Newly mobilized Russian troops will be sent into battle with little training, or no training at all, and offer “little additional offensive combat capability,” British defense officials have said.
Saturday’s assessment by the U.K. Ministry of Defense (MOD) adds to a picture of disarray among Russian forces, with draftees complaining about a lack of equipment and that they have not been paid.
One military expert told Newsweek that morale among Russian troops is so low that the use of soldiers as “fodder could come back to haunt the regime” in the way it did during the Soviet-Afghan War that ended in 1988 and preceded the collapse of the USSR.
British defense officials said on Saturday that Russian forces were “already stretched” in providing training for the estimated 300,000 troops called up in the partial mobilization announced on September 21.
But the problem to get troops battle-ready has been “compounded” by the additional regular autumn annual conscription cycle announced on 30 September, which started in November and is expected to bring in an additional 120,000 personnel.
“Newly mobilized conscripts likely have minimal training or no training at all,” the U.K. MOD said because “experienced officers and trainers have been deployed to fight in Ukraine, and some have likely been killed in the conflict.”
The MOD said that it was likely that Russian forces are conducting training in Belarus, due to a shortage of training staff, munitions and facilities in Russia.
“Deploying forces with little or no training provides little additional offensive combat capability,” added the MOD assessment, which tends to emphasize Russian losses and Ukrainian gains in the war.
Newsweek has contacted the Russian defense ministry for comment.
Zev Faintuch, senior intelligence analyst at security firm Global Guardian, told Newsweek that morale among Russian troops “has been low for a long time.”
“Mobilized troops have cited a lack of pay, motivation, clear orders, and critical supplies in numerous instances,” Faintuch said.
“Captured soldiers, particularly from Wagner-run prisoner formations, have accused their superiors of summarily executing mobilized prisoners for minor offenses.”
Wagner is the mercenary outfit founded by Putin ally Yevgeny Prigozhin, and it is playing a key role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“In the short-term, it’s probably a bit optimistic to think that these incidents show Putin losing his grip on the Russian Armed Forces,” said Faintuch.
“But, over the long-term, the widespread abuse, poor training and equipment, and the use of certain soldiers as fodder, will come back to haunt the regime as it did during the Soviet-Afghan War and the subsequent collapse of the USSR.”
Meanwhile, a group of untrained Russian soldiers from the Tomsk region reportedly fled from the front line in Ukraine and have been hiding in a forest for two weeks. Relatives of the five mobilized men said that they did not get the required military training, and were deployed to Ukraine’s Luhansk region without ammunition or food.
Following complaints that troops had not been paid, Putin issued a decree that Russian soldiers get a one-off payment of 195,000 rubles ($3,150).
Regardless of problems with training the new troops, Putin is likely to be setting the conditions to continue covert mobilization because his partial mobilization did not generate sufficient forces, according to the Institute for the Study of War.
The U.S. think tank said on Friday that Russia would likely use mobilized personnel to restart the Donetsk offensive “but will likely still fail to achieve operationally significant gains.”