Russia: Expert says Putin 'trying to trade options for himself'
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Putin’s decision to mobilise reserves has been called into question as some of those being sent to the front lack basic training. The move prompted thousands of military-age men to flee the country causing huge queues at the border with European neighbours in fear the Kremlin would close the border soon. The Russian leader appeared to also have miscalculated the scale of training and preparedness needed to actually recruit more soldiers for the front.
The UK Ministry of Defence exposed holes in Putin’s plans on Monday morning, warning: “The initial tranches of men called up under Russia’s partial mobilisation have started arriving at military bases. Many tens of thousands of call-up papers have already been issued.
“Russia will now face an administrative and logistical challenge to provide training for the troops. Unlike most Western armies, the Russian military provides low-level, initial training to soldiers within their designated operational units, rather than in dedicated training establishments.
“Typically, one battalion within each Russian brigade will remain in garrison if the other two deploy and can provide a cadre of instructors to train new recruits or augmentees. However, Russia has deployed many of these third battalions to Ukraine.
“Many of the drafted troops will not have had any military experience for some years. The lack of military trainers, and the haste with which Russia has started the mobilisation, suggests that many of the drafted troops will deploy to the front line with minimal relevant preparation. They are likely to suffer a high attrition rate.”
The Kremlin said on Monday that no decisions had been taken on closing Russia’s borders, amid an exodus of military-age men since President Vladimir Putin declared a partial mobilisation last Wednesday.
Asked about the possibility of border closures in a call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “I don’t know anything about this. At the moment, no decisions have been taken on this.”
Peskov also acknowledged that some call-ups had been issued in error, saying mistakes were being corrected by regional governors and the ministry of defence.
Peskov said: “There have been cases when the decree is violated … These cases of non-compliance with the required criteria are being eliminated.”
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Russian media have reported a string of cases of elderly or medically exempt men being called up for service in Ukraine.
Regional governors in Dagestan and Buryatia, two regions that have seen aggressive mobilisations, have said that mistakes were made in the initial rollout.
The comments come amid rising fears of a border closure, with Russia’s frontiers seeing an unprecedented outflow of military-aged men since the partial mobilisation was declared last week.
On Monday, a senior MP said that Russian borders should be closed to draft-eligible men amid the exodus.
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“Everyone who is of conscription age should be banned from travelling abroad in the current situation,” Sergei Tsekov, a member of Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, told RIA news agency.
Russian media based abroad, including news sites Meduza and Novaya Gazeta Europe, have reported that the Kremlin is planning to close the country’s borders for draft-aged men. Such reports have not appeared on the main media within Russia, where all independent outlets have been shut and reporting that differs from official accounts is banned.
On Sunday, Novaya Gazeta reported that 261,000 men had left the country since partial mobilisation was declared, citing an unnamed source in Russia’s presidential administration.
Human rights lawyer Pavel Chikov said that border guards at Russia’s only operational crossing point with Georgia had since Sunday stopped some people from exiting, citing the law on mobilisation. The local interior ministry on Sunday said there was a queue of 2,300 cars at the Verkhny Lars crossing.
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