Russian forces continue their slow but brutal push into the Donbas region of Ukraine, however, the campaign has been so bloody that Russia is now reportedly facing troop shortages. There have been reports that Russia is forming a new battalion, many of the recruits for this battalion are in their 50s or 60s and some lack prior combat experience – recruits are given 30 days of training before being sent to the front.
The creation of such a battalion likely shows the strain that Russian forces are suffering as they try to push the attack, the most recent battles in eastern Ukraine have seen heavy casualties suffered on both sides.
The Washington-based think tank, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in a recent Twitter update that the Russian forces had to pause operations to “refit and regroup”, however they are still shelling critical areas on the frontline heavily. It also claimed that Russia would continue to create “ad-hoc” volunteer units to fight in the war as it loses more and more professional soldiers on the front.
It said: “Governor of Russia’s Primorsky Krai, Oleg Kozhemkayo, announced on July 9 that Russia is forming the ‘Tigr’ volunteer naval infantry battalion to participate in combat in Ukraine.
“Kozhemkayo said that not all volunteers have prior combat experience and that they will undergo 30 days of training prior to deployment. Social media users noted that footage of the ‘Tigr’ battalion shows that the recruits are older than traditional military age and are likely in their 50s to 60s.
“ISW has previously reported that Russian military leadership will continue to constitute such ad hoc, oblast, and regionally-based volunteer units as losses among professional troops mount.”
Ukraine’s General Staff estimates around 37,000 Russian troops have been killed so far in Ukraine.
The news comes just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin told the world that Russia was “just getting started” with its invasion of Ukraine.
However, Russian military bloggers, who have been extremely critical of their own Generals’ frontline tactics, have admitted that Russian artillery is going “shell hungry” following the new Ukrainian strategy of striking Russian munitions dumps and command posts far behind the frontlines with precision artillery – particularly the HIMARS rocket systems from the US.
These systems can strike up to 50 miles into Russian-controlled territory and have been used to a devastating effect. A large number of ammo dumps and Russian command centres have been successfully targeted.
Sunday night and into Monday morning, Russian forces began shelling in the east with heavy artillery strikes killing at least 15 in the eastern town of Chasiv Yar when strikes hit a five-story apartment block there. Russia is likely using artillery to prepare for a ground offensive in the area.
In the south of the country, however, the battle appeared to be shifting in Ukraine’s favour. As frontline forces inched ever closer to the occupied city of Kherson, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister warned civilians in the area to flee.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said: “It’s clear there will be fighting, there will be artillery shelling… and we therefore urge [people] to evacuate urgently.”
“I know for sure that there should not be women and children there, and that they should not become human shields.”
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It is believed that the Russian authorities in the region are preparing a referendum that would likely see the region become a part of Russia proper.
However, there have been reports of partisan activities there including the targeting of Russian infrastructure and assassinations of Russian officials and soldiers.
It is likely that with Russian forces focusing on eastern Ukraine, Ukraine’s armed forces will seize the opportunity to try to take back territory in the south.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has reportedly ordered his generals to prepare plans to begin an offensive in Kherson imminently.