More Ukraine Troubles for Russia: In an update published on Thursday, the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense revealed how Russia struggles to enlist new troops from Transnistria – an unrecognized breakaway state in eastern Moldova – despite offering big incentives.
The report describes how the population of Transnistria, generally supportive of the Kremlin, “refuses to sign contracts with the army of the Russian Federation” and claims that there has been a “mass desertion” of troops and supporters of Russia in the region. It describes how the Russian military has deployed a multitude of tactics to recruit new contractors, including high payouts, housing, and social packages.
If the claims are accurate, it means that local people recognize that signing up to serve the Russian military in the war in Ukraine is a likely death sentence.
“The main reason is the reluctance to participate in hostilities on the territory of Ukraine, especially since many ‘volunteers’ who decided to sign the contract at the beginning of the war either died or are missing,” the update reads, per a translation by Ukrainian Pravda.
“Additionally, against the background of the events in Ukraine, the Intelligence notes an increase in the number of desertion cases in the ‘operational group of Russian troops in Transnistria.’”
The news comes after Putin announced an aggressive push to recruit 137,000 new soldiers in the coming months – a claim that came without a plan. It has never been clear how the Russian president plans to achieve that goal, and so far, the Russian military doesn’t appear to have had much luck.
Existing Soldiers Face Morale Troubles in Ukraine
Russia has lost a lot of soldiers already. According to an update by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in recent days, Russia is believed to have lost more than 50,000 troops and more than 2,000 tanks in the conflict so far.
Among the remaining troops, Russia’s military leaders are trying to manage troublingly low morale. In August, the Atlantic Council pointed to reports of Russian troops being imprisoned by their own commanders for refusing to fight. One testimony, which was published in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, expressed concern over the “tactical and strategic mistakes” of commanders as well as their “total disregard for human life.”
The same report from The Guardian revealed how Maxim Grebenyuk, a lawyer who runs the Russian Military Ombudsman advocacy group, has a list of at least 70 Russian soldiers who were held as prisoners over their refusal to continue fighting.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.