As the fourth month of the war rages on in Eastern Ukraine, both the Ukrainian and Russian forces have been suffering from morale issues, plaguing their ability to achieve their respective war goals. Recent western intel revealed that some Ukrainian troops have deserted from their units while Russia has its own well-documented problems preventing its troops from running away from the fighting in Ukraine as well

The British Ministry of Defense has recently published an intelligence assessment that claims combat units from both sides are “committed to intense combat in the Donbas and are likely experiencing unstable morale.” They report that Ukrainian forces have “likely suffered desertions in recent weeks,” showing that the Ukrainian willpower to defend their territory could be waining.

While the Ukrainian Government will not admit to having morale issues, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s recent moves give us a look into the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ collective morale.

During his Father’s Day message last Sunday, Zelensky emphasized the role of fathers and protecting their children for the sake of the future. Scenes and photographs of parents and children during the war were presented during the video message, with Zelensky indicating that all fathers are fighting for their children’s future.

“Being a father is a great responsibility and a great happiness,” Zelensky wrote on Instagram. “It is strength, wisdom, motivation to go forward and not to give up,” urging his men not to give up the fight against the Russians and endure the war for the sake of the future of their children, families, and the entirety of Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visiting a hospital in Mykolaiv (Kyle Orton). Source:
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visiting a hospital in Mykolaiv (Kyle Orton/Twitter)

Other than this message doubling down on the role of fathers, President Zelensky has frequently been on the move, visiting the frontlines in the south and the east. In a separate SOFREP report, Zelensky made a rare trip from Kyiv to Mykolaiv and Odesa, where he would spend time with the Ukrainian troops and award them with medals. There, inspected damaged buildings and met with local officials and health workers. Mykolaiv is just 62 miles (100 km) northwest of Kherson, where Ukrainian forces are slowly advancing in an attempt to liberate the city from Russian control.

“It is important that you are alive. As long as you live, there is a strong Ukrainian wall that protects our country. I want to thank you from the people of Ukraine, from our state, for the great work you are doing, for your impeccable service,” Zelensky says.

In recent weeks, he also visited Kharkiv to uplift the troops’ morale. But unfortunately, Kharkiv is also one of the places where fighting had been raging on despite the focus of the action remaining in Severodonetsk.

Russian Morale on the Brink of Collapse?

However, the British Ministry of Defense stated that Russian morale is the more troubled of the two, and this is not surprising as they have suffered from morale issues since the beginning. These moral issues arise from the fact that they have been fighting for over four months with little success and over 33,000 men dead.

“Cases of whole Russian units refusing orders and armed stand-offs between officers and their troops continue to occur,” they state.

SOFREP had also reported that there were direct confrontations between military leaders and their troops over the past month, with one instance having a Russian soldier threatening to pull a grenade on a Russian general because he was waving a pistol at them saying he would shoot them if they did not fight.

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“I’ll whack you if you don’t f*cking go there!” the Russian General said. “Go ahead, whack!” a Russian soldier retorted while pulling out a grenade, threatening to pull the pin out and daring the general to shoot him so they could all blow up together.

“It just doesn’t make any f*cking sense!” the Russian soldier telling the story said in an intercepted phone call. “So our battery, practically all of it, refused [to fight].”

President Volodymyr Zelensky awarding a Ukrainian soldier (Kyle Orton). Source:
President Volodymyr Zelensky awarded a Ukrainian soldier in Odesa (Kyle Orton/Twitter)

Furthermore, it was reported that the Russian military leadership and the Kremlin Government are likely to bring legal pressure on their troops and military dissenters but are struggling to do so because they classified the war as a “special military operation.” This was highlighted in an earlier story published by SOFREP where Russian contract soldiers were coerced and threatened to fight in Ukraine when they tried to opt-out of their contracts as they were lied to regarding the nature of their so-called special military operation, further increasing morale issues in the frontlines.

“Drivers for low Russian morale include perceived poor leadership, limited opportunity for rotation of units out of combat, very heavy casualties, combat stress, continued poor logistics, and problems with pay. Many Russian personnel of all ranks also likely remain confused about the war’s objectives. Morale problems in the Russian force are likely so significant that they are limiting Russia’s ability to achieve operational objectives.”

Russia has yet to solve its supply and logistics issues as its soldiers continue to complain about the poor quality of weapons, food, salary, and even their leadership. Ukrainian intercepted phone call reveals that many of the Russian troops have been suffering from a lack of equipment and a lack of men.

So with Russia and Ukraine in a race against time, who will withstand the challenge around morale longer than the other?