Russia is digging in for a protracted fight in Ukraine.
Vladimir Putin’s forces are reinforcing its troops in Ukraine’s eastern provinces in preparation “for future offensive operations,” the UK Ministry of Defense said Saturday.
“Despite President Putin’s claim on 07 July 2022 that the Russian military has ‘not even started’ its efforts in Ukraine, many of its reinforcements are ad hoc groupings, deploying with obsolete or inappropriate equipment,” the statement said.
The intelligence assessment came amid growing reports of Russian soldiers and potential draftees looking to skip out on the conflict.
Danila Davydov, a 22-year-old artist from St. Petersburg, said he left Russia shortly after the invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, over fears he could be drafted.
“I didn’t want to go to war or go to prison, so I decided to leave,” Davydo told Reuters from Kazakhstan. “I love Russia and miss it very much.”
Lawyers and human rights groups in Russia say cases like Davydo’s are growing and that more and more Russians are looking to avoid the war as the Russian military takes heavy casualties. Russia last updated its official death toll in Ukraine in late March, when it said 1,351 soldiers had died. Ukraine and Western Allies put the toll much higher, potentially more than 10 times that figure.
Military service in Russia is mandatory for those 18 to 27 and the penalty for dodging can include fines and up to two years in prison. While Putin has insisted that ordinary Russians would not be drafted into the conflict, the country’s Defense Ministry says such conscripts have already been called up.
Russia has launched punishing rounds of missile attacks against Ukraine in recent weeks, with barrages lasting for hours at a time. The US military estimates there are between 10 to 15 Russian military battalions currently operating in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.
In England meanwhile, the government announced a new military program that would train 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers inside the UK.
“This ambitious new training program is the next phase in the UK’s support to the Armed Forces of Ukraine in their fight against Russian aggression,” said Ben Wallace, the country’s Defense Secretary, in a press statement. “Using the world-class expertise of the British Army we will help Ukraine to rebuild its forces and scale-up its resistance as they defend their country’s sovereignty and their right to choose their own future.”
In the US, President Biden said he would offer a further $400 million of American aid to Ukraine, including four advanced rocket systems which defense officials say will allow Ukraine to hit deep behind Russian lines in the country’s east. The package also includes 1,000 rounds of 155 millimeter artillery.
The aid, approved Friday afternoon, was the 15th such military package sent from the United States to Ukraine since last August, the Washington Post reported.
Though Russia’s original war aims have shrunk considerably, they have made grinding progress in Donbas and currently control much of the region. President Biden has vowed to help see Ukraine through to victory.
“I don’t know how it’s going to end, but it will not end with a Russian defeat of Ukraine in Ukraine,” he said last week.
With Post wires