Mercenaries fighting for Moscow's hybrid military force in the Donbas come from all over Russia. In the declining economy, mercenary salaries are enticing to many. Some Ukrainians from the occupied territory also join, especially as their civilian jobs disappear following the Russian invasion, while a few mercenaries come from abroad driven by adventurism or false ideals. (Image: video screen capture)
Russia’s military commanders over the “LNR” and “DNR” regimes are increasingly concerned about the inability of the two to recruit reliable people from the local population, but the view of these officials that local people are little more than “cannon fodder” is a major reason why the Russians now face difficulties in recruitment, Dmytro Tymchuk says.
The coordinator of the Information Resistance group says Russian curators are worried not only about recruiting more people but also about the low quality, alcoholism, drug abuse and desertion among those already serving in the “militias.”
Efforts by the “LNR” and “DNR” to institute a draft have failed Tymchuk says. And as a result, “the Russian curators of the illegal ‘republics’ have organized so-called contract service,” a euphemism for those who will agree to fight for the military units of these two “republics” for money from Moscow.
But that program too has suffered from “big problems,” given that forming militia bands is one thing while forming a real military force is something else and that the kind of skills needed for many types of military units are far beyond the capacity of those who are recruited in this way.
The most reliable source of new military force in the Donbas, Tymchuk continues, consists of “military personnel of the regular armed forces of the Russian Federation. But here too there are problems. Many have finished their contracts” and have little or no interest in signing up for dangerous service.
The second most reliable source consists of Russian mercenaries. But this source is increasingly problematic as well. In 2014, most of these people had had spetsnaz experience, but now the military commanders in the “LNR” and “DNR” often have to take Russians with no military experience whatsoever, thus limiting the utility of units in which they are included.
Such mercenaries are becoming ever harder to find as well because those who came earlier are known to have faced problems returning to Russia or on their return to Russia. As a result, if the two “republics” are to fill their units, they have to rely on local people even if those people are untrained or otherwise limited.
There are two other compelling reasons for this choice. On the one hand, the Russian curators don’t want Russian regular military personnel to be taken prisoner; and on the other, they want to use high percentages of local people in at least some units to advance the claim that the “LNR” and “DNR” have popular support.
The commanders have no choice but to use Russian military personnel in high-tech units like communications, but they are quite ready to use local people from the Donbas as “cannon fodder,” useful for propaganda and to take losses but good for little else. Because local people are coming to recognize this, ever fewer of them are ready to join up.
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