In the face of Russia’s weak “force generation capabilities”, the Kremlin is turning to desperate strategies in the hope to add strength to its troops. The US-based Institute for the Study of War cited Ukraine’s Security (ISW) Service (SBU) as saying authorities in the rebel-held Luhansk region are “arranging gas leaks in apartment buildings to force men who are hiding from mobilisation” into fighting.
The ISW wrote in an assessment of the conflict on Wednesday: “Members of the Russian military community continue to comment on the shortcomings of Russian force generation capabilities, which are having tangible impacts on the morale and discipline of Russians fighting in Ukraine.
“Russian milblogger Yuri Kotyenok claimed that Russian troops lack the numbers and strength for success in combat in Ukraine.
“Kotyenok accused Russian leadership of deploying new and under-trained recruits and called for replenishment of forces with well-trained recruits with ground infantry experience – though the Russian military is unlikely to be able to quickly generate such a force.”
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Despite the report, which emphasises Moscow’s struggles, Vladimir Putin’s men are making significant advances in Luhansk.
On Thursday, regional governor Serhiy Haidai said a “massive” Russian bombardment in Severodonetsk and Lysychansk had been “hell” for Ukrainian soldiers.
He said: “The Russian army is… just destroying everything.”
The retreat of Ukrainian troops from these, which are the last two Ukrainian-held cities in Luhansk, would bring Moscow closer to one of its main war aims of capturing all of that region.
Mr Haidai insisted defenders would resist “as long as necessary”.
He said: “Our boys are holding their positions.”
The Kremlin has for months avoided detailing its casualties. However, the human rights ombudsman in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic said last week that 2,128 of its forces had been killed and 8,897 injured. A further 654 civilians had been killed, said Daria Morozova
According to the ISW, Moscow’s “coercive” recruitment measures are not good enough in the context of its invasion ambitions.
It said: “Despite growing calls for increased recruitment from nationalist figures, Russian leadership continues to carry out coercive partial mobilization efforts that are only producing limited numbers of replacements.”
But even if short of manpower, fighting has turned into a bloody war of attrition.
Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said on Wednesday the conflict was “entering a sort of fearsome climax”.
The latest developments in eastern Donbas are reflective of his stark evaluation.