Ukraine struggling for troop numbers in Russia war: Report

The government in Kiev can’t hope to launch offensive operations against Russia without more manpower, but even prison recruiting has fallen short of its needs, according to reports by the Wall Street Journal and Die Welt.

According to the US-based Journal, neither Ukraine nor Russia appears poised for a decisive breakthrough.

“For Ukraine, after last summer’s failed counteroffensive, the task for now is to use fresh Western weapons to hold on to positions,” the outlet said on Monday.

Kiev has “little prospect of achieving much more than holding the front line in the coming months”, and has chosen to strike at Crimea with long-range missiles supplied by the US instead, the Journal added.

According to one unnamed Western security official, Kiev has been able to replace losses and build up some reserves, but need “several times more to launch any kind of major offensive”.

While the Journal’s anonymous sources seemed confident that Ukraine was holding its own along the battlefield, Die Welt Am Sonntag appeared less convinced.

The Russian army “has the initiative on all fronts”, according to the German outlet. Ukraine’s biggest problem is the lack of troops, Die Welt continued, because “since the beginning of the war, the country has lost a six-figure number of soldiers who have been killed or wounded”.

In order to make up the losses and generate new brigades, Ukraine needs at least 200,000 troops by the end of the year, or 50,000 per quarter, but has “fallen well short of these numbers” in recent months, Die Welt was told by anonymous European security officials.

The latest mobilization scheme hopes to get up to 10,000 recruits from prisons, under a law approved by Kiev in May. So far, 2,800 convicts have enlisted into the military, Die Welt said, quoting Ukrainian government numbers.

Convicts have been promised six months of proper training and a monthly salary of around 100,000 hryvnia (almost $2,500), more if they serve in front-line ‘assault brigades’. One convict, identified only as Yuri, said he would still not enlist.

“The concern is that we will be thrown to the front as cannon fodder and used up in the first wave,” he told the German outlet, adding, “Because many people think of prisoners as the dregs of society.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently estimated Ukraine’s losses at 50,000 a month, of which about half were irretrievable, noting that Russian casualties were five times lower.

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