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Russian independent media: the Kremlin is willing to sustain heavy losses if that’s what it takes to continue the war in Ukraine

A Russian Orthodox priest (L) blesses conscripted men during a farewell ceremony at the recruiting office in Bataysk, Rostov region, Russia, 26 September 2022.
©EPA-EFE/ARKADY BUDNITSKY  |   A Russian Orthodox priest (L) blesses conscripted men during a farewell ceremony at the recruiting office in Bataysk, Rostov region, Russia, 26 September 2022.

The Russian independent media writes that losses among the ranks of the recently mobilized will soon reach 100 thousand people, but that’s not going to stop Putin. On the contrary, the Russian president will send every young recruit to the frontline as well. Independent journalists also tell the story of a couple recently arrested in Sweden, tied to the Russian military intelligence and the people who poisoned Sergey and Yulia Skripal.

ISTORIES: The Kremlin expects losses among the recently mobilized to reach 100 thousand people

Russian authorities are planning to replace the dead and wounded with recruits, Istories sources say.

Despite massive casualties and several painful defeats sustained by the Russian army on the battlefield, Vladimir Putin has not abandoned his original plan to capture Kyiv. To attain his goal, he is willing to keep fighting for many more years, regardless of the cost, two sources have told Istories, one close to the General Staff, the other working for the FSB.

According to our sources, Russia’s military leaders expect the amount of casualties among the freshly mobilized, many of whom were deployed to the frontline without any preliminary training, to reach approximately 100 thousand people by next summer.

“In general terms, the plan is the following: buy time and stabilize the frontline with the help of conscripts. Then, come spring, start all over again”, the source close to the FSB told us. According to him, the political and military leadership of Russia is aware of the fact that the said plan will entail significant losses: “By spring next year, the number of dead and wounded might reach 100 thousand. But that doesn’t seem to concern anyone: they will all be replaced with young recruits”.

The information was confirmed by another source within the Russian General Staff: “At present, the task is to secure and strengthen the frontline. Due to the shortage of manpower, at times we weren’t able to man the second line of defense. In some places the defense line was inexistent over stretches of land up to 20 kilometers long. Now the gaps have been filled by conscripts”. According to the quoted source, the Defense Ministry is planning to recruit 120 thousand new servicemen who can be sent to Ukraine next spring in order to offset losses among the mobilized: “For this reason, he (Putin) has not revoked the partial mobilization decree”.

At the end of October, the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) also estimated that next year Russian military leaders will deploy more servicemen to the frontline. In May 2023, all people drafted this autumn will have already completed a six-month training period and will be eligible for deployment to Ukraine, ISW writes.

Warnings about heavy losses caused by sending untrained conscripts to the frontline were issued not just by experts, but also combatants themselves. “They will all die there (in Ukraine). They will remain crippled and die. The army is completely undertrained! I, for one, have long served in the army (under contract), I asked to be sent there (to war), and still it turned out I lack basic training. From day one it became clear that I had made the biggest mistake of my life”, one Russian serviceman told Meduza.

The war in Ukraine has been going on for nearly a year. All this time, not only has Russia failed to attain any of its strategic goals, but it also suffered several painful defeats, in the regions of Kyiv and Kharkiv, in Liman and Kherson. According to Istories sources, the irretrievable losses of the Russian army since the start of the war currently stand at over 90 thousand people. Similar data made public in early November by US General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, shows that Russia has lost over 100 thousand military in Ukraine, dead or wounded.

As part of the autumn mobilization campaign, the Russian Defense Ministry drafted approximately 300 thousand people. This means that, should the Kremlin’s worst-case scenarios come true, every third Russian conscript will be either killed, wounded or taken prisoner.

MEDIAZONA: The Russian Police, at the beck and call of enlistment offices. Law enforcement is increasingly involved in “hunting” recruits

Starting last week, human rights militants have started receiving messages about planned raids designed to sign up more recruits, particularly in Moscow. At present, police officers, including criminal investigators, detain young people and take them to military enlistment offices (some managed to escape, leaving their ID cards behind). Human rights activists have expressed concern that, this autumn, enlistment offices that fail to attain their conscription quotas, will resort to any means at their disposal to fulfill the task.

The autumn conscription campaign regularly starts on October 31 in Russia, and usually ends around New Year’s Eve. But not this year – on September 21, president Vladimir Putin announced a “partial mobilization”. Ten days later, he signed a decree postponing the deadline for conscription by a month.

“At present, military enlistment offices are overburdened due to the partial mobilization. In order not to make matters worse, they decided to take this decision, to separate the mobilization campaign from recruitment efforts”, Dmitry Peskov, presidential press secretary, has explained. According to the mobilization decree, over the course of two months, enlistment offices must enroll approximately 120 thousand people.

According to human rights activist Arseniy Levinson, the autumn conscription campaign has one particularity: law enforcement officers are now increasingly involved in raids designed to sign up new recruits. However, we’re not talking about community officers or patrolmen, but criminal investigators. “Unlike previous raids, these are far stricter in Moscow”, the human rights militant told us. “Those who try to dodge drafting” are hunted down not so much by community officers or patrolmen, but rather officers in charge of criminal prosecution. At the enlistment office, their cell phones are taken away so they can’t talk to their families. They also refuse to hand them over any of the stuff their parents bring them.

