WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States has noted that Russia is suffering from “serious manpower shortages” in its six-month-old war with Ukraine and says it is more desperate in its efforts to find new troops to send to the front lines new American intelligence find was announced on Wednesday.
Russia is attempting to partially address troop shortages by forcing wounded soldiers back into combat earlier in the war, recruiting personnel from private security companies and even recruiting from prisons, according to a US official who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity, to discuss the downgraded intelligence finding.
The official added that intelligence services have determined that one step Russia’s defense ministry is expected to take soon is to recruit convicted criminals to come forward “in exchange for pardons and financial compensation.”
The US administration underscored its determination when Russian President Vladimir Putin last week ordered the Russian military to increase troops by 137,000 to a total of 1.15 million.
Putin’s decree, which goes into effect on January 1, did not specify whether the military would strengthen its ranks by conscripting more conscripts, increasing the number of volunteer soldiers, or using a combination of both. However, some Russian military analysts predicted it would rely heavily on volunteers, a cautious stance reflecting the Kremlin’s concerns about the possible consequences of an attempt to increase military service.
The presidential decree aims to increase the total number of Russian military personnel to 2,039,758, including 1,150,628 soldiers. A previous order put the military’s numbers at 1,902,758 and 1,013,628 respectively in early 2018.
Colin Kahl, Secretary of Defense at the US Department of Defense, told reporters in early August that the US estimates that Russia suffered heavy casualties in the early months of the war.
“There’s a lot of fog in the war, but I think it’s safe to say that the Russians probably claimed 70 or 80,000 casualties in less than six months,” Kahl said. “Well that’s a combination of action killed and action wounded and that number could be a little lower, a little higher, but I think that’s kind of in the ballpark.”
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The US has frequently downgraded and revealed intelligence findings over the course of the bitter war to highlight plans for Russian misinformation operations or to draw attention to Moscow’s difficulties in pursuing its war against Ukraine, whose smaller military has put up a bitter resistance to the militarily superior Russian armed forces.
The Biden administration earlier this week unveiled findings that Russia was experiencing technical problems with Iranian-made drones acquired from Tehran this month for use in its war with Ukraine.
Russia picked up Mohajer-6 and Shahed series unmanned aerial vehicles over several days this month as part of what the Biden administration says is likely part of a Russian plan to acquire hundreds of Iranian UAVs for deployment in Ukraine.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday that Russia is experiencing “some difficulties” and is experiencing “the limitations of some capabilities” of Iran’s drones since receiving them.