Putin reportedly drafting a huge number of new conscripts

Putin reportedly drafting a huge number of new conscripts
AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

I’m positive that someone recently told us that Vladimir Putin was “pulling out” of large sections of Ukraine to concentrate his efforts in the Donbas region. That wouldn’t have been as good as a total withdrawal, but it would at least be better than nothing and possibly bring some relief to the citizens of Kyiv and other western cities. But was the story really true? The fact that Kyiv is still being shelled on a regular basis certainly doesn’t make it sound that way. And then there is this new report making the rounds today. Putin has allegedly signed an order authorizing the conscription of 135,000 new recruits for the Russian military. That’s a lot of manpower for a campaign that is allegedly winding down, wouldn’t you say? And even if he finds that many people willing to put on a uniform and march off to Ukraine, will they even obey their orders when they get there? (Tass)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree on the Army’s spring draft that will run from April 1 to July 15 this year, according to the document posted on the website of the government’s legal information web portal on Monday.

“To draft 134,650 Russian citizens aged 18-27 for military service from April 1 to July 15 this year who are not in reserve and are subject to active duty,” the document says.

The decree also orders to discharge soldiers, seamen, sergeants and master sergeants whose conscription term has expired from military service.

Reading the wording of the order, it’s unclear whether this is mostly the normal rotation of troops replacing those that have finished their tour of service or if Putin is struggling to replace the thousands of Russian soldiers who have already died in his war in Ukraine. It’s likely a combination of both.

We’ve already learned that some of Putin’s own deputies had been feeding him bad information, likely not wanting to be the person tasked with giving the dictator news he wouldn’t like to hear. If reality is setting in and Putin has realized how badly things are going, bringing in fresh blood (literally, in some cases) might be part of his response.

How much good is it going to do, however, if you take tens of thousands of potentially unwilling conscripts with no real military training, slap uniforms on them and send them into what they will soon learn is a very pitched and unpopular battle? We’ve already seen too many reports of Russian soldiers performing like rank amateurs and being routed in what was supposed to be an easy assault. Would Russia be sending in soldiers or cannon fodder?

And then there’s this. A U.K. intelligence chief said today that sources inside of Ukraine are reporting multiple instances where disheartened Russian troops are refusing to follow orders. They’ve taken to sabotaging their own equipment and, in at least one case, accidentally shooting down one of their own planes. Or at least they hope it was an accident.

Demoralized Russian soldiers in Ukraine were refusing to carry out orders and sabotaging their own equipment and had accidentally shot down their own aircraft, a U.K. intelligence chief said on Thursday.

Jeremy Fleming, who heads the GCHQ electronic spy agency, made the remarks at a speech in the Australian capital Canberra.

Russian President Vladimir Putin had apparently “massively misjudged” the invasion, he said.

Before anyone gets their hopes up too much, even if the Russian ground offensive is staggering toward failure in large parts of the country, Putin can continue to pound all of the major cities with missile attacks. And there’s no sign that he’s slowed down in those efforts yet. Eventually, there may be nothing left of the Ukrainian cities to bomb except for piles of rubble. And the constant civilian casualties will eventually become overwhelming. Also, Russia has some built-in support in the Donbas region, so they may have an easier time of it there.

In warfare, however, there is a big difference between how much territory you can take and how much you can hold. Even if Putin is willing to “settle” for a larger partitioning of Ukraine, it’s very possible that he will still be facing a persistent and determined insurgency in any new lands he tries to claim. And how long will all of those conscripts be willing to fight insurgent forces on what should still technically be foreign soil when the death toll among the Russian infantry is already almost certainly above ten thousand and rising? Ukraine is far from being in the clear, but Mad Vlad may soon realize that he simply doesn’t have a clear path forward toward the type of victory he originally envisioned.

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