Russia’s military has been experiencing a wave of desertion with reports of AWOLS among soldiers since the start of the year already surpassing the numbers recorded in 2022. The UK Ministry of Defence’s latest Ukraine war briefing explores the surge in desertions and suggested the Russian military’s issues have probably gotten worse since reservists have been required to be mobilised starting last October.
The MoD intelligence note on Wednesday stated: “Reliable research conducted by independent journalists in Russia indicates that there has been a significant increase in cases of military personnel going absent without leave (AWOL) between January and May 2023, surpassing the total number of such cases in 2022.
“The Russian military has encountered challenges in maintaining discipline within its ranks during its operations in Ukraine, and these difficulties have likely intensified following the compulsory mobilization of reservists since October 2022.
“Data from military courts reveals that a majority of those found guilty of going AWOL are currently receiving suspended sentences, allowing them to be redeployed for the ‘special military operation’.
“Rather than addressing the underlying causes of soldiers’ disillusionment, Russia’s efforts to enhance discipline have primarily focused on setting deterrent examples and fostering patriotic fervour.”
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On Tuesday, Russia’s military announced that it had successfully suppressed what appeared to be one of the most significant cross-border assaults from Ukraine since the start of the war. They claimed to have eliminated over 70 assailants during a 24-hour-long battle.
According to Moscow, the attack, which commenced on Monday, was carried out by Ukrainian military saboteurs. On the other hand, Kyiv portrayed it as an uprising against the Kremlin by Russian partisans. The conflicting narratives make it difficult to determine the true culprits behind the attack or discern its specific objectives.
The engagement occurred in the Belgorod region of southwest Russia, situated approximately 80km (45miles) north of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine. This incident serves as a fresh reminder of Russia’s vulnerability to attacks, as well as the vulnerable Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine.
The Belgorod region serves as a crucial military hub for Russia, housing fuel and ammunition depots. It was included in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s directive last year to enhance readiness for potential attacks and strengthen defences.
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Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov declined to provide details regarding the number of attackers involved in the assault or offer any explanation for the extended duration it took to quell the attackers.
Such incursions across the border pose a challenge to the Kremlin and underscore the difficulties it faces in its ongoing military campaign in Ukraine.
The Belgorod region, along with neighbouring areas like Bryansk, has experienced intermittent spillover effects from the war initiated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Despite being distant from the main front line, which stretches more than 1,500km (932miles) in southern and eastern Ukraine, Russian border towns and villages frequently face shelling and drone attacks.
However, this recent attack is the second in recent months to involve a ground incursion, distinguishing it from previous cross-border incidents.
Additionally, it is noteworthy that Russia’s efforts to repel the assault continued into a second day, a departure from earlier occurrences.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed local troops, air strikes and artillery routed the attackers.
He said: “The remnants of the nationalists were driven back to the territory of Ukraine, where they continued to be hit by fire until they were completely eliminated.”
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