Ukraine at D+183: Russia seeks more troops.
N2K logoAug 26, 2022

As Russia's Defense Minister says the special military operation's optempo has been deliberately reduced for humanitarian reasons, President Putin issues a decree calling for 137,000 more troops. A nuclear accident at Zaporizhzhia has been narrowly averted, for now, and observers see fissures in what had been (by criminal standards) a relatively collegial Russophone cyber underworld.

Ukraine at D+183: Russia seeks more troops.

Mr. Putin calls for more troops.

President Putin has issued a decree that the Russian military be increased to a total end strength of 1.15 million, which would add some 137,000 servicemembers to the force. It's unclear from the decree how the increase will be accomplished, but the deadline has been set for January 2023, the New York Times reports. Most sources think the Kremlin will rely on intensified recruitment of volunteers as opposed to general conscription, as a full mobilization might provoke domestic blowback.

Student of Russian defense policy @RALee85 tweeted about the implications of the ukase, and his comments are worth quoting in full:

"The official # for servicemen in the Russian military was previously more than 1 million but the actual size was ~850k. There is no easy way for Russia to increase its size at this point, other than simply declaring LDNR, Wagner, or volunteer units part of the Russian military.It isn't as simple as drafting more soldiers. Russia has lost a lot of officers and NCOs, and conscript units particularly need to have competent officers and NCOs for them to function. Not to mention, Russia doesn't have the personnel to train more conscripts. Conscripts still aren't supposed to be deployed into Ukraine unless they sign a contract. The conscripts who were deployed in the 1st week were sent back. Even if Russia increases the manpower of the military, that doesn't mean it will have more guys available to send to Ukraine. The Russian Ground Forces committed 80%+ of its permanent readiness units to this war in Feb-March. The longer this war goes on, each biannual draft will involve conscripts who get even less training, and fewer who sign contracts. The situation will only get worse. And Russia isn't producing enough officers either. That is why I thought Russia would try to keep this war as short as possible, and why it was such a mistake for Putin to not walk away from the war in March with some reduced concessions. So there are structural impediments to enlarging the Russian military, and political impediments to deploying many of its soldiers to Ukraine. Conscripts and refuseniks still aren't forced to deploy. Not sure this announcement is that significant in practical terms yet."

Russia says it's slowed the pace of combat operations out of concern for civilian casualties.

"On 24 August 2022, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation that Russia was deliberately slowing the pace of its military campaign in Ukraine, driven by the need to reduce civilian casualties," the UK's Ministry of Defence said in this morning's situation report. "This is almost certainly deliberate misinformation. Russia’s offensive has stalled because of poor Russian military performance and fierce Ukrainian resistance. Under Shoigu’s orders, the forces operating in Ukraine have repeatedly missed planned operational timelines. It is highly likely that Shoigu and President Putin have fired at least six generals for not advancing quickly enough." The Independence Day strike against a civilian rail station gives the lie, however, to protestations of humanitarian concern. "On the day Shoigu was speaking, a Russian SS-26 Iskander short-range ballistic missile struck a train in the town of Chaplyne, reportedly killing at least two children. This highlights Russia’s willingness to cause collateral damage when it perceives there is military advantage in launching missile or artillery strikes."

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, founded in 2001, is a Eurasian security organization led by Russia and China whose members currently include China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, India, and Pakistan. Mr. Shoigu's explanation of the slow pace of the special military operation has been widely regarded as a face-saving deflection of attention away from widespread Russian combat failure. The Telegraph notes that Ukraine has retaken some 17,377 square miles of territory from Russian forces since March 21st, a date that represents the high-water mark of the Russian advance into Ukraine. That's a bit more than the combined area of the US states of Maryland and Delaware, or an area about the size of Denmark. Mr. Shoigu reassured the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation that, nonetheless, the special military operation is proceeding entirely according to plan.

Power line into Zaporizhzhia briefly cut, then restored.

Fires in the vicinity of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant interrupted the facility's connection with Ukraine's grid for several hours yesterday, raising the risk of a serious nuclear accident, but connectivity has since been restored, Reuters reports. Concern about the possibility of a disaster at the Russian-occupied plant remains high.

Russia's war against Ukraine has induced stresses in the cyber underworld.

An essay in the New Statesman describes the ways in which the special military operation has produced "fissures" in the criminal precincts of the dark web. The report cites observations by researchers at security firm ZeroFox, whose Adam Darrah says that the “code of criminality,” which had generally governed behavior in Russophone fora, had been stressed to the breaking point by the war. The usages of that code had effectively said, Darrah explained to the New Statesman, that “you’re not allowed to develop tools, or sell embarrassing information, that could hurt any nation in the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States, a group made up of former Soviet republics].” The gangs had operated under a modus vivendi guaranteed by Russian official toleration and protection, but Conti's public declaration for the cause of Russia in the early days of the war fractured the consensus under which the criminal gangs had conducted business. Criminals have intensified their activities, and that activity increasingly mirrors the political conflicts in the open, above-ground world.