Spring Statement: Sunak on impact of Russia sanctions
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Ukrainian security services report that Russian prisoners have told them that their forces are being followed by squads dedicated to killing anyone who tries to flee. This revival of Stalinist war strategy, argues human rights groups, breaks the Geneva Convention.
There have also been reports of Chechen units being sent in to stop Russian desertions.
In one instance, Ukrainians sent out texts to Russians telling them how to surrender – and one tank commander replied saying he would like to do just that, reports the Mail.
After securing a location, the Russian officer drove up in his tank, and after a drone flew overhead to guard against an ambush, he was taken away by Ukrainian special forces.
Adviser to the minister of internal affairs Victor Andrusiv said that the commander “didn’t see the point of war.”
He added: “He could not return home because his commander told him he would shoot him dead and say he died in battle.
“Misha told us that he had barely any food left, the command structure was chaotic and almost absent, morale is very low.”
The Ukrainian minister for internal affairs has also emphasised the widespread impact of Russian desertions.
He said: “We are seeing cases of surrender when Russian troops voluntarily contact our military and declare that they want to surrender, that they do not take part in active hostilities.”
He added they were defecting with military equipment, including tanks, after realising they were being used as ‘cannon fodder’ by their commanders.
While the claims are not verified, there are many stories emerging of Russian deserters.
The Centre for Defence Strategies, a leading Ukrainian think-tank, said: “Russian forces are aware of the hopelessness of their situation and increasingly choosing desertion to avoid death.”
On Monday, Ukraine’s armed forces claimed that 300 Russian soldiers had refused to continue to fight, and left an area of intense fighting in the Sumy region.
It is possible that the high number of desertions is connected to how much of the Russian force is made up of conscripts.
Indeed, last week Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed directly to conscripts in a speech, urging them to surrender.
While the exact number is not clear, current estimates suggest that 25 percent of the Russian army is made up of new conscripts.
These are generally assumed to have a lower level of morale than older soldiers due to their lack of experience, and possibly having less motivation to pursue the conflict.
They also tend to be less capable than traditional soldiers, as the conscription process limits their training time.
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Therefore, when they are used, they tend to be given roles that are seen as requiring less technical expertise – such as logistics, which has proven to be a severe weak point for Putin’s forces during the invasion.
Russia requires all male citizens aged 18 to 27 to register for conscription, normally for the term of a year, and then move into a mandatory reserve status.
On March 8, Putin denied that any conscripts were being used in the war.
However, just the following day, the Ministry of Defence publicly confirmed that there were Russian conscripts in Ukraine and that some had been taken prisoner.
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