Putin's troops are performing 'so poorly' in Ukraine right now that many Russian volunteers are refusing to go into combat, US official says
- A senior US defense official said Russian volunteers are refusing to go into combat.
- The official said this is because Russian forces are performing "so poorly" in Ukraine right now.
Russia is struggling to find volunteers to fight in Ukraine as devastating losses and poor battlefield performance have lead to refusals to go into combat, a US official said.
Ukraine's punishing counteroffensive in the northeastern Kharkiv region and the significant damage its forces have inflicted on Russian troops have led to a personnel shortage within President Vladimir Putin's military, a senior US defense official told reporters on Monday.
"We're seeing the Kremlin increasingly straining to find new recruits to fill out their thin ranks, and the Russians are performing so poorly that the news from Kharkiv province has inspired many Russian volunteers to refuse combat," the official said.
The official also said the Wagner Group — a shadowy Russian mercenary group with close ties to the Kremlin — is having its own recruitment problems.
Wagner, which has fought alongside Russian troops in Ukraine and has been connected to atrocities around the world, has tried to recruit over 1,500 convicted felons to fight the Ukrainians — offering freedom if they take up arms but death if they desert. However, many of these prisoners are refusing Wagner's offer, the official said.
"Our information indicates that Wagner has been suffering high losses in Ukraine, especially and unsurprisingly among young and inexperienced fighters," the official said.
In a recent intelligence assessment, Britain's defense ministry said Wagner's push to recruit prisoners and shortened training courses at Russian military academies indicate "critical shortages" for Moscow.
"The impact of Russia's manpower challenge has become increasingly severe," Britain's defense ministry said.
As Putin's war in Ukraine nears its seven-month-mark, Russian forces continue to suffer widespread casualties as Ukrainian troops advance along multiple fronts. Pentagon estimates from last month said Russia has suffered as many as 80,000 casualties and lost thousands of armored vehicles.
Russian troops have also been hamstrung by exhaustion, supply issues, and other morale setbacks. And the manpower issue is further compounded by the fact that Putin calls the war a "special military operation," instead of what it actually is, therefore avoiding a mass mobilization.
Since the start of September, Ukraine has made significant advances to liberate territory occupied for months by Russian troops, who left behind grisly scenes in their retreat.
In an attempt to hold on to captured territory, pro-Moscow separatists in the occupied eastern Ukraine's Donbas region announced on Tuesday that they would hold referendums on joining Russia, a move that both Ukraine and the West have decried in the past as a total sham.
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