Putin’s military crisis as 62% of Russian men ‘not ready to fight’

Putin appears to fall asleep during council meeting

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Ukraine’s Armed Forces have claimed they killed 640 Russian military personnel, shot down two aircraft and destroyed two helicopters on Wednesday, as the war in the country continues. Kyiv now estimates that, since the beginning of the invasion, a total of 51,000 Russian soldiers have been killed. Moscow does not release information on its military losses, but the US has previously estimated that the Russian death toll could be as high as 70,000.

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree ordering his military to bolster its forces with 137,000 extra men. Many experts believe this plan will depend on a large number of volunteers.

But, Kseniya Kirillova of the Jamestown Foundation recently wrote a report outlining why Russia may struggle to entice its population into signing up for its war in Ukraine. In an article for The Centre for European Policy Analysis, Ms Kirillova laid out Russia’s “multiplying war problems”.

She said Putin’s goal of recruiting 137,000 people has fallen short by a third, and the trend of young people trying avoid conscription will only increase.

Ms Kirillova also cited polling by Russian Field sociological service, which found that “almost two-thirds of the surveyed men (62 percent) are not ready to personally take part in hostilities in Ukraine”.

Intriguingly the same study found 60 percent of respondents would back a “new offensive against Kyiv”, but that 65 percent would also support an end to the “special military operation” via a peace deal.

Gauging Russian opinion on the war is difficult due to the brutal suppression of opposition and independent media in the country. In March, a group of independent survey research organisations conducted a poll via phone calls with Russians. The results, shared with the Washington Post, found that 58 percent of Russians supported the invasion while 23 percent were against.

The poll also found that younger Russians were more likely to oppose the invasion. Among 18-24 year olds, 29 percent indicated they back the war, while 39 percent were opposed. A staggering 75 percent of respondents aged 66 or older expressed support.

Since the attack began in February, a number of reports have indicated that some Russian soldiers are refusing to fight in Ukraine. Pavel Filatyev, a former paratrooper in the Russian army, published a diary last month outlining his experiences during the war.

He described the poor conditions he and other soldiers were living in, writing: “What a wild state you can drive people to by not giving any thought to the fact that they need to sleep, eat and wash.

“Everything around gave us a vile feeling; like wretches, we were just trying to survive.”

Condemning his country’s leaders for sending men to invade Ukraine, Mr Filatyev added: “This is a vicious circle of some kind, we are all to blame, but we need to make the right conclusions and correct our mistakes.

“Where is the breadth of the Russian soul? Where did our nobility and spirituality disappear… Our ancestors shed so much of their own blood for the sake of freedom.

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“It may not change anything, but I refuse to take part in this madness. Ethically, it would be easier if Ukraine attacked us, but the truth is that we invaded Ukraine and the Ukrainians did not invite us.”

While Russia appears to struggle in achieving its military objectives, Russian President Putin has insisted his forces “have not lost anything, and will not lose anything”.

He also warned Western leaders this week that Russia cannot be isolated by sanctions.

Putin added: “No matter how much someone wants to isolate Russia, it is impossible to do. You just need to look at the map.”

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