A US think tank says Russian military officials are making up for losses in Ukraine by cracking down on military faking illness and elevating normally unskilled soldiers to leadership positions.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) described in a report on Thursday the Russian military’s unusual efforts to bolster its personnel as its invasion of Ukraine drags on. The assessment is the latest to present an increasingly desperate picture of Russian military personnel, who have recently been described as exhausted after suffering heavy casualties during the war.
Relying on Ukrainian intelligence, the ISW report found that Russian military leaders began what they call the “widespread” practice of promoting non-commissioned officers to the rank of second lieutenant without satisfying education or experience requirements.
Additionally, the ISW report states that Russian military officials are forming “specialized medical commissions to identify service members who fake illnesses to evade the demands of service.”
Seeking to replenish its ranks, Russia has reached its Far Eastern regions, such as Yakutia and the Sakha Republic, according to the ISW report. However, the report, citing Ukrainian intelligence, says servicemen from these regions “are reluctant to participate in the war in Ukraine, in part because these volunteer units are not trained on a professional basis.”
The ISW released research on Wednesday concluding that Russian forces can apparently only handle two major operations in Ukraine. Both are currently being waged against the eastern Ukrainian cities of Siversk and Bakhmut.
“The Russian offensive therefore remains likely to peak before seizing other major urban areas of Ukraine,” ISW researchers said in a statement.
The report comes a day after Representative Elissa Slotkin, citing US intelligence, told Les actualites that more than 75,000 Russian troops had been injured or killed. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky proclaimed in a national address earlier this week that nearly 40,000 Russian servicemen had died or been injured in the conflict.
If confirmed, either figure would represent staggering losses for Russia. By comparison, the United States saw just over 4,400 military deaths during its invasion of Iraq from 2003 to 2010, according to Pentagon figures.
Reports of heavy Russian personnel casualties come as Kyiv says its troops are effectively using recently supplied US weapons, such as Phoenix Ghost unmanned aerial systems and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).
Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of US Africa Command, said at a press briefing on Tuesday that the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary organization aligned with the Kremlin, had begun to withdraw its operatives in Libya and to move them to Ukraine.
The Kremlin has released few figures on casualties of military personnel since launching its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 and has more recently downplayed that it has suffered casualties.
Newsweek has contacted the Russian government for comment.