Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It is now over 250 days since we, together with the rest of the world, witnessed the beginning of President Putin’s unprovoked, premeditated and barbaric attack on Ukraine. All the while, we have brought the truth to light in the face of Russian disinformation and propaganda. In addition to the horrific violence that Russia has inflicted and continues to inflict on the Ukrainian people, the cost to the Russian people has also been enormous. Thousands of young Russian lives have been lost on land, at sea and in the air; fighting in an illegal war of choice based on contrived justifications, muddled narratives, and shifting goals. This is not conjecture, this is not opinion, this is fact.
The failures of Putin’s horrific adventurism are becoming increasingly apparent to the Russian people. They are becoming increasingly aware that their newly mobilized family members, neighbors and friends are poorly trained, ill-equipped and then sent to the battlefield to reinforce ill-equipped, ill-led and demoralized professional soldiers. It is therefore perhaps not surprising that so many Russians have chosen to flee their own country to avoid mobilization.
Meanwhile, on the battlefield, Russian military leaders continue to commit more and more Russian troops to the war in an attempt to overcome their failures. Due to low morale and an unwillingness to fight, Russian forces are said to have now started deploying “barrier troops” or “block units”. These units threaten to fire on their own retreating soldiers in order to constrain the offensives.
Low morale, indiscipline and dysfunction also continue to plague the highest levels of Russian military leadership. On November 3, Major General Alexander Linkov was reportedly appointed acting commander of Russia’s Central Military Region. Linkov replaces Colonel General Alexander Lapin who would have been relieved of his duties at the end of October. If confirmed, it is just the latest in a string of dismissals of senior Russian military commanders since the invasion began last February, including commanders of the Eastern, Southern and from West. A model of blaming senior Russian military commanders for failures to achieve President Putin’s battlefield goals.
It should be noted that Colonel General Lapin had been widely criticized for his poor battlefield performance in Ukraine by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin. The latter seems to be gaining influence in the Kremlin, as his private military company is increasingly called upon to carry out basic security tasks normally expected of the Russian state.
For example, on November 6, Prigozhin announced the creation of training and management centers for “people’s militias” in Belgorod and Kursk oblasts in
Russia. These “people’s militias” probably operate outside the structure and chain of command of the Russian MOD. Their stated intention is to establish units to help defend Russia’s borders.
Meanwhile, as Russia scrambles to fortify its defensive lines in eastern Ukraine, Prigozhin announced the construction of a fortified “Wagner Line” of defenses in Lugansk Oblast. The construction represents a major effort to prepare defenses in depth behind the current Russian front line and protect a key logistical line of communication.
However, as we noted last week, Wagner’s recruitment of Russian convicts, including those with serious illnesses and medical conditions, is a sign of desperation to recruit manpower, not combatants. According to the Ukrainian Hybrid Threat Research and Countering Center, 500 convicts recruited by Wagner had died fighting in Ukraine by mid-October. In total, the center estimates that 800 to 1,000 Wagner recruits likely died in Ukraine. Wagner’s numbers were further reduced by large non-fatal casualties.
The fact that Wagner, a private military company with ties to human rights abuses, is increasingly called upon to perform the roles normally expected of a government’s military and security apparatus is in itself a telling indicator of the alarming state of Putin’s war machine: no more defeats; no more generals sacked; more demoralized troops; more discontent among the Russian population; and more criticism from Russian elites.
Mr President, Putin and Russia’s military leadership have consistently underestimated the will, determination and courage of the Ukrainian military and civilians to defend their homeland against a brutal and barbaric invader. They continue to fail to understand that every horrific attack strengthens Ukrainian resolve and that of its friends, such as the United Kingdom, who remain loyal to our support – as long as it takes – to ensure that the sovereignty, integrity territorial and independence of Ukraine is fully restored. Thanks.