Last week, a number of messages were delivered to the Telegram bot channel “Informed refusal of Russian military service”. These people had been detained and taken to military enlistment offices by criminal investigators, the administrators of the channel have told Mediazona.

This is most likely how 24-year-old painter Daniil Shershnev was detained. On November 28, the young man was on his way to his rented apartment in downtown Moscow, which was not officially registered as his residence address, Daniil’s girlfriend, Ekaterina, has told Mediazona.

The artist didn’t notice that a man in plainclothes also followed him inside the building. He called his name and introduced himself as a criminal investigator. Her forced Shershnev to urgently accompany him to the military enlistment office. The young man tried to say these actions were illegal, but the police officer threatened to use force. Shershnev called his lawyer, who told him the enlistment office will hand him a summon to the medical committee, which might be appealed in the future.

The policeman took the young man to the military registration office, where all his personal belongings were taken from him. He signed an inventory of them and then passed a sort of “psychological test”, Ekaterina says. Afterwards, instead of being released, he was sent to the assembly point on Ugreshskaya Street. Shershnev reportedly didn’t sign the mobilization order and refused to take the medical exam, yet the representatives of military office “signed all documents for him”. His mother tried to get to the assembly point but she was not allowed inside.

The next day, Shershnev managed to phone home and announced he was being sent to the military unit in Tver. “The authorities ignored the fact that Daniil refused to pass the medical exam at the assembly point and the fact that he refused to sign the enrollment order”, legal expert Levinson commented the abuses committed by the employees of the military enlistment office.

[…]

According to Arseniy Levinson, during the autumn conscription campaign, if military enlistment offices fail to accomplish their conscription plan, they will resort to any means at their disposal. “Apart from criminal investigators, they will also probably use video cameras with facial recognition technologies to apprehend ‘dodgers’. For the time being, the information is yet to be confirmed, although the possibility is still very real, considering all the other abuses committed in the mobilization campaign a month earlier”, Levinson also noted.

[…]

THE INSIDER: The Swedes. Russian couple arrested in Stockholm has ties to GRU and Swedish military intelligence, lives next door to Skripals' poisoner

Last week, a Russian married couple was arrested in Stockholm. Sergey Skvortsov and Elena Kulkova had lived in Sweden for many years without arousing any suspicion from their neighbors or acquaintances. As The Insider and Bellingcat found out, Skvortsov pursued lucrative business activities with a well-known GRU officer, once deported from France for espionage, and a Belgian entrepreneur, who was under sanctions for selling American military technology to China. Also, according to The Insider and Bellingcat, shortly before leaving for Sweden, Skvortsov and Kulkova received an apartment on Zorge Street, the same address where Denis Sergeev, one of the Skripals' poisoners, lived. Other high-ranking GRU officers frequented the building too. Meanwhile, Kulkova's daughter turned out to have moved in with the former head of the Swedish Military Intelligence Department.

On the morning of Tuesday, November 22, Swedish special forces arrested a Russian couple, Sergey Nikolaevich Skvortsov (born July 28, 1963) and Elena Mikhailovna Kulkova (born May 22, 1964), on charges of espionage in a Stockholm suburb; their home was searched. Kulkova was released from custody on Thursday (although she is still suspected of complicity). The «spouses» moved to Sweden in 1999 and, according to local authorities, Skvortsov had been spying against the United States since 2013 and against Sweden since 2014.

As The Insider and Bellingcat learned, in Moscow Skvortsov and Kulkova lived at 36 Zorge Street, next door to one of the three Skripals poisoners, GRU officer Denis Sergeev (also known as Sergey Fedotov). Sergeev’s apartment number was 288, while Skvortsov and Kulkova lived two floors below in apartment 282. According to The Insider, they received the apartment in October 1999 – just before leaving for Sweden.

According to phone records obtained by The Insider and Bellingcat, General Averyanov (head of GRU Military Unit 29155, which included the poisoners Mishkin and Chepiga, known as Petrov and Boshirov) and General Ilchenko, who was responsible, among other things, for disinformation operations, including the Bonanza project aimed at spreading fake information about the downed Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, would often pay visits to the same address.

For several years, the only counterparty to Skvortsov's Building and Data Technologies was a firm called European Technical Trading, and Skvortsov regularly received payments of exactly the same size from it, although the nature of these transactions was unclear. The Swedish authorities suspect that the transactions were fictitious and were used to siphon money from the Netherlands to Sweden. The Dutch entity was run by a Belgian, Hans de Geetere, whose companies had been previously sanctioned by the US for trying to resell American technology used in missiles and aircraft to China.

Both Hans de Geetere and Skvortsov had close ties with Vladimir Kulemekov, who openly admits his GRU past and even takes pride in it.

[…]

Elena Kulkova’s daughter, Anna Vladimirovna Run, lived in the same apartment on Zorge Street (besides, her patronymic raises the question of whether Skvortsov and Kulkova were a real couple or their marriage was a cover). In 2015, this apartment was registered in Anna's name, although she’d already been living permanently in Sweden for a long time, and most of her acquaintances had no idea of her Russian origins.

In 2013, Anna started a relationship with a former department head from MUST, the Swedish military intelligence (his name is known to The Insider and Bellingcat), moving in with him in 2015. Interestingly, Anna was not detained, despite being the best-positioned of all three to gain access to classified information.

[…]

Tags: War in Ukraine , Press review , Independent Russian media
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