Ukrainian forces target Russian soldiers in drone attack
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The Russian dictator signed a decree this week to boost the country’s armed forces from 1.9 million to 2.04 million. Moscow has not confirmed its losses in the war in Ukraine, though Kyiv says Russia has lost 45,000 troops. The US and UK estimate the number to be between 20,000 and 30,000.
Kyiv has been reluctant to publish information on how many of its soldiers have died in the war.
However, on Monday the head of Ukraine’s armed forces said almost 9,000 service personnel had been killed.
Putin’s bid to increase troop numbers comes amid Ukrainian reports of Russian soldiers desperate to get out.
The Kyiv Post reports one member of Russia’s 64th Independent Motorised Infantry Brigade saying in an interview with news agency Vazhnie Istorii that his unit suffered casualties of around 40 percent and that four out of five survivors submitted resignation letters.
In a report in the same publication, Danil Frolkin, a member who has fought in the Kyiv and Donetsk sectors, is quoted as saying Russian commanders refused to accept the letters, adding: “I wrote several statements I refuse to fight and [brigade command] told me to f*** off. They won’t end my contract and they won’t let me go home.”
Putin is betting on a professional army the West has said sustained significant losses in the war.
If Russia cannot recruit enough contract soldiers, Putin’s options include using conscripts, mobilising Russian society or scaling back his war aims.
Although the Russian president has repeatedly said in public conscripts should not fight in the Ukraine war, Russia’s defence ministry has said some already have.
A military prosecutor told the upper house of parliament in June that about 600 conscripts had been drawn into the conflict with around a dozen officers being disciplined as a result.
In May, Putin signed a law removing the upper age limit of 40 for people seeking to enlist in the Russian military.
He signed a decree in March ordering 134,500 new conscripts into the army as part of Russia’s annual spring draft.
According to the Kyiv Post, Russian advocacy group Soldiers’ Mothers has logged hundreds of letters from Moscow’s soldiers in Ukraine or their families.
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The group claims there is a policy of retaliation against those who want to leave service, including one report of a soldier who was locked in barracks and beaten along with eight others when he applied for leave to visit his pregnant wife.
It has not been possible to independently verify the report.
Meanwhile, Moscow and Kyiv have traded fresh accusations of shelling around the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine.
The site has been a focus of international concern that fighting in the area could trigger a nuclear disaster.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday the situation at the plant remains very risky after two of its six reactors were reconnected to the grid.
Russia’s Defence Ministry accused Ukrainian forces of shelling the complex three times in 24 hours.
Kyiv’s armed forces said in a briefing note on Saturday morning they had beaten back Russian assaults on three towns in the eastern region of Donetsk.
All three are on the approach to the larger town of Bakhmut, an important strategic outpost for Ukraine due to its size and road links.
A separate Facebook post by Ukraine’s southern command said it had hit Russian air defence systems in the Kherson region where air strikes and Ukrainian artillery had destroyed two Smerch MLRS systems.
The Russian ministry said its forces had destroyed a large ammunition depot in Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region which housed US-made HIMARS rocket systems and shells for M777 Howitzers.
It added the Russian Air Force shot down a MiG-29 aircraft in the eastern Donetsk region and destroyed another six missiles as well as artillery weapons depots in Donetsk, Mykolaiv and Kherson regions.
It has not been possible to verify the accounts.
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