Things are not looking good for the Russians in Donbas. The Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine have been slow-moving the past few weeks trying to accomplish their goal of completely “liberating” the Donbas region. However, several reports have surfaced that Russian soldiers refuse to obey orders, signaling that morale issues still plague the Russian invasion forces.
“We still see anecdotal reports of poor morale of troops, indeed officers, refusing to obey orders and move and not really sound command and control from a leadership perspective,” an unnamed senior defense official said.
This official claimed that the refusal to follow orders was widespread among various levels of the military. These soldiers were from the “midgrade officers” and even up to the “battalion level.” Some would outright refuse the order or would execute the order, albeit at a reluctant pace without any urgency.
As a result, the invasion of Donbas has largely stalled once again, making small to little successes along the way. In fact, the Ukrainians are actually launching counterattacks against the Russian forces but have had mixed results. In places such as Kherson, a city that has been under Russian control since the start of the invasion, counterattacks have been largely unsuccessful.
US intel also revealed that the Russian forces have yet to learn from their mistakes from their first initial invasion campaign towards Kyiv. Russian troops were reportedly encountering logistics and supply issues in Donbas. The culprit to their challenge is a familiar foe – Ukrainian mud. This has slowed down their advancement in their campaign to “liberate” Donbas. The pace of advance is so bad that defense officials say that Russian troops have only made “single-digit kilometer” progress in the past week.
When asked to describe the progress of the Russian forces in Donbas, the US official said that “I would not characterize it as successful, not at all,” the official stated. “They really haven’t achieved any significant progress on the lines of axes that they had anticipated achieving in the northern Donbas. They are being resisted very effectively by the Ukrainians. So, again, I go back to the word I used last week — incremental and somewhat anemic.”
This is remarkable in that the Russian units in Ukraine are mechanized units with tanks and armored personnel carriers which rely on speed and mobility during an attack.
The Kremlin continues to send battalion tactical groups to Ukraine, with some 97 groups operating there. Each battalion group is comprised of some 700 to 800 soldiers. 5 BTGs were reportedly sent to southern Ukraine, with the purpose unknown. This is a notable increase as it was reported that some 80 BTGs were present in Ukraine last week. Fighting has notably been more intense in Kharkiv, where the Russians have yet to take control.
“By defending Kharkiv, the Russian forces are helping prevent a southern push out of Kharkiv,” the official said. “Kharkiv provides another line of access to push south, not only into the Donbas but… to the west of the Donbas to try to again fix and hold Ukrainian forces in the Donbas. But they just haven’t been able to make any progress in that regard. And what we’re seeing is, the Ukrainians are actually pushing them east into the northern Donbas.”
As a result, the Russians have made no significant progress, likely contributing to the tense atmosphere among themselves and their superiors. This low morale is not new to the war and has been, in fact, widely reported upon by various media outlets. This low morale and lack of discipline among Russian troops is directly relate to the number of high-ranking commanders and generals being killed. These generals were forced to go to the frontlines to try and whip(not kidding about whipping BTW) Russian forces into taking offensive action and making progress.
This moral problem was also symbolized by the 40-mile Russian convoy that was stuck a few miles outside Kyiv. Russian troops low on supplies like food, water, and fuel also watched what they might have hopefully imagined to be trucks full of supplies for them, sit immovable on that road and be slowly destroyed by Ukrainian forces day by day.
Previous reports indicate that many of these troops did not even want to be in Ukraine and were lied to as they were told they were only going to be in exercises. While the majority of the Russians now know that their troops are going to Ukraine, a large majority still don’t want to fight out of fear of getting killed.
SOFREP had reported previously that the Kremlin was struggling to find new recruits. This is due to the fact that they know that their comrades had been starving on the frontlines with expired MREs and had been freezing in the cold because they had no fuel to start their vehicles. In fact, numerous reports of Russian men hiding from mandatory conscription surfaced as they tried to avoid getting deployed to Ukraine. The military draft is already unpopular in Russia with evasion and avoidance being widespread in peacetime. Add in an increasingly unpopular war with horrific casualties and the problem of finding new recruits becomes even worse.
More so, Russian deserters have also been reported in March, where Russian forces were stealing civilian clothes, stealing cars, and driving away toward Belarus. Further discontent with the war in Ukraine has also manifested in the destruction of 6 Russian military recruitment centers across Russia, where anti-war Russians were making Molotov Cocktails and attacking these offices so Russians could not get conscripted.