Ukraine Situation Report: Russian Troop Mobilizations Hit 318,000

Faced with increasing losses on the battlefield, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the latest tally of mobilized reservists.

byHoward Altman| PUBLISHED Nov 4, 2022 10:26 PM
Ukraine Situation Report: Russian Troop Mobilizations Hit 318,000
Photo by STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images
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Faced with mounting losses over eight months of his full-on war in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday announced that 318,000 draftees had been mobilized, with 49,000 of them already in combat, according to the Telegram channel of Russia's TASS news agency.

In September, Putin announced a “partial mobilization” in his effort to backfill troop losses and halt Ukraine's battlefield gains. While Ukraine on Friday estimated that nearly 75,000 Russian troops have been killed, the Pentagon in August said that between 70,000 and 80,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin says 318,000 Russians have been mobilized into military service. (Photo by STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images)

On Friday, RIA Novosti, another official state media outlet, tried to paint a rosy picture of the Russian people’s enthusiasm for the mobilization effort, saying on its Telegram channel that “volunteers are coming. The number of volunteers is not decreasing." The use of volunteers is an interesting term for, what is in many cases, forced conscription.

But the effort has been very publicly plagued with problems. They range from those who don’t want to go to troops being sent to the front with little to no training, equipment or food to them being quickly killed or captured.

Thanks to low morale and reluctance to fight, Russia has likely deployed "blocking units" as they have in previous conflicts to threaten to kill deserters, according to the U.K. Defense Ministry (MOD).

And there continue to be reports that mobilized reservists, derisively referred to by Ukrainians as "mobiks," continue to be poorly treated.

In Kazan, nearly 2,000 mobilized troops reportedly expressed outrage at their conditions, which once again included complaints of being denied the essentials.

Perhaps most telling though, is that on Friday, Putin signed a decree allowing the mobilization of those who have committed serious crimes. And that's despite the Russian Defense Ministry (MOD) announcing earlier this week that the partial mobilization effort had been completed. In the recent past, Russia's paramilitary group Wagner had been recruiting from prisons quite heavily, but an official state effort to draft criminals is new.

How this all plays out on the battlefield remains to be seen. While Ukraine sees these troops as mere cannon fodder, it is possible that by staggering their deployments to the front lines, giving troops more time to train and backfill existing units, Russia could complicate Ukrainian efforts. That's something that Michael Kofman, director of Russian Studies at the CNA think tank, reiterated in a recent Tweet thread after coming back from a visit to Ukraine.

Before we head into more of the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get caught up with our previous rolling coverage of the war here.

The Latest

There have been few major changes on the battlefield in the past 24 hours, with the future of Russian presence in Kherson City remaining the biggest question mark. Putin on Friday said Kherson residents should be taken out of the war zone so that “the civilian population should not suffer,” according to the official Russian news agency RIA Novosti Telegram channel.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the Institute for the Study of War’s latest assessment.  

  • Russian forces prematurely deployed newly mobilized personnel to offensive operations in western Donetsk Oblast in the pursuit of minimal and operationally insignificant territorial gains.
  • It is still unclear whether Russian forces will defend Kherson City despite the ongoing withdrawal of some Russian elements from northwestern Kherson Oblast.
  • Russian authorities may be setting conditions to imminently transfer the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant to the Russian power grid.
  • Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces continued to conduct counteroffensive operations in the direction of Kreminna and Svatove.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations around Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Donetsk City.
  • The Russian military continues to face pronounced issues in the supply of critical military equipment.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense is likely continuing mobilization efforts covertly.
  • Russian occupation officials continued forced evacuations in Kherson Oblast.

Russian forces, meanwhile, continued to hit Ukrainian civilian targets, while Ukraine managed to down more Iranian Shahed-136 drones.

Ukrainian forces suffered a communications problem when 1,300 of the SpaceX Starlink satellite units went offline over funding issues with the service, owned by billionaire Elon Musk, CNN reported Friday.

"The recent outage started on October 24 and was described by one person briefed on the situation as a 'huge problem' for Ukraine’s military," CNN reported. "The terminals had been disconnected, this person said, due to a lack of funding." 

The outage affected a block of 1,300 terminals that Ukraine purchased from a British company in March and were used for combat-related operations.  We covered the controversy over Musk asking for, then rescinding a request, for the Pentagon to pay for the use of the system in Ukraine here

CNN also reported that "Iran wants Russia’s help to bolster its nuclear program, US intelligence officials believe, as Tehran looks for a backup plan should a lasting nuclear deal with world powers fail to materialize."

The intelligence suggests that "Iran has been asking Russia for help acquiring additional nuclear materials and with nuclear fuel fabrication, sources briefed on the matter said," CNN reported. "The fuel could help Iran power its nuclear reactors and could potentially further shorten Iran’s so-called “breakout time” to create a nuclear weapon."

Experts emphasized to CNN, however, that "the nuclear proliferation risk varies depending on which reactor the fuel is used for. And it is also not clear whether Russia has agreed to help – the Kremlin has long been outwardly opposed to Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon."

Ukroboronprom, Ukraine's state defense industry, launched its own production of 122 mm and 152 mm ammunition to feed its old Soviet-era artillery, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov announced Friday at a press briefing.

That news was followed later in the day by the Pentagon's announcement of a new $400 million aid package that includes a deal where the the U.S. and the Netherlands will split the $90 million cost to refurbish 90 Czech Republic T-72B tanks for use by the Ukrainian Army. You can read more about that deal here.

Ukraine also received its first batch of BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles from Greece.

In Russia, the Wagner Group mercenary army's shiny new 'military research facility' opened up to great aplomb in St. Petersburg Friday.

There continue to be widespread reports that Russians are destroying any kind of boat along the Dnipro River near Kherson. This, of course, would keep people, or even troops, from crossing the river on their own, but it has also caused a major ecologic situation.

Russia's loitering munitions continue to create real problems for Ukrainian troops and equipment. Earlier in the day, we reported that videos posted on Telegram by the official RIA Novosti Russian news agency and subsequently on Twitter appear to show a Lancet drone hitting a Ukrainian Gyurza-M class armored artillery patrol boat roughly amidships on the port side.

But while it was unclear whether that vessel, one of the few of its kind produced, was in Ukrainian or Russian control at the time of that strike, it seems more clear that a Lancet took out two Ukrainian M109A3GN 155 mm self-propelled howitzers.

Ukraine, however, continues to score hits as well, like the one on this Russian fuel dump.

Another video shows the meld between the WW1-era trench warfare still taking place in Ukraine and modern drone-dropped munitions.

In the east, a Ukrainian paratrooper ambushed and destroyed a Russian T-80BV tank at close range.

And when they're not blowing up Russians, some Ukrainian troops are risking their own lives to rescue the elderly from embattled frontline villages.

Yesterday, the head of Ukraine's armed forces pointed out that, according to his government, Russia has lost twice as many aircraft since Feb. 24 as it did during 10 years in Afghanistan. Today, a group announced it was putting at least one of those downed aircraft to good use, by raising funds for charity by selling reworked metal pieces of a Su-30SM Flanker apparently taken out by Ukrainian air defenses.

And finally, did you hear the one about the two comedians who hung out in a subway?

We will continue to update this story until we state otherwise.

Contact the author: howard@thewarzone.com

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