Russian soldiers' "day-to-day discipline" is under the spotlight
The new commander of the Russian army in Ukraine has faced pushback over his attempt to clamp down on “non-standard haircuts” among his troops, the UK has claimed.
General Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s Chief of the General Staff and the newly appointed commander in Ukraine, has reportedly started off his new job by trying to “improve deployed troops’ day-to-day discipline”.
In its daily update, the UK’s ministry of defence (MoD) alleged that Gerasimov was looking to target “non-regulation uniform, travel in civilian vehicles, the use of mobile phones, and non-standard haircuts”.
However, the MoD claimed: “The measures have been met with sceptical feedback.”
The UK officials suggested that “some of the greatest derision has been reserved for attempts to improve the standard of troops’ shaving”.
It continued: “Officials in the Donetsk People’s Republic described the prioritisation of a ‘farce’ that would ‘hamper the process of destroying the enemy’.”
The Donetsk People’s Republic has been controlled by Russian separatists since 2014, but it was one of four Ukrainian regions to be illegally annexed by Vladimir Putin back in September.
A proxy private military company, the Wagner group, perceived as an informal arm of the Russian state, also pushed back against the new rules.
The MoD claimed Wagner owner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, lashed out at the official advice from the Kremlin, saying: “War is the time of the active and courageous, and not of the clean-shaven.”
The UK officials also pointed out: “The Russian force continues to endure operational deadlock and heavy casualties; Gerasimov’s prioritisation of largely minor regulations is likely to confirm the fears of his many sceptics in Russia.
“Along with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, he is increasingly seen as out of touch and focused on presentation over substance.”
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine - 23 January 2023
Find out more about the UK government's response: https://t.co/CSN2KpKIMu
🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/6ubHQ5sXPr
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) January 23, 2023
This is just the latest sign that all is not well within the Russian army ranks.
Reports of low morale, poorly equipped soldiers and a distinct lack of training for the newly recruited troops from Putin’s partial mobilisation in the autumn have been circulating for months.
According to previous claims from the MoD, Russia is even using “poorly-training convicts” to bolster its armed forces.
And by February 24, the war – which the Kremlin expected to last just a matter of days – will have stretched out to a year, with just 15% of Ukrainian land under Russian control.
The appointment of Gerasimov to lead the campaign in Ukraine was seen as a sign that Russia was trying a new tactic to turn the war in its favour.
He replaced General Sergei Surovikin, nicknamed General Armageddon for his brutal strategies, who will now serve as Gerasmiov’s deputy.
Russia's army Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov