…Russia’s conviction rate for AWOL soldiers soared to 100 a week, UK officials said.
…Lack of training, low motivation, and the dangers of combat were driving the trend, they said.
…Russia has deep problems with recruitment, and is offering big cash rewards to sign up.
…Almost 100 Russian soldiers are convicted every week for refusing to fight in Ukraine, UK intelligence said Wednesday, part of a broader manpower crisis in the Russian military.
..British officials were passing on figures reported by Mediazona, an independent Russian news outlet.
The UK Ministry of Defence said “the high rate of convictions demonstrates the poor state of morale in the Russian Army and the reluctance of some elements to fight.”
It pointed to a wider struggle for Russia to motivate people to fight in Ukraine. On Tuesday, British officials noted that Russia was struggling to recruit despite more than doubling pay for some ranks in its military, making it one of the most lucrative careers in Russia.
But the high fatality rates on the front lines make signing up a risky decision, which many try hard to avoid.
Mediazona, citing data from the websites of military courts as of July 19, reported a dramatic increase in cases of Russian soldiers absent without official leave (AWOL) since March 2023.
By June, Russian military courts were handing out 100 sentences per week, the outlet said.
Two Russian soldiers were last week sentenced to serve at least two years in a penal colony for disobeying orders to return to the frontlines in Ukraine, the UK officials said.
It attributed the trend to a “lack of training, motivation, and high stress situations” faced by Russian forces in the war, the MoD added.
“Although some soldiers have refused to fight and attrition rates remain high, Russia highly likely mitigates their loss by committing a mass of poorly trained soldiers to the frontline.”
As well as hiking pay, Russian has been reaching beyond its own citizens to staff the army. Tactics have included recruiting Central Asian migrant workers based in Russia and offering a $5,200 sign-on bonus to recruits from neighboring Kazakhstan.
After mobilizing 300,000 soldiers in the autumn of 2022, Moscow set a goal of recruiting 400,000 more by December 2023.
Many military analysts think the goal is implausible, given that it took far longer to recruit smaller numbers in the past.
In addition to low morale, the respected Institute for the Study of War think tank stated last week that the Russian military is suffering from infighting and shortages.
“Russian commanders regularly punish servicemen who keep their vehicles for minor administrative violations, and that Russian personnel feel that they are “at war” with their commanders,” the ISW said, citing the influential Russian military-blogger community.
Russia’s military has suffered 120,000 deaths since the start of the war, US officials told The New York Times.