Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the mobilisation three weeks ago, part of a response to Russian battlefield defeats. He has also proclaimed the annexation of four partially occupied Ukrainian provinces and threatened to use nuclear weapons.
Russia has since seen the first signs of public criticism of the authorities since the war began and officials have acknowledged some mistakes. Members of ethnic minorities and rural residents have complained of being drafted at higher rates than ethnic Russians and city dwellers.
Defending the order, Putin said the front line was too long to defend solely with contract soldiers.
But according to the UK Ministry of Defence, soldiers were even forced to buy their own armour before being deployed because of the government’s scarce financial availability.
In its latest update, the MoD said: “Contingents of mobilised Russian reservists have been deployed to Ukraine over the last two weeks. Their average level of personal equipment is almost certainly lower than the already poor provision of previously deployed troops.
“Many reservists are likely required to purchase their own body armour, especially the modern 6B45 vest, which is meant to be on general issue to combat units as part of the Ratnik personal equipment programme.
“This vest has been selling on Russian online shopping sites for 40,000 roubles (approx. USD $640), up from around 12,000 roubles (appox. USD $190) in April.
“In 2020, the Russian authorities announced that 300,000 sets of Ratnik body armour had been supplied to the Russian military, which was ample to equip the force currently deployed in Ukraine.
“Endemic corruption and poor logistics remain one of the underlying causes of Russia’s poor performance in Ukraine.”
Putin said 222,000 out of an expected 300,000 reservists had already been mobilised. “This work is coming to an end,” he told a news conference at the end of a summit in Kazakhstan. “I think that in about two weeks all the mobilisation activities will be finished.”
Since the mobilisation order was given, Russian forces have continued to lose ground in eastern Ukraine and the south.
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in his nightly video address, once again said Ukraine’s forces would retake all of its territory.
“Yes, they still have people to throw on the battlefield, they have weapons, missiles, they have (Iranian-made) Shaheds which they use against Ukraine,” he said. “They still have the possibility to terrorise our cities and all Europeans, blackmailing the world. But they have no chance of succeeding and will have none because Ukraine is moving forward.”
A Western official said some of the newly mobilised Russian troops were already on the battlefield taking casualties, and that their presence was unlikely to turn the tide. “It is clear that they have been fielded with very, very limited training and very, very poor equipment,” the official said.
The official also suggested Russia had too few missiles to sustain attacks like those this week: “Russia is rapidly exhausting its supply of long-range precision munitions, in particular its air-launched cruise missiles.”
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Ukraine’s top general, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, struck an upbeat tone after his country’s rapid advances in the northeast and south.
“The strategic initiative is in our hands, so the main thing is not to stop,” Zaluzhnyi said after speaking by phone with the commander in chief of Europe’s combined NATO forces, US General Christopher Cavoli.
Ukraine’s General Staff said on Facebook late on Friday that Ukraine’s forces had destroyed large amounts of Russian arms and equipment in Antratsyt south of Luhansk, where Ukraine hopes to recapture major towns after its successes in Kharkiv region.
It said Russian forces had launched more artillery and air strikes on towns including Konstantynivka southwest of Bakhmut, their main target in Donetsk region, and Zaporizhzhia city.