Earlier this week, Russia’s defence ministry acknowledged that young conscripts had been sent into battle and some taken prisoner.
The admission, notable in itself given Russia’s careful attempts to control the narrative about the war, came just a day after President Vladimir Putin assured his nation in a video address that conscripts “are not participating and will not participate” in the conflict. The backtracking prompted some to question whether the Russian leader lied in his statement or was simply provided inaccurate information.
“This incident reveals some of the unrealistic expectations Putin had when starting this military operation,” said Tatyana Stanovaya, the founder of R.Politik.
“It looks likely that Putin genuinely thought Russia would be able to take Ukraine by storm and instructed his military not to use conscripts. But this is just one of the many aspects that have turned out differently in reality.”
Two weeks into the war, it has become evident that the Russian army has failed in its initial plan to quickly seize major cities – including the capital, Kyiv, and Kharkiv in north-eastern Ukraine. The attack on Odesa, a crucial port city in the south, has also stalled, and Russian land advances have been thwarted repeatedly.
More than a week ago, Russia admitted that almost 500 of its soldiers had been killed, a figure that has not since been updated, while US officials estimate that between 5,000 and 6,000 Russian troops have died.
“The current problems should be traced back to the inception of this war, which was conducted in high secrecy to avoid any leaks,” said Alexander Gabuev, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
“The Kremlin’s disastrous move to invade was rooted in giant lapses of expertise about Ukraine,” said Gabuev, who added that officials close to Putin who helped plan the invasion sincerely believed that many Ukrainians would welcome Russian soldiers, and that the country’s leadership would offer little resistance.
“Only a very small group of generals were informed about the war, and they didn’t ask difficult questions that could help prepare for any scenarios other than a speedy Russian victory.
“The whole war planning was reduced to a clandestine operation developed by just a handful of people in uniform – and the president himself,” said Gabuev. [Continue reading…]