Russia has unleashed an invasion of Ukraine after months of massing troops near its borders. The military action, ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin on Feb. 24, amounts to a full-scale invasion, says Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Casualties are mounting on both sides. The repercussions are being felt beyond Europe as rising geopolitical risk, and volatile energy and financial markets rock Asia.
Russia is believed to be recruiting fighters in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East to fortify the military forces as its attacks on Kyiv, and other major Ukrainian cities meet stiff resistance. Russia has offered $400 a week Syrian and Iraqi to go to Ukraine and fight for Vladimir Putin.
The Russian military is a hybrid format combining a traditional cadre-and-reserve conscript system and a contract-professional system. While the Russian Army has made efforts to professionalize its ranks, particularly in the last 15 years, it remains reliant on conscripts, both for its active-duty force and for its reserve forces in the event of general mobilization. Most combat units must be filled out by conscripts or mobilized reservists in order to be combat-capable. Contract soldiers are concentrated in the cadre and elite units, especially the airborne units.
The cadre-and-reserve units of the Russian Armed Forces are maintained at a low readiness with a limited number of professional staff and conscripts, with the expectation that they would be staffed with reservists in the event of mobilization.
The Russian reserve has over two million former conscripts and contract servicemen on paper, but few are actively trained or prepared for war. Historically, only 10 percent of reservists receive refresher training after completing their initial term of service. Russia lacks the administrative and financial capacity to train reservists on an ongoing basis. According to a 2019 RAND analysis, Russia only had 4,000 to 5,000 troops in what would be considered an active reserve in the Western sense, meaning soldiers attending regular monthly and annual training. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has repeatedly stated that the Russian Armed Forces hoped to have 80,000-100,000 active reserve members.
Russia massed around 190,000 troops on Ukraine’s border before it invaded. But there may be other, more shadowy Russian forces fighting there. According to a report in the Times on Feb. 28, more than 400 mercenaries belonging to Russia’s Wagner Group have been sent to Kyiv to assassinate Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president.
The mercenaries, who have also reportedly fought in northern and sub-Saharan Africa, have been accused of torture, rape and extrajudicial killings.
Russia exhausted afford to capture Kyiv within a week has failed, and Ukraine claimed that it killed more than 12,000 active-duty soldiers in Ukraine. Russia has to decide whether to deploy all soldiers to the Ukrainian border or not. Deploying all soldiers to Ukraine makes the country vulnerable to attacks as a protest against Vladimir Putin grows by the day.
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