Murphy's Law: Russian Mobilization Impact


October 17, 2022: On September 21st Russia ordered the mobilization of 300,000 “reservists”, but that has not gone as planned because a third of those summoned did not appear and those who did were often sent to Ukraine with no training and little but a combat uniform and an assault rifle many did not know how to use. Few of these new troops received any other equipment. Others did receive more training by local authorities but this usually lasted no more than a month. This made it possible for the new locally raised troops to obtain, one way or another, more equipment than most of the called-up “reservists”, notably cold-weather gear and clothing. Some new troops were sent to Belarus for training but few were receiving more than a month of preparation.

The normally pro-Russian Internet based media, especially those who report via the encrypted Telegram app, have been covering the mobilization disaster, especially an incident in early October where hundreds of mobilized men from one city were sent to Ukraine and most were killed or wounded by Ukrainian artillery as they moved towards the front line. Their families back home discovered that many of the mobilized men were in hospitals receiving treatment and complaining that there was a shortage of personnel and supplies at the hospital. The government was reluctant to crack down on the wounded men or their families for going public with their complaints because of increasing attacks on the mobilization personnel and their local offices.

Some Russian media was reporting that many mobilized men were showing up in Ukraine and finding that the unit they were assigned to had few officers or veteran soldiers available to take charge and that troops already in Ukraine were not much better off. There were shortages of weapons, ammunition, food, medical care and shelter. The new recruits were forbidden to take their cellphones with them but, with no one supervising the new troops, it was easy to disobey the order and take their phones to Ukraine. That enabled many new soldiers to report back home that the situation was bad and there were so many of these reports from wounded soldiers in hospitals as well as those in Ukraine that news of the mess was picked up by the Russian media and there were calls for the mobilization officials and commanders in Ukraine to be held accountable.

Ukrainian media reported that general Mikhail Zusko, the commander of the 58th Combined Arms Army had ordered one of his regiments to the front line even though that unit had hundreds newly arrived, recently mobilized men who were unprepared for combat and suffered heavy casualties from Ukrainian artillery before they reached the front line. General Zusko was one of several senior officers accused of such behavior. The Russian government recently allowed this news to be made public to show that Vladimir Putin was cracking down on subordinates who did not do their jobs. This approach was meant to portray Putin as not (or at least less) responsible for the muddled mobilization. Not publicized was the fact that Putin and his defense minister ignored the warnings from their military experts that the mobilization was being mismanaged and that problems with supplying existing troops and training newly mobilized recruits was ignored in a rush to get more troops to Ukraine as quickly as possible.

Russian media, which included many men with military experience, were now able to point out the losses that would be incurred by sending untrained, ill-equipped and poorly led new troops to Ukraine. The estimates were that at least 50,000 of the 200,000 newly mobilized men would be killed or wounded by the end of the year. The Russian media confirmed that the Defense Ministry was not keeping families of new troops aware of where their men were. It was also pointed out, first in Ukrainian media and then in Russia, that a growing number of Russian offensive operations in Ukraine were being called off because the newly mobilized troops were useless for offensive operations and not much more effective when defending. The new troops were increasingly surrendering to Ukrainian forces, who were better trained, led and supplied and veterans of months of combat. The Ukrainian soldiers were told how to encourage surrenders and how to deal with those Russian prisoners. The Ukrainians did this by the book and allowed the Red Cross to meet with and confirm the wellbeing of each POW (prisoner of war) so that they could report this to the families. All this was reported by Ukrainian media, but not by Russian media.

Since August, more of the Russian POWs are poorly trained men often forced into the military. Ukraine is having a hard time finding places to put the many new POWs. There are discussions with Poland and the Red Cross to house the POWs in Poland or other NATO countries. It is obvious that Ukraine, facing months of cold weather with insufficient food and energy supplies, does not want to violate the Geneva Conventions in this respect. The Red Cross is already criticizing Ukraine for having Russian POWs appear at press conferences to describe their activities in Ukraine and let their families know they are well treated.

In Russia the Red Cross gets much less cooperation and Russia declares that many of the Ukrainian POWs the Red Cross seeks are not POWs because there is no war in Ukraine, just Russian troops seeking to put down an insurrection in what is really part of Russia. At the same time, Russia is seeking to prevent military age men from leaving the country to avoid mobilization. Russia is also trying to stem the growing number of medical professionals (doctors and nurses) leaving the country. Russian hospitals must deal with a growing number of wounded soldiers and the government is unwilling or unable to pay the bills. Russia is having many of these soldiers treated in Belarus hospitals and those hospitals get paid for what they do.

On October 14th Putin declared that his partial mobilization would end by the end of October. This was necessary because the upcoming twice a year conscription was supposed to take place in October. This year 120,000 young men are getting conscription notices. In 2021 it was 127,000 and there was no war. A year later, many of the men being conscripted have fled the country or gone into hiding. The potential conscripts know they are going to Ukraine because Russia recently declared that its fake vote in occupied Ukraine “approving” annexation into Russia makes it legal for conscripts to be sent there. The potential conscripts and their families also know Putin is threatening to use nuclear weapons to defend Russian occupied Ukraine. The Ukrainians are rapidly driving Russian forces out of these areas and new conscripts will be caught in the middle of it.

Russia is trying to make conscription and new mobilizations more effective by collecting more data on military-age men and organizing raids on hotels and other temporary residences where Russian men hide to avoid the conscription or mobilization notices that are delivered by mobilization personnel. Russian companies are working with their military age employees to keep them from being mobilized. If you have the money, you can bribe mobilization personnel to report you were not found. The government is aware of that dodge and schedules additional visits to “not found” men. The government has ordered mobilization personnel to keep at it until they meet their quotas. At the same time the quotas keep increasing and there’s no end to this despite Putin implying otherwise.




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