April 1, 2022
Russia is redeploying 1,200 to 2,000 troops from Russian-occupied Georgia and reorganizing them into three tactical battle groups "to reinforce its invasion of Ukraine," Britain's Ministry of Defense said Thursday evening, its latest intelligence update. "It is highly unlikely that Russia planned to generate reinforcements in this manner and it is indicative of the unexpected losses it has sustained during the invasion." Russia has stationed its forces in parts of the former Soviet republic since invading it in 2008. Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier Thursday signed a decree ordering that 134,500 Russian men age 18 to 27 be conscripted into the Russian army as part of its annual spring draft, but Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu suggested none of them will be sent to Ukraine. "Most military personnel will undergo professional training in training centers for three to five months," he said in remarks published Tuesday. "Let me emphasize that recruits will not be sent to any hot spots." Mikhail Benyash, a lawyer representing Russian National Guard members who refused orders to go to Ukraine, told Reuters that under Russian law, these conscripts could actually be sent to fight after several months of training. The issue of sending conscripts to war is politically fraught in Russia. Putin claimed in the beginning of March that no conscripts were "participating in hostilities" in Ukraine, but the Defense Ministry said that in fact there were conscripts in Ukraine and some had been taken prisoner by Ukraine, prompting Putin to order military prosecutors to find and charge the officials who had deployed the conscripts against purported orders. "The Russians need more soldiers," since "their invasion plan with over 55 percent of Russian ground forces has placed them in a very difficult spot," retired Australian Army Maj. Gen. Mick Ryan tweeted Thursday. But even if Putin does intend to deploy the conscripts, that "will be of little assistance. It takes time to train soldiers." Western intelligence assesses that at least 1,000 private soldiers from the Wagner Group have already been deployed in eastern Ukraine, but Ryan said none of this will save Russia from its early miscalculations. "They will obviously use mercenaries, and second- or third-rate forces from elsewhere (such as Georgia). We should not expect their military effectiveness to be any better than the 'theoretically elite' formations which crossed into Ukraine on 24 February."