia was only recruiting these individuals as they wanted to keep up their “image” that they still had a “strong military presence” amid huge losses.
This is not the first instance where the Russians were caught bolstering their military capabilities due to enormous losses of troops. Earlier in March, SOFREP reported that Russia had been recruiting fighters from Syria. These soldiers were reportedly offered $200 to $300 plus benefits if they were to operate as “guards” for six months. Aside from these Syrian fighters, Putin’s private army of mercenaries known as the Wagner Group has also been operating in Ukraine. The group was reportedly linked to the Bucha massacre based on intercepted Russian communications from the German intelligence agency last week. They were also allegedly instructed to kill Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky after the Chechen special forces unit failed to do so and was subsequently taken out along with their general, Magomed Tushayev of the 141 Motorized Regiment of the Chechnya National Guard.
This recent recruitment would be not surprising. Ukrainian media outlets report that some 19,300 troops have been killed in the first month of fighting. Losses so severe that the Russians themselves have been forced to admit over the weekend that their losses were serious. The Russians previously launched attacks to gain control over the country’s capital, Kyiv, and other major cities such as heavily bombed Mariupol, where the majority of the city had been destroyed. Media also reported that 152 Russian planes had been shot down, along with 722 tanks being destroyed. Not only that, 6 top generals had been killed in their invasion. The Russian losses also include countless high-ranking commanders in just a month of the war.
During the last week of March, NATO reported that around 40,000 Russian troops had either been killed, wounded, missing or taken as POWs by the Ukrainians. Of the 40,000, around 7,000 to 15,000 were estimated to have been killed in action amid reports of faulty communications, supply issues, and low morale.
The Kremlin, which was previously silent on the subject of its own casualties, admitted that it had lost a significant number of its troops. This admission was unprecedented as it is the tendency of the Russian government to deny losses until the plain evidence of them is incontrovertable. Russia’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, during an interview with Sky News’ Mark Austin, said that he did not want to give specific numbers on their casualties as they were not “double confirmed.”
“We have significant losses of troops, and it’s a huge tragedy for us,” he said.
In an apparent mix-up with its own account of the situation in Ukraine during the earlier portion of the interview, Peskov stated that “it was a wrong understanding of what was going on.” Peskov’s response came when Austin noted that Russia had suffered losses of troops and tanks. He further claimed that they were not retreating due to the losses. The retreat was part of a “goodwill” act on their part as Russia-Ukraine peace talks were being held in Turkey prior to the “withdrawal.” This forgets that civilian areas in other cities in Ukraine remained under bombardment while this gesture of goodwill was ongoing.
Peskov further claimed that what was happening in Ukraine was not a “war” and insisted that it was a “special military operation,” to which Austin reiterated that it was indeed a war. Further in the interview, the spokesperson claimed that Mariupol was being shelled because it was being held by Ukrainian nationalists. He also claimed that it was part of the so-called Luhansk People’s Republic, which Russia had previously acknowledged as “independent.”
When asked about the alleged Russian atrocities in Bucha, which got them kicked out of the UN Human Rights Council, he simply echoed previous statements on the matter. He said that the photos and videos were “bold fake” and that the world was living in days of “fakes and lies.” Despite their claims, ground evidence and radio interceptions found that the Russians were indeed targeting civilians as part of its plan to invade Ukraine, as confirmed by British intelligence.
The Russians are expected to continue their war to liberate the entirety of the Donbas region from Ukrainian control. An attack on the Kramatorsk Train Station where 50 or more civilians have been killed due to a Russian missile attack may indicate the start of their operation “liberating” Donbas. However, it would not make sense to resume their operations in that method as these people were evacuees, which would put Russia further in a bad light on the world stage.