Putin shocked, shocked to find that Russia is using conscripts in Ukraine

Russian Presidential Press Service via AP

There has to be a one percent chance here that he sincerely didn’t know, no?

Remember, this guy seems to have sincerely believed that his “modernized” military would run roughshod over the Ukrainians in short order. Only after boots were on the ground did he discover that Russia’s defense spending was focused more on purchasing cars and homes for corrupt officials than high-tech equipment and proper training for Russian troops.


So much may have been skimmed off the top that there was little left for efficient operations.

In fact, who knows if Putin has actually discovered the state of the army yet? It could be that he’s still in an “informational bubble” of his advisors’ making, with deputies assuring him that everything’s on schedule in Ukraine as part of their cover-up of the extent of the graft.

Two days ago, Putin assured worried Russian mothers *on camera* that young conscripts weren’t fighting across the border:

Did he believe it? Was he deceived by his generals, who may have feared telling him that his grande armée had no chance of taking Ukraine without the manpower supplied by poorly trained grunts?

“He lied” is almost always the right answer with Putin but I can’t understand why he’d stake his personal credibility on assuring the public that conscripts weren’t being used if he knew the truth would come out — soon. And now it has:

Citing Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov, the RIA news agency said Putin had ordered military prosecutors to investigate and punish the officials responsible for disobeying his instructions to exclude conscripts from the operation.

Some associations of soldiers’ mothers in Russia had raised concerns about a number of conscripts going incommunicado at the start of what Kremlin calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine, suggesting they could have been sent to fight despite a lack of adequate training…

“Unfortunately, we have discovered several facts of the presence of conscripts in units taking part in the special military operation in Ukraine. Practically all such soldiers have been pulled out to Russia,” the defence ministry said, promising to prevent such situations in the future.


Godspeed to the officials who’ll be scapegoated for Putin’s and/or the military leadership’s lies.

Presumably it was the Ukrainian information war that forced Russia to make this embarrassing announcement. They’ve been circulating photos and videos of captured Russian POWs in violation of the Geneva Conventions; the Kremlin probably assumed it was a matter of time before some captured conscript was recognized back home and word spread that Putin had lied to the public about who was fighting in Ukraine. So they got ahead of it by acknowledging it and vowing that the error will be corrected immediately.

And maybe they saw some PR benefit in it. Sure, the Russian army has underperformed so far — but only because, mistakenly, conscripts were in the field:

Now that they’ve been sent home, rest assured that the pros left in Ukraine will take care of business like clockwork.

Question, though: Now that Putin has pledged twice that conscripts won’t be sent to Ukraine, what happens when he discovers that he needs more troops to pacify the country? Russia is desperate for manpower to mount an occupation. Where is that coming from if the grunts are off-limits?

The most significant angle to today’s announcement, I think, is that the Kremlin is already worried about domestic opinion if it’s scrambling to make promises about sparing certain troops from the fight. Some Russian citizens have worried lately that conscription might be expanded to supply more troops for a fight that’s ended up being harder than Putin expected. Instead he’s taking existing conscripts off the battlefield, or at least claiming to.


Maybe this is as simple as him sending home the grunts now in anticipation of a false-flag provocation against Russia that’ll be cited later as a reason to redeploy them. If a dirty bomb goes off somewhere on Russian soil and is blamed on a “Ukrainian saboteur,” that might be Putin’s excuse to declare that the “special military operation” has grown more urgent and that all troops with training must now fight for the security of the homeland.

I’ll leave you with this reality check about the state of American public opinion on Putin. It takes a lot for Kevin McCarthy to get on the other side of Trump on an issue but the current situation is … a lot.

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